She has followed me into the vestibule—
I’m sure of it, hearing the rustle
of shopping bags and the imagined pulse
of old lady’s veins against the rolled
tops of nylons. On the first-floor landing,
I hold my breath, remembering stories
of kidnappers’ candy and dimestore toys.
Old witch, wearing black and the deceptive
kindness of a babushka like an ordinary
grandma, you have followed me through bedtime
stories, coloring books, the Saturday matinee.
Snow White’s throat full of your apple,
Sleeping Beauty’s skin pierced by your needle—
I curl in this hallway anticipating your bent fingers.
Her nails in my arm, my mother is shaking
me for wearing black to high school dances.
A pale-skinned girl should dress in bright colors.
“What are you, an old baba?”
I compromise with grays and browns.
Now in dishwater my fingertips whiten
into ridges as my daughter tells me her dream:
“You bend over me for our goodnight kiss,
unzip your face and drop your clothes.
Mama, your skin glows green;
your nails grow long and sharp.”