The Periodic Table

cheap chain motel restaurants,
breakfast buffets heaped
with limp meats
soggy pancakes
and under ripe fruits,
waitresses who
sigh and massage cramped
legs when they suspect
no one is looking.

This is where we
spend our morning-afters,
where I wish these
morning-afters
would turn into
morning-always,
sitting at these
these periodic tables
we scan menus
gummy with grease and syrup,
smoking cigarettes
and trying to pretend.

We sit, sleepless, ripe and raw,
indifferent to old men
reading newspapers in
corner booths,
damp and chlorine scented
children running and weaving
through the aisles,
weary parents
restraining yawns

you will say the same silly
remark to these
generic waitresses
you will make our same private
joke when the check comes,
the one I will not repeat now
because it pains me to think of it,
and after all this time
you would still say it
the right way
and I would
love it
no less.

Sitting at these
periodic tables
twice in a month
or once in a year
I watch you
add three creams and
two sugars
in the cup before
the coffee is poured.

I know that when you
shake the last Marlboro loose,
the one you keep
upside down in the pack,
the one you say is for
good luck,
that this is the cue,
and that soon, again,
the waitress will take my plate
cold and untouched
and you will get in your truck,
I will get in my car
and we will drive off
alone
and one day,
as I look back in the rearview mirror
I will realize just how much
you always leave me starving
but almost nearly fed.


Today

Baby has cried for
three days, it seems,
wrung-out, exhausted,
can’t pay the sitter again this week.

Food stamps ran out last week,
payday’s not ‘til Thursday.
Count quarters for a gallon of milk.
Don’t depend on a child support check,

he isn’t working anyway.
Mirror says get a haircut,
checkbook says flat broke,
Today is yesterday all over again.

(This poem first published in the 2006 Edition of The Huron River Review)

Edgar and the Thumb Lady

Thumblady_2

Standing in his gutted living room-slash-studio in a scary gutted out end of Saginaw, Billy shows me two red clay figurines. I hold them in the palm of my hand like baby birds. Billy is an East Coast Upper Middle Class Ideal Giving It All Up For Art, I am a Small Town Working Class Chance He Will Take. We live two hours and several social classes apart. We are only a month or two new, possibilities not yet formed, nothing set in concrete.

Like the clay, I become another project. He says he will teach me everything I should know, should have already known. I am a foreigner in his country of art and intellect.  I crave love, he requires a muse. I careen into him, a moth singing the tips of my dusty wings with sparks.


Continue reading "Edgar and the Thumb Lady" »

spring is yawning

green shoots urge forward
impatient toddlers
extending arms
warm air
mothers breathe
urban birds
typewriter staccato
tree buds
tiny knobby knees

it's not that i'm shy, it's just that i'm paying attention to details

you   

smell like

  someone I used to love

     (I noticed it right away)

 

 something   

spicy-earthy-red-browngreen

 

that I always thought 

 was   

exclusively,

 

            organically

                        his

The Language of Women

Handsbyjamelah Dementia, disease, cancer, age
these thieves have hidden the words just out of reach,
stolen the meaning from the faces framed on her dresser 
Daughter or husband might as well be
shoe or teapot

I come to bathe her, to ease her
warm water streams through her hair,
winds down her back
trickles into her cupped hands
with a sigh, she closes her eyes,
breaths the scent of lavender and roses
she knows this place

a moment in time born again
she laughs, standing in the rain,
bright and beautiful
the first kiss
the last kiss
the language of women
is not so often spoken in words

(Marcie's note: This poem is on permanent display at Washtenaw Community College)

I just don't know how you do it

I read this article the other day in The New York Times about doctors and whether or not it's "right" to display emotions, like crying, in front of their patients. It got me thinking about my experiences working in hospice.

I had one patient long term, and I got to know her and her husband rather well. As the husband and I were talking one day, he asked how I could keep myself emotionally separated from my work.

"I just don't know how you do it," he said.

"Well," I told him, "sometimes I think of death as 'The Big Show'." I explained that I thought of it like a play, and I was just a bit player with a walk-on part at the end. What I did five or six times a day for years as a work routine was a huge life event for the patients and their families. My conclusion was: It wasn't about me.

Continue reading "I just don't know how you do it" »

The Death Professional

I was assigned my first hospice patient about this time of year, green tulip shoots were trying to push through the last of the spring slush, the sun felt weak and gave little warmth.

I won't give her real name, Susan will do. She was old enough to have children in college. She had a strong personality, didn't want help with most things that I was there to help her with. The cancer in her ovaries and the poisonous treatments left her skeleton-thin, feeble, shaky.

Continue reading "The Death Professional" »

The Death Professional

I was assigned my first hospice patient about this time of year, green tulip shoots were trying to push through the last of the spring slush, the sun felt weak and gave little warmth.

I won't give her real name, Susan will do. She was old enough to have children in college. She had a strong personality, didn't want help with most things that I was there to help her with. The cancer in her ovaries and the poisonous treatments left her skeleton-thin, feeble, shaky.

Continue reading "The Death Professional" »

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