Words for Z

by Benjamin Aleshire

I study my grandmother dying
once a week for a few years.  I am young
and getting bigger every day
She is shrinking steadily
till I wonder when she’ll disappear in her gown.

The Sunday visits to her home
reek of urine and madness
where cadavers scream steadily in the hallways.
The Discovery Channel blares all day
though few discoveries reach her
through her catacombs of memory.

My mother and her sisters
wrestle themselves with the prayers
which surface like pale fish feeding
in the morning and at night
for her to just go, to pass
whispering on the phone
about the sadistic nurse who still hasn’t been fired
curling the cord in their fingers
trying to explain sadism to me

Knowing they lie to spare me,
I find it in the fat dictionary
its pages translucent as skin
which leads me on a scavenger hunt to
masochism    gratification    degradation
and finally to cruelty
a word I am only beginning
to understand.