Clarinda Harriss


Grandmother’s look

She stands in Kodak black & white,
gripping her pocketbook,
her face in the grimace my mother called
her Christian look.

She looks at her seventy-something date
who’s snapping the picture, of course.
“He’s way too young for me,” she says,
“but I could do worse.”

He brought her the gardenia pinned
to her tailor-made suit’s lapel.
She did the fine tailoring herself.
The flower is unwell.

Though it doesn’t show in the photo
every flower she wore took ill.
Grandmother stopped wristwatches, too.
And her look could kill.


Clarinda Harriss is a professor emerita of Towson University’s English Department, which she chaired for a decade, and longtime director of BrickHouse Books, Inc., Maryland’s oldest literary press. Her most recent book is The White Rail, a collection of short stories; she is also the author of Air Travel, Mortmain, and Dirty Blue Voice. Several of her grandchildren have threatened to write poems about her. All have complained about “the look” she gets on her face when being photographed.