OLD FINGERS, SHINING RINGS (Excerpt)
While my mother reads I watch her hands,
Rough, arthritic now, turning the pages
And think I've watched them change for fifty years.
These were girl's hands, learning how to sew,
Lover's hands, delicately sensual,
And a young mother's, gentle, efficient.
The rings, unfussy plain silver, still shine —
A matching pair, the diamond not big —
And I've never seen her without them on, ever.
Sixty years since that wedding-ring was put there.
I'm made to think of circles of love and family,
Health, happiness, sickness, long widowhood,
Old age. The way it goes. I watch her sit,
Slowly turning pages, over-used by life.
How hard rings are! How they last! And how soft
And quick to wear, so vulnerable, so
Easily ripped apart, the family.
MRS. ROWLEY (Excerpt)
The old gas-bag, we called her. Came on Thursday
Mornings, fat and panting, to the back door,
Ten-thirty to the minute, smiling, eyes
Enormous behind her glasses, hair askew,
And sat at the kitchen table, catching her breath.
Mrs. Rowley from the grocer's shop,
Taking orders from her regulars,
But really out to talk,to share the news.
Took out her black book, fussing for it
In her bag, chatted for twenty minutes
Until, on some unknown cue, she'd lick the purple
Indelible pencil and slowly get to work.
DEPARTURE GATE (Excerpt)
My son expects a sonnet in this book,
He tells me, grinning, as we shake hands. I
Say I don't have one planned, then catch a look
Of my father's face in his — the mouth, the eye -
And watch him stride away, through the big door
Where I can't follow. Oh son, at twenty-four
You don't know how important farewells are,
Or how they bring back things too hard to bear,
Grim things from which we know we can't recover.
Fly safely. I'll write, I promise. I turn away,
Remembering how it was when I was young