I pack my suitcase,
each day adding more:
cloud blouses, sky skirts,
and a wind scarf carefully tucked
among pear trees and song sparrows.
Beside my daughter’s buoyant spirit and her tears,
I position my son’s pragmatism and heart.
I place Morning Man,
my rise and shine guy who adores me,
next to Evening Man who naps before bedtime.
I take Anne’s listening, Coco’s stories,
Joan’s laugh and Eve’s wonder.
At Costco, I toss in the little boy
sprawled on a couch,
and the old woman serving pita pieces.
And I’m in there at age four
bouncing on my parents’ bed,
at twelve finding I could flirt,
at nineteen holding my baby,
at thirty-four launching a forty-year marriage.
I see myself in the mirror,
study the me I’ve become,
then peel my reflection,
fold it, lay it on top,
and close the suitcase.
From the deck of a cruise ship
leaving San Francisco, I gaze
at the Golden Gate Bridge, and try not
to imagine those who have jumped.
Wind pushes against me,
lets me know I’m going somewhere—
I wish I were wild, hopping a freighter
for the south seas and beyond.
While I long to be a pilot or a diver,
a climber or a surfer, or even a bartender
meeting and tending to travelers,
I’m grateful as I recall my journey:
What are you thankful for? a teacher asked.
Bubble gum and ice cream, I said.
I never knew I loved parents who called me in
when I wanted to play hide and seek till dawn.
At school I played jacks on the lunch table,
pig in a basket, putting pieces in my palm.
I never knew I loved the cafeteria line,
having hair-netted women fill my plate.
I never knew I loved bumblebees. Could one
love a bumblebee, the one that sat on
my belt buckle when I was alone in the yard
trying to be a statue, staring into its eyes?
I’m beyond feeling I didn’t belong in those
teen years when the world didn’t want me, and
left me in tears. Now, under the Golden Gate,
I feel for those who chose the bridge.
On this voyage, breathing sweet salt air,
I run with a butterfly net
catching and cataloging moments,
risking loving life to death.
What’s It Like To Be Old?
Don’t get me started! Why do you ask?
Am I defensive? Yes. Of course I want
to slide back, get a re-ride, slip into that
summer skin I failed to appreciate.
I’m still that girl, but no one knows and
I’m stuck at restaurants with birds of my feather,
a misfit, flocked with a covey of old folks
while I imagine being with the youth nearby.
I didn’t join; I got drafted—hurled into
wrinkled wisdom, unscrewed, even screwy
with perspective and perception. Deliver me
from red hats and wearing purple. See me shop
the Banana Republic to flirt with dudes.
I’m not so old I don’t remember teenage pain:
being turned inside out by what others thought.
A pawn of my id, I craved attention and spent
those years in a playground of despair,
hope and disaster, love and loss.
As a teen, I saw thirty as curtains
and sixty as suicide time.
Do you really want to know what it’s like?
Well, so do I. I’m still learning at seventy.
Ninety is the new old age. I’m in my prime.
The Bang Theory —for Ginny
My sister calls it her Bang Theory:
people look the same day after day,
and then about every five years,
bang, they change. At age seventy,
she says the Popcorn Plan takes over:
little pops happen daily.
And this explains the stranger I see
in the mirror. Bang, pop, pop, pop—
she no longer reflects the me I know.
I look after her as best I can
since she masquerades around town
and pretends to be me.