Lineage

I make hot chocolate the way my mother does:
heating milk on the stove until it develops a skin.

It is summer. Slow rain slaps the asphalt.
I live on a quiet street no one enters unless they’ve lost their way.

In the apartment next door,
two girls split a bottle of prosecco.
I watch them through the window: the color of the wine

changing green to yellow as it spills from bottle
to glass, their faces serious as they pour.

I had a grandmother who died of lung cancer.
The cancer came from cooking fumes, the hours
she labored in the cinder block kitchen behind her apartment.

That was two years after our first meeting:
her face immense before my own.

I was five. I had a velvet dress.
She gave me sweet oranges she plucked from a tiny tree.

Then I went home and forgot her: her smell, bars of light
sliding into the bedroom at dawn, the neighbor’s docile rooster.

I was young. She lived three thousand miles away and I had school,
and boxes of new crayons, and chapter books

worn at the edges from children’s thumbs.
I was young and everybody loved me. From the windows

of my bedroom at night you could see nothing
but your own reflection.