, November 30, 2022

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Grandmother Speaks of the Old Country


  •   1 min read
Grandmother Speaks of the Old Country
Photo by Marek Studzinski on Unsplash

Intro by Ted Kooser

Sto­ry­telling binds the past and present togeth­er, and is as essen­tial to com­mu­ni­ty life as are food and shel­ter. Many of our poets are mas­ters at reshap­ing fam­i­ly sto­ries as poet­ry. Here Lola Hask­ins retells a haunt­ing tale, cast in the voice of an elder. Like the best sto­ries, there are no inessen­tial details. Every word counts toward the effect.


By Lola Haskins

That year there were many deaths in the village.
Germs flew like angels from one house to the next
and every family gave up its own. Mothers
died at their mending. Children fell at school.
Of three hundred twenty, there were eleven left.
Then, quietly, the sun set on a day when no one
died. And the angels whispered among themselves.
And that evening, as he sat on the stone steps,
your grandfather felt a small wind on his neck
when all the trees were still. And he would tell us
always, how he had felt that night, on the skin
of his own neck, the angels, passing.


American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Reprinted from Desire Lines: New and Selected Poems, BOA Editions, 2004, by permission of the author and the publisher. Copyright © 2004 by Lola Haskins. Introduction copyright © 2022 by The Poetry Foundation.


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