Imagined Dialogues with My Grandmother

Imagined Dialogues with My Grandmother

I am five, six, seven years old
standing in my grandmother’s bedroom
next to an ancient oak table while she sits on the bed.
Long ago widowed, she wears a black kerchief,
hands folded over a heavy brown dress.

We have established a treasured ritual.
She recounts epics from her expansive life
and I stage lengthy concerts comprised
entirely of improvised songs in “English.”
Taking great joy in each absurd performance,
I contort my mind, striving to summon
the most improbable sounds.

Trotting back home at sunset
through familial fields and orchards,
I do not detect the dark irony of our game
in light of approaching destinies.

Shortly, incoherence inverts reality
as all is whisked away by war,
and a few years later
I stumble through a foreign land,
fitting my mouth with a new tongue.

After she passes away
I start listening to old Russian ballads,
trying to imagine that she is singing back
the nonsensical chants from my childhood.
I cannot comprehend the language
but its similarities to Serbian yield
slow flows of faint echoes,
providing an inexplicable comfort.

Searching through past epochs of memory
for slivers that could rethread our dialogues,
I spend years trying to write her one small
poem in non-invented English to say:
I am sorry for leaving,
but you have gone forward
to an even further country
and must have learned
so many new words

surely now you can understand.


Church of Many Stories by Valentina Kenny

About Masa Torbica

Maša Torbica was born in Zagreb shortly before the breakup of Yugoslavia. Displaced by the subsequent civil war, her family immigrated to Canada. Her first collection of poetry in Serbian was published in 2006, and she is currently completing a second collection. She is also a PhD candidate at the University of Waterloo, specializing in Canadian literature and the history of rhetoric. Her dissertation examines decolonizing initiatives within contemporary Canadian society.

About Valentina Kenny

Valentina Kenny came to Canada from Ukraine in 1995. She settled in the Halifax area of Nova Scotia and still lives there now, working in the real estate industry and occasionaly venturing out on family travels to near and far places. In her spare time, architecture and the beauty of nature and all living things inspire her to create artwork in acrylics and mixed media.

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