To Make My Morning Complete

Sun woke me this morning
shrugged my shoulders with brightness,
though it failed to do the same for you—
I couldn’t hang around for your eyes to open.

The light admired me for my promptness,
made the kettle boil quicker,
had the bread in and out of the toaster
in the shortest time on record.

I could imagine your apologies,
“Sorry, I missed you”
but I’d already accepted the fact
that I’d be breakfasting on my own,

and was exhilarated by how quickly
the meal was prepared and devoured,
likewise my electric shave and shower,
my Flash-like dressing before the mirror.

The sun really does have my gratitude.
Old Sol has made me superior,
even as you begin to rouse,
and your arms spread wide

in preparation for a yawn.
“Aren’t you going to kiss me goodbye?” you mutter.
With one shoe still to be tied,
I sit on the edge of the bed,

lean over and press my lips to yours.
You are in my morning after all.
And you don’t even have to get out of bed.
It’s easy when you’re the one thing missing.

Storms Are My Horizon

The noise is strong and worrisome
but how do I articulate
the thunder of the soul?
It’s been a story teller
to listen to,
a myth-maker to believe,
but now it’s this relentless drum roll,
spiritual clouds thumping together,
swelling the mystical volume,
a cacophony sometimes,
as threatening as death.
And that’s lightning surely,
that vast electric charge
across the deep black sky
of my assumptions.
There is a storm arising
Will it rain?
Will it sink me to the bottom
or float me higher?
And when it’s over
and the weather in me clears,
is it as if there never was
sensation so inclement?
Or is even the brightest of me
a storm in its own way?
It’s the ceaseless pattern of my solitude…
the isolation and the isobar.

The Wave

I don’t know my neighbor’s name.
But we wave in passing.
So I’m quite familiar
with the flexibility
of the fingers in his right hand.
But I’m unaware
if he has family,
a significant other,
whether he reads books
or what he does for a living
or if he plays golf on weekends.
I’ve never seen anyone else
in his yard but him.
So I assume he lives alone.
But is this his choice?
Or is he wracked by lack
of human company?
And what if he has
a heart attack
in his parlor or in bed?
Who’ll call 911?
And, if he should die,
how long will it be
before anyone is aware?
In this past year,
I’ve thought a lot
about my neighbor,
imagining the worst,
hoping for the best.
But I know nothing for sure
other than that he waves
and then I wave back.
My wave is friendly,
warm and reassuring.
So at least he knows who I am.

Blank as a Stare

Maybe the woman staring blankly from lake bottom
once dreamed the exhilaration of flying.
But learned the hard truth about gravity.
It only knows the one direction.

There are folks gathered at the shore now.
They look down into her shape-shifting blur.
“Was she a waitress, a cashier, a businesswoman?
And why so different from what I am?”

You can never tell which ones will and which ones won’t.
There are no pocket guides to people.
Look in the eyes of anyone you know.
You’re witness to a sense organ, not the graphic details.

The drowned woman eluded us all.
She could have smiled on the street, groaned in the home.
Laughed in public, wept alone.
Her death mask, meanwhile, parallels that elusion.

Dear Nettie

Your name is old.
As old as you are.
It was your mother’s middle name.
And her mother’s before that.
Nettie’s been passed down through the generations
but it stopped with you.
When you looked into the eyes of your first-born,
you insisted the little one deserved better.
That’s why she’s Elizabeth to this day.
And you’re the last Nettie,
wandering the corridors of the nursing home,
nodding to Gladys, whispering in the ear of Mildred,
or turning your head from the invidious Fanny.
They’re all like you,
hanging onto life, hanging onto a name.

At least, your mind is sharp.
As sharp as a Michelle or an Amelia.
And brighter than any Abigail or Queenie.
You dress in what a Nettie would feel comfortable in
at your age.
Nothing fancy.
But nothing as black as death either.
You adorn yourself in what your soul would wish.
Your heart’s pleasure is never consulted.

The nurses, at first,
tried to call you Mrs. Blanchfield.
You insisted you were Nettie
even if no one else was.
Nettie who was raised on a farm.
Nettie who rode her horse to school.
The Nettie who married Clarence,
who insisted there’d be no more Clarences.
As in the three boys she bore
after Elizabeth.
As in the men who hung round the house
when Clarence died age 43.

So the name is like a light these days.
Not passed on,
it can only go out.
People will remember you for a time.
They’ll pick you out in old photos.
“That’s Nettie,” someone will say.
The kids will mutter the likes of,
“Nettie? I’m glad you didn’t call me that.”

You can see a time coming
when there are no Netties.
But you just can’t remember a time.