Posts Tagged ‘aging’



After all, she is going on a cruise

and booked in the Presidential Suite.

Let her daughter laugh.

What does it matter she’s over seventy?

Harriet fingers the thin strips

of nylon, lets them fall like slippery dreams

through her hands, dreams she can catch,

dreams in her reach, dreams she

will share when she’s ready,

and world, she’s just about ready.

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reading the book again—

the dogeared pages the same,

the story in them, wholly changed


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and suddenly I’m singing

in the cereal aisle,

unable to turn the music up

and dancing anyway—

the words spin me

like old friends,

My older self looks back

at me and says,

that’s right,

move it sister

while you still hear

the music, while you still

can dance.

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A Shade of the Truth





How soon the flowers wilt.

Wasn’t it just yesterday

you planted them, just an hour ago

there were mounds of bloom

shining in the rain?

You want to believe there’s a flower

that never stops opening,

want to believe that flower

is you.

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Don’t stop, she says,

and grabs my hand

and pulls it again

to her back. She

rakes it across

her skin and urges the nails

deeper in to scratch

some invisible itch

that she can’t reach herself.


In the thin light of vespers,

her face is more shadow

than shape. Still,

as my hand grazes

her skin, I make out

the place where her brow begins,

the jut of her nose, her angle of chin,


and she is no longer

nine years old, but some

timeless version of herself—

maybe thirty, or sixty,

or eighty-four, some year

when I am no longer

near to scratch

the unreachable spot.


The thought of it

makes me linger longer

than I normally do—

until her breathing changes,

until she is nine again,

her body curling

into her blanket,

her hand opening

into sleep.







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Skimming around the radio dial

I catch John Cougar Mellencamp

growling about R O C K in the USA,

and I sing along out of habit,

not necessarily out of joy,

the words and the rhythm

still immediately available,

though I can’t recall

what my son and I said

to each other just yesterday.

Crazy what sticks with us.


And you, John Cougar, what

ever happened to you

and your too tight blue jeans

and your bad boy smile?

It is hard to picture you

with gray hair and baggy pants,

drinking vanilla Ensure.

Rather, perhaps, to hear

that you flamed out in glory

instead of slowly getting old

like the rest of us.


Don’t get me wrong,

I feel lucky to get old,

to recognize less every day

the woman in the mirror.

I feel lucky to drive past little pink houses

and sing to my kids the refrain

of a song I once knew.

I feel lucky to do the slow, inconvenient

work of healing and loving.


I guess, John, what I am saying

is that it’s hard to see a shining thing

diminished, though I know, of course,

that all things end.


Perhaps, if you were sitting here

beside me in the car right now

you would tell me the real story—

how the work of our heart changes,

how there are many ways to shine,

how even the loudest rockers know that sometimes

the best endings are quiet,

that way you can make the listener lean in

to hear the last tender lines.

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In a Low-Angled Light




Already shriveled, these marigolds

that line the fence. Something soothing

about the way the flowers keep their color,

though the leaves are brown and dried.

From a distance, they are vibrant.

From a distance, you might forget

that the garden will soon be filled with snow.

So much is ignored in the name of beauty.

Here, here is the season with your name on it,

your name the scent of gold. You find yourself

longing to be more like a lily, dropping everything,

not even pretending to survive the cold.


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At the Edge of July




Summer, what could you say to this body,

this body nearing its autumn?

What could your flowers teach this heart

about blooming despite heat, despite drought?

What could your shortening days tell this woman

about opening to light?

Summer, I think I know too much.

Teach me warm. Teach me thunderstorm.

Teach me how to be green, and then greener.

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Where you stumble, there your treasure lies.
—Joseph Campbell

Oh body, this is your real destination,
the fall. The lurch. The blunder.
The stagger. The hobble. The trip.
Though I’ve practiced at grace
and balance, though I’ve rehearsed poise
and lifted weights and risen early to run, to ski,
you are destined to stumble, to teeter,
to drop, to collapse, to rot, and to call it good.
Though I eat kale and spirulina,
though I go to my physical every year,
though I think about taking my vitamins daily,
you are ordained to fail and somehow,
I am to find this failure favorable.
Every day I recognize you less—these wrinkles,
these curves, these aches, this gray—
and every day I treasure you more. Oh damn,
I guess that Campbell was right, then.
Here, at the altar of vulnerability, I have
fallen in love with you, the way you have
carried me through forests, up mountains,
across rivers and into ocean waves.
How you’ve lain in the blood of childbirth and joined
the miracle. You have kissed and fucked
and opened and spilled and arched and
writhed and pressed. You have leapt and swung
and spun and reached and nestled and
lunged and wept. And broken and crumpled, yes,
and stumbled over and over again. Oh what
a gift to have a body, to know it all, to fall
and fall and fall in love with the falling,
to lose sense of where we begin and where
we are perfectly, terribly, wholly, richly, thank you, lost.

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Why the Women Cry

Lara and I sit side by side in her rocking chairs.
Like old women. We are old women.
Or at least much older than when we first
had sleepovers at her house in seventh grade.
She would tell me her secretest thoughts
late at night and I, laying in the trundle
bed beneath and beside her would often fall asleep
in the middle. Oh how she would pummel
me then with her pillow. Her anger was
as real as her tears.


At first I think she is laughing. I turn
down the music to hear the small
gurgles in the backseat. It is dark.
Sweetheart, I say to my girl, are you laughing?
Now I hear they are sobs.


In the search bar I type:
myth why people cry.
In seconds I am led to 9,980,000
results. People crying for myth.
Myths about crying and depression.
But there are no stories I can find
about the why of the tears.


It was her nephew who died.
As we rock, we talk about him and his life.
She loved him. He was the first
child she ever knew. Avalanche.
Though it doesn’t much matter,
the why. He’s dead. She says,
I knew him, but I never really knew him.
He never totally let me in.


My daughter is scared.
Mom, she says, are there any
other cars going the same way
that we are going?
Yes, my love, I say. We are moving
at the same rate and at the same time
in the same direction, so we cannot see them.
Does it scare you that we seem to be alone?
Yes, she says. Yes, I say, it can be scary
to feel alone.


Once upon a time there lived a woman.
She was all alone. She lived by the sea.
The sea frightened her. It was vast
and deep and full of things
she could not understand.


Lara does not cry. Not tonight.
She tells me about how her nephew
has lived so much in such a short time.


Grown ups don’t cry, my daughter says,
when I tell her it’s alright to cry.
Oh sweetheart, I say, yes they do.
Mommy cries all the time.


The woman who lived by the sea
stood on the beach and looked at the water
for many, many days.
At last she said to the ocean,
what do you have to teach me?
And the ocean said nothing at all.
But she could feel in her such
a great, great emptiness
so she began to drink. At first
a sip. Then another. She could taste in it
the unfurling of the intricate undersea fans.
She could taste in the water the blood of a recent kill.
She could taste the wreckage, the rainbow,
the force of the waves. And she drank
and she drank and she drank.


When I was 23, I remember
reading in a magazine about
how if you cried more than 2 times
a week, it meant that you were depressed.
Oh, I thought, but I cry at least two times a day,
and I am the happiest person I know.


And when she had swallowed the entire sea,
the violence, the glassine façade, the sludge
and the tug and the roar and the still,
she sat on the beach and was satisfied
that it all was inside of her.
Until she remembered the pleasure,
could it be? that she’d felt when she was
more empty. Less knowing. Less full
of it all. More thirsty. More space.
The world then was more mysterious.
And she began to, what was it?
cry. Something no one had done
before. Oh the salt. Oh the sting.
Oh the ferocity of the act as the sea
spilled out of her. And sometimes, too,
she leaned into the gentleness.
And slowly the shore became a shore
and again the sea became a sea.
And the woman then understood
what it meant to gain and lose things.


This night, when I am ready for sleep,
Lara does not throw her pillow at me.
She kisses me good night, and we lean
our bodies into each others bodies,
then climb the stairs to our husbands, our beds.


Mama, she says, you cry?
Oh yes, my love. I try to imagine
how she has not seen this before.
Inside I feel the teeth of the eel,
the ship without an anchor,
the shifting of the rising shore.

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