Saturday, August 30, 2008

Poem for Marina's 44th birthday

M is for Marvel, and M is for Mom and for long lazy sleepy Mornings too.
A is for the Apple of my eye.
R is for Righteous, Rigorous, also Refreshing and usually Right.
I is for If, If only, If we could all be like her
N that case, then we would Never have to wonder what's going on.
A is for All that make life so Agreeable and also for Applesauce, which
we know rain makes and she is not full of.
And all that spells is a safe harbor:

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

2008 August 27 poem: I DOUBLED UP


on flannel pajamas,
turned on the oxygen, and not being able to
find a peanut-butter-and-jelly
sandwich ate part of a cheese one. Now maybe
I'll be able to sleep. As it's
three now and I won't need to wake until
seven I should be able to get four good hours
of sleep and they will be welcome. No more of
these dreams though of riding around naked in an
open car, fighting with someone for the last
scrap of clothing, a
MacDonald plaid wool scarf far too
flimsy to fight over. No, you can have the
scarf, I've got
two pairs of pjs now and
warm socks too. Good night.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


That's the way
pneumonia started last time. Still, I'm not sure
that's what's going on now. I think it's just
my lung disease on a smoggy day. I sit here in a
wicker chair and think about making chairs by hand. Doesn't it
hurt your hands? I suppose you must
get calluses where the wear takes place. I have made
wicker baskets although I do not
remember any more how it felt, nor do I know
what happened to the baskets. When is a
skill not a skill? When you lose it. I no longer
want the skill of making wicker baskets but I would like to have
some yarn and a pair of
knitting needles; I would knit squares for a coverlet for
Babykins, the granddaughter soon to appear on the scene. Maybe
by the time she is two or three I could
knit her a sweater. Not a snow suit as my mom did for
my oldest two; that was when we lived in the
snow but we
don't now, nor
will we, and wool
is so scratchy too, but a
patchwork blanket. I would like that. I don't know if
Babykins would or not but maybe I could edge it with wide
satin ribbon. The sad thing though is that
the more I think about knitting the more my
arthritic fingers hurt. If just thinking about it hurts them,
it would take a lot of Tylenol to get a blanket knit.


"I'm so scared"
says Irene, as I pass her in her
wheelchair in the hall. I'm walking to
get some exercise and pause to listen to her
for a bit. "Stay with me," she pleads, so I
do. She's scared because she doesn't know where to go
to go shopping for her husband and her aunts. I tell her
she does not have to worry about that now, that we are
both well taken care of here and her husband and her
aunts are being taken care of elsewhere. Not knowing
anything about them I don't presume to tell her
anything else, and I listen to her
worries. How can she get downstairs? I
could tell her how to do that but I don't because
when she got down there she would still have no way
to get to a grocery store, those
days are over for her. Instead
I tell her she lives here now, and she wants to find her
bed. I'm happy that one of the workers came by and
took her there though I know she will not
stay, no, she will wheel herself back to the
crossroad of halls by the desk and try again to find out
how to get home. Oh, Irene, "home is where the
heart is," and yours I suspect is
with the dead. I do not want to help you
find it there.

Monday, August 25, 2008


You're just an old woman with
gray hair, an old woman with
white hair said to me inaccurately
(my hair is white too) as I
passed her in her wheelchair.
My hair was once a rich
dishwater blonde as we
used to say, I don't know what they say now,
and I washed it once a week with
Packer's Pine Tar Soap, rinsed it with
vinegar and dried it
in the sun. It started turning white at
30 so that my daughters would be asked
"going for a walk with Grandma?" as we
passed people in the park. Now it stands up in
startled peaks but it's no use trying to let it grow; it
won't grow long, stops at about my shoulders where it
is just a nuisance, not long enough
to play with. I wanted to be able
to sit on my hair but it would not
cooperate so now I wear it short, content to appear
constantly astonished, as I actually am. Look at that! The
greens Tim gave me have blossoms; they look like
elfin pine cones. what can this plant be? And
it's four o'clock in the
morning and I'm still not asleep. What
have I been doing all this time? Just lying here
thinking about nothing or maybe about
Barack Obama. Well now that I know about
those blossoms maybe I can take them into my
dreams with me. In just three hours it will be
time for my brekk-fahs as I will be told by
my favorite LVN. She like
lots of the employees here is
proud to be from the
Philippines, fine with me but what's not
so fine is realizing after hearing the
director's comments about the Olympics
why there are no blacks working here, not
one. This woman I thought
when I used to see her but not converse with her
was so original with her turned-up pants and
sockless shoes is really a brainless wonder; she
told me about one soap opera she watches that an
episode ended well; "it turned out all right, the
unwed mother died." She keeps telling me that I will
soon meet her sister, whose
name is Frances, which as far as she knows is
my name too, though why I should want to meet
her sister is beyond me. She certainly would not want to
meet mine if she knew I was a proudly unwed
mother, grandmother, great-grandmother. Perhaps she thinks
as I once proposed
there should be a club of
Franceses. Frances was the name of
one of my father's ex-
girlfriends, though it's true there were a lot of
Francises in his family. My middle name,
Elizabeth, was the name of an eccentric
(because she never married)
great-aunt of my father's and my favorite
relative. And
that's enough about my hair.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


Lei lines
converge here, on the side of this hill
where Bambi and Ena forage and the sun spills down
onto our patio under the flourishing silk tree.
That's why there's a nursing home
here; I'm glad it's a nursing home instead of a
church and that's why I love to walk outside around the triangular
courtyard, study the thistle that grows by the wall and
changes each day, find
gifts from the wind and look for feathers. Someone has set up a
little birdhouse for bluebirds but I think it's too close to where all the
people are; anyway so far the bluebirds have not come around. Of course
maybe it's not the house but the crows, there are plenty of those with their
cries and warnings. I was reading a review of a book of warnings about
alternative medicines, not that all medicines are alternative to other medicines
but I guess the AMA wants us to think what they think - and we would, if we all
thought alike, but actually the way you think affects your conclusions
sometimes. My friend John, whose
doctor brother died, leaving John to uphold the rule of double-blind studies,
considers everything not out of the MDs holy book to be
wishful thinking. I myself consider anything that doesn't
fulfill its claims to, well, not fulfill its claims and I
reject it. Occam's razor for me: does it work?
Well, then. But I do
remember a time when I thought
a couple of aspirin would
fix anything. And maybe, I don't know,
if I still believed it, it would still
work, for me, but I did learn
that it doesn't work for
everybody. That was when my
suicidal sister was
released to my care and I'd have to stand between her and the edge
of the subway platform always, edging her gently back. No,
aspirin didn't do a thing for that; what did it for her was
finally taking the jump. She told me that was the first
independent decision she'd ever made. Luckily she
landed on mud so after a few years of recovery she
went ahead and had a life before she left us last year.
I think I stopped thinking I wanted to
kill myself when I
stopped killing myself and began
steadily writing poetry as well as
reading it. Or maybe it was just when I came here to live
at the convergence of all these
lei lines.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


Faint voices from the far end
of another hall, calling or crying. Perhaps it is only one
voice, with the murmured second voice just now and then. This
is my life now, but in my dreams I'm in a flock
of friends & we're all getting stuff done. Meals
are ready for those coming back from delivering pre-election
mailers to doors and gates, and thinking about the dream I
suddenly remember my husband coming home from a trip
to a big church picnic and eating my best-ever potato salad while
complaining that I never cooked such wonderful food for the
family, only for crowds. It was true, of course; I did not like
cooking for the family, day after day. I did like cooking up
one huge dish for a crowd. Now of course I don't cook so I
don't know what I would like but I think it would be
about the same. Institutional food is often awful but I
still prefer it to messing around in the kitchen day
after day. Potato salad, split pea soup, lentil stew, those
were my best kitchen works though I do remember
baking a pumpkin chiffon pie once; Thanksgiving was upon us and I
didn't want to do the tried and true, though I will say
the tried and true where
pumpkin pie is concerned
is the best.

Friday, August 22, 2008


big as my outstretched hand,
this sturdy chocolate-brown leaf
brings news, could I but de-code it, from
high and far-away places. A sail like this could soar,
given the right updraft, around the world. I
found it in the yard and put it in the glass with my
comb and pens and pencils, where it
adorns my little bedside table and will not
crumble before I do. I am so
grateful to it and to the winds and to the earth who
bore both of us. Some day, maybe, I will find its
picture in a book and learn
where it came from - but maybe not, maybe it's
still undocumented. It does not need
pressing between sheets of waxed paper like the
saved leaves of my childhood, just
not to be stepped on. I
show it to the budgies in their copious cage in the
bird room; with their two-minute memories they
are unimpressed but they deserved to witness
our visitor. Now I'll hold its delicate but sturdy stem
and carry it back to my bedside to
grace my pencil-holder and remind us all of

Thursday, August 21, 2008


"Did you feed the cats?" she demanded
over and over again
when she first arrived in the bed next to mine
late one night last week. She finally
went to sleep and so did I and I haven't heard any more
about the cats until tonight, when she pled with us
to save her from them until one of the nurses
had the wit to explain, "this is the people
hospital. The cat
hospital is down the street." So now
the cats have been fed and we are safe from them
and I am left wondering if her initial concern sprang from
a desire for their
comfort or from
fear for her life.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


she says, of my
Ugh Boots, as if
stating an inexplicable fact. I guess she does not
remember me as a person with a life, a person
who went to Santa Fe on the train in the winter and
needed Ugh Boots. They sure came in handy, kept my
feet warm and toasty while I figured out how to deal with
the freezing dry air up my sinuses. I
remember a room with a fireplace, too, in an
old adobe house that was a bed-and-breakfast, and
walking, walking, walking in those boots, exploring
the city, always coming back to the plaza with its
jewelry-and-pottery-covered blankets everywhere. Resenting my
poverty as I looked and looked and looked at things
I wanted to buy, not that I needed them but that
they cried out to me: Buy me! But I
couldn't. A
good thing too as what would I have done with all those
things? I never wore jewelry, had no place to put
pottery; still if I'd had
more cash I guess I would have gone home laden
with gifts. As it was, I just
admired. Oh, Santa Fe, the holy faith
of St. Francis of Assisi, the end
of the Santa Fe Trail, city that I love to this day and
always will, I'm glad I had my
Ugh Boots to walk around you in, and glad I can remember

Monday, August 18, 2008


so says the cover of the brochure for this odd little
nursing home; it has to say that because you could never tell
by looking. Actually life doesn't go on here; waiting
does. We're waiting to get better so we can leave for a
more pleasant home, or we're waiting to die, but we're not
living. I walk and walk, my roommate sleeps and sleeps, I meet other patients
in the hall who talk and talk or grind their teeth - and then of course
I meet people who work here, friendly and cheerful though one of them
must be the one who took the cord to my phone. Outside,
deer come down the hill sometimes to nibble what lower leaves they can
find or to taste the impatiens (apparently
it is not tasty). The occupational
therapist is trying to teach me a little
tai chi, though I could better teach her - she showed me the opening
movements (arouse the chi, sink the chi) but without knowing their
names so had me repeat them six times each - or was it 10? I told her
what we were doing and that it needed doing only once so she said
she would get a book. That's not
what I call life; I suppose though as I haven't died yet I must be still
living so perhaps that's what they mean - "Cheer up, we're not dead yet."

Whatever it is it does seem to go on and on and on. Once
in a while my friend Sandie comes by with her husband and her
miraculous son and they take me out for lunch and we
talk and talk. That's life & worth
waiting for.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


of the day or night I knock, there she is
saying "Yes" to my knock, so I have taken to expect
though I do always knock first
to use the bathroom down the hall, the one
supposed to be reserved for
visitors. As for me, I prefer
to wear diapers rather than
trying to live in the bathroom - good thing too;
there's no room for a
roommate in there.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Watching "Jeopardy" last night I learned
to my astonishment that "Hawaii"
is correctly spelled with a
diacritical mark over one of the
i's. Which I or what mark I
have not discovered; this will bear
looking into. Meanwhile I recall learning to
pronounce it with a glottal
stop between the
A and the two Is, unlike my
geography teacher who pronounced it
ha-WYE. It wasn't a state yet then, and
was reachable from the mainland only by
ship. It is still my dearest wish (well, one of the
dearest) to travel there afloat upon the
Pacific, which was the way I traveled
to the mainland in my
mother's womb; mainland woman found pregnant
were returned for their delivery because
the islands were not considered civilized or
sanitary, being so foreign and all. There my mother
taught English at night to Japanese and Hawaiian
workers and would come out onto the lanai before
class to instruct the Japanese and Filipino men who
approached at opposite ends, "Put your
guns and knives here in a pile by the steps. You
can pick them up again when
you leave." I grew up far away from all that in
Brooklyn with a photograph on the wall of
torchlight fishing from a boat at night, and my
dad's ukelele tucked away in the closet. Once
in a while my mom would suggest I might want to
learn to play the
ukelele but I didn't - didn't want to and didn't
learn. I was jealous of Hawaii; it knew
my mom before she had me - it knew her
when she was happy.

Friday, August 1, 2008


I want to start a shopping list but I
never do because the first
item on the list will be
Blue Emu, which is a blue ointment in a
white jar and why anyone would name a blue
ointment in a white jar for a giant
flightless bird is more than I can
understand and instead of
writing the list I start
wondering about that. Blue Emu is
a wonderful ointment; it does
exactly what you want it to - makes pain go
away - but not if the jar is empty. Okay then, here's the
list: Blue Emu, Blue Emu, Blue Emu, oh and
maybe a bird book too so I can look it up and see
if there is one.