Dear Ethel,

I remember you saying that if Jesus showed up
unexpectedly for an afternoon visit, you would
serve him whatever was on the counter––
chicken soup? apple pie? And you were sure
he wouldn’t complain if one of the younger cats
who hadn’t yet learned the social graces
climbed up the side of his white robe, maybe
catching some skin along the way.

Now it’s been years since you left to meet
the guest of your vision, who sipped his soup
and ate his pie, unbothered by the cat who
gained the table and began to share soup
and pie. Jesus rose to give over his seat
while he moved closer to you for coffee
and you to him to share your apple pie.

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The Winter of Pneumonia

The winter I had pneumonia
the body-I was teetering. Hanging
between heaven and hell,
I couldn’t move a pinkie finger.

Call Kathleen, I told my husband.
She knew the room between life
and death, and if anyone could
stay the dark angel, it was she.

Through sweat-soaked flannel
of nightgowns, pajamas, day after
day, night after night, weeks
of wild coughing, crazy to catch

some breath between spasms––
water and juice, juice and water
food out of the question, ’til
my husband baked a chocolate

cream pie, and the healing began.
Six months gone, I consigned pneu-=
monia to the rumble seat, and good
health itself took over the steering wheel.

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.

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.

In memoriam

After all these years her reduction to ashes
sits unmolested on the fireplace mantle,
her mother afraid to let her go underground.

Her father had found her frozen in death
his and her mother’s love not enough
to save her from the cold and loneliness

of depression, that folded her in on herself.
If only she’d called, they’d have heard and come
running with hope for a new beginning.

Who Will Rescue the Baby?

My grandson’s mantra
after seeing the wave-tossed cradle
of a baby lost in a storm in the movie
The Secret of Roan Inish,
was, Who will rescue the baby?

We cued up the end of the film
to try to ameliorate his real concern
by explaining the boy on screen,
just a bit bigger than he himself
was the baby grown, rescued
by his mother, a selkie,* who led him
back to his human family that nestled
him in a blanket and fed him soup.

Shortly thereafter my grandson’s father
overheard him whispering into a box
that housed his plastic tiger,
I’ll take care of you. And so he does
with blanket and thimble of soup.

*selkie = a Celtic mythological creature
that is both human and seal

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