Cleaning Helgas’ Grave – Kevin Ridgeway

My great-grandmother’s
Swedish mother was run over
by a car in 1932, flattened
out of existence after the family
moved to California. We found
an old photograph of them all
standing over her grave with the words
written in cursive on the backside.
My grandmother had started
to develop dementia, so we had
to move fast. She told us what
she could remember about
her mother’s death in tears
of confusion and fear
at how long her mother had been dead.
My mother and I blazed the 5 Freeway
to Forest Lawn with my grandma
in the back seat. We found a large
green hill known as the Sunrise Slope
near the mausoleum where
Hollywood legends rest in silence
forever. We saw the headstone
and helped my grandmother
walk halfway down the steep hill
until she sat down on the grass
next to the grave, exasperated
until she saw her mother’s name
and the vintage, old world light
in her eyes became flooded
by her tears as she faced
her trauma before I made
a funny face to cheer her up
enough to find herself
behaving like a grandmother again,
telling me in her gentle whisper
to smile for once, and she added
that she could never take me anywhere.
Kevin RidgewayKevin Ridgeway is the author of Too Young to Know (Stubborn Mule Press) and nine chapbooks of poetry including Grandma Goes to Rehab (Analog Submission Press, UK). His work can recently be found in Slipstream, Chiron Review, Nerve Cowboy, Plainsongs, San Pedro River Review, The Cape Rock, Trailer Park Quarterly, Main Street Rag, Cultural Weekly and The American Journal of Poetry, among others. He lives and writes in Long Beach, CA.