“When Grandfather Died” by Liam Siemens

When Grandfather Died

Poem by Liam Siemens

Art by Enid Au


At the dinner table, I watch my sister’s hair

shrink back into her head until she’s my age.

Before I’ve had time to move, she’s wrapped

herself in tablecloths, hidden under pillowcases,



who’s got the time?


Under a chair,

my brother’s shoes grow

clownish on his feet, his

words catching on a

stutter. In a second, he’s

zooming atop kitchen

counters, carpets, tables,

picking his nose like it’s a

threat, ripping pages

from Calvin & Hobbes,

eating syrup on pancakes

on the floor. I look away.

When I look back, his

forehead is lined. He’s

shrunken in on himself.

Not unhappy. Trying to

explain Deleuzian

rhizomes in a manner

he thinks casual,


could you pass the time?


Above the crumpled cinnamon buns,

Mom wizens, smartens,

she’s slinging grandchildren

atop each shoulder, her

spoon-silver hair catching

in the light. Then she catches

her reflection, pinches her

neck, this — where did this

come from? and her spine

starts to curl like a Theracane.

I try to stop her, but by the time

I hold her hands, she’s smiling sadly.

Remember when I called you

the Goddess of compassion, I

say while her fingers tighten.

Remember you’d let me squish

the plush veins on your hand,

ask you for a scoop of peanut butter

by the fire? I look down at myself

to see boxing-glove baby hands,

bubble-gum wallpaper around a hand-made crib,


where’s the time gone?


My father’s face de-wrinkles above

Mennonite meat & potatoes.

I show him communist

rock and we throw

the ball around.

What will I be like in the future, he asks.

I add a Harrison Ford fedora and inflate his

stomach to 60 psi. Like this, I say, only greyer.

Do we talk? Yes, we clock 5km together and

pretend we aren’t racing.


But what will you play at my funeral?

He slows down and dives into a pool of water,

a streak of youth,

and while I wait for him on the other side,

I scratch a spot behind my ears.

I say, I’m not there yet.