Clara Irene Cook DOB 1902 – The Right to Vote 1920 – Poetry by Pamela Bordisso

 Old smells old
 My nostrils constrict
 Wind her hair around my finger
 Weekly set with bobby pins
 Travel bag spews
 Flowered dress, 
 polyester pant suit,
 pinched tube denture cream.
 Vinyl pocket book released from
 tight clutch of the day’s travel lets go
 plastic comb, 
 pencil stub.
 She finds me lacking
 My life overly comfortable
 She tells me again
 She got up early,
 worked before school
 Set the boarding house tables,
 Filled the salts and peppers
 After school wrung the laundry through the press
 Ironed sheets, changed beds
 How else could her widowed mother survive?
 Her father drowned fishing
 In that Montana river
 His waders filled with water
 Dragging him under the racing current
 not to be found for miles 
 Where he pooled and the
 Fish now had him, nibbling
 His dry skin cells
 Knowing this story by heart I interrupt, 
 “Grandma, did you know about the suffragists?
 Were you excited when you got the right to vote?”
 ‘A wagon took me to Idaho
 Taught seven grades in one room
 Me, one year older than
 The oldest boy.
 He came early to 
 Light the fire
 Sweep the floors
 Clean the chalkboard
 Good thing my brother sent
 For me in California.
 I might have married that
 boy who could barely read.’
 Old smells old
 I rub heat ointment into her arthritic neck
 “Grandma, did you vote when you got to California?”
 ‘No, it was hard times in ‘22
 We survived; we put food on the table
 Be sure that ointment doesn’t get on my robe.’
 “Grandma, when did you vote?”
 ‘Honey, when your grandpa told me to.
 Extra votes were needed for the union man.
 All the men walked the wives to the polling
 We voted how they told us
 Pass me my glass for my teeth
 No more of this talkin’’
 I settle into trundle bed lumps and darkness
 Grandma, I whisper, “There will be
 a woman President 
 in my lifetime.”
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