Cleanliness Is Next to Godliness

Four children, one tub
no running hot water––
How did she manage to keep us clean?

With pots and kettles on the stove
heating after supper on Saturday night
in preparation for church on Sunday

morning. The heated water half-filled
the claw-footed tub, and whoever was
first in the week’s rotation stepped

gingerly into the steamy bath.
My favorite slot was number three.
Like Goldilocks tasting the bears’

porridge and finding the bowl of Baby
Bear not too hot and not too cold
but just right, so it was with the third

slot. Granted I sat in a growing scum
but I didn’t mind, what with the rinse
the warm rinse a comforting caress

after it all. Like animals nuzzling
their fresh hay on a cold winter night
and settling into their clean bedding

with quiet nickers and oinks, we
settled onto clean sheets, murmuring
to each other as we fell asleep.

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Is This Adoption Legal?

Dr. Frankenstein you name yourself
as you piece together a 1930 Ford.

Like a patchwork quilt, piece by piece
from bumper to bumper you build.

Books with photos and diagrams
lie open around the house for reference

with stacks of magazines always at hand
for the images of crankcase and fender

you need; for the names and addresses
of dealers of car parts. When you spoke

to a friend long-distance, you mentioned
you’d adopted a car. That said it all.

Night Visitors

It’s the first week of February.
Wild apples picked in October
have shriveled into themselves.

No longer suitable for apple pie
we dump them out for the herd of deer
that haunted our woods through

January, scavenging among spruce,
standing on hind legs in the snow
to reach the buds of high-bush and tree.

There’s no distinction on the ground––
everything was eaten as we found
the morning after a moonlit meal in Maine.

To Bury or to Burn?

The reign of God is like a buried treasure
a man found in a field. Matthew 13: 44

To bury or to burn drafts of poems
stacked two feet high in my writing house––
I have no illusion of them being sought
by academy, library, or even family.
So what’s the point of saving them
and not throwing them in the recycling

bin, onto the town dump, or into the stove?
How quickly those piles of poems
would burn to ash.
I choose not to burn
but to bury, honoring the work by giving
its shaping back to the earth from which it
sprang, a witness to the promise of resurrection.

Following Full Hip Replacement

An alien is spending the night with me.
It wants us to sleep in the same bed.
How can I say no to this guest,
hospitality being a rule of the house.
I wring my hands in consternation.
Why did I ever sign on for this?
Too late to change my mind.
This alien is here for all of the nights
of the rest of my life. Nothing to do
but soldier on, remembering the pain
before it moved in with me.