GYPSY

A stranger stands ahead of me 
in line at the Post Office 
in a dusty black hat 
grey gauze hanging below its rim.
Her neck, also dusty, is
bent, the vertebrae like tiny peaks.
An old black jacket hangs from her shoulders.
As she stands in line, she tugs at the jacket
to straighten it.  Her worn black pants fall 
to just above the cast on her ankle.
Gauze wraps that too.
I am afraid to stand near her,
hang back as the line moves forward.
I cannot see her face but fear 
it may be ghastly.

Her turn comes at the counter.
I’m next.
When I glance over, I recognize her. 
She is the gypsy I’ve seen here so often.
Her dark penciled brows 
and bold rouged cheeks usually
paired with dark skirts and tops.
Today, hurt, she does not look herself.
She leaves a suitcase by the door
while she gets her mail.
That task complete, 
she straightens her jacket,
collects her suitcase 
and wheels it and her pain
back into the world.



depositphotos_150954514_xl.jpegOctober 11, 2021

SHADOWS

As I approach the river in the fog
a heron takes flight, dark winged angel.
“Good morning, Mom.” I say.
Since her death, I greet
each heron and feel blessed 
by the sighting. Mom’s love
of nature saved my life.
 
When sun sparkles
on saltwater and I feel 
the wash of waves,
Jamie, my summer brother, is near.
As teens, we surfed September breakers 
then collapsed onto the sand
laughing always
laughing.

All my old boyfriends are
dead (except for the one I live with.)
Maurie, lifted his 6’4”
frame into the boat like a wet otter,
his homely face offset by
a quick wit.  His farm town 
roots were exotic to this suburban girl.
He believed withdrawal would work.
Good thing we broke up.

John, a handsome bad boy,
drove his dad’s T-bird. 
He was my first male obsession.
He rose at Jamie’s funeral 
to hug me, share our grief
for old times, old backseats
old friends.

Ann died last year.  Forty years
of friendship, knitting and laughter. 
Each project and strange new style
prompts me to call her. 
In New Mexico, when Linda 
decided to drive - Ann and I  
jumped in the back seat.
I am still laughing.

100 QUESTIONS

A hundred questions 
cross my mind
	What was that song dad used to hum?
	What college did my mom attend?
	Where did Aunt Marge’s friend come from?
I failed to ask
	or make a note
	of many things 
	while they were here
	just within reach
        alive and near.

A hundred questions
cross my mind
              About Dad’s mom
              who died so young.
              I’ve no idea what she died from.

My favorite stories too are gone
               The battleship
               for whom Dad played
               Hail to the Queen
               a serenade.
               
               Salts stood attention at the rail
               Dad asked them down to 
               drink and sail.
	       He went onboard to drink instead.

These questions come
at oddest times
	  Old photos with the names now gone
          A tune, a food, a place, a song
          I wonder and will wonder long.               
	     
               

BANKER BOB

Banker Bob wears suspenders and a bow tie
is older than God
rents rooms to the newly sober
bridges no bullshit.

Old school AA he brooks no whining
insists newbies suit up and show up.
Never loses sight of the disease
that wants to kill us.

He is just a man
many years sober
doing what we are taught
saving lives.

Don’t talk, listen.
Don’t try, do.
Walk the talk.
Keep it simple.

Help another alcoholic.

32B

Abuse is subtle
Nothing friends see
I'm blamed for his mistakes
He credits my work to himself.
Observes I'm “almost” thin enough
Implies small things lacking
If only I were smarter, prettier, quieter
He laughs when I fail 
Photographs my clumsiness 
Ignores my success
Mumbles under his breath
the whispered threat
“I’m getting angry.”

He pouts childlike when ignored
Hovers over me in arguments
He buries the kitchen table in papers
Resists clearing it even for parties.
Holds my arm tightly lest I leave
The Christmas tree he promises to take down
remains up until Easter.
His hatchet for cutting up chicken
for the dogs rests against the hoosier.
It gives me pause.
He harangues me while I book vacation.  
I select the seats.  
I'm in 13A
He’s in 32B.


WAITING 1963

Each night I wait.
I watch out the window. 
I count cars
that appear on the road. 
See their headlights grow
then dwindle as they
continue past on 
two lanes heading north.

“If I count ten cars, he’ll come.”
“If I count twenty…”
I hope we will drive to the light
and talk and laugh 
but he may not appear.
I sit at the window until 
late, the night gone.
Disappointment’s my reward.

All evening 
I'm held hostage to hope.
My job – suspense, submission.
His – choice and power.


PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE

I pledge allegiance to the flag 
of the United States of America
and to the Republic for which it stands
one nation, diverse and indivisible, 
created and preserved by the love and labor 
of indigenous people, slaves and immigrants 
for their children and their children’s children
as one nation with freedom to worship,
to love, to marry and to seek 
the truth and insist on its telling
and to preserve this fragile earth
with respect, liberty and justice for all.

LONG LIFE

Nothing says elder like grab bars
installed in your shower and tub
to keep one from slipping
when soapy and dripping
and hitting the floor with a thud.

Nothing says senior like sneakers
worn with any and all sorts of dress
to keep one from wobbling
ungracefully hobbling
though safe, not designed to impress.

Nothing says ancient like groaning
every time one gets up or bends down
and the need for a prop
to help pull oneself up
lest you’re stuck all day long on the ground.

Nothing’s as lovely as living 
long enough for what’s listed above
letting go of the strife
and arranging your life 
with a focus on those whom you love.





 

VIGIL

She is sixteen when leukemia claims her
a girl of nut-brown hair and letter sweaters 
the brightest star in the local firmament.
She outshines her brother even in death.
The church overflows onto Route 12
the April afternoon of her funeral.
She leaves behind a mother, a brother, a father.
Each evening the family sits at her graveside
as if awaiting benediction.
That summer her friends bring picnics to her grave.
The red votive lamp on her headstone is always lit.
It shines in easy view of the family’s kitchen window
and glows warmly through
	blizzard, rain and star shine.
Deer walk daily through the churchyard 
	years sift down like snow.
The son graduates, moves to Bradford.
The father works and works and works.
The mother sits
	by the glowing lamp.









Deposit Photos Image 124351762_xl_2015.jpg 

BELOVED

If I call myself Beloved
     I cannot trade my life for trinkets. 
     I must not pursue more than my due.
     I may not treat my body like a dumpster.

If I call the stranger Beloved
     I cannot smash his head with a bat.
     I must remove my hand from his pocket.
     I may not force myself on his wife.

If I call the earth Beloved
     I cannot mine her oceans.
     I must not poison her air.
     I may not abuse her wildlife.
     

I become one with the moth on the screen,
     the mouse in its nest, the hawk in 
     the sky.

PERSISTANCE

Why so many rules, Shepherd?
Have you no faith your flock will return
Wiser and grateful for your fences
Glad of food and shelter?

Our boundaries are our own
Close or far, sharp or smooth
Set by instinct, fear or faith
Curiosity or passion.

Not all live long
Some return their bodies early
For soil to recycle but
Matter abides - ours and theirs.

And what of spirit?
If the world wastes nothing
Do not spirits too persist
Awaiting their next vessel?

SATURDAYS

 
 It’s hard not to love the world.
 A small boy at Dunkin’ Donuts
 all blue eyes - tousled hair 
 curls his toes
 on the rung of his chair 
 waves at me through the glass.
  
 Leaving Dunkin’, one dad
 holds the door for another as
 his daughter spins in her red skirt
 and her dark curls fly
 in a little girl’s flirt.
 Saturdays with her dad.
  
 How can I not love this routine 
 weekend trips with children?
 Media so rarely features bliss, 
 family outings, courtesy
 better than a kiss is the
 kindness and joy that hold us here.