Sunday, April 29, 2012

I Don't Know Anything About Relationships


Did you hear what I said?
You look…unruffled,
like you might even smile.

Maybe I spoke too softly.
(I do that, I know.)
Let me repeat myself more forcefully.

"Our careful lies are killing us."

So, there it is. I'm finished.
Did you hear what I said? Did you?
Put the cat down and listen to me.


How awful it is to dissect a marriage!
It lays naked on the therapist’s steely table.
He makes his first incision
into the bloated stomach
of our malnourished union.
He polishes his glasses and peers,
cuts the thin taut skin of our collusion.

We're paying him to do this!
Dr. Stahler hums, probes, frowns 
as he examines the damage done
by our withholding of nutrients.

“But we took our marriage to England! to Ireland! To the Alps!
It was fine and plump!
We have neglected feedings of late,
but we were busy, pushed and pulled hither and yon!
What will you do, Doctor?
Will you prescribe an elixir, painkillers,
a weekend out of town?”

"My dear fools,  there is no heartbeat!
Here, lying on my table, is an emaciated 
corpse. Take the remains away and cope 
with them quickly before rot sets in and settles 
irrevocably into your poor, careless souls."

Bereft Light

I'm sure I loved him. Almost sure.
His wide smile, straight teeth.
I liked his back. Liked spotting him
in a crowd. Especially at airports.

Unlike me, he could carry a tune, 
remembered lyrics, knew the band.
He was a good driver. Kept his cool.
Even on the Beltway. 

And jokes! He had a million.
Got them right. No start overs.
He invented puns. And they were good!
I liked that he was proud of them.
His clever puns.

He was a great Scrabble partner!
Everything I know about Scrabble
came from him. Seven letter words?
No problema. Even stoned.

So, yeah. I miss stuff.
But the illusions?
Playing the fool? 
Nosireebob! Not me.
Not those. Who would?


Sunday, April 15, 2012

"April is the cruellest month" T.S.Eliot

The Watch

She's unable to move her own limbs,
so I lift, shift, hold her wasted 
body and ease her onto her back,
watching her face for the crumblings 
that mean pain. Her whispers don’t tell me
where she hurts or what she needs.
So I make my guess and take a deep breath- 
take her ninety pounds in my arms.

Together we journey to and from the commode. 
I empty the pot and yes, it smells- 
yes, but doing this task is instinctive, 
swiftly accomplished, and never repellent. 
I didn’t know how it would be. None of us do.

I sigh each time we manage 
the hoist to her high queen-size bed.
The sheets and pillows, her hair, face
and delicate, cold hands are all shades 
of wintery white, but there is color-
brown spots, pale yellow bruises, 
and purple stains on her skin. 
I try-I always try-to handle her 
with patience and reassurance.

We are Irish enough that the Banshee 
has come to sing from the hallway 
but I growl and chase the bitch away.
Some months ago my life collapsed
and I tumbled here to this bedside.
I'm the one, the only other woman
in this house, allowed to stand guard,
to share these difficult intimacies, 
to keep this watch. I want to do it well.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


Strawberry blond! That’s the shade the maple is this year.  I tried for just that color once, didn’t I? Don’t think I managed it, Marnie thought as she approached the house from the paddock. She missed their horses, as she did during every morning walk she’d taken since they’d sold them. Oh, damn this being old!  Marnie wiped mud off her boots on the back doormat and went through to the kitchen where her sister-in-law was drinking coffee and talking, talking, talking to Stephen.

“ I will worry, Steve! I fly in three hours and I haven’t convinced you stubborn fools to sell this place and join me in Ocala. You’ll molder up here in this lonely place, missing all the fun, and I suppose I’m just to take that answer as final and be on my worrying way. Really, I could wring your wrinkled old necks.”

Stephen answered, “We have a home we love and don’t play bridge, nor do we want to learn. Accept it as our happy choice, Ellen. We don’t want to sell. We are as deeply rooted here as the white pines around us.”

They drove Ellen to Albany for her flight to Florida. Ellen’s travel outfit made her look twice as plump, bundled up as she was against the “horrid” cold of October in the mountains, with a cotton blouse and slacks under all the woolies for the return to her beloved southern sun. Sandals were tucked into her carry-on.

During the drive home, Marnie relaxed, relieved the yearly siege was over. After all, they’d been settled in the country since closing their pediatric clinic almost eighteen years ago.  Why ever should they “retire” again? And in Florida?

“You’d better drive, dear.” Stephen’s voice woke her. “I’m dangerously sleepy.”

After they changed seats, Stephen fell deeply asleep. Marnie took his hand and gasped at his cold skin. His fingers had a blue tinge. So, she thought, it’s time already.

Just past five, she helped him into bed and gave him another nitro to put under his tongue. He was pale, clammy, and, she sensed, in much more pain than he’d admitted to. She left him briefly to see to a few things she needed to do, but soon came upstairs bearing a tray with a bottle of champagne, two flutes, and their stash of pills.

They toasted each other, their long, mostly happy lives, and their determination to go together. Marnie had left letters for Ellen and their three children for the postman to pick up in the morning-letters written by both of them earlier that month, after she’d learned that her cancer was back. There was one to the police as well. They washed down their sedatives with the vintage champagne, even got a little giggly, then snuggled under the covers. Whatever came next, they would be Marnie and Stephen, together and themselves, ready to meet it. Or, as the case might be, Marnie thought, not themselves at all, but then, what would it matter?

Monday, April 02, 2012

Aunt Sally Defies Color Solution #58

Kellen, on Neighborhood Chromaguard Watch for Orange, or O Section, had long known his Aunt Sally was unruly, so he wasn't unduly surprised when he spotted her wearing a bright blue baseball cap. She sat in the shade of a leafy tree and on her lap sat a tattered black book. Sally ate a sandwich although public eating was frowned upon and wearing blue in O was something one simply could not do.

"Morning, Aunt Sally," he said.

"Morning to you, dear Nephew."

"Do I have to fine you? Or will you take off the cap?"

"What kind of fine could it be? I have nothing left but this cap, my notebook, and this hideous orange dress. Oh, and half a sandwich."

"What are you on about? You get your allotment, don't you? Same as everyone. I'll fine that."

"Ah, you could, if I had it, but you can't, because I don't. I've left the envelope on my porch for my poor former neighbors who'll live on, they avow, in this dustbowl of creative thought known as O. I don't want any more of that crap from your color crazed plutocrats. I'll mooch off my old friends and the occasional kindness of strangers, pardon me, Tennessee."

"What do you mean, former neighbors? What have you done, you crazy old bat, you bane of my life, you dysfunctioning Aunt?"

"I've moved out of my loathsome orange cube. I'm in permanent transit now. I'm going visiting. G section is next. Most of my old crowd are Greens these days I discovered and I won't tell you how I uncovered their color. But now I know so that's where I'll go. They were your sweet dead mother's pals too, you know. Don't you remember Keisha and Irv? Or their daughter Conchita? I've already been to Blue. I found happy folks who gave me this cap."

"No way. You can't do what you've done or what you're going to do."

"Way. I've done it and I'm doing it."

"I don't want to take you in, you dim woman. Won't you at least surrender that damn hat?"

"Cap. It's not a hat, it's a cap. Take me in? I think not, you brat. You'll have to use your weapon, which you won't do, because you're my nephew, or drag me somehow, but I'd make a scene. I'd scream, and O section rules forbid any fuss. You might get fined yourself."

"You are a pain in the ass, Aunt Sally!"

"You may well yell Kellen, but I will no longer agree to comply   with this silly regime of color control. It doesn't work and never will. We, most if not all, remain human. We've personalities, souls, memories, goals, loves, appetites, tendencies, and qualities. Lumping us into Chromazones, based on random lotteries, is a pathetic attempt to control us all and will unravel. I'm sure it will but I've no patience to wait. Besides, orange has never been my color. So, unless you are going to manhandle me, Kellen, I'm going to finish this bananafish sandwich given to me, willingly, by one of the few friends I still have in this monochrome place and move on to see how things are going in Green. I've heard they hold poetry readings which is quite hard to believe but I hope is true. Did you know they show movies in Blue?"

"How are you getting out of O? Transport doesn't go between zones."

"Oh, Kellen. Really. I'm going to walk, my dumb dear. Green is only three orange blocks away from here. Have you young people forgotten all the things we can do?  Well. So be it. Fine. I'll live to Re-mind, starting small with a cap and I'll see after that. I'll wear the colors I choose, yellow, purple and blue, and walk where I want. It's easy, believe me. Now get out of my way. Write a report to the O Section boss. Orange doesn't suit you either, you know. Must be a family thing-our sallow skin. Pity you think you're stuck with it. I love you. Good luck."