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We hadn't disliked the grandmother we'd had
But she was a wolf now
One accepts things.

Mother stopped her cookies
Baked sausage rolls instead
And we never went to visit alone.
Grandma snored through the walls
Like growling, slobbering
Bestial and ravenous
She smoked like a factory
Used forbidden words
Told us politicians were liars
Her teeth were so long
So long and so sharp.
The wallpaper had been flowers on a yellow background like sunshine through curtains
It grayed and spotted with tobacco smoke
Curled in like crepe myrtle bark
Skinned itself away from walls the color of despair
And limestone caves.

It's underground dark in Grandma's house now.
She abdicated eyebrow plucking. She's got hackles under her church hat.
I think she has a gun.
"It's eat or be eaten," she says around a drag.
She doesn't trust woodsmen or policemen any more.
And they don't trust her.

She doesn't babysit. Mother puts my red hoodie on me
Makes me sit in office waiting rooms and public libraries
While she runs errands.
The water fountains taste like cough syrup.
And old men hate the weather loudly.
"My grandmother is a wolf now," I say
To a man who is a spotty pumpkin
Left too long on his side.
He starts to scold about respecting your elders,
Instead he folds his hands around his cane and says:
"Live long enough, everybody gets like that."

Leslianne Wilder is the current terminus of a straight line of armed East Texas matriarchs. She currently resides in Oxford, in the United Kingdom, with an exceptional spouse. Her short fiction has been published in Shock Totem, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Psychos: Serial Killers, Depraved Madmen, and the Criminally Insane, among others. This is her first published poem. She blogs at Skull Honey.
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19 Feb 2024

That was Father—a storm in a drought, a comet in the night. Acting first, thinking later, carried on not by foresight, but on luck’s slippery feet. And so we were not as surprised as we should have been when, one warm night in our tenth year on the mountain, Father showed us the flying machine.
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