Vilma has an accent like my grandfather's.
He and I watched Lassie Sunday nights until
the doctor said all that emotion was bad
for his heart. Sometimes I wonder about life

in the shtetl, think of Chagall's people and houses
floating, unmoored, wonder if my family loved
to bicker even then. Vilma, not Wilma—there's no
"W" in Lithuanian, she tells me—dresses simply.

My grandmother wore a silk suit, ruby earrings,
matching brooch, and I remember the ice's clink
in her wodka, as she called it. I wear dangly earrings,
and overdo it, my mother says. "Less jewelry

would be better. Get all dressed up, then remove
one accessory," she instructs. Vilma tells me
to pee in a cup. When a New Jersey policeman
ordered my grandmother to sweep the snow

off her sidewalk, she moved to New York, or so
the story goes. As Vilma takes my blood, weighs me,
does an electro-cardiogram, she announces,
"It's a wonderful city," enunciating the W with a care

that reminds me of how my grandfather used to fold
the American flag on summer nights, the way he taught me:
never let it drop.