I Called My Grandmother Dolly by Rashelle Spear

I Called My Grandmother Dolly


because my baby tongue couldn’t

return the darlin’

she wrapped me in.


When I knew her,

she was a narrow face

on a twig body

perfumed with smoke,

rooted in the sagging couch,

legs crossed,

sighing over Oprah.


I wish I could have met her

when she was called Sammy

and made my grandpa

wear the false teeth he vomited,

with Wild Turkey,

over the side of the rotted deck rail,

where the dog named Dog

made them his chew toy,


the woman who fed kitchen-floor pizza

to that whiskey-scented husband

but saved the good slices

for her kids.


In one yellowed polaroid photo,

she is an olive-skinned dancer

in a clean, silver-trimmed cocktail dress,

right hip cocked

in a frozen shimmy,

arms bent at the elbows.


I keep her in that moment

when her half-closed eyes look like mine.