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.”

The Glass Wall

Here’s the weird thing about death: There’s a
sensation that you’ll see her again. You know
she’s gone, but you’ll recognize her voice next
time she calls. It’s like she’s just moved away.
She could move back – or come for a visit to see
your new kitchen. You miss her and think: I’m
going to call. Then recall. Time passes without
a word. Doesn’t stop you from wondering what
to get her for Christmas. Remember? There’s a
stab of guilt, too, because you can’t think what
to get her this year, and you feel relief. But other
times – years later – you see a scarf that she’d like.
You see her in a flash, an image incomplete. You
glimpse her through a storefront window where
she’s behind you, reflected in the glass.

Age & Gravity

Our dog Kate was a healthy 150-pound St. Bernard, large by any measure. Like all dogs with over-sized cheeks, she drooled – long, stringy spit Dad called “zingers” because when she shook her massive head they would let loose, fly, and stick to anything within 12 feet: a cupboard door, the TV screen, an unsuspecting visitor’s pant leg.

Recently I have discovered upon waking up there is often a slick of cold saliva on my pillow. Thanks to age and gravity, like Katie the St. Bernard, I now have over-sized cheeks, or – as the plastic surgeon calls them – dewlaps.

Lost Things

I fear losing this world.
Silly. I won’t be here
when the sun goes
supernova. Even if
I live another 50 years
I probably won’t see the
last of the precious metals
used to build our playthings
dug from the earth.
I wonder what we’ll eat
that is fresh and juicy
when the sweet drone
of pollinators has been silenced.

I’ve heard people say,
perhaps with hope,
that the earth will survive
the human assault while
causing our own annihilation.
I doubt that. We’re insidiously
wired to populate, programmed
to look beyond our star, to
load up the Conestoga wagon
and hit the Milky Way trail.
We’ll leave landfills
and cesspools behind us
to burn, marked by the
crosses of elephant bones.

Smarter than your average spider

I hurried across the wet grass to where the outdoor cats were waiting for their breakfast. I wished I could slow down to enjoy the morning, still dim and cool, but I was late, always late on workdays. Every morning I forgot to duck the spider’s home strung across the path. Every time I screeched when the gauzy string hit my forehead and dragged through my hair. Every day I redirected the spider, shiny and black, scolding it as I moved one of the strands, “Why can’t you stay in the tree?” Surely one of us could learn. Hopefully the one with cobweb stuck to her glasses.

Update: The spider moved her web up two branches last night.

Sweet Sugar Mine – Happy Valentine’s Day

I love –
chocolate-covered cherries.

I love caramel-coated pecans with creamy, salty nougat in the middle.
I love cinnamon-flavored jelly beans and the black Necco wafers.
I love Valentine conversation hearts and Easter Egg malted milk balls
that leave your tongue blue and your lips a chalky white.
I love m&m’s on a hot day when the insides are melty and gooey and
the outsides snap thinly between your teeth. Chk.

I love airy peppermint puffs that evaporate on your tongue like dry meringue.
I love dry meringue.
Growing up I loved chewing on candy cigarettes,
saving the Red Dye #5 pretend fire painted on the tip for the last bite.
I love Good ’n Plenty, Ike ’n Mike, and Dots.

Chewy. Gummy. Crunchy. Candy.
I love it. I want it. I crave it.
I am a fructose-maniac.
If I loved anything half as much as I love maple sugar, cane sugar,
corn sugar, honey sugar, beet sugar? I would have to marry it.
Adopt it, steal it. Hoard it.

Sugar and me? We should be
the Eighth Deadly Sin or the Eleventh Commandment:
Thou shalt not eat your weight in sugar every day.
Thou shalt share your sugar with your friends.
Thou shalt brush your teeth after you eat Cracker Jacks.
Not before. Sugar.

I want the Archies tune for my ring tone.
But I don’t have time to talk on the phone.

I’m too busy lovin’ on my sugar.

The Plant

Gus the Cat loves chewing on the Neanthe Bella palm in the living room after dinner. Unfortunately, he’s gnawed this one down to stems and Lowe’s hasn’t had a new shipment in weeks. I know because I go in every week and walk the nursery aisles, searching for the plant.

No joy, but since I’m in the store, and the holiday decorations are right there, I walk those aisles too. I shudder at the tacky choices of giant blow-up characters. I make myself put down the red metal sleigh cut-out covered in jangly bells that hangs on the front door – I love jangly bells.

I scan the shelving over my head that displays the big outdoor items involving lots of wire shapes covered in LED lights. No to the penguin smiling perpetually. No to the pig with a red Santa hat. No to – wait – what’s that? A four-foot high tree, like a small oak with bare branches in winter (made of plastic-coated metal, but still) wrapped in round, cheery-looking lights each the size of a cherry. Delightful. The last one. On sale. And an additional 10% display discount.

Since installing it (it’s adorable lit up on my little front porch), I’ve gone back to Lowe’s for Gus’s plant, and have added an outdoor timer so the tree lights are shining brightly when I arrive home from work, and to hide the base of the tree with its metal screws and electrical plugs I bought a roll of red holiday netting. Given many more outings I’ll have added gift-wrapped boxes, fake snow, and a nativity scene.

I hope the order of Neanthe palms arrives soon.

Main Street

She looks typical,
a woman of 50 or 60 –
wearing a gray, wool felt hat
against the December rain,
brown boots and jeans,
a jacket, nondescript.

She pushes herself to walk up
the slight incline along Main Street
and talks out loud
as if to a companion,
smiles a response,
goes on to reply.

That won’t be me one day.
Oh no. Trust me.

That’s me now.