Wednesday, June 27, 2007

What Dennis Said

Another Poem for Etta
June 2007

I never liked you, old woman
your froggy mouth snapping lipless
to catch my imperfections on your eager tongue

your righteous southern Methodist
intervention offered with that prissy little smirk
you thought was softening the whipcrack

of your god-almighty words
oh, you could charm the neighbors
with your clever liquid drawl

you weren’t born a redhead for no reason
in your long black gloves and feather comb
showing off that unbecoming flirt in you

your jowls quivered baby powder soft but you
were all bones and angles and faded sunbonnets
in the cornfields with your brother and the mule

gathering eggs from the hen house
chopping heads off squawking chickens
on the bloody stump with the long-handled axe

cranking buckets from the rock well
there were king snakes in the cistern
Nigras down the dirt road through the pines

baking early morning biscuits
in the wood stove after
a nose-holding trip to the two-seater

no spare flesh but sacrifice
you were a brittle woman
abandoned to raise three sons

intruding into the lives of others
taking your secret self to the grave
leaving me to mourn the little yellow finch

dead under the giant cedar
and the graceful curving staircase
to the slant-roofed garret rooms

in the old farmhouse
and the magnolia-scented
summers of Tennessee

only your granddaughter

Monday, June 25, 2007

Zach is gone

We have lost another one and the house seems to be echoing a protest. He is such a presence flying in and out, with his rosy cheeks and his intensity. His little brother will be missing him, and his mother, and me.

Young men are dying now, his age, lost forever to the ones who love them. The funeral for Shawn Martin of Delmar will be this week, whenever what is left of him returns. Casey's Jared is somewhere in the fighting, and my little cousin Logan, we don't know where. Someone is counting the dead still, but more and more they are just numbers instead of living, breathing people. Eighty this month so far; the "96" only a memory. I visit their pictures and try to meet them and imagine the loss of them in the lives of others. It seems like all, and the least, I can do.

Our Zach will be returning, still on this earth, in California or New York or points where we can find him, and touch him, and hear his voice.

Zachary, so anxious to go and start your life, be safe and be happy. We'll be here.

only Grandma C.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

What I Want

I want to go to Vegas
on a four-day junket
in the cheap seats
and in the Chapel of Love
pledge my undying
to the man of my heart

I want Elvis in black leather
to walk me down
the petal-strewn aisle
lip-synching The Wonder of You
up to the altar massed with white tulips
where a dumpling of a justice
in a genuine black robe
will pronounce the words
over a white Bible
with his wife of 52 years
standing by to witness

I want my arms overflowing with
orange poppies and lavender roses
I'll wear a slinky black dress
with my sun-soaked breasts
barely covered
not virginal at all because
I am no virgin and don't
want to be
there will be no rings
just in case
my love and I will flee
in a rented yellow convertible
with the top down to
a neon night and cruise
the Strip so everyone can
see me and know
that I am loved and then

we will lock ourselves for
three days in a schmancy hotel
with room service before we
pop a coin in some slot and fly
backover the Grand Canyon
to our separate houses and
I know the sex will be
the best I've ever had

Today I want to be married

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Crow Ink

Crows know.
They take their black,
raucous selves,
fire up that attitude
and never look back
at their abandoned nest
high in the pines

I wonder, sometimes,
if our lives might be no more
than the art of crows
written, for awhile
on the sky
then, in an instant,
erased by the wind…
--Sharon Auberle

(from CROW INK, 2007)

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

After the party

Catalpa blossoms are littering the driveway, frilly white on my red car like crumpled tissues, the scent of the heavy-headed peonies perfuming the morning air.

My sister timed her arrival for the middle of my party, perhaps to play to the biggest audience. Mistakenly, I greeted her with open arms, ready to be friends again. Her imperious self was temporarily dormant, unleashed shortly with the infusion of scotch she didn't wait long to order. It was, as she planned, a black note in a sweet day. Making nice, she informed me, is not the same as making amends, and amends is what she was looking for - her "birthright" which I "stole". I can't make amends. I cannot give her what I do not have and I am never to be forgiven.

My other sister, the one who relented and sent a birthday card, did not appear at all.

There was no surprise visit from Michael, which, although I didn't expect it, was constantly in the back of my mind. I was waiting to see Lily and Maddix come shyly through the swinging door. Josh had warned me they were not coming.
But, still...I was waiting.

It was a day of curiosities. A day of the expected and unexpected. I did not expect the tribute that Tom paid me and it was, perhaps, the most meaningful moment of my day. Josh's reading of my poems was exquisite and I was so proud of him. Lauren's planning and cooking and execution skills are wonderful, although there was much about her that was worrisome. My talented Zach was upset about his broken mousse whose taste was not affected by the texture.
Baby Josh was there with a woman, looking handsome and hugging me. Amy, looking lovely, took the photos, Egan was his engaging self and very well behaved. Courtney came and Heather brought Emily who plastered herself with chocolate. Jimmy and Floyd brought flowers and lugged tables and chairs. Marion and Arthur sat in the nursing home.
That was all my family.

My gifts were both charming and plebian, from the lotto tickets to the artwork. Diane Shedd's painting, obeedude's Bruce Springstein, pottery from the Darlings. Obeedude came in costume as he threatened and so did Willow whose mom dressed her in a birthday outfit.

There appeared many poets, not so many library people, few of Tony's friends and many missing who should have been there. There was no dancing, too much leftover food, and as always after a party, that vague feeling that something else should have happened.

Just thinking.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

The Years

...I am born in May.
...they call me Barbie.
...we live on Woodlawn Avenue with Irvin and Emily.
...the tulips are blooming in Washington Park.
...I fall out of the green wooden swing mother walks me in my stroller to see Mr. Mudge.
...we visit aunt Ethel on Hurlbut Street next to the school.
...and Aunt Kate with the bum knee and Uncle Ralph
...and their snappy little Jack Russell with no name.
...I play with my ice cream.

...I am a college dropout
...I am the mother of baby girl
...I am sexy
...the world is at war.
...we live in a trailer in Clifton Park.
...David works nights at the Watervliet Arsenal.
...We drive a Thunderbird with no reverse.
...I have all my parts. sisters are in high school.
...We meet Chris and Carol Mouyos.
...Susie and Elaine become my best friends.
...I play the guitar.

...Big Josh gives me a birthday party.
...Linda and John are there.
...Baby Josh learns to walk.
...there is no Zach, no T-rex.
...Tony and I play pinochle with Milt and Eunice.
...We live in our own house in the orchard with Max. sister lives next door.
...Cheryl lives in Florida
...Nancy is my best friend.
...I don't know Jackie and George.
...I play Trivial Pursuit.

...Ollie is dead. And Max.
...and John and George and Susie
...and Linda and Milt and Chris
...and all the aunts and uncles
...Michael is gone. And Nancy. sisters hate me. parents are locked up.
...I smoke cigarettes.
...I have a tattoo.
...I have a nose ring.
...I have new knees.
...I have six grandchildren.
...Two of them are missing.
...I have been to Paris.
...the world is at war.
...George Bush is an asshole.
...I play computer games.

...I am planning to be dead.

Contemplating changes

Sunday, June 3, 2007

3 a.m.

My mosquito bites are itching - my right arm, left wrist, the back of my right thigh, my left calf and both ankles...the sole of my foot?

I am trying not to move.

The fan is blowing gentle air over the double bed where Eli is snugly against my back and Chinny at my feet. They are both peacefully unaware that it is 3 a.m. and I am wide awake.
I might be sleeping, too, had I not slumbered away half of the muggy afternoon on this bed with them. They don't seem to have any problem sleeping and I am too polite to disturb them.

In a fit of frenzied ambition, I spent the evening performing such trivial tasks as cleaning the mess off the coffee table, sorting the library books, hanging up clothes and watching Notes on a Scandal (which was quite good, but overdue at VPL). At midnight I was eating spinach and playing a video game. At 1 a.m. I started a book, thinking I would perform my obligatory nightly read-to-relax maneuver for a few minutes, and got enthralled in the memoir of a woman whose husband was hit by a car(while walking their dog) and received a traumatic brain injury.

Lauren has not been home since Friday. In fact, the only human I viewed all day yesterday was Zachary my darling for a short exposure. I worked a long time on this blog which is assuming a life of it's own.

My afternoon nap had been one of those awful rubber-cemented-to-the-bed experiences where I thought someone was calling me and I just couldn't get up. Not expoxied-to-the-bed, because I seemed to move my limbs, struggling like a swamp creature in a morass of clinging goo.

I can't tell if I am awake or asleep when that happens.
It scares me.

Bill Bixby

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Peanut Butter for My Mother

I am washing peanut butter off a knife when I realize that my mother has washed her last dish. What a tempting thought. To never wash another dish. To never do housework or laundry. Or anything that you don't feel like doing.

Of course, that may be a bargain with the devil. My mother has traded much.

She will never drive again. Or write out her Christmas cards, go to K-Mart with my sister, eat in a restaurant. Or roll around in bed on a hot summer afternoon naked, with a man. Though, I guess I don't know that for sure.

I sit on the lawn where we played croquet, in front of her house, wave to her neighbors, get mail from her box. I stand in the kitchen where she stood on the old yellow floor she was so proud of, looking out the same window at the pond where she swam, and the garden where her father weeded vegetables. I sleep with the dog in her marriage bed.

I can open the window to the sun and the breeze she has been denied, walk up the shadowy road where she strolled with my father. The city girl who became a country girl for love.

The telephone rings and I answer expectantly. She will never answer again.

The sky has grayed and thunder sounds. Eli is nervous, hugging my leg. We have finished our peanut butter sandwich. Maybe next time, I will make one for my mother.

Counting the ice