Cervantes is clearly in awe of her gra’ma, given that they “crunched” through her set life and by all indications should have been a great annoyance to her. This might be the most salient lesson of the poem, i.e., what Cervantes learned in retrospect through maturation that they really had little to offer their gra’ma and she had so much to offer them (particularly the unforgiving nature of the vines, newts, etc.) but that never once did the gra’ma ever resent them. It is above the understanding of a child to realize the love and patience of an older family member, but looking back Cervantes is realizing that love and patience—both from her gra’ma personally and from the environment her gra’ma cultivated for them—and is ever grateful, finding that her adult self has been formed accordingly, and will “always live” there.
The very first sentence of the poem is a nostalgic appeal to constancy, describing the gra’ma as “always” with a fabric in her lap and while in her heart. This description is both physical and figurative, providing a visual image of the grandmother with fabric but also an image of personality. Next, the poem provides some very rich alliteration with “a sweet sap to be sucked” and “nymphs of newts nestled.” The effect of the alliteration is arresting; it not only grabs the reader’s attention but creates a sort of rhythm and mood, in this instance, the alliteration feels comforting; both in its objects (i.e., natural beauties in a garden) and also in its sound. This plays well with the previous sentence about the grandmother, dovetailing off of it to reinforce this notion of comfort and inclusion in the company of a friendly grandmother. It also helps to set the perspective as that of a child, who would probably be more excited at the prospect of sweet sap or newts under a rock than a grown adult might be. Next, the alliteration is bookended by another appeal to constancy, saying that the gra’ma’s role as “She who brings the waters” is still intact. This is an unusual and rather mystical title that is a bit difficult to figure out, except that we can understand the grandmother as a life-giver of some sort, as water is a fundamental element of the preservation of human life. Structurally, the impact that the comforting alliteration has, as bookended by two instances of the gra’ma’s constancy, is that it imparts to the reader a sense of honor, appreciation, and esteem for the grandmother. The grandmother is structurally established as sort of necessary to this comfort that the alliteration provides—she is before it, and she is after it. So while the alliteration might seem to stand on its own in a sense, it really relies more on the effects of the descriptions that precede and proceed it; the grandmother is responsible for these nice affects. Without her, they simply do not mean as much.
Cervantes, Lorna Dee. Stenciled Memories. From Sueno. Poetry Foundation, 2013. Web, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/56857/stenciled-mem