Portraits of Gran Ollie

Dorian Gray should have painted your portraits. 
You told marvelous stories to us,
your grandsons,
tales of Candyland and disparate animals,
cat and walrus, pig and elephant, horse and snake, woven on the spot. 
Our Mother told us your tale.
You were lost as a child in St. Louis,
found at a Convent and spirited to Arkansas.
You were betrothed to a German exchange student, murdered by an unrequited yokel love. You married the yokel’s best friend.
Mom was born.
The best friend lasted only a year, never seen again. 
At first, you were a lady barber, then danced across Vaudeville. Smoking red hair lit up an insurance man.
Wild romance wed John Barleycorn.
You liquored your way across the South until the Crash. Harold—Hoovered— took his own life. 
Mom moved North to marry a Yankee.
You followed and told us the stories,
except on the nights you mumbled and stank. We didn’t know a bottle had a different genie. 
Our Father was an abusive Lothario,
scoldings and beatings to cover his guilt.
You and Mom fled to an Aunt and Uncle in the middle of the night. Father pursued in rage.
Farmer Bill, blocking the door, threatened:
“Remember Yankee; I butcher my own hogs.” 
After years of penury you wed Henry,
the happy cab driver who loved you well
until he died of intractable cancer-colored pain. 
Then, the clock of time stroked.
I visited you throughout,
prayed for you and talked to you, grasping a bony hand, only your eyes able to move,
blinking yes and no until you died,
a stark look of amazement plastered on your face. 
Years later, my own grand boys begged a story, two little boys, mouth agape,
like birds grasping for words.
You showed up in the room
gray hair, flower print dress, without a bottle, smiling out the words for me. 

Published by Ibis Head Review