Ode to Sipping Tea with My Grandmother

During an April afternoon that never happened,
we sit around the flimsy foldout table as the hospital room

fills with the aroma of Earl Grey. I burn
my nose while sipping from a cafeteria mug, sifting

through memories as one would tea leaves—feeling our time melt
faster than the ice chips bouncing in your plastic cup.

I watch each thought rise like steam, cascading into stories
I always wished to share with you:

when I finally finished my hand drawn, office paper comic book
in which your character saves humanity from the evil space slugs,

how dad and I would name our shiny, new golden Labrador ‘Bandit’
and the tears bled by the driver who hit him before Bandit got up to lick her hand,

what sprouted the idea to grow my hair long
as well as the tangles and knots that justified straightening it,

how I told every women I dared to submerge my heart into
about you

—which is how I remember almost every one of them was a smoker,
how slowly each took their drags after I said how your story ended.

As my teeth begin to gnaw at my lip, a remnant
of the same habit I took up in spite your lesson,

I find myself wishing you could see this April afternoon—that you aren’t gone,
just slowly recovering in the hospital room where I saw you last—

recalling that warm grin you would always greet me with
as I poured my imagination

onto the driveway of your old apartment building;
nestling, in the corner of your mouth, a cigarette

as you take a drag and slowly disappear
into the fading plumes.