My gran

A long Craven A cigarette with two centimetres of ash

Hanging, hands free, from her lip

Would say

“Too terrible”

When she would recount the hopeless relationships

In the soapies she followed.

“Too terrible” was also for the callers who phoned in

to talk shows with their incurable aches and pains.

My gran could relate.

She said “too terrible” about the food at the function

Which was mostly inedible – she had tried all the cakes to make sure.

And a special, drawn out “too terrible” was reserved

For the fashions of the day, worn by me

The first-born grandchild with “a mind of her own, mind you”.

“Too terrible” was for how she felt after a restless night,

Or how the Joburg summer heat made sweat bead on her upper lip

Or darken her silk neckline.

And it was “too terrible” the way people were treated,

Or the way others drove, or hooted, or slammed on brakes.

 

My gran, whose telephone voice

And jewellery box, and teiglach I miss

Managed to capture a helpless, hilarious, and most deep humanity

In those words, “too terrible”

It’s “too terrible for words”.