EH?, a poem

IT’S BEEN A TRIP
I CAN’T COMPLAIN
WE’VE BROKEN HIPS
AND SWOLLEN VEINS

THROUGH CATARACTS
I SEE YOUR FACE
YOU’VE GOT MY BACK
SO HAS MY BRACE

WHENE’ER YOU SNORE
AT TEN PAST LUNCH
I LOVE YOU MORE
THAN THIS OLD HUNCH

AND SO I SHOUT
SO ALL MAY HEAR
(‘CAUSE BATT’RIES’ OUT)
I LOVE YOU, DEAR.

©2020 Chel Owens

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Don’t forget to submit a poem for the A Mused Poetry Contest!

I Love Your Perfect Crow’s Feet

I love your perfect crow’s feet,
With crown-and-implant smile –
Your smooth-soled orthopedic tread;
Your pref’rence for ar-gyle.
I need my medications
When you commandeer your ‘chair,
When you wink behind trifocals,
When you comb remaining hair.
There’s something sweet and tender
About shouting, “What’d you say?”
Or asking for my keys, because
You put them “somewhere safe.”
I love a man who’s up all night;
Who naps by afternoon.
I’m crazy ’bout “that government”
And soft and mild food.
But, most of all, my dearest,
I really love the way
I never see the wrinkles ’cause
You haven’t aged a day.

 

©2020 Chelsea Owens

“We often forget that things fade away and people can never be our everything because we’re all finite with limited minds and limited lifespans and limited abilities that wither slowly and just like books collect dust, we deteriorate with age or illness.

“[T]hat’s where the beauty of solitude comes in.”

-Nitin, “When the mountains whisper

Gramma Dear

Flowered pots and colored notes
fly gently on the walls;

Whose smiling, standing stick-men

Wave out from rainbowed pen?

 

Wrinkled cheeks and vacant eyes
of startling, once-clear blue;

What’s inside now, Oh Gramma dear?

What’s cloudy and what’s clear?

 

Gnarled hands and anxious grip
that once held mine with love;

Whose fingers do you think these are?

Whose hand felt from afar?

 

Silent words and down-turned mouth
mar lips that laughed and spoke;

What joke or story would you say?

What do you think today?

 

Who are these strangers milling round;
unfamiliar people?

Where is the you

You know?

cristian-newman-63291-unsplash.jpg

Remembered for Carrot Ranch‘s weekly prompt: growing older

May 9, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about growing older. It can be humorous, dark or poignant. It can be true or total fiction. It can be fine wine or an old fossil. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by May 14, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

 

Photo Credit:
Cristian Newman

Picture Books Are Always in Season

“So …have you read King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub?”

“No.”

“Hmm. What about The Stinky Cheese Man?”

A sound of polite, incredulous aversion comes from the backseat. “No….”

I’m driving my male horde home from elementary school, plus the three children of a family friend. Their children and mine share a few interests, the main one being a love of reading.

The older girl pipes up, “We don’t read picture books.”

Her sister: “Yeah; I’m reading chapter books now.”

Which is fine, of course, seeing as how she is in second grade. She is the baby of their four children and they are all precocious. The only boy has already moved up a grade and is 2-3 grades ahead in mathematics.

Still….

Our Books

“I love picture books,” I say. “There are a lot of really good ones out there, so I like to go back and read them again.”

“Yes, that’s true,” the older girl acquiesces. I often feel I’m sitting at a British tea party with her, although she’s midway through fourth grade.

My boys, meanwhile, are each immersed in reading something educational like Captain Underpants or Magic Pickle. I’m not a fan of the graphic novels, but am fine with their perusal if mixed with a range of literature. That, and graphic novels include everything from less-than-desirable illustrations and potty humor to really well-done works like The Cardboard Kingdom.

I drop the friends off. Their mother comes out for a quick chat. “Your girls say you don’t have any picture books around anymore,” I say, in a friendly way.

“Oh. Yeah.” She laughs. She’s extremely intelligent, an excellent quilter, and one who does not seem to mind being a stay-at-home mother. I’m always in awe of her. “I unintentionally donated ours to the classroom and haven’t replaced them.” She sighs a bit, which is usually her way of segue. “They don’t really seem interested, so I probably won’t.”

To each her own, of course, but a little bit of me cries inside to hear it. Like my music preferences, my reading tastes cover many genres. -Except romance. Ugh.

Besides that, my collection of books is …sizeable. When I read Fahrenheit 451 in school, I wanted to be the old lady with the enormous library. I would feel torn between saving myself or my books. I …have a bit of a problem with control whenever I shop the book department in thrift stores.

D.I. Books

After a recent thrift store trip.

Which leads me back to picture books. I love picture books. I cannot imagine not having any in my house. I read to my children from them, and then from novels as they age (time permitting).

I also enjoy reading to other children. Last year I offered to read to my son’s fourth grade class once a week, to give the teacher a few minutes of preparation time at the end of the day. What did I read? The Jolly PostmanThe Sweetest FigBark, George; and Oh, Were They Ever Happy!

I remember visiting with the teacher once after we finished up. “Thank you for coming in every week,” she said. “It gives me time to get ready and I really appreciate it.”

I smiled. “Oh, you’re welcome.” Then, I hesitated, knowing most of these kids were beyond the target age for the books I shared. “Are you okay with me reading picture books? I know they might be a little young for them.”

“Of course!” she said. “They love them! I don’t think they’re too young for them at all.”

Our Picture Books

Most of our picture book library.

You may think I will ask whether you agree or disagree, but I know you are all smarter than that. Instead, what are a few of your favorite children’s stories? They can be picture books, graphic novels, beginning chapter books, or Harry Potter-sized novels. Which do you love, and why?

—————-

After fondly reminiscing, read what I posted this past week:
Wednesday, April 3: Encouraged cathartic ranting over bad bosses in “Just Another Perk of Working.

Thursday, April 4: “The Cure for Depression: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy,” another suggestion in a series originally posted over at The Bipolar Writer Mental Health Blog.

Friday, April 5: Winner of the Weekly Terribly Poetry Contest. Congratulations to Molly Stevens!

Saturday, April 6: Announced the 21st Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest. The theme is parodies of famous poems. PLEASE ENTER!

And, answered Peregrine Arc’s writing prompt with “Smells Like Reanimated Spirits.

Sunday, April 7: “Olympic Achievement,” a poem response to Carrot Ranch‘s prompt.

Monday, April 8: “Wilhelmina Winters, Eighty-Nine.”

Tuesday, April 9:  An inspirational quote by Jodi Foster.

Wednesday, April 10: Today.

I also posted all this week at my motherhood site. Highlights were “Just Don’t Buy It?,” “Moderate Momming,” and “Bedtime, a poem.”

 

Photo Credit:
Me

How’s the Weather Up There?

A blogger I enjoy reading mentioned she is on the shorter side. I was surprised; she writes with a comfortable confidence and lexicon. She bestows advice, sounds self-assured, and describes life events that intimidate me.

I had pictured her tall.

And, I hadn’t realized I pictured her as tall.

Also, I didn’t realize that I had yet again broken a personal rule: don’t judge another as ye hate to be judged.

I may not have made up the phrasing for that rule on my own, but it’s how I feel. Most of my life I’ve heard or felt or experienced opinions based solely on appearance. My sorest issue is age: “Oh, that’s because you’re young,” “You’re too young to have seen this….” “Wow. You’re so young!” Hardly something to complain of, I know; yet, it’s a way of demeaning me and my wisdom, experience, and perspective. I have felt a distinct shift in treatment after another woman learns my age.

Another box I hate being placed in is the female one. Because I have boobs I must automatically like Pinterest, have my nails done, watch ….(what are women watching these days?) The Bachelor?, read romance novels, enjoy the color pink, and not have a reasonable opinion about politics or mechanical objects.

The list continues, and is the main source of why I hate being categorized.

I forget that I turn around and apply the same principle all over the place with height. I probably forget this because I am usually taller than other women and enjoy a small level of not being bothered or harassed as much because of it.

That, and my RBF. …Something I also learned the term for recently, because my expression may have scared people away from enlightening me…

The point is that I simply did not know I was hypocritical when it came to height until I finally got some higher altitude, and shortly thereafter met my husband’s family. This initial realization came about around 18 years ago.

His family is mostly very intelligent and talented as he is …and is on the shorter side. His oldest sister barely reaches 5 feet tall with static in her hair; her husband just an inch or two over. When I first met this sister and her family I thought something like, They’re like cute, little hobbit people. I’ve also thought some sort of wonderment that they are whole, complete, extremely bright and opinionated peoples (their entire little family, including all six children they now have) and yet are so small.

Like, how rude is that?

The second time I distinctly noticed I had become a height-ist was when I met my only brother’s wife. She’s taller than I and I found the experience disconcerting. I realized I walked about the world acting like the pickup truck in a lane of sedans.

It’s true.

I mean, I am unfailingly polite to strangers. I am deferential to people like store clerks or overladen mothers or anyone approaching a door or the elderly. When I pay attention, however, I see others automatically yield the right of way. I am given a space in conversation. I am listened to when I apply myself. I had nothing to contribute to the #metoo movement and was confused by how many females had issues.

Is it really all due to height?

I’m certain it helps.

Way back when I took an acting class in college, we learned about rôles. We read that every single time a person interacts with another he engages in a psychological exchange; a battle, even. The result of this is an assignment of rôles and a placement of one person over the other. We learned it in relation to how we needed to act a scene, but I’ve found the idea revelatory in the real world.

Height or lack thereof places one in a higher or lower position, literally.

For my part, I can’t help it. I’m not going to chop off my legs or walk around on my knees. (Although I have noticed I slouch more around a room of shorters and stand more upright in tallers.) On the flip side, we’re not likely to give less-tall peoples stilts, either.

Instead, let’s remember two important things:
I can, and am willing to, reach the cookies on the shelf above the fridge for others.
And, shorter people live longer (according to my husband).

zebra-1170177_1920

Warranty Expired

“Hello, young man. I’d like to return this.” Faded department store sunlight touches on her faded gray hair.

“Ah.” Fluorescents beam off his dark, thick coif. “What seems to be the trouble, ma’am?”

She hesitates. “Well, it’s been acting up a bit you see.” Timidly, she leans closer against the high, blocky counter. “I’ve noticed for a while, of course, but the problems seem to be growing worse.”

“I see; yes. Well, we often have issues like that with our older models-”

Older?

*Ahem* “Have you the purchase receipt?”

She pauses, mid-argument…. “Let me look.” Her veined hands rise to counter height and set a white faux leather purse atop it. Making a great show of a thorough search, she rifles in its shallow depths. After a few seconds, she glances up.

He provides no comment, merely dons an ingratiatingly patient customer sales person expression.

“I can’t seem to find the bugger…” She mumbles as she digs. “Hung onto it for so long.” Rifles more. Sighs. “The husband must’ve thrown it out last time he cleaned…”

“I see.”

“…Don’t suppose you’d accept an exchange? I know I purchased at full price.” Her hands now grip the top of the purse, almost pleading.

“I’m sorry ma’am,” he says, nearly looking sorry, “But store policy is that we only accept returns with the original receipt. We do, however, offer in-store credit.”

Her face lights up. “Oh! Let’s do that, then.”

*Ahem* “First, I need to inform you of our policies and procedures, etc -”

“Oh, nevermind about that. Let me see what you sell.” She leans forward against the counter. “How much do I have?”

“Well… about $X.”

Her wrinkled face draws back in surprise. “$X?! And, what exactly does that cover? Your ad, here, says $XXX for-”

“Yes.” His ageless features move to form another patient smile. “As I said, it’s in exchange for the original purchase price, which, due to inflation…”

“But… But, I can’t get a decent body for that price!” Now, her eyes are swimming with concern. Breathing in and out, she withdraws the purse and looks at the ground with a roving dejection.

“Well, ma’am, that hardly matters.” He steeples his hands before him. “Our policies also only allow for store exchanges in certain departments.”

She stops, stares back up at him, and furrows her gray brows in deep thought. “Oh! Of course there’s always a catch.” She fidgets; self-consciously sucks in a bit. “Which departments?”

“Ha.” Good natured salesman look returns. “None of those, ma’am. Here, see, is the list.” He pushes a typed, illustrated pamphlet beneath her bone-thin hands.

She studies it, squinting a bit without her reading glasses. “But-”

“Ah, I see the confusion. No, these are not for you, ma’am.” He smiles through her shock. “However, as strict as many find our store policies to be, we do allow the credits to be transferable to family.”

“Oh?”

“Yes, and our records indicate that you have a daughter who has recently married.”

“Yes, but this paper doesn’t list something she can use. It only says Neonatal– oh.” She stops as his meaning becomes clear. “But, if I made the exchange now then I’d never get to meet my ..er, ‘exchange..'”

“Not to worry. Anticipating this, we also allow for layaway.”

“Layaway? On this?”

“But of course. That, and your account already has a positive balance from a return made just last year.” Taps screen. “Your husband, I believe.” *Cough* “Er, many condolences to you and your family.”

His polite gesture does little to soften the lingering memories of her husband’s recent passing. Still, he did make an effort. “Thank you.”

He pulls his hands back to straighten his uniform, to touch his impeccable hair, to tug at an ear. “So, do I take it you wish to make the exchange?”

She looks up. She takes a few moments to return to the present, to focus on the businesslike sales clerk before her.

“Ma’am?”

Glancing down to her hands, she studies the picture of a happy woman holding a new baby as her happy husband laughs. “Yes,” she whispers.

“Excellent!” All business as always, he produces a typed form and sets it on top of the pamphlet.

She squints at the new paper before her. From the corner of her eye, she sees him set a pen to its left. Agreement to revoke all privileges to corporeal existence in advance… she reads in one paragraph. …Future exchange guarantee is in another.

She raises her head to catch one last helpful smile, then picks up the pen and signs on the X.

agreement-business-businessman-48195

Burning Autumn

“Mommy, why are the trees on fire?” His three-year-old eyes look concerned, in my rearview mirror.

I glance back to smile, reassuringly, as we pause at a stop sign. The red and orange leaves of street-stalking maples fill my periphery as I do.

“They’re not on fire, Honey. It’s autumn.” He seems to be thinking, as I pull onto the main road. A seasonal gust dances clusters of brown, red, purple, yellow, and orange around our moving car.

“Why are the leaves blowing away?” He asks next. His eyes dart from one window to another to follow the erratic wind-paths.

I think over my answer. ‘The trees are getting ready to go to sleep,” I say, stopping at a traffic light. I watch the leaves as well, a happy warmth glowing inside at this vibrant change to mundane landscapes.

I watch his tiny face scowl. “Trees sleep?”

“Yes, Sweetheart. The leaves fall off so the trees can sleep when there’s snow on the ground.” His face lights up at the mention of snow. “They need to sleep or they get too cold,” I explain.

Just before the light changes, I catch my own eyes in the mirror. They’re dark, like my hair; like my son’s.

Memory-image immediately draws me back to that morning, when he’d walked in after my shower.

“What are you doing, Mommy?” He’d wondered. Still wrapped in a towel, I’d been anxiously pawing through my reflection’s scalp.

I’d found my first gray hairs while brushing.

We’re nearly to his preschool when he asks, “Will the leaves come back again?”

We slide back and forth against the seat  belts’ embrace as the car bumps over the parking lot entrance. I wait in a minivan queue.

“Mom! Will the leaves come back?”

No, I think, I’ll keep getting gray. Aloud, however, I tell him, “Of course, Honey! The trees grow new leaves when the snow melts and it’s spring again.”

That’s too far away for his mental reach. He’s trying to puzzle it all out, scrunching his lips and small, dark eyebrows.

I park, exit, come round to his door. Rustling leaf-rain sweeps under my feet. A few blow into the open sliding door as I unbuckle my thoughtful child.

“I like it,” he finally decides, smiling. He laughs; and, clutching my hand, skips and crunches through the leaf storm all the way to the school doors.

He goes inside, to his waiting teacher’s arms. Through the glass I see him point backwards, waving his stocky little arm in a swirling motion. He’s explaining autumn to his teacher; while she intently watches his face, smiles in return, and nods dramatically.

They head off to the classroom, hand in hand. I turn to face the wind and its accompanying leaves.

Everywhere a deciduous tree has been planted, I see color. They’re shouting on their way to the death of winter.

I absently run a hand through my hair, just about where I’d found the gray strand. I smile, as my son had.

When I die, I plan to go out like the burning autumn.

Yesterday

She rests there, hunched and frowning
Wrinkles supporting smile lines
Or tear path grooves.

Crooked fingers trace the running
Raindrop paths down musty screened panes
Of storm cloud gray.

A flash of color jogging by
Leg twitches in involuntary muscle memory
Like the runner in the rain.

“I used to dance in the rain,” She sighs
Machine beep sighs
Wishing for rewind to life or fast forward to death.

-Or heaven, a place where the spirit never sits confined
To wrinkle-lined faces
Beeping machine bodies
As runners dance in sky water beyond tracing window fingers.