Embroidery of Hope

peacockWhat was it I hoped for–
a sixteen year old
who was usually more interested
in volleyball than sewing–

when I French-knotted
salmon flowers and
stitched royal blue and lime
into a flowing peacock’s tail?

Was I thinking of a handsome husband
and happily ever after,
of a houseful of giggling girls
and Gerber baby boys?

I’m sure I didn’t imagine
sleepless nights with a critically ill baby
or what we would do
when my husband lost his job.

I also never envisioned
the thrill of twin grandchildren
jumping up and down by the window,
shouting, “Grandma’s here!”

I had a vague idea of my
hoped-for love and life,
but not an inkling of the
down-and-dirty daily press.

Now, the regal peacock reminds me
that my forever is still in the making,
and thanks to sacred covenants,
I should continue embroidering hope.

Time Traveler

family in front of car

I am an “emissary from a vanished world,” (1)
a world of photos with scalloped edges,
a realm where my mother wore house dresses
and baked cookies for us when we got off the school bus,
a place of black-and-white television
and neighbors listening in on party lines,
a world where ten year olds could take off on bikes
for whole afternoons of riding around town
or gallop off on ponies for a picnic.

 

It was a time when enemies lived in faraway places,
like Russia and China,
but no one worried about getting shot by other kids at school
or by neighbors at the movie theater.
It was a world of American Bandstand and I Love Lucy,
a world that went crazy for a British boy band, The Beatles.
It was a place of piano lessons and band practice and junior prom,
a world where we could temporarily lose our parents
because there was no cell phone tracking.

 

 

[1] From Sparrow. “The Art of Aging.” The Sun. April 2017.

 

 

De-clawed

vanilla-the-cat

From her cover

behind the euonymus,

deadly talons

lashed out.

Dogs cowered

and even people

paid homage.

Behind a screen

of grape vines,

she crept, inching,

black ninja silent,

tail beating a slow,

metronomic trance,

eyes, burning coals,

then, bam!

a small bird lay dead.

 

Now,

the deadly

killer skulks

inside the garage;

snowy tufts of hair

fall out in clumps;

mice no longer

skirt the yard;

the graveyard

of feathers

is gone.

Today,

she mews

in her refuge,

a shadow

of her former

assassin-self.

 

 

My mother-in-law,

no less vital

than the cat,

used to wield

a wooden spoon

like a wand,

conjuring up gravy

and mashed potatoes

that caused people

to moan and swoon,

bringing down the

brawny defenses

of hulking

farm workers

with rhubarb pies

and whipping cream.

 

 

Now, ancient,

like the cat,

her world is

a room

peopled with

recurring memories,

memories

of days gone by

where truth

and fiction

intermingle,

of a time

when her spatula

was a spear,

her frying pan

fortress.

The Season for Battle

Non Sequitur - np_c111108.jpg

Non Sequitur

Fall is the season of leaves turning red and gold, the season of school buses and frosty mornings, and the season for battle. In ancient times, when things got tense at home, men could prove themselves by putting on 80 pounds of armor and joining the Crusades. In early America, macho dudes could head West and battle Indians and look for gold. Today, restless guys strap on goggles and join the leaf blower battles, the manly sport of blowing air.

Neighbor A swaggers out of his garage sporting a Husqvarna 580 BTS backpack blower. He grins maniacally as it roars to life, drowning out howling dogs and fire sirens. Leaves and dirt swirl up from his grass and tumble into the street.

Later, when Neighbor A has settled in front of the TV with a root beer, chips, and guacamole, he is jolted out of his repose by the thunder of Neighbor B’s walk-behind Billy Goat Force 169cc blower. By the time he has his work boots back on, Neighbor A’s blower has not only blasted every leaf in the neighborhood back into his yard but has created a no-green zone between their two properties.

Rather than engage in open warfare, A decides to wait until B is out of town for the weekend to return the favor. And so it goes.

Fall used to be a time of walking through crunchy piles of leaves and listening to honking Canadian geese as they flew overhead on their way to warmer climes. Now, the sound of autumn is the roar of a machine louder than a chainsaw and more annoying than a roomful of old men snoring.

And for what? A lawn mower makes the grass shorter and a rototiller digs things up, but a leaf blower, like a political candidate, simply blows. The blasted thing sounds like it is doing some kind of useful work, but it merely moves things around.

Womb Cocoon

shutterstock_fetus

Gravity is suspended as

she lies back in the water–

weightless, buoyant,

glorying in her native element.

 

Kicking, she is propelled

with surprising speed

and joyously dives deep

with a porpoise-like flip,

 

choreographing her somersaults

to the swooshing of blood

and the hypnotic lullaby

of burbling and gurgling.

 

The water tickles

and enlivens her skin

as she climbs and gropes

inside her watery cocoon.

 

When she tires,

undulating ripples

soothe and settle her,

and she nestles next to

 

a thrum thrum thrumming,

snug in the water’s embrace,

gently swaying, swishing,

the rock-a-bye of angels.

Unspooling

spools

Photo courtesy of Laurel Leaf Farm http://www.laurelleaffarm.com/

Great grandma Angie’s box
overflowed with wooden spools
left over from dresses and drapes,
quilts and petticoats,

wooden spools worn smooth
by girls and boys
making towers and towns,
ammunition, and counters for games,

remainders from hours at the treadle,
the thread moving up and down,
unwhirling from the bobbin
during countless hours

under Grandma’s able hands,
unwinding yards of pink and baby blue,
pristine white and practical black,
threads now absent from the spotless spools.

The Path I Walked

blackbird by water


The path I walked was

bequeathed me by my grandmothers:

 

we cut potatoes into pieces

and buried them in furrows,

dropped peach halves into Ball jars

to glow golden in the winter gloom,

slathered butter on thick slices

of freshly baked bread.

 

Sometimes, I wish I could again

see the fox running through the field,

hear red-winged blackbirds

calling from the cattails,

and watch my little boys

playing football in the yard.

 

I would scoop up a handful of dirt

and cradle it to my chest.

I would run to the dirt trails

to watch bicyclists go airborne.

I would wait for my husband

to walk through the door,

the sun a burning anvil in the west.

 

11

russel at wedding

hero and hectorer of sisters

erstwhile mama’s boy

collector of cards and creepy crawlies

braggart and one-upsman with buddies

sometimes startled by interest in girls

new-found strength, muscles hardening

ceaseless appetite for vaulting into rivers

and wriggling through weedy thickets,

for achieving video game supremacy

yet yearns to climb onto mama’s lap

yells instead “just leave me alone”

secretly watches his father

then teases his sisters to hear them scream

My Father’s Hands

2013-04-21 15.54.59

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I slip my small girl-hand
into my father’s thick, meaty grip,
firm and strong, yet pliable and familiar,
like a well-used baseball mitt,
big enough, he says,
to hide the bacon drippings
that doubled for peanut butter
in his school lunch sandwiches.

On Saturday mornings,
he grasps the frying pan handle
and jauntily flips the hotcakes—
one, two, three revolutions,
a morning show for his baby girl.

When I am sick, lovingly
he lays his hands on my head,
the gentle, trembling pressure
comforting and calm
as he calls upon God,
his hands a conduit of
blessings from heaven.

Cocooned

IMG_0236She doesn’t feel the winter wind whipping her hair
as it rushes to strip leaves from the trees;
she doesn’t catch a snowflake on her tongue
or test the snow for packing qualities;
she doesn’t feel the bone-deep chill of winter nights
or sense her cheeks numbing in the breeze
because winter is a mere tableau beyond her windowsill,
a brief blast of air when the door flings open,
memories of sleigh rides, a woolen blanket on her knees.