Too Bad for Them (Written August 3, 2018)

Too Bad for Them

She stands at the entrance to the basement
and wonders
if I know what it is that she wants
down below, in the cold and the dark.

Potatoes, I suggest. Carrots. Tomatoes.
Kidney beans.
A bottle of wine. Mosquito repellent.
Paint. Vise grips. The hammer. Nothing
clicks. It seemed very important,

A moment ago, she says, but now I can’t
There’s something wrong with my brain.
All my friends have forgotten me,
she says. They have such busy,

Interesting lives, and here I sit,
going to pieces.
If they don’t want to call me,
too bad for them. I may be slow,
I may be dull, but they’d be surprised

What I know, if they would give me
half a chance.
To hell with them. Something saps
her energy, drags her down, weakens
her will to live. Every catastrophe

Has an upside, something that lifts
her spirits.
First, there’s the rain, then the rainbow.
Not every time, but often enough.

Weeds, and More Weeds (Written July 27, 2018)

Weeds, and More Weeds

Everything is dry. The garden
to stay alive, even with constant
watering. The grass has stopped

Growing, for now, and to the west
have forced many people from their homes.
Rain sometimes falls on us, but briefly,
almost nothing since the beginning of the month.

The sudden, intense downpours feel like
the almighty’s
none-too-subtle jest. The earth
forms a crust which keeps the water
from penetrating to the roots of the plants.

The herbs, as they mature, turn brown,
and fade. The sunflowers are smaller
than expected. The tomatoes are about
the size of walnuts. Weeds prove hardier,

And more plentiful — sorrel, pennywort,
hedge mustard, stinging nettle, tansy,
bladderwort, goldenrod, and feathery
horsetail, among others. The bird baths

Have to be scrubbed and re-filled
every second day,
the birds use them so frequently in this heat.
Hornets and wasps drink from the water.

Then Let It Go (Written July 20, 2018)

Then Let It Go

Now that she’s found a solution to all
her problems
she feels she can begin to live again.
Everything that was dull, monotonous,

Not worth the effort, now has
new life,
new sparkle, new promise, enough
to make her want to get up
out of her chair, look around, and ask

What is there to do now, in the short
I have left. Birds die before they know it,
but they go on singing, with no
hint of the fate that awaits them.

Even the crow cawing is not complaining,
but seeking
refuge in companionship. Roses burst from
the rosebush like exploding galaxies,
then die away, in the knowledge

They will come again, when the time
is ripe.
Dogs bark to let her know they are still
here, needing food and comforting.
Everything reminds her of earth’s

Bounty, and if at times she thinks about
it is with her newly won sense of equanimity.
Death is not a battle, not a massacre,
but joining with the rhythms of nature.

This life is the only one we know and
the only one
we need to know. It is precious,
tend to it, then let it go, like the roses.
Actions she once thought closed to her

She now finds possible. For example,
she might call
a friend, one she has not seen in months,
arrange to meet for coffee and talk as of old.

She’s Busy Now (Written July 13, 2018)

She’s Busy Now

She’s busy now trying to remember
the names
that go with the photographs
she’d like to copy and send.

She remembers the faces, and what
she wants to say, but not
the names. She keeps drawing a blank.
Try as hard as she might,
she can not remember the names.

This photo, yes, this one, she used to know
very well.
The name starts with an “F.” Maybe
Frances, or Francine, but no, neither
sounds right. She blames it on herself.

On her faulty memory. Everyone she
once knew
she’s busy now forgetting. At times
she’s able to catch a glimpse, a hint,
a fragment that flees from her

The moment she turns to look at it.
So many of her friends
are dying, one after the other, from one
illness or another — cancer, heart disease,
diabetes, kidney failure, depression,

You name it. Sometimes she shuffles
the photos
and the face that comes out on top
she’s not looked at or thought about
in years. But the name remains hidden

In some dark corner of her brain,
indestructible, but beyond her reach,
like the ripest apple on the tree.

Hot and Humid (Written July 6, 2018)

Hot and Humid

She washes out her shirt and hangs it up
to dry,
using a clothespin to fasten the hanger
to the clothesline. With the hot sun

And steady wind it should be dry in an hour,
she hopes,
in time to wear to our friend’s house for supper.
All day she’s been fighting the hot and humid
weather, and fighting me because I do not

Want to run the air conditioner non-stop,
we might overload the electrical circuit and risk
a fire. If you’re trying to kill me, you’re doing
a good job of it, she cries, to which I have

No reply, other than get the air conditioner
set up in the window,
ready to start again. She lies on the bed,
with the fan turned on high, which, as she
rightly complains, does little more than move

The hot air around. She sleeps an hour or so,
then gets up,
wobbly, unsteady on her feet, and tries
one shirt after another, until she finds one
she likes, washes it and hangs it out to dry.

While she showers I get the air conditioner
going again,
though I’m still convinced my worries
about the wiring are well-founded,
for it’s a circuit that includes, in one room,

The air conditioner, the clock radio, the fan,
and the overhead light,
and in a second room the computer, the phone,
and the overhead light. If one of these outlets
or switches dies, they will all die.

There is some comfort knowing we have
a smoke detector,
two fire extinguishers, two easy routes of escape,
front and back, and if we have to, we could
climb out the bedroom window onto

The roof of what we call the mud room
and wait
to be rescued, though perhaps at our age
that’s not a very practicable alternative.

It’s Later Than You Think (Written June 29, 2018)

It’s Later Than You Think

Her friend, eyes narrowed and lip curled,
says nothing
but she doesn’t have to. Everyone knows
what she thinks. It would be foolish

To put more money into repairs
and improvements
when it’s possible, even likely
that the person who ends up buying
this old house, built as it is on such

A shaky foundation, will want to
tear it down
and build something more sturdy,
more modern in its place, for example,
a three story clapboard, with six condos

And a dental clinic to service an aging
Time moves on, she’s quick to add,
ticking our lives away day after day.
People grow anxious, and they want

Something new, even if it is the
same old thing,
as monotonous as prairie grass.
It’s all in the name of progress,
she laughs. Progress means you look

Beyond the here and now, towards
the invisible future,
where things will be bigger and better.
It means you are never content
with the way things are, but always

Want the latest, the shiniest. And even if
that future
proves to be illusory, you will still have
the satisfaction knowing you played the game.

Low Tide (Written June 22, 2018)

Low Tide

The tide is out by the time we get there.
line the riverbed, along both sides.
The banks of mud are almost vertical,

Where the water has washed away
all resistance,
in its rush to the sea, and only the grass,
on top of the mud, holds firm. In the middle,
where there is still some standing water,

It is no deeper than two or three feet.
sea monster, lies with its belly cut open,
the same way a snake, a python,
must be cut open when it swallows

A human being whole, and becomes
so heavy,
so tied down, it cannot save itself
from a slow death. Cut open, turned
inside out, the belly of the river

Displays the intestines, sculpted
by the sea
as it sucks the water to itself,
leaving an emptiness, as the heart
feels empty when hope slips away,

Betrayed by gravity. The seagulls,
the herons,
the eagles too, what is there for them
to do, but wait for the tide to turn.

Everywhere He Goes (Written June 15, 2018)

Everywhere He Goes

She’s on the steps behind us,
with her eyes shut tight
because of the late-afternoon sun.

It’s a genuinely happy
on the occasion of my son’s
visit, his second already
this year. He’s seen enough

To realize it’s not possible for us
to visit him,
so he visits us, as often as he can,
as he passes through our town,
on his way to his cabin in the woods,

Where he likes to let his dog,
run free. Everywhere he goes
Sarge goes with him, in the car,
on the airplane, to the office. He’s

So attached to him, he follows him
up the stairs
to the bathroom. In the picture we are
relaxed, standing at the curb, posing
for the camera, all smiles, with Sarge

Sitting at attention. I’m so glad
my son
is doing well, and visits more often,
and we get a chance to know him better.

The Bumblebee (Written June 8, 2018)

The Bumblebee

I see a bumblebee
around the house,
from room to room,

From flower to flower,
for something it cannot find,
some way out, or failing that,
some food, some pollen,

To survive, until a door
or a window, for escape.
The flowers we’ve gathered,
a different sort for each room,

Do not give the bee what it wants,
fading, losing their petals,
losing even the sweet smell
they promised of spring.

The tulips in the kitchen,
from the garden, already
show some roughness around
the edges. The lilacs in the sun porch,

Cut yesterday, have lost their luster,
The carnations in the livingroom,
on the coffee table, are more black
than red, and should be tossed.

The chrysanthemums in the diningroom,
in the middle of the round table,
look to be holding their own,
a brilliant yellow-gold color,

With dark green leaves interspersed.
around the mums, and over them,
the unhappy bee does not seem to think
there’s anything worth stopping for.

More and more slowly it flies,
itself down. If I cannot capture it,
it will settle somewhere and die.

Ode to Neighbors (Written June 1, 2018)

Ode to Neighbors

She walks to the bottom of the street,
the neighboring yards, front and back,
looks to see if there is not someone

She could call to, engage in small
and speak her mind. For too long
she’s been confined to the house,
with nothing much to do,

Other than watch television, read,
and maybe, on occasion, make supper.
It’s hard to muster the energy
to get out of the house,

In her condition, but once she sets
on the street, there’s a lightness to her step
that she seldom experiences
when she’s cooped up in the house.

The street, however, has gone through many
in recent months, and several of the people
she was once close to are no longer
with us. Eric, next door, lost his house

When he stopped paying his bills, now it stands
largely neglected by the new, absentee
owner. Lucille, our neighbor to the south, toward
the river, has moved to an old people’s home,

Which was not unexpected, at her age. The property
now belongs
to her son, who rents to his son and daughter-in-law,
whom we hardly ever see. Roger and Roberta,
in the next house down, enjoy a lively conversation,

Whenever it happens, and if Elaine is lucky, she will
find them
at the door, though these days they spend
most of their time on the back deck,
in a screened-in area, free of mosquitoes.

Paul, across the street, always has a friendly
in the midst of his worries about his wife,
who has fallen ill. Lucy, who used to live
next to Paul, one house up from the river,

Sold everything and moved into an apartment,
from years of taking care of the property on her own,
though she’s still fit as a fiddle and able to handle
anything she sets her mind to. John and Maggie,

In the brick house across from us, are the best
we could ask for, they keep an eye on us,
if we’re in trouble, they are ready to help
when we call on them and even when

We don’t. Though fewer than before,
the neighbors
that remain, the ones we know, make us
want to stay here, in our little big house.