Blue Mountain Arts
Blue Mountain Arts
Blue Mountain Arts

Poetry Contest Winners :: Ninth Contest :: Second Place Winner

Never Left Empty Handed

by Jennifer Kalafut

I never left empty-handed.
It's true.
I never walked or rode my basketed, banana-seat bike home
Without some kind of gift,
When coming from Grandma's.
If I hadn't won anything
In that day's card tournament,
She would inevitably come up with a consolation prize,
Whether it meant digging through
Her display case,
Her jewelry box,
Or her fridge.
Every day,
Grandma demonstrated
She would get so wide-eyed
Over the littlest things -
Literally, nickels and dimes -
Especially if they meant
A "quick game of war" or double solitaire.
Despite the high stakes,
Grandma played the game
As though playing was what mattered,
As though
Winning or not winning
The - indeed, very exciting - prize
Wasn't the game's highlight.
And Love.
It never crossed my mind
To doubt Grandma's Love.
There was Love
In every crumb of bread we fed to the birds,
Every fit of laughter we shared,
Every flower we watered,
Every fingernail we painted.
And yes,
There was love
In every envelope we mailed off
To Publisher's Clearinghouse.
I remember envisioning
That "prize-patrol" van
Driving down Old Peshtigo Road
And turning slowly but decidedly
Into the driveway
Of an ever-hopeful
Yet humbly unsuspecting
Mrs. Louise Kalafut.
Upon parking,
Out of the van
In the form
Of Ed McMahon,
And of course,
A ridiculously oversized check
To accommodate all those zeros.
For all this,
Grandma would have been thrilled beyond words;
But, what would have made her even happier
Would have been
The opportunity
To redistribute
All those zeros
To all the people she loved.
I didn't see it when I was younger,
But Grandma was probably
Just as excited
About the dangling possibility
Of that tiny dime
For which we played cards
As she was
About the dangling possibility
Of that oversized check;
She would have been equally as quick
To give either away
To anyone
Who might need it more.
Even in the nursing home,
These last couple months,
Grandma remained true to herself.
One day,
We were nearly set to play
A round of King's Corner.
My eyes scanned the room for a suitable prize;
They landed on Grandma's sly smile.
The Alzheimer's missed making her forget
The precise location
Of a stashed bag
Of chocolate candies.
Problem solved:
is definitely something to create excitement.
Well, we played,
And Grandma won
That piece of chocolate,
Fair'n square.
We all can imagine
How much Grandma
That piece of chocolate.
But Grandma's sweet tooth
Was outdone by her sweet heart...
She wanted me to have
That piece of chocolate
More than she wanted it for herself.
And I have always found it
Particularly difficult
To decline
Something Grandma Kalafut had decided I should have.
But that piece of chocolate,
I realize,
Was not just a piece of chocolate.
It was the oversized check,
The dime,
The earrings:
It was evidence
For the way Grandma played,
The way she lived.
And given the admirable way
She chose to live,
I'm sure I don't speak for myself alone
When I say that
I live a better life
Because of the way she lived hers.
So, it's true that I never left empty-handed
Coming from the friend 2 doors down,
And it's true that,
Even today,
Grandma has not left the people she loved

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