The Last Night Shift?

  
It’s a Thursday night at the sugar shack, quiet 

for the 5 to 7 hours, slow enough for me to 

inventory, tidy and re-stock. 

The day shift rarely covers all.

Like a morsel left for Elijah, the day shift–

my daughter, in fact–left me chores to do

like cutting up strawberries, cleaning up

counters coated sticky caramel or fudge, cherry

juice or chopped Reese’s peanut butter cups

dust, among the other jobs of smiling, wiping,

re-filling, lifting, swiping, shifting, and money-

tending, motions threaded into my days and

nights lo these past two years, 20 to 40 hours

a week, after the class room or with the lap top.
 

Thursday night, like most other nights of the

week brings in the small, smartly dressed 

woman who does not like people, especially small

ones, their cackles and laughter reverberating

madly from tile floor to painted wood ceiling;

nor does she deign sanitary all those dotted

dried yogurt drips on the scale upon which

she weighs her nightly yogurt, always the same,

the half dozen or so rainbow pareils atop chocolate 

obsession (her froyo choice and aptly so)

a lid and a bag. I get it all ready for her once

I spy her entry. Anxiety riddles her face so 

that her smile forced comfort in my familiar 

face transforms her, cracking ice panes.

She warms to me; I know her tics and peeves.
 

Following nervous Nelly, affectionately dubbed,

enter the Thursday night family four just out of 

church (there are three nearby churches) who

each ask in turn, “Is there whipped cream tonight?”

We make it fresh here, liquid cream and the nitrous

oxide I am often tempted to inhale on especially

dreary nights of “what am I doing here and how 

will I bear another menial, meaningless night?”

Until mop dancing, when all seems to flow, tears

and motion, two-stepping and sludgery, the end

near, a night almost over, near complete.
 

When then arrives the female version of 

SpongeBob who plops down 16 dollars of

yogurt and toppings while complaining of 

stomach pains, a gone gallbladder and 

a boyfriend who does not even deserve the

two chocolate chip cookies she adds to her order.

“He’s so mean,” she says, shaking her head 

so that the just-put-it-up-any-which-way bun

flops side to side, loose and threatening to fall.
 

Her appearance sparks a laugh and a text to 

my day shift counterpart–my daughter–

who earlier remarked that she hadn’t seen quart-lady

lately and wondered if she was all right.

Quart lady once complained the tart machine freezes

up, protested so fervently about its unavailability

since tart was the only flavor she could eat, 

given her gall bladder problems, prompting me

to move tart two machines down, thinking of her ire,

and when I proudly showed her on her next visit

the new location, which she herself suggested, she

smiled and promptly filled her cup with dulce de leche.
 

“Remember that lady made such a stink and then 

didn’t even get tart after all?” my daughter laughed

just today, this afternoon, at our passing of the baton,

shift change. She too has loved and hated the job.
 

And just yesterday, the young, energetic blonde with

savings, ready to own something (his girlfriend aside),

with his queries and interrogations–“What is your favorite

flavor? And how do you like working here? And which is 

the most popular items in the store? And which machines

are your favorite?”–may be, perhaps, looks like, and so if

he really does want to buy the store, what then?
 

 This job, a helping hand and gift after a bad life trip and fall,

a stop on recovery’s road, for which I thank cousins and sweets

and sweet cousins, father and son, and daughters,

and all who seek comfort in colorful swirls and turrets, 

gems and decor, sugar coated and sugar free, reward and 

punishment for all those bodies small, square, squat, thin,

lanky, lean, old, young and in between that have passed

through and paved my practiced presence, order, patience 

and humility these last couple years, sometimes failing at all 

or some, sometimes succeeding at all, some or none.

These sentimental seeds I sprinkle like rainbow and chocolate

on a quiet Thursday night’s spurring these 

final thoughts, final words and future memories.

Two Years


 

Two years ago, life was as different as it was the same as it is now. While so much has changed, not much has either:

Two years ago, my mother could speak and recognize me fairly often. She does neither now, or rarely. But she is still here.

And both daughters were in high school then, the older just having turned 18, a senior and the younger a freshman. They both played soccer for their school, which took up much of our time between playing, attending and enjoying games, volunteering and fundraising, etc. Now neither does. One left home and came back. The other continues on without and now with her sister. We spend time doing other things now, like talking in coffee shops, shopping, bookstore browsing and eating. Sisters are still sisters, daughters, daughters.

And about that same time, I was teaching six classes and running–and not just exercising. Too busy to think about anything. Two years later, I teach two classes and refuse to run.

People have moved in and out of my life yet somehow all still remain, though the live connections grow more tenuous and infrequent. 

Stronger, thinner, and lighter then but calmer, wiser, and slower now, I am, all for the better and worse, in just a matter of days, weeks and two years.

Two years ago I started this blog with no other intention than to write, no expectations. That has not changed. And though WordPress reports hundreds and thousands of posts and views and followers attributed to this blog, which has grown in words, mine, yours, and others’, the daily writing discipline over the months has not changed–I write. 

I am still happy then as now to have shared words for all eyes who have cared to read–and am grateful for any morsel of insight, amusement, pleasure or education I may have bestowed upon a passerby here; touching another is the aim and hope. 

Peace and blessings.

Thank you,

Gaze    

There is no Word 

  

A word run rough shod over

centuries long rendering it

nearly vacuous, the emotion

contained within reduced to 

pithy sayings and pathetic poems,

some I have penned myself,

and pretty memes inspiring

less than more by over exposure,

how can this word be explained,

described and painted accurately?

Perhaps a paragraph filled with

affectionate acts is enough:

a driver slamming the brakes

screeching at a near miss cat kill, or

the 80 year old’s collapse at his sixty

year marriage’s cease upon awakening

to his wife’s motionless body, or

the wide open daddy arms anticipating

embrace at the first steps’ trail’s end?

Too Hallmark, Facebook sentimental?

What about soldiers or police officers

arm in arm in solidarity, peril-pals

undying, or prom dates in wide grins,

shy shoulder-slumped and side glance

photos or sunset hand-holding clips

or tears and aching hearts and darkness

as corollary preceded by its inverse,

heart-pounding, heady ecstasy-like

near nausea and enervating hysterical

joy found only in the scent, touch and

sound of the key to a lock match tight,

the yes to the life-long approval sought?

Too banal, trite, common, overblown?

Try this:

What is the square root of a 24-hour

day that begins in darkness with a howl,

signaling the death knell to the dying wish

of a martyr–just one more hour’s peaceful

sleep–a howl that electrocutes nerve

endings everwhere, that only patient 

tender care will quiet a defenseless being

suckling, emitting the sweet aromas of

new warmth baking mother’s milk like 

raisin toast popping sweet and savory,

and a once eyes-for-only lover cum

zombie escaping grey-eyed and sallow

briefcase in hand out the door shut-grunt

leaving only wispy cool air in a dim den’s

stale morning stuffy exhausted eye-burn,

bone-weary sympathy for the life made

and lived now, nostalgia and hope stew 

simmering on the stove daily, all repeat,

all gone now the glimmering show in 

new leather pumps price-tag clicking 

and tailored skirts tucking in silk blouses

hanging dusty in closed closets blear-eyes

catatonically fix on blindly automatonic as

day ends where it began, only now the 

briefcase rests against the chair close

to the snores emitted from the dead man’s

sleep craved more than the man who

made this life leaked out exhaled in the

other’s breath and yours, theirs, ours hourly,

daily, yearly and ever so in smiles and frowns,

razored sight and heart, grim boredom and

coffee steam morning’s quiet contentment

and grasping an idea finally that endings

and beginnings are the same and conclusions

are illusions and passion is stillness while 

death has always meant living, the chaos of

it the only order ever it was, patterning 

a day-long life? The square root of it.

That, my dear, generates, defines and

encapsulates the engine and caboose.
 

Happy pledge, notice and honor to what makes us, us.

 

 

  

The Tangerine Tree

 
 
We lived at Quo Vadis then, a dumpy avocado colored complex 

across from the dying strip mall sputtering out, 

stores no one shopped or missed when they closed, belly up or dying out. 

Remember that pizza store with brothers in the name? 

There for 20 years, like an institution, and then closed its doors one day

no warning

though someone knew the owner had cancer.
 

We were in our twenties and striving, 

you selling pots and pans and me in school.

And Barry would be on the couch some days, 

popped out of nowhere watching t.v. while I was in the bathroom.

The apartment door was always open and he wasn’t shy.

Sometimes he would show up at the door and knock.

And there he would stand dressed in snow gear.

“Let’s go skiing.” 

No matter that we both had school and jobs.

And we would go.
 

I was trying out my domestic skills then.

So I grew house plants filling the light of the window,

hung in fives across the ever-open blinds.

Those were the days of open, unlocked doors, drop-in neighbors,

never closed blinds, royal blue apartments and sleeping naked.

We cared so much about the world and so little about everything

but the intimate and local, the near and myopic scope of our lives.
 

But it was just like you–who you are really–to toss those seeds

behind you,

without a thought to the life already existing in that pot, 

the spider plant fledgeling waiting to hang

though still nestled on the window sill 

waiting to flop its trestled wings over the burnt clay lip.

It must have been a luscious, tinny sweet tangerine that held those seeds.

Because now, dozens of years later, 

that tree that grew from strange sprouts 

crowding the spider plant on the sill, a puzzle to me then, 

and with time snuffed out the baby spider buds for soil, space and sustenance, 

room to grow and then outgrow that small pot to a larger one and then 

a larger one yet, moving with us from apartment to house to house 

where it now lives in the backyard, 

bursting with abundance.
 

It took 25 years for that tree, 

grown from thoughtlessly tossed seeds 

by one too lazy to get off the couch and trash them,

to bear fruit.

It simply grew and followed us from home to home, 

life to life, childhood to adulthood, 

and then our children’s childhood to adulthood,

and our puppies and kittens and hamsters and birds and fish and frogs

to their graves, 

some feeding the soil of tangerine tree roots, 

finally strong enough

firm enough to bear the weight of hundreds of sweet orange sun nuggets.
 

You, unwittingly, mindlessly, grew that tree you love so much now, 

picking one tangerine each morning, 

cold from the morning’s chill dew,

sucking its sugary juice and tossing the peel to the soil, 

just like you planted it 31 years before, 

when we were young and the tree was yet to be, 

its fruit long time coming.
 

And now the fruit is plentiful and we are old and love infertile, 

like sterile lovers circling, unwittingly trodding the soil of our graves.

Hair

  
My older sister played the grooves off this album in 1971. I can still recite every word to some of the songs, and I often burst into a refrain of “Aquarius” when my first-born, Aquarian, squares some of her traits to her zodiac sign. Sometimes I belt out the tune merely because it is such a belting kind of song and the edge of my range register of the song can induce a near spiritual experience or maybe it’s just the oxygen deprivation.

Hair defines. 

My hair has always been a badge of horror and honor. Growing up in the hippy long straight hair parted down the middle fashion era, my hair was a horror. I was mortified that my mother had to cut my black frizzy mop very short, pixie style, to save her the time and grief of taming it, the snarls and fuzz that did not hang but billowed everywhere like a balloon around my head. My hair grew out not down. 

But in the 70s when Jimi Hendrix had already made his mark and died to solidify it, somehow afros for everyone called the day. Then, my hair was perfect. A pic and a shake set the wide puffy do–like a giant woolly black powder puff–for the day. Not a hair primper, that suited me fine. 

When the 80s arrived with its feathered bangs and poof teased hairstyles that required hair to hang up and down vertically not horizontally, I was in trouble again. Though my hair did a bit of a mullet in the early 80s, it was back to the search for the perfect stylist professional enough to make order out of the chaos that was my willful unmatched sides of thick naturally unruly curls doing their own thing. Terri and John did decent jobs with my head for the shearing every couple of months I endured to keep legit.

After the 90s, short hair to medium length hair cuts managed a certain neat professionalism to my look until the end of the first decade of the new millennium when the ever-tightening yet losing the grip of my hair’s will came to an end with Gina, the whispering sideline soccer mom color specialist who subtly wooed me into her kitchen swivel chair for the leap into another’s appearance: long blonde, straight hair. 

And the chorus kicks in:

Gimme a head with hair

Long beautiful hair

Shining, gleaming

Streaming, flaxen, waxen
Give me down to there hair

Shoulder length or longer

Here baby, there mama

Everywhere daddy daddy
Hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair

Flow it, show it

Long as God can grow it

My hair

Soccer is Life

  
Soccer squeezed the last drop of child connectedness present in me since birth, the longing to be with children, entertain them, love them, nourish and teach them, whether they were mine or others’. Soccer helped me prolong that self-nourishment, extract and exercise every morsel of that longing up til and beyond the passing of my children through the soccer loop. 

My youngest is a year or two away from concluding that endless year in year out schedule of life around soccer, that sharing of time that we all could communicate and commune through the participation in it. As the end nears, a clear cut picture of its termination in view, coinciding with the embrittling of my bones and calcification of my mind, enervation of my drive and lust, I see that soccer was my destination and destruction, a pattern of life that breaks along with reputation, image, doplegangers self-created. I build a monument to my image and then swung a sledge hammer at it in my sleep walking state. Only, now I select the salvageable pieces and so limp along until the chosen pieces re-integrate, grow like regenerating brain tendrils to form the new old me.

So Many Ways to Lose a Daughter

 

 
When they were little, headless operations I called them, 

toddling about with no motion detection sensors, 

oblivious to the science of mass in flight against

the immovable object, cause and effect, win and lose, 

I feared losing their pristine purity, their soft roundness

drenched in new flesh, irradiant, to rocks and bumps

in the playground grass or sandbox, opening into

split lips or knobby eggs on their foreheads. I feared

losing them to cars in free fall, driven by madness 

up on my lawn, taking my children with them, like 

the newspaper clipping in the local Starbucks report.

I feared flus and asthma, pneumonia, broken bones

and stitches they could contract or suffer with 

complication and then die in my arms or in their sleep.

I dreamed of kidnappings and wanderings off in 

supermarkets or department store aisles, lost, lost, lost.

I walked them to school the block and a half every day.

And when they were in middle school, I dreaded

the treacherous row of absent-minded, harried

dropping-off moms vs. the brainless, twit t’weeners on

bikes, laughing and careening their wheels into traffic,

caring little for mortality the daily drive threatened

like that boy and his friend on a bike, on the same road,

on the way to school two days before the school year

start, picking up his schedule, leisurely, laughing, 

peddling, looking back at his lagging friend just before

the swerve, the truck, the texting driver, the hit–gone.

I never let them ride their bikes to school, not with that.

I did not want to lose them to twenty somethings’ texts.

Just like I did not want to lose them to drugs, drunk

drivers and AIDS, cancer, concussions or accidents.

I did not want to lose them. And I lost them any way.

To friends, trends, music and driver’s licenses, to

social media and idealism, fierce loyalty and pride of

a generation angry in the wake of destruction their

parents have left them to navigate, chlorinate the gunk

of polluted finance and corrupt opinions and falsity, 

falsity everywhere. I lost them to independence and

opportunity elsewhere, greener, colder, blue-skyed

distant and lonely, free and home away from home.
 

credit: arthistoryarchive.com

She’s Leaving Home

Not the right lyrics but the refrain is the same. We live like clichés: daughter leaving for college, we weep, we anguish, and we sever ourselves from ourselves to get past the pain. We cheer ourselves with thoughts of new beginnings and circle of life and metamorphoses, butterflies growing beautiful, upward flight past us.

It feels trite and real at the same time. Our lives have been captured in too many Hallmark poem-lets for sale.

I have anticipated this moment in my dreams (nightmares) since she was born, different shapes and scenery, but all the same theme: leaving.

She’s leaving home. Off to college, which will be her new temporary home in a new state. Whether the leaving is temporary or permanent is yet unknown.

In the meantime, I will be shoring up for the next one’s departure, estimated time of departure, two years or twenty.

Snuckle Silly

This poem marks the half way mark of the poetry half marathon and the deteriorating focus and skills become more evident. That day started late with a late awakening and continued to be challenging around the house where I camped for this event. 

The prompt instructed the participants to write from another’s perspective. I started out that way–from a toddler’s perspective–and quickly departed on my own journey as was the case with most of the poems I tried to follow along with the others.

  

Swooshing, hum, hum, swishing um, um
inside an elephant’s trunk swinging away.
Parrhump a dump twiddle all the de-dum,
singing the song nasal as a horsy’s neigh.
 
“Tickle my feet again” begs twiggly titters.
Pebbly teeth swallow eyes disappeared,
blinked inside with butterfly lashes’ flitters.
“Snuckle me silly,” her fat-thumbed cheer.
 
Baby cry tears weeping joyfully in sneezes
shuffle eager ears along clear paths drawn.
With fatty lamb’s feet she snuggles breezes
plumped up in words to dimpled knee songs.
 
Too soon, too little, thinned spiny legs grow
lean against time stretched long and brittle
bones bounce less break slick sidling slope
downed in the snow howling no longer little.
 
Trigger smiles and crackled cries muffled
the early risers’ dawn in spires sunk below
for cattle cars passing by in bovine shuffle
milking calves paused in stations unknown.
 
Beneath the stretch of time’s skin lies heat
and the promise of the amnesiac release.
In squiggle patches laughs a memory treat
relished in paunchy belly sweet sits peace.

 
photo credit: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/toes