Ophelia’s Opal (poetry)

When my grandmother knew she was dying
she picked out an opal for me,
had a ring designed
and sized it,
for the short time being,
for her own hand.
I was an infant then, recently diagnosed
lifelong colorless and could-be blind.

My grandmother was a force—
a farm girl who took beatings
for sneaking away to read,
a young woman who left her family
to work among foul mouthed boys
at the Pentagon during WWII,
a single mother,
a stone wall,
razor tongue,
acid wit,
first female management at the FAA.

She held me at the hospital
in a hallway while the final diagnosis
was pronounced to my parents
in a tiny, sterile room.
Her breast was warm,
though the breathing behind it was labored.
Her embrace was soothing
though her hands were not soft
from folding crust-cut sandwiches in wax paper
for her children or grandchildren’s outings
of uncomplicated youth.

She explored my hot face and closed eyelids
with her wise yet diminishing fingers,
the opal slipping forward and upside down
under her nearly exposed knuckle,
resting against my forehead,
cooling a spot just above my eyes.
She leaned forward and blessed me,
“My dear little Michelle-y,
I do hope you can see.”

-M. Ashley

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