GARDENING IN AUTUMN
She’s been a gardener for years
but more and more she brings
flowers inside to arrange a
new garden on her mantel.
She’s in transition, she says,
but remembers summer fondly
in the autumn of her life
and sees winter coming so
she gardens on the mantel now.
There, winter’s not a problem.
Her arrangement, she explains,
has a dahlia, last flower of summer,
bold above hydrangea leaves
burning red in the midst of fall.
The mugo pine warns of winter.
The pine she’s had for 20 years,
remembers planting it and hopes
she’s an evergreen as well.
Used to be
she’d tell him what
to get at the grocery store
and he always brought it back.
Now she makes a list.
Used to be
she knew by noon what
she’d make for dinner.
Everything from scratch.
Now she’s in the pantry
rummaging at 6.
Used to be
the two of them would cheer
the sunrise on the patio
with coffee imported
from Antigua or Barbados.
Now they sleep in.
Have instant later.
Used to be
they’d sit on the porch
and watch the sun go down
with oohs and aahs
and a glass of sherry.
Now they doze in rockers
until it’s almost 10.
MS. EDITOR SAVAGED BY MR. AUTHOR
It is a different society now.
Less respect for people at either end
and folks in the middle as well.
People no longer are treated like linen.
Too often like Kleenex used and tossed.
Since it’s a man who’s sending those emails,
don't bother taking any offense.
We men are often not too nice to women
standing up, although we can be sweet
as honey when wanting them supine.
You have a fine magazine but need
thicker armor over your sensibilities.
In my world, you’re young, and while
I’d never applaud the benefits of age,
it has at least one that’s valuable.
When you’re near the top of the hill
it's easier to laugh at the louts below
whizzing darts past your keister.
BUGS AND PEOPLE
No season of the year is best
for being homeless though
autumn warns the worst is near
and those who sleep in doorways
want to learn their options as to where
it might be best to spend the winter while
those who spend summer in the garden
sneak under doors and over transoms.
Folks step on bugs indoors and bring
their winter needs for shelter to an end.
This time of year before the holidays,
folks with roofs are toasty while
homeless bugs and people aren’t,
although it’s true that fewer bugs
have to live outside all winter.
ALL THE NUDES NOT FIT TO PRINT
No more nudes in Playboy
according to the anchor
on the Nightly News.
Playboy has declared
nudes passé because
they’re found so easily
gamboling on the Internet
doing everything imaginable.
Some men date instead.
A WIDOW AND HER PEKINGESE
after the news at 6 p.m.
the Widow Murphy comes out
of her tiny bungalow and sits
on her front porch swing
with her ancient Pekingese
yapping mournfully in her lap.
She waves to certain people,
just a few, while ignoring most
although she knows every neighbor
after her long reign on the porch
as the queen of our block.
We live next door but she never
waves to us or says hello to me
not even back when I was 10
and offered to mow her lawn free
for nothing, as I used to put it.
She simply looked away and let
the Pekingese yap her answer.
My father told me then not to worry
about the Widow Murphy’s ways.
Her husband died in Korea, he said.
They never found her son in Viet Nam
and she had a daughter doing life
for murdering a man the jury must
have known had beaten her for years.
The man was her husband and a cop.
Later in my teens my mother said
the Widow Murphy had every right
to be a private person and live out
the remnant of her life as she saw fit.
But when I was 10 cutting our grass,
I thought she was a ventriloquist
and the Pekingese her dummy
yapping for all the world to hear:
Life isn’t fair, isn’t fair, isn’t fair.
LIFE IN A BARREL
When we were kids
growing up in the city
we had prairies
and a little hill
and we’d put Stevie
in a barrel and push him
down the hill.
He’d laugh and scream
all the way down.
He loved the whole trip
and wanted to do it again.
As little boys we were
happy to oblige him.
Everyone grew up
and went off to college,
moved to the suburbs,
found wives and had kids
but not Stevie who stutters
except when he sings.
Every midnight now
he gets on the subway
with his empty thermos
and barrels back home.
On Sundays they say
he sounds like Pavarotti
in the church choir.
STRANGER COMES TO TOWN
Beautiful fall day
in a potter’s field
outside a small town.
A funeral is underway
but that doesn’t stop
the leaves russet and gold
a few still green
falling among the stones
without a name.
The minister reads a verse
over the grave of a man
found by deer hunters.
No idea who he is or
where he came from,
a body dumped.
Four people from
the clapboard church
with the wayward steeple
over the hill gather 'round
heads bowed, hands clasped.
An old worker with a shovel
stands like a soldier
near the shed and
waits for everyone to leave
so he can finish up.
It’s almost lunch time.
One by one cars pull away
and now it’s just us, the dirt
and a gold leaf falling on me.
A CERTAIN LOOK
Some things you can’t undo.
A remark, perhaps, you can retract
or try to with an explanation.
But a certain look can
burn forever in the mind
of its observer, a missile you
never knew you launched.
Maya Angelou was right.
Some folks can’t recall
years later what you said
but they remember instantly
how you made them feel.
APOSTROPHE IN ETERNITY
A coffin’s not so bad, the old monk told me,
the two of us standing there, a foot or two
from the monk who had died the day before
and was lying now in a pine casket.
He was younger, only 83, the old monk said,
and healthy, too, and yet he got there
before I did, a lucky soul if you believe
that life's an apostrophe in eternity
standing in momentarily
for Who we’re all dying to meet.
If we didn’t believe that, the old monk said,
neither of us would have come here.
He was an engineer, like you, for years
and I would have been a forest ranger,
hard to believe two men like us would
spend our lives praying for hours a day
and making cheddar cheese in between.
I’ll give you some to take home to the family.
The cheese is worth the trip, he laughed.
We monks make the best of it
until the apostrophe disappears.
Behind every great man
is a woman
making him who he is.
Behind every great woman
is a man
watching her walk.