32B

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

He pouts childlike when ignored
Hovers over you in arguments
He buries the kitchen table in papers
Resists clearing it even for parties.
Holds your arm tightly lest you 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 you pause.
He harangues you while you book vacation.  
You select the seats.  
You’re 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.


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. 

AT SEVENTY-TWO

At 72, it takes two tries
to get each foot into my jeans.
I wobble and catch myself
against the closet shelf.
 
At 72, I nap each day
enjoy my dreams 
scary or complex, puzzles
to ponder in waking hours.
 
At 72, it seems absurd
that I remember a child’s
great great grandmother. 
I'm a walking history text.
 
At 72, my 87-year-old friend
says I am young. I should
not fret but get to work.
I have another 20 years.
 
At 72, I think of poems 
unwritten, songs unsung
and return to my desk.
The day is young.

HOME

Truth runs thin in homes
diluted by pills and alcohol.
There’s no hook to hang your hat upon,
no rock on which to stand.
Mothers park along the driveway
at school’s end. Our Buick sits
cock-eyed across the curb.
 
I long to be like other kids, but
know I’m not.  Vodka bottles line
the linen closet - a fully-feathered
duck rests in the freezer.
I show it to my friend.
The puppy ate mom’s sleeping pills
and will not wake again.
 
School is worse - so many faces
whose chatter makes no sense
to me.  I am not them.  Sunday’s
comics fill me with dread.
There’s no vacation from
fear, only blank days that
stretch ahead.

MISSING

The Lord’s Prayer went missing today
on my knees no words to say.
Often a name, a place 
evaporates as I reach for it.
Whole chunks of books I’ve read
when opened, I’ve lost the thread.
 
I used to drive with knowledge sure
of roads from today and long ago
my sense of place, a source of pride.
That map in my brain is gone.
This troubles me.  It isn’t clear 
what’s normal.  What I should fear.
 
I trust the journey - friends, family, God
and if I must – will seek in books, maps,
stories, prayers to fill my lips
and ease my grip upon this world
and what remains – the precious gift
of days and hours, I ‘ve yet to claim.