Questions Remain

My first administrative assistant, lovely Edna,
so kind, so Southern Baptist. I can hear her
booming voice with its hint of a chuckle.

Edna prayed for me. She prayed for everyone,
but especially for this beer-drinking Yankee
who didn’t believe in heaven,

and so surely is going to hell.
My definition of hell is to never know
the answers to my long list of questions,

while forever craving, deeply yearning.
I had a boss say, “I don’t know what you don’t
know.” I said, “I don’t know what I don’t know.”
I know which of us is smarter.

I dwell on life’s great mysteries but find
the small ones equally confounding:
The Bermuda Triangle and traffic circles.

I flinch when I see a silverfish
or a centipede in the house.
I ask it: What are you doing up here?
You have the entire basement.

Even when they trespass, like the thin spider
that dropped from the ceiling
into the white porcelain bowl
while I was making breakfast,

rather than squash it
I transported the creature outside and
shooed it into the strawberry bed.

I strive each day to be more a source of light
than just a reflection of it.

Human cruelty perplexes me.
The death of a glacier saddens me.
Kind acts make me cry.

While human indifference incenses me,
my cat’s indifference makes me laugh.

If I’m wrong and Edna’s right,
I’m going to miss seeing
a lot of good people when I die,
and I know I won’t get answers there.

And still I ask the questions:
What is my place in the universe?
Where did I park the car?

Passing the time in another meeting

Crossed ankles, rocking heel,
jiggling one leg, jiggling both,
the slow fast toe tap,
the quick bounce off the ball of a foot,

sandals, high heels,
Dr Scholl’s, mules,
flip-flops, sneakers and socks,

quiet feet,
left behind right,
tucked in and still.

All this movement,
an extension of our thoughts –
anxious if she’s called on,
or eager to be heard.

My own foot sways,
slow and comforting,
marking time like a weight
on the end of a pendulum.

The woman next to me
eyeballs the motion.
“My mother would have said
to stop that.”

My mother said,
“With all these meetings,
when do you have time
to get anything done?”

Inside a hot flash that won’t

my brain does not

go ahead, aske me a question
easy one
I can’t
miss my response:

through a white
thicket between mind
and thought
comes fever,

the shakes, my stomach lining
jitters, agitation crawling
up my throat

the room has no air

another thought
the porous membrane: not

stuck in an anxious miasma of
too warm, but not hot
can’t achieve hot to

let me go,
the nausea to abate,
to move on no
crest to this tepid flood no
breaking and ebbing ten
minutes of it twenty
no cooling comfort that

is the last,
my very last
hot flash. Ever.

I’ve had a million
trigger them with
candy, a glass of wine,
hot tea, spicy Mexican,
nothing at all to

hate the feeling of
scorched sand frying
up my veins, under
the skin of my
arms, giving me hot chills,
sweat breaks out on
my shins, hair dripping at
the nape of my neck, knowing

only one hot blast will
end the faulty surge
I want the worst,
ready to breathe again.


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