Nora’s Lullaby

Welcome, baby,
to end of day.
Time for dreams
to carry you away.

You’ve kissed your mommy,
your daddy, too.
Hugged your brother
and he’s hugged you.

We’ve read a story,
now your head nods.
We say our prayers,
give thanks to God.

Good night, baby.
Welcome sleep.
In my heart
you’ll always keep.

In my heart
you’ll always keep.

~ AJ

Going to the Church of Laundry

Sunday is wash day
separating dark and light,
removing stains and sweat
from shirts and sheets.

It’s not as if I’m prostrate
kneeling on the river bank,
stones digging into my knees,
knuckles scraped on the rock
I use as a washboard.

It’s not as if I’m standing
knee deep in the River Jordan,
proselytizing my beliefs
in the one true God,
or even that there is a god.

If not absolved,
at least clean.
Does being next to godliness
still count?

 

In Spring

I planted a garden,
which means I dug up
buckets of dirt, dug out
weeds, disturbed
the red ants.
They swarmed up
the shovel handle.

I planted a garden,
unexpectedly unearthing
a cast-iron bathtub.
The first homeowner had
buried it in the backyard.
No claw feet.
People always ask.

I planted a garden,
after doing battle
with two cactus plants
standing sentry
at the back door.
Prickly by nature,
they did not go quietly.

I planted a garden,
or at least –
I prepared the bed
for the flowers to be.
I rinsed off the shovel,
ants and dirt and blood
returning to the earth.

Addictions

I consider myself fairly simple in my wants. Unlike one sister who grew up riding horses and taking care of all the attending accoutrements, or the other sister who is an oil painter and so has paints and palette and brushes and easel, my favorite hobby consists of a pen and a note pad with which to write. I’ve written on planes and trains, hotels and hospitals, desktops and recliner chairs and standing in line, and so long as I had ink – preferably black though sometimes blue – and paper, my habit could be satiated.

Pen and paper and a cup of hot tea for morning journaling, a glass of cold water at night – and snacks. Fruit – fresh, dried, cut off the pit or chewed off the core. I’m orally fixated, so really – any fruit and most snacks will do: pretzels, raisins, hazelnuts. In summer a Popsicle. In winter a cup of homemade apple sauce warmed up. Anything to chew. Gum. Gum by the packet, two or three a day.

So. Writing and chewing.

And when my hand is tired and my brain empty, I turn to the TV to take in Blue Bloods, Black-ish, Say Yes to the Dress.

My habits are simple – but I sure have a lot of them.

The Second Sunday of May

If you were here today,
to celebrate Mother’s Day,
I would plant an herb garden for you.

Come summer, you could have
the bright taste of parsley in chilled tomato soup
and quirky lemon balm in your tea
– in winter, a leaf of sage
in your favorite butternut squash.

Year to year, some of the plants,
like basil and dill,
would need to be replaced –
but who doesn’t like an excuse
to buy a new Easter dress?

Heartier herbs go round and round.
You’d always find steadfast rosemary
right where we’d put her, while sweet mint,
that gadabout, would spring up
wherever space allowed

amidst spires of pencil holly,
among the showy iris, rubbing
leaves with the sociable butterfly bush.

And versatile lavender, cool and warm,
would be heavy enough to touch you,
its scent woven into the memory of air.

The Tablecloth

Dyed the hues of harvest
the rich cloth caught my hand
while we shopped the Rue de Cler.

Plum wine and violet,
oranges, burnt to umber,
for years we shared a feast of gifts.

Ripened yellow lemons
and green of lime and grass,
raw but truthful words.

Companions with bread
we would sit at the table
graced with this reminder –
once friends in Paris.

A cup of water

A village woman stands at the periphery,
a jug of water balanced on one hip.
She holds her daughter’s hand
until the young girl, bored watching
the scene in front of her,
pulls free to chase a lamb.

The woman waits for her moment
to slip between the important men
uttering prayers, slides an earthen
cup from a fold in her skirts
and fills it with cool water.

The new mother, mouth dry from
laboring in the dusty stable,
welcomes the woman’s gift
with outstretched hands.

She pushes aside the pouch
of gold, a vial of myrrh,
the pungent frankincense, and
pats the empty space beside her.

Unholy

My new expletive is Mary Mother of God. I’m not Catholic or Jewish. When someone asks Are you religious? I say I’m spiritual. That just means I’m conscientious and reliable. It means I don’t want people who do believe in God to think I’m evil or – worse – to witness me. God forbid.

I cannot imagine this being, this entity, this overseer could be both kind and giving AND watch from a place of omnipotent authority without sending another comet our way.

I read of religious zealots killing in the name of their deity, of using women and children as shields against drone strikes – drones manned by faceless soldiers thousands of miles away. I hear of illegal-status women and children detained  – mother separated from son, shackled and cuffed – in squalid facilities like one located just outside Philadelphia.

Mary Mother of God.

Henry’s World

I laid a road map on the table.
Henry joined me, settling himself
neatly along one fold.
“Where would you like to go?” I asked.
He sniffed the Catskills,
perused Savannah, ignored New Jersey.

The day was raining and raw.
He led me to our favorite chair
and climbed onto my lap,
his warm, tubby body heavy
against me. We napped.

To fill his evening he tackled Gus,
gave Fannie a bath she didn’t want,
and tried to trip me.
“Henry, what is the matter?”
“I’m Ruler Kitty,
and I have nothing to rule.”

I sat at the table and pulled
the map toward us. He aligned
himself between the Rockies
and the Mississippi River.
“Where should we go, Henry?”

“Let’s start at my back door –
– where the world begins.”