“For My Grandmother” Free Verse Poem


Nasrin Ali

This is a free-verse poem I wrote for a spoken word competition in honor of my grandmother who passed away from cancer in 2018. She had a huge impact on my life and I miss her dearly. In my memory, she will always live on. I hope to honor her legacy through my writings and various accomplishments. Enjoy reading!
“For my grandma . . .
My grandmother was a safe place.
Even after the cancer had torn through her like a vicious tornado, she continued to be a home to me.
We sat in the dim light of the hospital room as she stared up at nothing,
Or maybe it was something to her,
Occasionally mumbling verses from the Holy book,
Squeezing my hand with what little strength she had left,
Looking around the room at the people who loved her.
My face got hot,
Tears slipped down my cheeks,
I didn’t want to think of her leaving me but I knew it was coming . . .
I watched her prepare to leave this world,
Quiet and brave,
Telling me not to cry because she loved me,
Drifting further and further away each day.
She was tired,
She was ready to go, 
She had fought the good fight.
I felt selfish for wanting her to fight a little longer.
Months later,
In the crisp days of winter,
The bitter wind biting my face,
I realize she was just doing what she did best,
Taking care of people,
Even in the throes of death,
Placing others above herself,
She was a force to be reckoned with.

I cast my eyes to the ground and think of the hard linoleum tiles I stared at for . . . hours,
Tapping my black ballet flats in tune with the heart monitor,
The bright white fluorescent lights and the migraines that came with them,
The happy bouquets of flowers,
Withering away..
It feels as if I’m remembering her high cheekbones and her pearly white teeth and her elegance, from a dusty Polaroid picture inside my memory box.
But no, it was just a few months ago, the most melancholy months I’ve ever known.
She was a beautiful skeleton . . . 
I managed a smile and a hug,
But I was telling the biggest lie of my life, 
I slipped away to hide the tears.
She didn’t bother to hide hers.
It was the first time I had ever seen my strong oak tree grandmother give into the storm and cry.
Her lost appetite, her soft voice, her thinning hair 
She wasn’t saying anything, but I knew . . . her skin and bones spoke volumes.
Catching warm patches of sunlight with my hand,
Laying on my back under the ceiling fan,
Shifting over slightly to make sure she was still breathing.
Those few moments I spent with her taught me more than I could ever learn in school.

Some days I would sit with her all day under my pink blanket and read Harry Potter books for the hundredth time . . .
She’d use all of her strength to turn her head and peek at the cover,
She’d ask me if the book was any good,
I’d turn around and smile and say yes,
She’d smile and lay her head back on the armchair,
I’d cry a little because I knew these moments together would be some of our last.
One night, I heard my grandma screaming “no” and crying,
Protesting as my mom called an ambulance,
Saying she didn’t want to go, 
I knew she had to.
I peeked through a crack under the door,
Watching the heavy black boots of the EMTs run past,
Back and forth,
Back and forth,
I heard a calm voice telling her, “Sweetheart, everything is going to be just fine.”
In her last week, I felt a realization,
An epiphany,
A sense of peace washed over me as I read the hospital pamphlet on death that made me cry.
It’s called “gone from my sight,”
And even though she was still there,
She was fading in and out,
And it felt as though she really was . . . “gone from my sight.”
I spent every night of that week staring out the hospital window,
Each time there was a beautiful purple and pink sunset with traces of gold that seemed to be made just for me, as if God knew I needed some beauty amidst all the tragedy.
Cancer stopped feeling like something I heard about in commercials and saw in pink ribbons and it started to feel real.
Watching my grandmother,
Who loved to look beautiful,
Not be able to fit into all her beautiful overgarments,
Without her sparkly kohl eyeliner,
Without her gold bracelets,
Switching out her colorful pins and purses for a hospital gown,
With a smile on her face and without a complaint from her lips,
Put everything into perspective.
Sometimes I feel guilty that it took her journey to death for me to find dignity in humility,
To realize that looks and appearances aren’t everything,
That your actions matter so much more than your words,
That being present in real life is so much better than spending hours online.
You know, I thought I would hate cancer,
That I would be angry at it for taking away my grandmother who I loved so dearly,
But I can’t be mad at something that taught me so much.
She was beautiful even in death,
Her tall lifeless figure clad in pure white cloth,
Confined to a wooden box,
Arms crossed,
Face glowing and her mouth open in a familiar gleaming smile just how it was when she died.
I looked into her face and thought about how I would never again anticipate visiting her house, How she would never again make another one of her huge meals,
How she would never again spout wisdom about boys and life and school,
How she would never again embrace me and tell me she loved me.
My mom came up behind me,
Said I could touch her or kiss her face but I couldn’t bring myself to do it.
I couldn’t do it,
So I whispered “thank you,”
Softly touched her arm and backed up to allow someone else to reminisce about their time with her.
I remembered that line from the hospital pamphlet:
”Gone from my sight. That is all.”