Birthday Poem for My Grandmother

                  (for L.B.M.C., 1890-1975)


     I stood on the porch tonight--  which way do we
     face to talk to the dead?  I thought of the
     new rose,  and went out over the
     grey lawn--  things really
     have no color at night.  I descended
     the stone steps,  as if to the place where one
     speaks to the dead.  The rose stood
     half-uncurled,  glowing white in the
     black air.  Later I remembered
     your birthday.  You would have been ninety and getting
     roses from me.  Are the dead there
     if we do not speak to them?  When I came to see you
     you were always sitting  quietly in the chair,
     not knitting,  because of the arthritis,
     not reading,  because of the blindness,
     just sitting.  I never know how you
     did it or what you were thinking.  Now I
     sometimes sit on the porch,  waiting,
     trying to feel you there like the color of the
     flowers in the dark.


                                     --Sharon Olds