The Grandmother-Great: A Poem by Shreya Manna


How do I introduce this poem? It is about a beginning or an end that I will ever fully understand. It is about a poem in it’s own way; a human one, a memento of your heritage. What you are about to read is the humble attempt of a great-granddaughter, who, making her own way in the world generations later, felt like sitting next to her own ‘Grandmother-Great’.

The Grandmother-Great

When I reached her side after crossing lands and seas,

Sitting in front of a mint grey-green, cracked wall

Was great-grandmother. Her skin loose and crinkled, like the

Rippling creases in her simple cotton saree, draped on her

Stooped frame. Chalky hair tightly pulled in a bun highlighted

Her cheeks, like droopy lumps of flatbread dough.

Her soft and crepuscular eyes met my mother’s

And a few warm greetings restlessly tumbled

Into the torrents of memory, rising waves of

Choked, murmured Bengali

That eluded me. But tears sung clear

The pain of a son, a spouse slipping

From grip, falling into abyss inevitable…

But Grandmother-Great still stands

Do sit, we say, there is no need,

Play us time’s ocarina please?

Her symphony now in graceful croon,

Once was throbbing, vigorous tune

Telling of Mother who starved and sacrificed

slapped and loved and labored, masterly as

many-armed Goddess Durga, she was

shrine and shelter for family of twelve.

Grandmother Great went up the stairs with

Me close behind: the walk of a retired explorer

Braving new trials, even now

Even here.  Stepping onto the veranda, she

Pointed at the sap-green pond, girdled by a congregation

Of coconut trees, teeming wild shrubs and saplings

Narrating in her thin, mashed lentil voice

A lifetime of stories, no time to explain

Blossoms of beauty, prisms of pain!

Yet time had come to bid goodbye

To Grandmother-Great who lived the journey

I saw in glimpses, understood in fragments

We touched her feet for blessings that hummed

‘Go further than me’

Embraced with warmth that whispered

‘For the last time.’

Rooted strong and deep in your loam, I will try

Aspiring beyond, like sapling towards resplendent sky

Thank you for reading. What are your thoughts on grandparents and ancestors? Leave a comment below… 

Keeping going the write way,