My mother reclined on the sand, long legs extended
Shying away from the camera
Water droplets drying on her black one-piece bathing suit
Her cigarette held just so
While we kids splashed about in ice cold water
She was beautiful, but never knew it
No one ever told her; I believe they thought she understood
But she never did.
Maybe seventeen, the carhop, her pregnant belly preceding her, waddled up to the driver’s side door.
She carried two root beer floats and an order of fries on a tray that she hooked onto a window rolled halfway down. She brushed away droplets of sweat dotting her forehead.
I was pregnant, too. Barely older than the carhop. The float was a craving. The fries an after thought.
We made eye contact, the waitress and I. My place in the passenger seat somehow granting me special dispensation.
I felt superior, there with my husband. I made judgements over greasy fries and root beer soaked ice cream.
Every now and again I wonder how her story played out. A right turn here. A detour there. She’d be my age, or thereabouts.
I hope her life’s been good.
I danced one night with a cowboy
He asked; I said yes, even though my friends were whining to go
I remember the smell of him, like new leather and spice,
The feel of his crisp white shirt and my hand in his,
And the way he held me close, like I was fragile and precious.
He asked if he could take me home, but I was spoken for already, so I thanked him for the dance
And went on my way.
We hold some scars sacred
The slashes in our hearts
The cuts that never heal
Mostly, those unseen,
Those so deep that no one even knows they exist
Inside the heart
On the surface of the soul
We can’t let them go
While savoring the burn
I hear Mars is beautiful tonight in some parts of the world
The trees here where I live obstruct my view of the late summer sky, so I can only imagine.
It’s the only thing I miss from our days living on the plains, where I could look up and say,
“See, there’s Venus or Mars or Jupiter.” Once for a week the three lined up and I
Sat outside with the smell from a neighbor’s wood-burning fireplace my best companion,
That and the off again, on again lightning bugs, playing peekaboo in the bushes.
The webbed lawn chair’s plastic, scratchy against my pajama-clad legs,
A glass of Merlot, sipped slowly, once empty, the sign I should give up the watch
Leaving the celestial trio to their own devices for another night.
In the first sentence our boat leaves the dock, into an ocean of words.
As captain and navigator I decide: East or west? North or south?
Who will dine with me at the captain’s table this night? Who will tumble over the rail?
Will there be secrets and intrigue, murder and mayhem? Or an affair to remember?
How turbulent will the seas grow? How contrary the winds?
I’ll brook no mutiny; my crew fears, no, respects me even as they mutter behind my back:
She has no idea how to bring this boat into port. We’re doomed to wander through eternity.
I fear they’re right, but still I hold the course and dance when the band starts to play.
Chris Stapleton on the radio, singing about Tennessee whisky
While I’m drinking Merlot and dancing with the cat
She’s not much of a two-stepper, but she sure likes to waltz
Although, waltzes make me cry now—the boy who taught me one, two, three, one, two, three
Spinning me around the dance floor is gone, too soon, we were not worthy of his grace.
Do you think Roy waltzes in heaven? Twirling angels ‘til they’re giggling and giddy?
If heaven has a dance floor, he’s made it his own. Pop a top and watch him go.
She walks the beach in my mind
Drinks champagne in her garden café
Runs down mountains with abandon
A woo-er of men
A champion of women
Her words are etched in my mind
I thank the universe for her.
George Floyd was murdered in broad daylight by an officer of the law with witnesses standing near, yet I haven’t said anything here.
People are protesting in the streets, still I’ve stayed home, safe in my little world, pleading age and fear of contracting a virus.
Friends are hurting, at each other’s throats, but I’ve not written a word. That’s my privilege and my shame.
Instead, I’m listening. Learning. Taking notes. My whiteness is my shield and my weakness in matters of color.
I know this, though, black lives matter, and even if I don’t know what else to do or say. I’ll keep saying those three words.
Black Lives Matter.
We’ve been told we are at war
With a virus, an invisible enemy
But our nominal president
Plays golf and tweets erratically
Swatting at Titleists
Swearing at journalists
Embarrassing most of us
While one hundred thousand Americans
And it’s not yet June.