Ray Greenblatt is an editor on the Schuylkill Valley Journal and teaches a poetry course at Temple University OLLI. His fiction has been published in periodicals such as Boston Literary Journal, Innisfree, and The Moon. His latest work is an experimental novel—half prose, half-poetry—Twenty Years on Graysheep Bay.
GRANMA IN THE BATHTUB
Coughs bring me back to reality. Three coughs, feeble and distant like a clarinet swallowed in the fog. Usually a triplet—kuh! kuh! kuh!—issued by my Granma.I can picture her there slumped in a shallow pool of quickly cooling water. Her neck wrinkled, her arms, her ankles, as if she were dwindling in her skin to a final point before she would disappear. If she only knew in a way how trendy she looked, her varicose veins resembling tattoos. They said she had been a beauty. Didn’t they always say that, but perhaps this time it was true. Married to a professor in a small upstate college, a musicologist whom she adored.Not much money but they regularly threw parties that delighted everyone. Granma danced, played piano, loved all kinds of music.Then at forty—they both the same age—he died suddenly. She was broken in half. Nothing could fix her. After some time she had come to live with us. Those “fetching emerald eyes” became muddy. Only her hair continued brown into old age, a haunting wisp of the past.On her bedside table the proverbial dentures in a glass of effervescence. But a pharmaceutical array of lozenges so she wouldn’t “catch a cough” at night. Bolstered by a stack of pillows she sat up in bed to sleep. Thus, she could see Death come in the door—her rare use of metaphor.That cough, was it an attempt to sing? or to try to get out what was deep inside.