Grandmother’s Mercury

Graphic Myriam Ouazzani

Grandmothers mercury

Coursed through arteries

Through father's blood and tongues of brothers


Love stood still at border fires

Each one raging with toxic fumes

Fueled by chaos of traumatized eyes

Coal smoke lapping at the face of children

Who breathed in fire as their fathers once did


Toxicity was God's drop of madness

Ill and deranged in their composure

Standing in prayer–longing for relief

Side to side in struggle

Side to side in insanity.


Grandmother's mercury

From fingertips to black tea sips

As poison poured down from humble cups to hungry stomachs

Their heads weighed down through shame 


To question the venom was to war with each other

To accept their condition was divine order

Like grandmother's spiked chalice on lips

To develop in malice was their only gift


Like love–the harm was unconditional

From father's breast feeding to grandfather's beatings


They grew up like grape vines, tied to their fixture

Around poles and pipes, beaten through scripture

Rods of fear ripped through their chests

Stakes in the ground left holes in which they rest.


Their leaves were hard, rough and torn

Their stems were firm and supple in turn


But ever so often

When strangers sought impression

Fruits of a broken family tree would offer its blessings


The taste would be savorous, overwhelmingly saccharine

Could bring one tears in its candied fragrance

It invited guests from far and wide

Left smiles, laughs, sobs—goodbyes


But to eat very much was to feel flavours foul

Couple with hate, guilt, shame to devour 


From the blood of their father came a taste bittersweet

That taste was the taste of grandmother's mercury.

This article originally appeared in Volume 43, Issue 13, published March 7, 2023.