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A novel in verse … and the writing thereof
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The Tea Set (2)

Of course you can interview me, I said; I’d be proud.

I served her tea in mother’s china,

“Made in Occupied Japan,” inscribed

on the bottom of every saucer, every teacup. Why? I wondered.

But my granddaughter didn’t care about that story;

     she only wanted to know about the war.

That was the war, of course, but not mine, she thought,

     so it didn’t count. She was young yet:

     she still assumed

     her story was her own. Having a generous heart,

she thought my story belonged to me. Who was I

               to tell her different?

We sat together

     there at the kitchen table, she with her

straight brown hair (like mine; just

     like mine when I was young)

sweeping the page where she took notes, and

               talked of war.

Ten minutes later, she stood up. “You knew half of that,”

     I said, “already.”

“I know,” said Noreen. “But Mrs. Barton said we had to ask every question.

     Otherwise, we’re not really interviewing.” She rolled her eyes.

I rolled mine. But—didn’t she want to know

     what happened next?

“No thanks; I only need

     a page. Thanks, Grandma!”

“Any time,” I said to her retreating back. “No problem. Just

               keep it short.”

 

“‘No problem’?”

I jumped. “Carley, don’t sneak up on me like that!”

“Sorry, Mom. So, what are you up to in here

with Noreen?

     You’ve got out the tea set.”

I told her I’d been

committed to posterity.

“You make it sound like a graveyard.”

“No, just the world’s shortest history of World War II:

     She came (to San Francisco), she nursed, she married. Then,

     she moved to Montana.”

“I can just see you in a toga,

     brandishing a sword.”

“What, and charging over the Rockies?”

“Well, you rather conquered Dad, I hear.”

“That’s how he told it? Interesting.”

I stood to stack the breakfast dishes,

     hiding my smile.

Just then Noreen burst back into the room—

     this was not a child whose entrances

     could ever go unnoticed—

toothbrush in hand, and through lips

     white and foamy, demanded,

“Grammy, will you tell me

     more tomorrow after school?”

“I thought you didn’t want to know

     anymore.”

“Not for school.” Her tone scornful.

     “It’d be wasted.”

No answer required; she spun and was gone,

     the teacups shivering in their saucers as the door

slammed behind her.

“Silly me,” I muttered. “Sheesh. Between you and your daughter,

Carley, I don’t know why

     I haven’t had a heart attack yet.”

“You’re a tough old bird, Mom. What’s that?”

From the floor we rescued a paper adrift.

Be sure to include, it said, the following:

page 151