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.
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
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
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
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.
When the tall stranger
steps into my kitchen in his tux
asks for coffee and brioche,
I’ll slip up to my room
don my gown, plait my hair
curl with a favorite book
in my reading chair.
With wind brushing my skin
soft music in the air,
I won’t invite him in.
But when his face appears,
I’ll smile and say
“Darling, I’ve been waiting here.”
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
for whom Dad played
Hail to the Queen
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 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
Don’t talk, listen.
Don’t try, do.
Walk the talk.
Keep it simple.
Help another alcoholic.
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.
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.
I'm held hostage to hope.
My job – suspense, submission.
His – choice and power.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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?
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.