My grandmother said he only ever cried once,
when his mother died, briefly as a light
rain even then. Today I don’t think
he knows me until he tucks his chin to his chest
and weeps, says he wants
to go home. He drinks
cranberry juice from a styrofoam cup
and my 3-year-old watches him
delightedly, drinks when he drinks.
In the far corner a woman lies
on a ration of sunshine,
big body curled up confident, cat-like.
Another approaches, berates us
with profane words, exhorts us
back to work. My grandmother
says she once managed an airplane
production line, implies there was something
in the metal, seeds of dementia.
When my mother was growing up,
my grandfather spent evenings in the garage,
built a P-40 fighter plane 70% to scale,
flew it himself. I hold
the day’s disturbances in my hand like stones,
run my fingers over them until sleep takes them,
gives me other memories of being
in class again staring into Old English
manuscripts with students: them noting
the strange writing, long trains of thorny letters
running margin to margin, words cutting into words.
Me telling them someone will come along
and piece out the units of thought,
add punctuation and white space,
will find the 4-beat lines, lay them down in a shape
on the page, give it a title.