A cup of water

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

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

The new mother, mouth dry from
laboring in the dusty stable,
welcomed the woman’s gift
with outstretched hands.
She pushed aside the pouch
of gold, a vial of myrrh,
the pungent frankincense, and
patted 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.”

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.