Tough Bird

I’ve begun to smell
like my grandmother.
Not the one who wore lilacs
pinned to her pink boucle on Easter.
No, the other one with large appetites—
Jim Beam, “shut-up and deal me
some decent cards, goddammit,”
tapping ash from a Salem Menthol.
You can see the bacon grease
running down her living room wall
behind my grandfather chugging
oxygen in his scabby recliner.

Dim afternoons on a ruby bar stool,
L&M Steakhouse, where we all
visited my grandparents when I was a kid—
my uncles, Dad, Aunt Phyllis.
I think I would enjoy this crowd—
cackling laughter, large-nosed barbs—
were I to spend time with them now
that I’ve begun to smell like a woman
who can hold her own.

© Karen Hildebrand
First published in Blue Mesa Review.


  1. I remember how much I like this poem. Reminds me of my long-ago step grandma, a tough bird who could also cook lights out.