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Paragraphs from a Day-Book

 Cherry-ripe: dark sweet burlats, scarlet reverchons
firm-fleshed and tart in the mouth
bigarreaux, peach-and-white napoléons
as the harvest moves north
from Provence to the banks of the Yonne
(they grow napoléons in Washington
State now).
Before that, garriguettes, from Périgord, in wooden punnets afterwards, peaches: yellow-fleshed, white, moss-skinned ruby pêches de vigne.
The vendors cry out "Taste," my appetite does, too.
Birdsong, from an unseen source on this street-island, too close for the trees: it’s a young woman with a tin basin of plastic whistles moulded like canaries.
– which children warbled on in Claremont Park one spring day in my third year.
Gísela my father’s mother, took me there.
I spent the days with her now that my mother had gone back to work.
In her brocade satchel, crochet-work, a picture-book for me.
But overnight the yellow bird whistles had appeared and I wanted one passionately.
Watching big girls play hopscotch at curb’s edge or telling stories to V.
J under the shiny leaves of privet hedge were pale pastimes compared to my desire Did I hector one of the privileged warblers to tell us where they were acquired? – the candy store on Tremont Avenue Of course I don’t call her Gísela.
I call her Grandma.
"Grandma will buy it for you," – does she add "mammele " not letting her annoyance filter through as an old-world friend moves into view? The toddler and the stout grey-haired woman walk out of the small park toward the shopping streets into a present tense where what’s ineffaceable repeats itself.
I dash ahead, new whistle in my hand She runs behind.
The car.
The almost-silent thud.
Gísela, prone, also silent, on the ground.
Death is the scandal that was always hidden.
I never saw my grandmother again Who took me home? Somebody did.
In the next few days (because that afternoon and night are blank) I don’t think I cried, I didn’t know what to ask (I wasn’t three), and then I did, and "She’s gone to live in Florida" they said and I knew she was dead.
A black woman, to whom I wasn’t nice, was hired to look after me.
Her name was Josephine – and that made twice I’d heard that name: my grandmother’s park crony was Josephine.
Where was Grandma; where was Gísela ? she called me to her bench to ask one day.
I say, "She’s gone to live in Florida.

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