Swing Time

I was never much for Robert Frost
with all that repetitive stopping by woods bs
but I believe that swinging on birches
might be a good aspiration.

Swinging in general is a good idea.

I like a swing with a leather strap for a seat
that hugs your hips and tells you
it will never let you go
no matter if you are swinging so high
that the big hollow poles that anchor you
jump right off the ground.

My friend Doris was a great swinger
with a swing set in a corner of the yard
the grass worn away by the endless scrape of sneakers.
She’d pump her feet till I swear
she’d do a loop dee loop right over the bar
though my sisters would deny it.

Her swing had metal seats of the kind
that got so hot in summer sun
we’d have to wet them down with the hose
taking a nice long drink too from the old rusty end
and then the slippery metal would trick us
if we didn’t hold tight and throw us off at the top of the arc.

If you can’t be a swinger
be a pusher of swingers.
Doris could push as richly as she swung
with perfection in her placement
her hands never pounding my shoulders
or shoving my ass off the seat
but squarely in the sweet center of my back.

Two years ago I swung through the trees
though not birches Mr. Frost
on the zipline in Jamaica
and I felt again the hands of my friend
propel me
safely into the next breeze.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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SUMMER 1983

 

I’ll say this much for him
he had a generous bent

If he had any cash at all
he freely spent it.
on himself
on me
on drinks all around

We played the ponies at OTB
if we won
steak and champagne
if we lost
hotdogs and beer
either way we laughed and ate

A fearless gambler
but hesitant swimmer
he refused to explain
miscellaneous random scars
or wear the swim trunks I bought him

At night we danced
to David Bowie
Marvin Gaye
The Police
his hands on my hips
enhancing the sway

But in truth
he watched me more than touched me
and in general
his generosity was with my money

I maxed my charge cards
by summer’s end

Our two best days were
the day we met
stumbling into each other
in drunken lust
and the day towards the end
at the zoo
As relaxed as giraffes
where alcoholic beverages
are thankfully prohibited

The worst day was
sitting on the kitchen floor
near his unconscious wreck
his sleeping face wore a mask of almost kindness
almost enough to deceive me again
I turned away and devised my escape

But given the chance
I might do it again
for the weightless exuberance
of Life Without Plan
And a smile from those green eyes

But of course
now I’ve learned
Every Breath You Take
is not about love
but ownership.

ALTERNATE REALITY

“Let’s talk about fantasies.”
An appropriate topic I suppose
For a drizzly Thursday afternoon.
“Do you have any?-
   Not sexual, I mean, too boring –
Fantasies of a different future?”

Did you know
That some of the grand mansions of Newport
Have been divvied up into condos?
And you could live there?
You could own one-sixteenth of a marble estate
On Bellevue.

“Interesting.”
Although she always says that when in fact
It is probably not.
“Do you think about it much?
Have you left it just a vague idea?
Have you added the color and shadings?”

Once a week or every so often
I go to real estate pages online
And check the listings
I like the ones with tiny white kitchens
And claw-foot tubs
And a washer and dryer tucked away and
Using up the only closet
And windows in crazy spots because the room
Was never meant to be so small
But with a big old fancy staircase
Shared by the other folks who live alone
In a piece of the palace.
With a cube of a fridge and a two-burner stove
I would walk to the market each morning
To buy only what I felt like eating that very day
No need for a car
I’d bring the dog right down the aisles
Because the shopkeepers would like him
They’d give him a biscuit and say Good Boy
Summer would buzz with decked-out tourists
And there’d be art shows and concerts
And fancy changes to menus
And just when I think I can’t stand the crowds
for one more minute
It would be autumn
And everyone would go.
Quiet again,
I would put on my parka and stroll the beach
And the dog would bark at the seagulls.

“When does a daydream stop being itself
And start being a plan?”

I suppose it is when
You are finally ready
To give up what you already have.

 

 

QUIZ

I’ve never lost my love
of personality tests.
Multiple choice in twenty questions
to indicate my Compassion (A minus)
or my Loyalty (D plus)
or my ability or lack thereof
to keep a juicy secret (forever an F).
Back to September ’66
Seventeen Magazine –
They had the best quizzes ever.
I’d tear a sheet from my notebook
and mark my A B C or all of the above
and I’d discover if
my boyfriend was faithful
which would be helpful once I had one
or whether I had what it takes
to join the Peace Corps
or wear Tabu.
I’d toss my answers in the neighbor’s trash.
God forbid my sister should see
that I was a romantic kisser
or that I was reading Seventeen
when I was fifteen
and it was her Seventeen,
which she was.
And now to my delight
I can take my tests every day online.
And learn that my nickname should be
Lilypad
and my aura is Blue
and that though Agnostic
my spirit guide is the goat.
And just today I confirmed a past life
with a fine famous lover.
None other than manly
Clark Gable.
Of course that means that I was
Carole Lombard.
Which all makes sense
because I wrote a story once
where the heroine was Carole with an E.
And though I used to think I had been
Edna St. Vincent Millay
(who was also in a story)
I don’t believe she ever slept with
Dear Mr. Gable.
But to be sure, I took the test again
with my second-best answers.
And Gable again.

So there you have it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

PEERING THROUGH WINDOWS

Driving home in almost dark

comfortably overfed

warmed with red wine

at my husband’s suggestion

which is not my Sunday evening habit

but could be.

I look through windows into houses as we ease by

my mother’s Sunday habit  I’ve acquired

yellow lit

sometime television blue

homes always look warm in twilight

one house still brilliant with Christmas

“Lazy” notes my husband.

I prefer to imagine

an absent family member

a son who soldiers overseas

a sister ill in a distant city

the lights stay on

waiting

until the family reunites.

ENVY

He was raised

at the periphery

of privilege.

The groundskeeper’s son.

Companion to billionaire children,

with access to luxury

but not ownership.

Tennis court

Olympic pool

Riding stable.

He grew to resent

the fine things he could use

so long as he always

came in second.

Despising especially

the well-manicured lawns

that defined

his father’s servitude.

RUTH 1943

Well, yes.
Of course she’s lucky to have a job.
Rose down the street is still looking.
A good job – she knows.
Her sister Claire washes floors
All night at the foundry.
While Ruth sits on a stool from eight to six
And connects mothers and sons
On the switchboard.
And yes.
She’s lucky to have finished school.
As her brothers had not.
Or Claire.
Ruth waits on her perch
And watches her circuits
Waits for conversations to end
Waits for days to end.
She walks by St. Mary’s
Where nurses in uniform come and go
In twos and threes.
They laugh.
She imagines herself in white stockings.
Her take-home is eighteen fifty.
She gives her mother sixteen.
Two-fifty for herself.
It’s fair.
Claire keeps three-eighty but is saving
For the wedding when Albert returns.
But yes.
She’s lucky.
Ruth has enough.
She’s saved it all but four thirty-nine
For a suitcase.

FELINE

Granted,
convenience is their strong suit.
Even the tiniest kitten –
just show him the location of the litter box
and basically you’re done.
No accidents, no scolding,
no putting on of boots and coat
over pajamas
at three a.m. to save the carpet.
And they’re affectionate
in their fashion
meaning you awake to find they have
tucked themselves into the curve of your back.
They fall short only in enthusiasm.
Psychologists will tell you
in educated language
that the benefit of the canine pet
lies in the magnitude of
welcoming behaviors.
That is:
Dogs are glad to see you.
Cats sometimes
notice you ‘re home.

THE FIRST TIME

Deciding at nineteen
she’d been a virgin long enough
but sensible more than sensual
she scheduled her visit
out of town with the doctor
not currently engaged
she admitted (needlessly)
but anticipating the coming semester
and determined to be ready
to shed her jeans before midterms
she hoped for a doctoral candidate
with dissertation bits and books of poetry
scattered on some old Persian rug
though she’d probably settle
for a nearsighted and
anxious undergrad in statistics
with corn chips in the bed sheets.

LIFESAVER

I missed her
by inches
braking hard skidding left.
Cat.
My first thought
but the glimpse of tail
as she fled to the woods –
Fox.
A girl for sure
like a cousin
who escaped my tires year ago.
I stopped that day
as she washed her mouse
in a puddle by the curb.
Calmly
not breathless with
near death
as I was with
near killing.
Today my record stays intact
not having murdered
with my car.

 

Not quite
I’m reminded
by another cousin.
Human.
Who picks the ant from my kitchen table
A boy I think.
He wandered down from my
vase of peonies.

 

Kathy scoops him up
and opening the door
sets him gently
on the warm patio stone.