Posts Tagged ‘aging’

Two Chairs


I pull out two chairs. One for me.

One for the girl who didn’t want

to become a woman. The girl

who, at night, would use tweezers

to pull out any hairs that tried to grow

where her skin had always been smooth.

The girl who tied a bandana around

the small lumps of her breasts

to keep them from growing.

The girl who wanted to believe

she could stay a girl. I know

she would rather be outside

by the lake, fishing. Or exploring

the woods, looking for treasures.

Or making potions out of bark and grass

and berries in her mom’s old silver pot.

But she sits here with me, awkward,

slouching a little to pretend she isn’t so tall.

She tells me she wants to be a poet. How she

loves to play with words. How she knows

the other kids tease her behind her back.

How she sometimes thinks she might disappear

into light when the sun streaks through the clouds.

I just listen and nod. I know exactly how she feels.

I know she won’t believe me if I tell her

she’ll lose the battle with the hair.

That the bandana trick worked, perhaps too well.

That the joy she finds in writing will never leave her.

That she’ll forget the names of the kids

who teased her, but she’ll always remember

what they said. And despite all these tethers,

she’ll learn to disappear into the light,

to give herself completely to the world.

It will be so beautiful.

But for now, this reluctance,

this longing to remain a girl,

this certainty that there is magic

here in childhood that she never wants to lose.

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And after the hail and

the midsummer frost,

the garden remembers

how to summer, how to green,

how to leaf and root and bloom,

and everything is so alive,

even this gardener who somehow

does not hear the clock inside

of everything, no, all she hears

is the roar of the river, the

bright chorus of insects,

the seemingly infinite beat

of her own goldening heart.

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for Betty Rocker

I roll out the yoga mat in the living room

and find the You Tube channel

on which the twenty-something girl

with an armful of tattoos and a perky smile

tells me in her perky voice all about how great it is

I am going to take care of myself for just

fifteen minutes a day. She says that

five times, as if to both belittle it—

you spend more time than that

on social media, she suggests—

and at the same time elevate it—

you can do so much good in just fifteen minutes!


Some part of me wants to hate her,

but she is clearly so happy about what

we’re about to do together in our living rooms.

She claps to punctuate each thought,

and does a little skip in place as if to say

I am ready before I am ready.

I have been ready before. I remember

what it’s like to be ready. I remember

multiple decades when I was so ready

I just never stopped. I remember feeling

somewhat sorry for people who, as I do now,

rely on someone else to tell them to kick

and how high.

But I don’t hate the perky young woman.

In fact, I can’t help but fall in love

with her exuberance, the way she enthuses

through the burpees and turns the wide plank

into a star, whee! she squeals. And in fact,

as I do crescent kicks, like a ninja, she says,

I can’t help but laugh and smile because

she is right—it’s fun. And I feel goofy

and great and so glad to be the woman

I said I would never be. Somewhere,

a young woman is feeling sorry for me.

Somewhere, another woman is doing

lunges and squats in her living room.

Tomorrow we’ll do it again.

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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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