For Jonathan Baldini (And For Las Vegas)

Sunday, it’s gorgeous,
Though I’m the last that should speak for us.
A qualified poet must be bleeding at least,
Not savoring this glory, this revel, this feast.
The air’s shot with gold, the grass is white-kissed,
A drinkable sky, tapped pink and bisque.
It’s gorgeous, though,
Gorgeous, you know.
Problem is, the gold drops fast,
Can’t find the words to make it last.
Sisters weep, brothers fly
To the other side of that drinkable sky.
Mama wants his skin, oh, so much;
He’s never not here, she just can’t touch.
Daddy doesn’t cry; he wails inside,
‘We’re still six, though we look like five.’
But the baby’s so soft, so full in my arms,
She smells like life wrapped around my heart.
And the sky explodes yellow, red, magenta, blue.
A royal way, a Prince’s avenue.
It’s gorgeous though,
Gorgeous, you know.
Then the world goes silent; Evil shows his face.
I’ll shield you with my body and outpoured grace.
It’s beautiful, that grace, that flesh for flesh,
Monday’s sky is gray, but this flesh is blessed.
Sky wasn’t made to stay that way,
It will gold and it will part and we will touch one day.

Dear Mother In Law

Dear Mother In Law,
Look with gentleness
Upon the oddly assorted
Your son’s wife adorns herself with this
She knows she has no excuse –
Two adults in a Fiat, how hard can it be??
But, dear MIL, she has that recurrent malady, that
Packing Paralysis.

Browns, Blacks, Russets,
Leathers, Denims,
Downs or Fleeces,
Sleeves or no?
Boots or clogs? Or heels or flops?  Or one of each?
And so she hops.
The gray paisley scarf with
Silver threads, which
Does not match with anything?
Triumphantly in the suitcase!
The mustard one that adds real autumn soupçon?
Forgotten as a yahoo password.
Belts, earrings, running shoes,
Like place cards for the Thanksgiving table,
Newspaper article about the kids,
Oddities all and faithfully packed
Ducks in a row.
But a melange, a jester’s patchwork
Of basic clothing.  Astonishing.  Weepable.

Dessert, devotional, face soap,
Wrinkled shirts as useful as doilies,
Carted to and fro, merely freight and weight.
All the ‘ers’: charger, razor, tweezer;
Layers for unlayering after too many hours sitting
Stuffy by the fire,
Or relayering for a hike up Lookout.
T’s to Parkas, she’ll season it all wrong.

You are right. She could have packed it all
By now. But it is easier,
And quilt-covered pleasant,
And gratifyingly indulgent, to
Wallow in the overwhelm, to
Despise the very concept of the overnight, to
Once again retreat with Eudora and say,
“Away, cruel world!”

No one bother me, I’m busy
Deliciously hating packing.


Stuck In A Restrictive Athletic Undergarment – or, Barbra Underestimates The Goodwife

In honor of a certain unnamed friend or maybe relative
 who was trapped
in her restrictive athletic undergarment.

This is a timeless tale of good versus evil.
Barbra is the villain, so be forewarned!
Barbra is not young; she has been around the block a time or two. Or two hundred.
Think Grizabella.
She is made of a ‘90s wonder-lycra or something that looks innocent,
But could lasso two locomotives going in opposite directions.
However, her task is impossible, so she lives jaundiced and spiteful.
Think Grendel’s dam.

Barbra rolled over in the lingerie drawer one morning
And found herself in her customary mood.
She hadn’t had a bath in a while and her hook-and-eyes were twisted and pokey.
She was far from a favorite,
Indeed she spends most of a calendar year muffled under stray socks
And shoulder pads.
So she can be forgiven her grumpiness.  But, that is all she can be forgiven.

This day, to her shock, she was called up!
The socks and shoulder pads mocked their aged drawer-companion
As she ascended into the realm of light and functionality.

Unsuspecting, our new-leaf exercising housewife attempted to don the bitter garment.
Barbra laid low and allowed herself to be loose enough to go over the head,
Only hitching up a little.  Just for fun.

Ever . . so . . slowly Barbra bowed up and coiled into a narrow band of steel.
Digging in her heels, with one end looped over the gentlewoman’s right shoulder,
And the other end under the left armpit,
Barbra constricted suddenly in a death-grip gigantic.

There was no contest.
She was perfectly positioned too low for an over-the-shoulder reach,
Too high for an up-from-the-small-of-the-back leverage.
She was in no-man’s zone.  Untouchable.  Victorious.

Now she sat back to enjoy the show.
The contortions!  The panic!
Finally, the cessation of engagement when
The goodwife sat panting on the tile bathroom step,
Envisioning the 911 paramedics kicking in the front door
To find her here, arms pinioned,
Sweat pouring and completing Barbra’s fun.

But malice always overshoots its mark.

Sitting trapped and palpitating on the cold tile, the belle dame found her footing,
And eyed Barbra.
And like Ceasar over the Rubicon,
She decided.

With purpose she freed her arms and opened her sewing box.
Selecting a pair of Gingher shears, tucking one blade tip under a screaming Barbra,
Our heroine . . .
(Delicacy requires us to turn our heads as the tide of battle turns!)


Emerging from the tile chamber, bathrobed and regal,
Leaving a carnaged field of battle in her wake,

She strode like Boadicea to the freezer,

For a Klondike Bar.


Of Circuses And Dust

193I realized the meaning of the term ‘three-ring circus’ for the first time when I went with Will’s kindergarten class to the circus in Birmingham.  Finally seated after an hour’s bus ride, a class-wide potty trip, and an obligatory purchase of a neon light-up sword so Will wouldn’t be the only one with nothing to wave when the lights went down, I turned to look down on the arena floor.

There were literally three rings, and in each ring mind-boggling stuff was happening.  In ring one a lion-tamer was sticking his head in the jaws of a maned king of the savannah.  In the middle ring a group of 8-year-old contortionists were folded backward on themselves and building a pyramid.  And in the third ring a motocross rider was circling the interior of a clear sphere faster than vision could follow.  We really just followed his fire-trail.  Around the edges were elephants and jugglers and dancers in gauzy leotards and souvenir hawkers.

Ahhhh, I said to myself.  A three-ring circus.  Too much to look at.  Got it.

Will is a junior, so that field trip was 12 years ago.  But I was reminded of it this weekend when I was praying earnestly for peace and forgiveness from the guilt of a cold hard heart, and it occurred to me that at the moment my heart was not my problem.  My head was.  My head was a three-ring circus.  There were lion-tamers and jugglers and elephants and contortionists and motocross riders running riot through my thoughts.  I had no peace and no ability to impose order on the circus.  There are moments in life when all we can do is sit very still and hope we look calm, graceful, ladylike, and serene.  That was me.  Containment is a good discipline.  It doesn’t solve the problem, but it’s a good start.

In the contained moment I was listening for the Lord.  He reminded me with wonderful practicality, “Child, you are dust, 49 year old dust.  Beloved and redeemed, but for now, still dust.”

I reasoned then that the circus was not due to the state of my heart, but to the state of my body which is frail and ever seeking to return to the ground from which it came. It is not alarming or even surprising that our peace suffers when our body does. It was His kindness to remind me, while I sat in self-imposed ladylike serenity during church, of the hormonal realities that can produce circuses.  I think I might have actually smiled up at Him.

Peace began to descend.  The surge diminished; the circus closed down and moved to another town.  Vision cleared, and I read:

It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.’ Lamentations 3: 26

For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.” Psalm 103:14

Thank You, Lord, that circuses move on.

Thank You that You remind me that my frame is dust and my spirit sometimes gets dusty too.

Thank You for helping this dust wait quietly for You.