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.

 

NICK

I met him once.
Kicking around kicking tires at a car show.
His cousin introduced me.
That mix of cocky and self-conscious
that is teenage boy.
I shook his hand with gravity
as I like to bestow adult status
on adolescents.
They seem to savor it
though they may disdain all else.
The month before I asked his cousin,
who came with his parents
to my home for dinner,
“Could I interest you in coffee?”
“Yes, please,” he said,
and his mother gave me the look –
amused  you’d call it–
as if to say
“Well, that’s his first.”
And this boy whose hand I shook
died that Spring.
Crashed his car just horsing around.
I met his mother the following year.
She told me she obsessed
upon every stupid stunt he had pulled
in his short life
and survived.
“If I’d been a better mother,
he might not have tried one last foolish thing.”
She surmised as I offered her
a cup of coffee.

 

DRIZZLE

damp hair and wet shoes

and balancing an umbrella and purse

and coffee and keys

finally managing to get into the car

and somehow closing the umbrella

then what to do with the dripping thing

crossing my lap and raining on me

all over again

like the umbrella was just saving it up

to drench me inside

very funny

mother nature

DAY JOB

I’m good at forecasts.

I look at figures .

I see their stories.

I know their destination.

The future is foretold in the tally.

The numbers are patient.

They wait in their inevitable trek

To the bottom line

While I pause

In the midst of the process

To write a poem.

HAWK

Back again
the yellow tailed hawk
atop the folded patio umbrella
as if carved from wood
the sovereign of the totem
my hand on the door
almost turning
almost stepping onto
his claimed territory
both terrible and wonderful
he watched the long grass
and I watched him.
The morning aggressor.

UNCOUTH

Years ago
to coax me
into a Bergman film
a friend declared
You might just like it.
They wear pretty clothes.
Needless to say
I took offense.
Bergman may not lie
beyond my depth
because I dress well.
And while I’m at it
let me say
that I’m also not fond
of Faulkner
Stravinsky
de Kooning
or kale.

NOVEL WRITING

The pleasure
of inventing a person
is that you get to be
her for a time
and she may be
nothing like you
so you get to be
nothing like you
oh sure
she’s in your head
so she shares
your philosophy
but she’s taller
and younger
with a cooler name
like Willow
like Mercedes
lovelier
not smarter
she could never be smarter
she could be braver
and being
her for a time
you could kiss
more boys
in high school