It was nothing special…

A grandfather took his
granddaughter to church today,
and it was nothing special;

he sat aside her as she refused
to leave his side as strangers
came close to wish her peace and
she clung tightly to a small toy horse
as grandfather’s hand rested on
her shoulder – showing bandages

and bruising and new scares from
the kind of things that come to all
who live so long to live; his suit fit
him once, I imagine, but today it
overwhelms his diminishing frame

as his granddaughters best dress
will soon be outgrown, and the words
they shared were few and
inconsequential it seemed to everyone
of us ignoring them because
it was nothing special.

As ears keep growing…

earWhen you get old you notice things
and that can be problematic if you care
like toenails (don’t ask, just notice if the elderly
ever expose their lower digits) or posture

that your mother always insisted was essential
in life but if so, life has taken a decidedly bad turn
and once again you must force yourself erect
which is another subject altogether too delicate

or hairs growing places they once didn’t or
shouldn’t or bushy eyebrows – have you ever
noticed that – I did once upon a time during
an office visit with my old professor as he
twisted and plucked his eyebrows insistently
to match his narration of Tell-Tale Heart,

I ran from his office to a mirror to inspect
my own, immature brow-décor and noticed
nothing unusually long or unruly… yet

but there’s another, unseemliness to growing
long-in-the-tooth about the ears because
they never seem to stop growing even as arms
and legs and necks and fingers stop on their
own, ears just insistently continue their merry
awkwardness as if to say we should listen
more and more.

Little old man, little old church…

The Little Old Man and the Little Old Church

There’s a little old church across the road that divides
the world – red brick, black roof, steepleless, with
every charm that makes people say, ‘look at that
little old church,’ and today there’s a little old man
mowing the lawn, slowly and carefully as if he’s tending
Eden; he’s dressed for the occasion if the
year was one of those just after World War II,
in his long sleeved shirt and a thin tie – cinched
to the collar which hangs loosely looking like it
would have fit perfectly back before his flesh started
going the way of all flesh, but now he’s the one
who has been planning his whole week around
this job and I’m sure I can hear him saying to himself
he’s doing this because people depend upon him
and if he doesn’t no one will, and you do some
things just because they are the right thing to do,
and no, he can’t visit the grandkids today because
you know perfectly well that he has to mow the
lawn at church and that phrase ‘at church’ has
all the moral importance of a decree or encyclical
issued by a synod or council long ago when
such things mattered – when such pronouncements
settled all disputes, because it looks like he’s still
living in that world or wishes he were, and there are times
that I’d like to live in that world too, but not today.

I love the blank page…

It happens quite often, and I hope it never stops,
that pang of jealously that I want to feel
when I’m reading someone else’s work,
someone else’s words,
someone else’s words that I didn’t write,
and I catch myself wondering if I could,
if I could do something like that, somehow,
because I love the way these words go
and I need that on my page – the page I write;

there’s a theory, a bad theory that lies,
that it’s something that I just need to find,
or let out, or is inside me somewhere,
and no jealously is needed, no jealousy is
called for, because this is no competition
and we are all players in a bigger story
where all words are borrowed, all pages already
filled, and creativity is the lie;

but when I turn the page there’s nothing there,
until a small child bends to pluck a dandelion,
building a priceless bouquet, and
the dog keeps chasing the squirrel but never catches it,
and you start calling your children’s names into empty rooms,
sometimes at night when you sleep less than you should but
not for lack of trying, and try to remember when you
finished the things you started – like life,
and the page fills up, and then another, and another
where there was nothing there moments ago, no thoughts,
no stories, no words, and you wish to remember
the jealously that made you love the page.

Then and now are so much different…

– The Hair I Found –

When I opened the jar of hair gel in the bathroom
cabinet that we share I found a hair, and it’s
obviously yours – jet black with a broadness my thinning,
blonde locks lost long ago and I can’t help but imagine
that someday, if I outlive you
by some mistake and start again all alone
I’ll have the same routine every day for every task,
buying smaller packages of the food we both liked
but it will lack flavor to me
because the secret spice that made it good
is no longer available,
and my pant waist will inch ever higher
as the rest of me inches ever lower,
and I’ll start watching the early evening news,
maybe leaving the television on for company
but it really makes me lonelier,
and leave your favorite cardigan hanging on
the hook inside the closet door,
the gray one that went with everything
you said, and your two bottles of perfume
will still be in their place on our dresser
which I haven’t dusted in so long because
I never did that, I don’t think,
and I shower only occasionally these days
and when I’m finishing my grooming
I’ll open the jar of hair gel
in the bathroom cabinet we shared
and find a hair that’s
obviously yours – jet black and broad,
and I’ll probably start to cry, standing there
all alone, but that’s then,
and today all I can do is complain
because your hair is everywhere.

An old man’s arm…

His Arm

The skin thinned as I grew older
and veins were easy to trace
my small finger along as if following
the invisible stream of blood
that must be coursing through them,
bruises and scrapes from
his weekend gardening lingered in
earthy hues of purple fading
into tanned greens into the sun
baked crust remembering
burns and deep cuts from times
before I was me and sitting
close to him mesmerized by the way
something so strong could
become so frail and fragile, and I
wondered at the perfect
plumpness and muscle of my own
so ready to remain young.