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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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

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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