Babysitting

by Jimmy Pappas

At age thirteen, I babysat for my grandmother.
She had dementia, wandered off before. My uncle—
the son who lived—bore the brunt of caring for her

because he had no family. I provided him with respite
one night, so he could get drunk at a local bar.
While I read the dirty magazines he kept in his room,

my grandmother walked out of the bathroom
with her underpants around her thighs. She held up
her dress with her left hand and approached

the picture on the kitchen wall of her dead son—
the one who should have lived. I rushed to her
like some bizarre backwards tightrope walker

and yelled, Yia yia, pull your pants up. She crossed
herself with her right hand and wailed like a supplicant
in a Greek tragedy as she proffered him her dried-up body.

Jimmy Pappas served for the Air Force during the Vietnam War training South Vietnamese soldiers. A retired teacher whose poems have been published in many journals, he is a member of the Executive Board of the Poetry Society of NH.

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