It was the year the grandmothers vanished.
The old stories all disappeared like burnt parchment.
There were no ditches of burning bodies.
They went quietly as a last breath billowing
beneath a white sheet.
It was the year we printed up all the photos.
We learned the names of the places
we had come from, we made our daughters & sons
(the children who were all spared)
learn the old words from the old tongues,
and then learn
the word “old”
Baba, Nonna, Memere, Mawmaw, Lola, Yaya—
there was one last summer before they filled the wards,
we sat on the back porch, in the dusked silence
there were her coos, & her crooked finger pointing at fireflies.
Sean Thomas Dougherty is the author or editor of 18 books including Not All Saints, winner of the 2019 Bitter Oleander Library of Poetry Prize; and Alongside We Travel: Contemporary Poets on Autism (NYQ Books 2019)). His book The Second O of Sorrow (BOA Editions 2018) received both the Paterson Poetry Prize, and the Housatonic Book Award from Western Connecticut State University. He works as a care giver and Med Tech for various disabled populations, and lives with the poet Lisa M. Dougherty and their two daughters in Erie, Pennsylvania. More info on Sean can be found at seanthomasdoughertypoet.com