Sometimes, my grandmother sees shadows.
She isn't sure what's real
and what's a smoky outline of the forgotten.
When people think of blindness
they close their eyes. Think of the dark.
But hers is white, it's the color of no color,
and all the frequencies of visible light.
It was given to her with a spoonful of sugar.
The defective pills that made her.
There was once the dark tuft
of her daughter’s newborn hair,
the high shrug of mountains,
the wires through which they fed electricity
into the brain—and then everything left, like water leaves the body
without our knowing, like California,
like the something else that leaves
as heroin enters. I remember
few things: tiny flowers
on the knobs of the dresser drawer,
the strangeness of strangers, my mother
miscarrying. Innocence, then
virginity, that little girl
on the boardwalk, my hair
color, my hair, my resistance.
Last night I dreamed of all the Earths
I use up—all four of them.
They were sad and scared and exhausted.
I tried to find a chair.
We were inside the house
that consumed Goldilocks, inside everything
my grandmother never saw
when she could still see.
Sometimes she looks
straight at me or just beyond
at my sister turning the camera onto herself,
pressing her lips together. I watch
my grandmother wet her cracked lips.
She doesn't get to choose when:
she's always having her most private moment
with the whole world.
Ryann Stevenson's poems have appeared in or are forthcoming from The Adroit Journal, American Letters & Commentary, Blunderbuss Magazine, Columbia Poetry Review, Cosmonauts Avenue, Linebreak, and Pinwheel Journal. She is the Chapbook Series Editor at Phantom Books, and co-curate's Phantom's Brooklyn-based reading series, EMPIRE.