Sakhi Awards Third Prize



They Come For the Old Women

By Thadra Sheridan

When the neighbor came for my aunt
she was alone
as was more often than not;
husband long dead,
grandchildren scattered
to bigger towns,
daughter in a home
of her own.
This place haunted with echoes,
the piano at family gatherings
her fingers now too gnarled to play.
She was the stylish one of three sisters,
with bright red lips and
perfect ’40’s pinup hair,
smart matching suits,
delicate shoes,
a cheerful woman.
We were welcomed there warmly
in her home, now
clung to fiercely
with stooped spine,
paper skin,
more practical shoes.
Her sisters gone or relocated to more
appropriate quarters
for old ladies.

The neighbor came for
prescription drugs,
shoved her down the basement stairs
she clung to the railing,
but they pushed
until she tumbled to the bottom where
they stood over her,
and she played dead.

Broken spine, three broken ribs,
they stapled her head
to stop the bleeding,
two broken wrists,
she’d pushed the medical alert button
with her elbow.

When they came for my great grandmother
she was alone.
It was a good neighborhood
when they’d bought the house,
a place to raise the three children
who’d survived of eight,
to grow old;
two stories
four bedrooms
rich dark woodwork,
a somber place bleeding memories.
Her husband and children
since devoured by cancer,
she was a resilient Irish woman.
But these days they drove down her street
and smashed the side mirrors off cars
with baseball bats.

When they came for her,
and they came twice,
she did not know them.
Just some old woman alone,
perfect for pistol whipping and
locking in a closet to
steal what they could scavenge,
a little money,
her wedding ring.

There are places on this earth
where wars rage,
children murder children,
rape is a strategic tactic,
explosions are indiscriminate,
food and water are fought for,
Safety is an idyllic concept.

In this place, far from those
our ancestors,
those who created us
can only cling to the past for so long.
Home is only that while you
raise your children, while your grandchildren
visit on Christmas.
But once they’ve dissipated
from this place,
no longer tribal
with telephones and internet and airplanes,
where far away is the optimum destination for the young,
then you are a frail old woman
alone in an empty house where
there must be something valuable
an easy score,
you won’t put up much of a fight.


Thadra Sheridan is a writer, performer and humorist from Minneapolis, MN. Her work has appeared in Rattle, The Legendary, Sugared Water, Specter, The Pine Hills Review, on Upworthy, HBO’s Def Poetry Jam and button Poetry. She is the recipient of the Jerome Foundation’s Verve Grant for Spoken Word and a past weekly columnist for Opine Season. She is currently working on a memoir.


One Comment Add yours

  1. Alison French-Tubo says:

    Beautiful sadness.


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