LONG LAUGHTER

No laughter resonates
like that of women beyond
need of make-up and reach of girdles.
Ladies for whom wrinkles rank in importance
well below the dog’s recovery from Lyme disease
and driving the neighbor to dialysis.
No humor is quite so funny as old friends’ jibes
about each other’s foibles and failings
or jests about sex more remembered than practiced.
The stories sweeten with each repeat.
No place is safer
than one warmed
by the laughter
of friends.

SPELLING LESSONS

Father would quiz me at the dinner table
on my academic failings.
“What’s the capital of Wisconsin?” he’d inquire as I mixed peas into my mashed potatoes.
“Where’s Patagonia?” he’d demand as I twirled spaghetti onto my fork.
“Spell squirrel.” he’d order as I lifted a forkful of pot roast to my lips.
My mind would freeze – my brain become empty as a clear frozen lake
and the scared rabbit of my heart would skitter across the ice seeking shelter.
Finally I ‘d pull from somewhere
“S-Q-U-I-R-R-E-L”
and the meal would resume its course.
To this day, I prefer to eat alone and
direct questions hit me like the Artic Express,
blasting away all thought.
People think I’m arrogant or not-too-bright.
They can’t see that small rabbit
skating frantically for the far shore.

PASSAGES

Midnight wings unfurl
into updrafts of spirit.

Does seed fear the ground?
Waves the sea?

A dog barks in a mountain village
as color falls from treasured face.

What’s the weight of a breath?
The heft of a sigh?

A husk drops to the ground to
rattle and roll down the hedgerow.

In their earthen den, two cubs root
for a nipple as the sow awaits spring.

PEDICURE

Morning in the nail shop,
two Vietnamese women and I
hear a man’s voice drawl

“I want a pedicure, that’s all.”

Men don’t enter here, this world
of polish, lotion – free of fear.
Perhaps we misheard – he repeats it slow

“A pedicure, please, nothing more.”

We avoid each other’s eyes
as he climbs the chair
to perch above the foot bath
a green beret on his unkempt hair.

Is it memory or mercy this veteran seeks or
simply gentle hands on tired feet?

 

Published on http://www.vietnamwarpoetry.com/cpcynthiamsheward.html

Image – Old Shoes  © Zimogljad | Dreamstime.com\

SHEPHERDESS

She fell like seed
on good ground –
giving herself as final
gift to land she’d
walked and worked
for years.
Leaving stories,
laughter, tears,
memories of
forthright speech
the love of liberty –
her fierce, unyielding heart,
flying free.

 

                                   In memory of Anne Priest 1927 – 2010.

WARRIOR

Without leathers, he’s but a man
Irish face, tan, thick waist.
But garbed in medals, head-rag, boots,
he’s Genghis, Grant, Hannibal –
thunder rolling on a Harley.

Still a warrior 40 years on
jungles long gone – no Cong to fight,
he defends in statehouse, hospital, VA
his band – most dead by 64 –
and others from more recent wars.

Cigars like old rags stain his hands.
He smells of man: smoke, sweat and musk
sleeps poorly, dreams of violence each dusk.
The price of war’s eternal vigilance
perpetual keeping score.

published on http://www.vietnamwarpoetry.com/cpcynthiamsheward.html

HARD GRACE

Hair like liquid onyx falls past her face
while she works over the fingers of her customers.
Her skill is hypnotic to watch as
deftly she forms each perfect nail
then paints it like fine china
only swiftly. This is commerce, not art.
Day in, day out, she breathes dusty air through a white mask,
accompanied by the drone of her Dremel file
and saves money to return home.
Her sleep’s still broken by nightmares.
Her entire family died in the war. Of this she never speaks.
When she speaks of home, it is only of its beauty and of old friends.
A dog-eared tome of Thich Nhat Hanh rests by her chair.
She works hard: plans, saves, yearns.
Her daughter, born American, has no desire to live in the “old country”.
She has her own dreams: college, a young man, children – her dreams
hold no room for quaint villages, palm trees and unexploded ordnance.
Soon she’ll be pregnant.

What profession will Iraqi women adopt when they arrive here?
What tools will refugees from the Hanging Gardens of Babylon use
To wrest grace from the jaws of “Shock and Awe”?

 

Published in Friends Journal February 2011

Photo Credit
Contract Between Two Trees
Tay Ninh Viet Nam © Truong Hoang Huy Ngan Ngan Truong
Dreamstime.com