Friday, August 31, 2007

The Voyeur

They were lovers.
Anyone could tell.

stroking each other's limbs with oil
careful on every curve
more oil than was necessary
more stroking than was essential

hair shining blonde and dark
breasts teasing colored strings
whispered words against soft faces
a furtive kiss on a pale shoulder

umberellas hot pink, lime green
popsicle orange, every blue in the sea or sky

I brush the sand from my ankles and sip
the rusty sweetness
from a paper cup
of warm Coca-Cola.

How Magnolias Smell

His feet were filthy dawn to dusk

from early spring until the snow fell

Shoeless he walked to school

chopped firewood

gathered eggs in the chicken coop

kicked at dirt clods walking

as his Uncle Dion plowed the acres

behind the mule, with the 3-legged dog

Etta cooked grits and eggs

baking powder biscuits with honey

all in the woodstove even on

the hottest Tennessee days

He raced with his brothers through the pine forest

way down the sandy lane to the tenant shacks

raked magnolia blossoms on the huge lawn

They waded in the milky

farm pond catching bullfrogs

watching for snakes

and played whatever boys play


in their denim overalls

At night they washed up in the metal tub in the kitchen

cranking water in a bucket from the stone well

never having hooked up the plumbing

to the shiny bathroom on the landing

They slept in the huge room in the attic

with china chamber pots beside their beds

They cut down the cedar tree one summer

immersing the whole "plantation" with the scent

and the green lawn with red shredded wood bits

and strutted in their teenage splendor

back and forth on the fallen giant

Arthur and Byron and Lyle the baby

handsome grinning faces so brown

their teeth glowed white in the photos

Arthur's teeth are mostly gone now

the thick dark waves of hair are short and grey

and spiked in all directions from the pillow

His sturdy brown feet lie quiet

blue veined and soft

whiter than white on the white sheets

He doesn't know his brothers are dead

for my dad on his 89th birthday

September 6, 2007

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Second Best Cat

Chinny has always been my second best cat.
I'm not sure why. She is beautiful. Her hair is ebony, thick and soft and long. Her paws are dipped in milk with little tufts of hair sticking out between her toes. Her tail is thick and plumy and her chest a white bib. She is prettier than Ollie was. And smarter. Her eyes shine. Or glitter with evil when she is annoyed.

She was friends with laid-back Max, but couldn't abide bouncy Eli until Ollie died. I guess with the referee gone, they had to make their own peace. She doesn't run when he chases her anymore and calmly steps over him to claim her place on the bed. There are no more angry skirmishes in the night.

Chinny was born here in my house in the early morning hours twelve years ago in May. I sat with my glasses and the vet book observing as four black and white kittens slid out of their mother. Each kitten had a white mark somewhere on their head and I named them accordingly to tell them apart. I didn't plan on keeping any.

Michael took Chin away to Syracuse when he went to college. It only lasted until Christmas because of his roommate's huge dog. Michael had to build a ramp for Chin to get to the top shelf in his closet to escape Aslan. He asked me to baby sit the cat when he came home for the holiday. She is still with me.

Chin was here when Willie was born and killed. I almost didn't live through that and still never developed that special feeling for Chinny that I had for Will and Ols.

Do cats feel love? Do they love back? I think Chinny loves me. She seeks affection more than Oliver ever did. He was more the king and I his royal subject. She is on the back of the couch behind my head or on the arm when I am sitting there or trying to lay on the keyboard when I am online. She insists on her nightly love fest when I get in bed, although she is more patient about letting Eli have his turn and he usually moves aside obligingly. She lets me play with her toes and rolls over and presents her belly for rubbing. She likes being combed and lets me take the knots out of her long hair as if she knows I am helping her.

She has been going out on the deck this summer after having been inside for all these years. Getting braver, she wanders a little and is honing her hunting skills, which appalls me when she catches something. She is fast. She plays with toys if I tease her with them, but mostly just does the cat thing, lazing around. She doesn't do the tricks that Ollie did, hiding behind the shower curtain or under the sheets when I make the bed. She will never be Ollie, but she is getting closer to my heart.


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Saturday, August 25, 2007

My Beach Hair

I am wearing my beach hair. I feel pretty, oh, so pretty. I am only partially sane. The house is empty again. The thunder is sneaking around. It thundered while I slept. Eli has become an extension of my body. Now at my feet, curled against my stomach on the bed. I showered him with iced tea, trying to pour it without watching the glass. It fills my lap as well. I don't want to stand up. We will be up late, having slept the evening away.

My beverage refrigerator sits within reach of my computer for my constant infusions of diet Coke through bendy straws stuck in the secret hole. The bathroom refrigerator is for food - hot dogs, mayonnaise and soggy Stouffer's chicken and rice which doesn't stay frozen. No ice cream. I balance my food on the edge of the bathroom sink, juggling the tv dinners among the makeup and Pear's soap. A few china dishes are in the hutch in the living room. The rest are packed away in the basement. I eat off paper plates. Everything is nuke-able. I have no need of pots and pans. There is a cupboard for my groceries. Crackers, soup, vegetables in cans. And Skippy. I eat a lot of peanut butter. I ate Phyllis' tomato for dinner, dunked in dressing, and bread with Skippy that I shared with Eli. He shares everything I eat. My dinner companion. I hate to leave him tomorrow, but the "vacation" planning has been so complicated, he is better in the kennel.

I thought I would be going to Maine alone. Tony and I have barely spoken all week. He is playing golf tomorrow and will be incoherent by the time I see him. I will do my laundry, take Eli to Carl's, pack and spend the night on Main Street. Tony wants to leave at 5 a.m. I am sure he just said that to annoy me, but I didn't rise to the bait. We'll see, we'll see. What a bizarre life.

I need the beach. I want to walk the shore and take pictures and let the breeze blow in my crazy hair.

Chinny is draped across the back of the couch. She and Eli seemed to have worked out a plan. There is no more arguing for a prime spot on the bed. They even touch noses once in a while.

I had a pain for Ollie today, when I stepped out of the shower and he wasn't on the bathmat, paws crossed, soft-eyed, waiting for me. I haven't been thinking of him so much lately. Still, every time I do, my eyes fill up.

Eli is watching the door as if expecting someone. I hope not. I took off my dress and am sitting here half-naked. I don't think Lauren will be coming home. T-rex is with his father and Zach, of course, is making his own life now. Monday is my first baby's birthday. She will be 41. I feel a poem in there, but seeing as I can't use my Word, it may not get written. I have become very dependent on using my computer to compose.

It is midnight and the air is heavy. Josh and Amy are back in the city. It must have been awful there today. Tom was lugging Tara's junk up three floors, I think he said. I am so glad that Josh has Amy and Egan. All of our lives are changing and changing. But I have Eli.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Ladies Lunch

We had lunch today, four grandmothers, that is what my friends are now. We relished our cheeseburgers with token slices of tomato and lettuce. We ate all our french fries, waists thickening perceptibly with each swallow. We told stories of the antics of the grandchildren, agreed that each of them occasionally would benefit from the application of a mother's hand on their darling little bums. How our hands itched to apply it.

We are varying shades of blonde. Neatly coifed and plumply dressed in summer colors. Pink nails, coral toes, myself the only one tattooed and pierced, wild hair. I didn't want to talk about children. I wanted to talk about thong panties and cops in garter belts and California. I wanted good gossip, hair raising tales of neighborhood sex, and drunken barbeques and who we knew had been snorting cocaine.

God, we are all ready for the Price Chopper bus. We parted with hugs and assurances that next time we would bring more photos of the grandchildren.

Save me