Now or Then


Now or then – image: Virgil DiBiase

Grandma, just shy of ninety-one,
thinks she is twelve again, or maybe twenty,
asks for the hundredth time,
Have you seen my folks?
I’m worried sick—I haven’t
heard from them all day.

Long dead when I was born, they live
in black-and-white photographs, her stories.

Back when she remembered,
she would tell about camping, how
they’d drive the Packard
on gravel roads from San Francisco
to Monterey, Big Sur, one time up to Canada.
How her mother sewed their sleeping bags
with sand dollar-sized buttons along the edge.
How her daddy tied his shaving mirror
to a tree. They slept in a canvas tent, stored meat
in a basket lined with asbestos
and tin, used milk bottles to hold water.

They’re fine, I tell her. They’re all right.
Her hand feels soft in mine, her skin
papery and thin. 

My grandma knows a world
without zippers, nylon, the atomic bomb.

If you ask her what today
is, she says, Well… yesterday,
it was tomorrow.

First published in Fans of My Unconscious, Black Rock Press, 2013

Leone to Ben


Leon to Ben – image: Virgil DiBiase

I hope you know I’ve stayed by your side,
eaten the fruit cups and spaghetti, meals
they bring three times a day. Again and again
I say, Thank you for sixty-six years,
you gave me a good life,
you’ve been a good husband. 

Our children came, sat with me, held your hand.
Bruce’s eyes teared up the whole time—
I haven’t seen him cry for fifty years.
Our granddaughters stood by your bed.
Krista rested her head on your chest,
said into your good ear, Don’t try to answer.
You’ve said all you need to say.
Robbi held the baby by your side,
guided her little hand to grasp your finger.
At the door told her, Wave bye-bye

Last weekend the doctors told me, A day or two,
and here it is Thursday. You always did everything
in extremes. The boys drank too much milk,
so you brought home a cow. You wanted a garden,
so you traded our house for a farm. You worked
until four in the morning to get a job done, and now
your heart keeps beating without you. 

I want to go home, sleep in our bed, sort the mail,
throw away the food rotting in the refrigerator.
But I don’t even walk down the hall.
Any breath now could be your last. 

As long as you’re here, I have something
to do. When I go home, I will be a widow.

First published in Jewish Women’s Literary Annual, 2005, Volume 6
Permission granted to republish in in Fans of My Unconscious, Black Rock Press, 2013 

Krista Lukas writes prose and poetry. Her essays, short stories, and interviews have been published in The Sun, Jewish Women’s Literary Annual, and Los Angeles Review of Books. She is the author of a poetry collection, Fans of My Unconscious, poems from which have been selected for The Best American Poetry 2006 and The Writer’s Almanac.

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