Morning on the porch, I finger my collection
of blue-black seashells, large and small.
I water my potted lilacs, one on each
of the six front steps, and plant marigolds
on the sides of my cottage.
Sparkles of light and robin's song
accent my delights.
Wearing a straw hat, I ride
the three-speed bike of my youth
to the farmer's market. I pass a pink rose garden
with a wood bench painted violet purple.
At the market, raspberries, strawberries,
and boysenberries entice me.
I carry them home in my bike basket.
In afternoon heat, I stroll the path to the beach
in thongs and turquoise bathing suit,
shawled by a lime green towel.
An old spaniel and his scent stop me
along the walkway. On his side, tail wagging,
he stretches his neck to greet me.
I pet him, asking for his name.
Between two houses, I stop to listen
to a garrulous brook with stones.
As I pass a playground, a girl on a merry-go-
round waves to me, each of the four turns.
At the beach, I swim, gulping
salt water, and float on my back
to watch a sunbeam.
Ending the day at home alone,
I step into the yard, lean against
the weathered picket fence,
bathing in apricot-orange sunset.
Grandma walked to church each Sunday,
carefully placing the rubber tip
of her cane exactly in the center
of the sidewalk, while an ivory handle
moved easily with her wrist.
When I stepped next to her,
I slowed my pace, helping her
up and down uneven curbs.
In church, the cane was always
by her side and I wondered
if God had ever walked with a cane.
It reminded me to pay attention
and sing loudly with vigor.
I still do, even though Grandma
is no longer here. But, I can ask
how Death found a place
to lay his bony hand - with a cane
whistling past his skull
from a wrist that
was not ready to depart.
We slip out of church early and head to Tanglewood, summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Pre-concert time is for picnics on the lawn at the rear of the roofed, open-air concert hall known as "the Shed." Many spreads have a unique touch - fresh flowers, china dishes and silver cutlery, tablecloths with matching napkins, a crystal chandelier hanging from a tree ... every sort of fancy concert-goers can imagine and transport from parking lot to lawn.
on a paper bag
The opening notes of Beethoven's Ninth stills the crowd. At intermission, someone mutters the absurdity of waiting in the long restroom line while the men's side is empty. A plan is hatched to take over the men's room. It is a polite plan - any male goes to the head of the line. Sisters-in-crime, we laugh as we wait in our halved line. A woman wearing a staff name badge appears. She yells at us, shames us, insists we get back into one line ... and we do.
Previously published in Drifting Sands—A Journal of Haibun and Tanka Prose
(November 2021, Issue #12)
It's like you've won the playground
coin toss, and the league champ is
a ringer for your team, but instead
you pick this old woman
who's not adept at playing ball.
And it's Saturday night so
the boys are out prowling around,
a favorite pastime, but here
you are, nudged beside me,
nodding off to a TV movie
we've both ignored before.
And I know, in the night you'll leave
your perfect bed, come spoon
the warmth of your sunshine fur
against my lonely curve, gaze at me
in the dark, moonlight glowing
from those slant gold eyes
envied by Egyptian kings.
Little cat, little cat,
how could I less than love you,
when you always choose me?
(From Encore Prize Poems 2022)
My parents had six children, the eldest 21years older
than me—the youngest and only one with the medical
training useful as our mother lay in the hospital where
bed sores and then fractured shoulders had been added
to her painful Illness. I saw what happened when families
didn't let go in time, the daily indignation their loved ones
were put through, unable to say, No more! ENOUGH!
I judged those families, I am not ashamed of that.
I was my own mother's medical power of attorney.
I vividly remember standing in my bathroom soaking wet
and nude, giving permission for a central line replacement,
the doctor updating me while I watched water dripping
from my body onto the tiled floor. I watched the signs,
knowing our time was rapidly becoming limited.
My sisters sang hymns around her bed while I made
rounds with her surgeon and nurses, deciphering reports
so I could be positive. I checked blood pressure, urine
output, reaction to pain. ENOUGH! The time came.
Hospice papers were signed. She's no longer in pain,
I thought, and realized I knew exactly which picture Mother
would want for her obituary. Such an odd thing to know.
So often, people come to me in their difficult times,
needing words of confirmation. Some days, I feel like
I have blood on my hands. Other days, I know I've helped
release people without voices. I wonder if this was
God's plan for me, to have empathy yet the ability
to tell people what they already know, but need to hear
from someone else, someone like me.
Now I wonder, who will speak for me? Rapidly aging
and in constant pain, I am still the last child.
I just hope I'm not the last to go.
It sits in my top dresser drawer.
Its roundedness rolls between
rayon, soft cotton, and silk lingerie—
a memento I brought home
from a women's enrichment program
about Juliana of Norwich—
The saint, the mystic, the woman.
In touching on the fabric of her life
we learned of her suffering
as well as the joy of the mystic
while sharing pastries, tea,
and morning faith camaraderie.
This hazelnut, a gracious takeaway,
was placed into the palm of my hand
to remember Juliana's faith
in the oneness of things small,
a reminder of God's love and care
for all of creation.
I ruminate on this symbol as I isolate
due to the coronavirus pandemic,
becoming aware today
that our saint of that morning
more than a decade ago
left still another message
during the time of the Black Plague:
Vitally woven into Lady Julian's life
are her words, strong as silk—
And all shall be well. All shall be well.
And all manner of things shall be well.—
The saint, the mystic, the woman.*
* Juliana of Norwich (1342-1417)
* Published by Anawim Arts 5/13/21
Once my house was filled with ice cubes
in every room, up to the rafters,
invisible though their chill could be felt
within every movement, every word.
Daily chipping through them with ice pick
and chisel was exhausting, a constant need
to sop up their drops,
wring out their tears.
A melt came after sun appeared,
water washed away the yesterdays.
Fresh air dried the sodden planks,
hope designed new wallpaper.
Now my house is filled with sugar cubes,
smaller and more fragile,
but sweeter crumbles line the floors
so easily swept up with smiles.
(First published in DASH, Volume 15
California State University, Spring 2022)
Who knows how long, days, months, or years,
Tiny towers of pink, gold, silver, and every color
In-between, stood still on the neat platform,
Staring at their reflections in the mirror,
Waiting for touches of skin and pressed lips.
The woman visited them every day.
Her eyes decorated with shades of blues
Made bigger with black mascara and aquamarine,
Glitters inspired by ancient Egyptian queens.
There were undefined longings in her eyes.
Was she thinking of somebody special?
Who had insisted on splurging on her?
Or was it the fight she had to put up over
Was the cost of these luxuries acquired a secret?
This afternoon, little towers were surprised.
The mask was missing from her face.
A manicured hand reached for Brandied Plum.
"Me, me, me, pick me, pick me first,"
Little towers screamed in unison, blowing
Their caps in anticipation of the touch.
"Now, hold you horses, Salsa Red," she said,
"And Cosmo Dream. Your turn will come.
All of you will have your triumphant returns."
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