CIGARETTES

Thirty years but
if one’s lit nearby
the scent draws me
like a child to brownies.

Worse to quit
than bread or chocolate
beer on a hot day
wine as I cook.

They told me “Place old butts
in a jar, take a deep whiff
if you weaken” – that jar
smelled of every man I’ve loved.

Two things carried me
my son and the desire
for the freedom to
not need anything.

Still, if someone
snuffs a candle
or strikes a match
just so…

SMALL ABANDONMENTS AND LEAVE TAKINGS 

I thought elephants danced in the car
as my aunt clasped me, age two with pneumonia
and mom drove to hospital – I screamed when they
left so the doctors forbade future visits.
I was alone with nurses and needles
for two long white weeks.

Pat left me tied, age five, to a phone pole.
She didn’t do it. Gerard and his buddies did
but my sister, my protector, walked away
left me bound ‘til dinnertime alone
next to the street, a kindergartener
in suspenders and red Keds.

In 9th grade, Sandi broke up with Tom.
He asked me out – the blond boy of my dreams!
Sandi coached me for a week on
dancing, clothes and French kissing.
Then, outside Grunnings, his friends laughed,
teased me – the date was a joke. Didn’t I get it?

Jamie had a sister – institutionalized.
I had no brother. We were siblings for each other.
I felt safer with him than anyplace I know.
He married young, grandson by 52. A mole grew.
Jamie, who could corral whole rooms with laughter,
called one afternoon to say he did not feel
like he was dying. But he did.

Glenn “with two n’s, like Glenn Miller”
had wave blue eyes I swam in.
Knew me better than I knew myself.
Is married now to someone else.
He called to make amends –
apologize for choices he knew better than.
Said he loves me still – he always will.

I saw the color fall from mom’s face.
“She’s going!” I said.
Pat and I grasped her hands.
“Our Father, who art in Heaven
Hallowed be Thy name.”
This is it. So gentle.
Then gone. Her final gift to us.
Death, fearless, light as air.

JRM

When you arrived in my life
with saturated colors
I was not looking to meet
to move, to love
but there you were
from just around the corner.
I knew Bev’s name
remembered the Park Theatre
how we danced and laughed
played at Francisco Field
you in your baseball uniform
me watching little league on
spring days.

I met a man
whose bruises matched mine
in surprising ways
whose kindness ran as deep
as his silence and need for
quiet and alone time
who loved animals
working
taking pictures

I met my match.

WOMEN

Whatever time and the world throws at women, we continue to strive, each in our own way, for what is good and true. We finish nursing, set our child on our hip and walk back into the fray. We grab the hands of the disabled. We change the diapers of the incontinent. We wipe spittle from the mouths of our grandparents. We hide slaves in our cellars and feed hobos at our back doors. We create sanctuary cities. We resist the rending of our families. We plant gardens in inner cities. We ladle soup in food kitchens. We are of every color, height and weight. Our worth is not in how we look but in who we are. We are the flesh that holds the world together.

We are taken for granted in the same way as air. Without us, there would be no “we”. Men fear and adore us. They shame and worship us.

Politicians come and go. Wars are fought. Unions rise and are beaten down. But slowly, ever so slowly, we insist on progress – emancipation, the vote, minimum wage hikes – still no equal pay, still working to retain what’s been won.

Each day we hoist our children to our hips and set out again.

Women – the vibrant, beating heart of the world.

DUSTING

It’s us we dust
not some distant rabbit fluff or forgotten flake of stranger.
Our very mitochondria’s cast off about the sofa, table, chair
our entire lair’s alive with microscopic leavings.
It’s our breadcrumb trail back to time remembered or forgot.
Small bits of days from childhood – nights of
watching tiny satellites pass overhead-
the miracle of travel where once only stars and comets
flew – who knew the things to follow – cell phones, laptops
GPS – we know more now by knowing less
but break still in the old, weak spots.

Cells too remain from proms missed and attended
dried orchids hung on curtains
hearts broken and by time mended.
Teenage love songs, Buddy Holly, Elvis
George and Ringo, John and Paul –
the words, key changes, new hair styles
we loved them all.

Flecks too remain from tying sneakers for my son
and knitting Kate a turquoise sweater,
praying daily for my marriage to get better.
Those small children now have babies of their own
and I’m a grandmom with grey hair, cell phone, creped skin.
The scales of aging waltz without and within
toward a place past time and dust.

Published in Evening Street Review, Autumn 2012.

STILL

STILL

Five a.m.
The old house is still
but for the hum of interstate.
My ancient Scottie drowses on the bed.
The puppy rests on pillows at its head.
Elsa sleeps, blanket in hand,
upstairs in her four poster.
Her parents down the hall sleep on foam.
The Airedale and poodle, little dog and big
rest at their feet.

My coffee cup warms my palms.
The grandfather clock’s about to chime.
Today has yet to be.
Its promises unmet – dreams undreamed.
The quiet exhalation of trees
makes sweet the air
before the day begins to breathe.

KNOWING THE LIGHT

The way the light falls into my bathroom
each morning in summer
is known to me
deeply
like my name.
I know it better than how to
grow old
retire or
navigate social security.
Its soft presence
from the east, gently,
predictably
lifts me into the day.
It’s only absent in storm
but then still present in a
diffuse way.
Light, more faith than fifty creeds,
daily holds me
in its glow.
Moving is not just a
new baker, grocer, dry cleaner,
a change in the way home,
new paths
to reach old friends,
it’s a shift in how
the world looks when I wake
as I splash
water on my face,
how I see myself
as I prepare
to meet the world.
It’s a change in all I know.
The way the light falls into my bathroom
each morning in summer
is known to me
deeply
like my name.

 

 

Published in Evening Street Review, Autumn 2012.

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