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Contributor: Emma Newman-Holden

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A puff of smoke escapes from my grandfather’s mouth
and with it, spews aspersions aimed at my grandmother
Her name is a bitter taste in his mouth,
it rarely leaves his lips
Tension solidifies the air around me
as my dad anxiously clamors on about the weather


A name is propelled into the air without thought,
my dad’s mistake
and a forbidden action in my grandmother’s house
Silence overpowers the room and I fidget in my seat,
unsure of how to react
My grandmother simply feigns a smile
and asks if I like school this year


Cigar stink pollutes my lungs
My eyes scan the restaurant and spots the culprit
Wrinkly fingers clutch the belvedere
And remind me of a face
A face that makes my grandmother itch and squirm
And leaves me with a queasy stomach and a guilty conscience
My grandma’s friendly smile comforts me
But the dismal image of my grandpa alone on Christmas day
Lurks in the back of my mind


They are at both ends, lugging my arms
Pulling and pulling and pulling
Until the game of tug-o-war ends
And I drop at the feet of the winner
My grandmother is the victor this match
But my grandfather might beat her next time
I am just a disoriented piece of rope,
Whose ends are becoming withered
And my strings untangling more each time

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