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Your grandmother’s house became our summer home, at the time you claimed it
was to help her out in her old age, but really it was to escape your parents and I
didn’t blame you for that. It was the summer before we moved into our own
place, before full-time jobs, and arguments. I was wary at meeting more of your
family, your mother’s mother was a strict mormon who called me a whore for
wearing shorts and holding your hand. (It didn’t help, she later caught us making
out on her couch at 2 in the morning, her face a shade of red I’d never seen
before.)

Your father’s mother was a Greek immigrant, a self-proclaimed ex Christian
Orthodox witch, with a house full of crystal altars and statues of naked women. I
already liked her more than anyone else in your family. Our first night she baked
briam, a medley of roasted vegetables freshly picked that morning, and we took
shots of ouzo with shouts of “Yiamas!”

The summer was spent cleaning layers of dust from her altars and rearranging
for the midsummer solstice. She showed us how to make goat cheese from her
trip of goats, her hands trembling as she patted their heads. At night she’d tell us
stories from her childhood in Greece, of her papa’s land, and her husband’s
death, an accident involving horses, an answer to her empty barn. We delivered
twin kids at dawn, their wet bodies steaming, their voices loud and screaming
the trauma of being born.

At summer’s end we left for our new home and jobs, leaving behind memories of
light breathing in mason jars, my pockets heavy with blessed crystals, your heart
full from a loving relative, and our faces

tanned by the sun.
We promised to visit soon
but soon would come too late.

~

This piece is part of a larger collection, “Places I never want to see again (they remind me of you who I once loved)” which is forthcoming from Gnashing Teeth Publishing.

Keriann Gilson is a 4th generation Alaskan living out her dream teaching English to high school students. She is currently getting her MFA through the University of Alaska Anchorage in Creative Writing with a focus on poetry. Keriann is new to the publishing world having had her first poem published in the Winter 2019/2020 edition of Alaska Women Speak.

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