A Mistake (Written March 23, 2018)

A Mistake

The whole thing’s a mistake,
a trick.
If only she had died that time
in hospital, when she was sick,

She wanted to, she had seen
what it was like,
she was ready, a little nudge
was all she would need,
she said, to tip her over the edge.

When it didn’t happen, as desired,
she wept.
It took courage to go on, not to die.
Life, lived well, might promise
some sort of wisdom, some vision,

But she isn’t holding her breath.
A gray mist,
as thick as any on the high seas,
obscures the path she has chosen.
Her mind, once vibrant, has become

Less reliable. Her body, once active,
has begun to break down.
So many things she’d been able to do
she can no longer do. Worst of all
is the feeling of isolation.

She will have to wait it out,
get used to it,
and remember she is not in command,
but something wholly other.

Chance Stars (Written March 16, 2018)

Chance Stars

To get them set up the way she wants
takes forever.
The gaps in her thinking are like
the gaps in clouds, through which

Chance stars appear briefly, and are gone.
It’s no use
trying to get them back. Might as well
try to stop the earth from rotating.
Some last longer than others,

For example, her father, who stands out
most brightly,
with his happy smile, sitting in a lawn chair
at the cabin by the lake, dressed in
high leather boots, white trousers,

A black cardigan, and an old fedora,
with his fishing license
stuck to the hat band. But she forgets
the names of my father and my mother,
shown together on the middle shelf,

In the early days of their marriage,
dressed shabbily,
but happy looking, in love.
She takes down the photo of my son
and myself on the streets of Philadelphia,

The year he graduated from Wharton,
gives it a dusting,
and puts it back. She does the same
with the photo of my daughter,
taken at the time of her graduation

From high school, before she went away
to university
and disappeared from my life.
She remembers her name but not
where the photo was taken.

On the bottom shelf, to the right of center,
her own daughter
sits in a folding chair, some forty years ago,
with her husband in a chair next to her,
and their two children, one sitting, one standing,

In sturdy galvanized-zinc tubs,
and behind them
a picket fence painted brown, and
thick maple trees providing ample shade.

Her Smile (Written March 9, 2018)

Her Smile

When the talk turns to sex and politics,
when the jokes become crude,
when she gets tired and her thoughts
begin to shoot off in all directions,

When the children who’ve been sitting
so quietly beside her on the bench
suddenly get up and run into the next room,
when she doesn’t hear or understand
what someone has said,

She smiles her beautiful smile
and they think she knows more
than she lets on. They think
she possesses the wisdom
that comes with age.

Who can resist her smile?
The way the lip curls in and back,
revealing the small, even teeth,
which she has cared for, faithfully,
all the years of her life. Friends

And strangers want to photograph her,
just to capture her perfect smile.
There’s nothing fake about her smile,
nothing put on. Her smile is never
at someone’s expense, to hurt.

Her smile means she’s happy
to be where she is, with the people
she’s with, even if sometimes
she doesn’t understand them,
and they don’t understand her.

Her smile opens the way for her
into almost any room where people
have gathered. Everyone loves her smile,
because it is free of all pretense.

Perhaps (Written March 2, 2018)

Perhaps

She could easily have fallen on the steps
coming out of Artemis’s house.
She could be on the way to the hospital
this very moment. Somebody, eventually,

Will think of contacting me.
She’s never been this late before.
She was supposed to call me at four
and let me know when
to pick her up. Something

Must have happened and I can only
imagine the worst. Perhaps she had a heart attack
and she’s lying on the floor in the livingroom
and the ambulance is on the way
and nobody knows if she’ll live or die.

Perhaps she hitched a ride with Lucy
and they were talking and Lucy
ran a red light and hit a brand-new
Lexus GX or a Land Rover
and threw her against the windshield

Because she wasn’t wearing a seatbelt,
which would not have been like her,
although recently, it’s true, she’s been very
forgetful. Perhaps fatigue
overtook her and she stretched out

On the bed in Artemis’s spare
bedroom, in the basement, and fell asleep.
I pace back and forth in the hallway,
glancing out the window every so often.
I sit at a table in the sun porch

And wait. Perhaps something she ate
disagreed with her and she vomited
on the black pleated skirt
we had washed just yesterday.
It’s five o’clock and she still hasn’t called,

I don’t know what to do with myself.
I’m too on edge to read or watch TV.
I should call Artemis
but just then a car pulls into the driveway
and Lucy gets out and helps my wife

Out of the car, onto the sidewalk. “We talked
a long time,” she smiles, as she brushes
past me, takes hold of the railing,
and climbs the stairs into the house.
Lucy grabs three old beat-up picture frames

From the back seat and wants to give them
to me. Perhaps we can find a use for them.
If we had a fireplace, I think,
I’m sure we would have no trouble.