by YAEL MASSEN
When my grandmother finally runs away,
she boards a bus to Tiberias & hides
behind a newspaper when her husband
gets on to look for her. For a moment
she is finally alone—her four living children
are all grown &, for now, still alive.
At eleven, my great-grandmother becomes
a wife. This is a practice meant to protect
her. At thirteen, she is a mother. She makes,
deals, & cleans the world’s finest carpets for the rest
of her life. She dies alone. Her rugs are passed down.
My matriarchs have a history of polyps lining
their colons. Asymptomatic, the tumors must be
caught quickly—their bodies closely monitored.
A woman is allowed only one problem at a time.
My grandmother must choose only one:
one paralyzed daughter—rotating her
like a wheel—or one mother,
cancer webbing through her abdomen.
The night before her colonoscopy, my mother says goodbye
to me—she will be sedated soon. She says, Hopefully, I’ll come back.
When my mother is eight she awakens her own mother
at the abortion clinic, whose eyes are closed &
body swooning. They ride the bus back home.
My grandmother is sedated these days
in her nursing home—she sees the man she fears
hiding in cabinets & holding her down.
Someone dresses her in a flower robe, ties her
to her wheelchair, & brings her to the garden.
She sleeps. The sun runs its hand over her long forehead.