Abandoned Schoolhouse on Long Branch

The final scholar scrawls his long
Black name in aisle dust, licks the air
With his tendril double tongue,
Coils up in shadow of a busted chair

And dozes like the farmer boys
Who never got straight the capital
Of Idaho, found out the joys
Of long division, or learned what all

Those books were all about. Most panes
Are gone now and the web-milky windows
Are open to the world. Gold dust-grains
Swirl up, and show which way the wind blows.

K.B. + R.J., cut deep
In a darkened heart on the cloakroom wall.
Now Katherine Johnson and Roger sleep
Quite past the summons of the morning bell.

The teacher sleeps narrow too, on yonder
Side of Sterling Mountain, as stern
With her grave as with a loutish blunder
In the Bible verse she set them to learn.

Sunset washes the blackboard. Bees
Return to the rich attic nest
Where much is stored. Their vocalese
Entrances the native tranquil dust.

:: Fred Chappell, Source (1985)


A Hunger

(Tuam, County Galway) 

The farmer comes home late from the pub
his one evening free from work,
and finds what he feared, the heifer sick,
one hoof jutting from the straining rump,
the other turned back inside the womb--
as if the calf had lost its way,
nature itself unsure of the path.

It's no miracle, as he rolls his sleeve,
then plunges his arm, elbow deep, into the cow,
shifts the limb, a difficult gear, into place.
Now, he tightens the knotted rope around both,
and pulls until the shocked face emerges,
then spreads the opening wider, his hands
bristling with blood and water,
while the beast drones its low, unhuman cry.

Mastery is nothing but perfection of habit,
years on an unwanted farm, nursing cows,
nursing the mother who begged him to stay,
sentencing him to his blank inheritance,
until what tumbles into straw is an afterthought,
the moment spilling into absence--
What I do is not done out of love;
in such loneliness I carry my dead.

Later, after the mother licks the new calf clean,
and it starts to hobble on its spindly legs,
he will guide it to the tit, the dumb mouth
sucking anything, even the bloody sac
that hangs deceptively behind the tail
and, if eaten, could kill.

:: Daniel Tobin, Where the World Is Made (1999)



The edges of another's work
were all the space
she had for her story.
With grease and lamp black,
a fine point, she set down
her worth  in small letters
that she might abide.
Perhaps you will glimpse her.

:: Isabel Zuber, in The American Voice #29 (1992)



The hose man is a shy one,
hands dug into pockets
and hat making shadows
on his all-weather radial tire face.
His Lincoln is a golfcart with a pick-up bed
tack-welded over the engine.
He wants to make things green.

Some mornings he starts
a half hour before the shift,
hose upon hose, mist upon mist.
As the sun climbs tiny rainbows appear.
He is smiling. On some days he canticles.
Every now and then he looks at the sky.
It seems dry up there.

:: Barrett Warner, in Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review #6 (1995)


Friday Lunchbreak

At noon, still wearing their white
plastic helmets and long smocks,
they leave the frozen slabs
of calf hanging from aluminum
hooks on the loading docks
and stride down the street
past my window, headed
for the bank on the corner.
I remember the gray calf we found
last spring in Virginia, hidden
by its mother in a gully;
at six days it scampered
and wobbled.
                     We watched
it grow heavy and slow, until
half a year later, fouled
with its own shit and dull of eye,
it stood with the other cattle,
hock-deep in muck by the barn.

Then it was gone, perhaps north
to this gallows place, where the men
tromp back, grinning, some with bottles
in brown paper sacks, these men
in spattered white smocks
who are as thick and wide
as the sides of beef they hug
and wrestle, angels of meat.

:: Gregory Orr, The Red House



My father lets down
The little drawbridge of his pickup truck,
A span of plywood planks on the back gate
Held level by hook and chain,
And dumps from the damp burlap
A load of locked doors
We've bough to break and enter,
Taking our spade-sharped knives
To the sharp and silted ridges of the oyster shells.

Almost safe inside the heavy canvas gloves,
Mule-brand, the fingers chewed through
By snags of ragged metal his acetylene
Cut back from the junked bodies of cars,
We look for leeways in the trap,
Any edge the blade can pry and widen,
Leverage to spring the hinge. I set aside
The hard ones for my father's savvy hands.
From the lusters of the bottom lid,
We split the raw attachments
And pour it all in a plastic pail--
Brine and gill plates and mantle--
My mother's turn now to turn
This plump meat seasoned by the sea
Into soups and stews and poboy loaves
(Dredged in cornmeal, drowned in deep fat).

It's one more long Sunday when dinner waits
For my brother to drive down, late,
Through the pinesap airs of Hammond,
And for my sister to bring herself, late,
Across the white bridges, twin humps
On the billowed back of Lake Pontchartrain.

And so my father and I stand opening
The closed chambers, the cold valves,
And from these cups of calcium
Drink to each other a liquid
Of salt and grit, the oysters
Easing down like lumps in the throat.

:: Elton Glaser, in Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review #2 (1993)



That day the most beautiful thing she saw was pigeons.
Neatly dressed in grey and silver stripes, or snuff brown,
like office workers, except the shocking ascot, the neck
oilslick green and purple, the finicky pink naked feet.

Walking barefoot in broken glass and crushed paper cups,
what are the pigeons learning? Assiduously searching through
the scattered trash of human lives, they startle Beatrice.
She's used to them flying by like windblown plastic bags.

Now she's fixed by one scavenger eye, coy,
shy, trash with consciousness. The bird cocks its head
sideways, feminine wile, a friend's attention. Suddenly

       she's standing in a city peopled by birds, their hub-bub
       conversation, and their wheeling flight toward home, the rock
       cliffs of skyscraper and church steeple, each cranny and nook
       they remember from when they nested there, rockdove
       high above the river in the granite palisades, long before
       convenient niche apartments were built for them by men.

:: Minnie Bruce Pratt, Walking Back Up Depot Street (1999)


Doing Beans

Treva brought a grocery bag of cukes,
inked on the side, FREE TAKE

ALL YOU WONT. Mid-morning break,
Charlie picks each one out, rolls it

hand to hand. Pauline calls from the booth,
"You ain't quality control. Quit handling 'em."

She laughs, words punching smoke that spurts
from her nose and mouth at the same time.

She's working on her eighteenth year in sewing.
Across the table, Treva, working on her third,

sips iced tea from a silver thermos,
worries a cut on her right hand, stirring

last night's late squash--today's cold lunch--
with a plastic spoon, not hungry.

Up past midnight doing beans, three canners,
eighteen quarts. Tonight she'll do it again for Mama.

Fingers tight from stringing, she's wasted
half the morning sewing M sleeves into S torsos,

fumbling with the bobbin, mind drifting, thinking
about beans, beans, more beans, coming in faster

than cut fabric to her bin.
Tired as she is, knowing what's ahead,

that 3:00 whistle's no relief today.
"You can buy 'em at the grocery two for a dollar,"

her sister keeps saying. "Just as good. Better."
"Get your head on your machine," Pauline tells her,

"or there won't be no machine."
Charlie drops coins in the drink slot,

knuckles the Coke button, slides in beside her.
"Ain't nothing free, Treva."

July sun burns through the glass window of the break room.
Not much growing outside but cars, packed tight.

Slide your knife down the inside edge of the jar,
Mama taught her. Gets rid of air, trapped inside.

:: Barbara Presnell, Piece Work
(Cleveland State University Press, 2007)


Sanding Floors

Caught between agriculture and industry
I tread grained rows
I grind up golden dust
triceps flexed and small of back strained
behind a tumbling drum sander
a silver juggernaut with blue sparking motor
ravenous teeth on a roll under my control
short leashed it grumbles
I follow in cloudy plastic goggles
black rubber respirator a filtered trunk
like an elephant-headed deity of the hearth
like an astronaut harvesting the moon
I scour these oaken floors with heavy gravity

36 Grit
Like lamprey's teeth on a steel cylinder
to gouge and tear in long splinters
through the black carpet backing
through the ancient dried glue
through the glaring waxed finish
I grind on through these old boards' tattoos

60 Grit 
More precious now like a
granddad's whiskered cheek
to a goodnight kiss
spun round to ride the channeled waves
knocking off their curls their
whitecaps churned beneath
harnessed horses' hooves and teeth
to flow soft upon the floory shore

100 Grit
Sharkskin smooth for a final run
amber waves of grain all raised
a heightened vibrancy arises
hearts' secrets brought up to the surface
with democratic leveling to stand
equal individual and
nakedly alive

I walk these planks in noise and dust
to make a home out of this house
I am the reaper of rough
I am the sower of smooth

:: W. Joe Hoppe, in Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review #6 (1995)



The developer whistles up storm clouds
in the corners of the photograph,

picks out herringbone on a jacket sleeve,
ushers in the ever-deepening night,

leaves the paper slick as a newborn's head.
The stop bath resists, ceases, arrests,

prepares for the fixer, that chemical undertaker,
which fastens light and shadow irrevocably to the emulsion.

Death and preservation come into the picture,
as in the phrase The Fix Is In.

Fixer marks clothing, trays, and tongs
with indelible, bruise-colored stains,

but stop bath enters the skin.
If you spill it on your hand

you can taste it instantly
at the back of your throat.

:: Sarah Kanning, in Field #73 (Fall 2005)


The Bringers of Bread

In the prenatal, rooster-summoned morning,
my brother and I awaken and slip
through our mosquito nets as darkness
fades slowly into blue-and-bluer.

We walk into the dreamy air
not before grabbing the few pesos and centavos 
waiting for us on top of our mother's bureau.

The gray road and the click-clack of our slippers:
we know at the end of both is the bakery.
Until then, we pounce on stray cats and birds.

We play leapfrog, leaping over each other's
bent body: bodies that evolved from the same
womb churning into one rolling animal.

At the bakery, we bask in the clean scent
of newly baked pan de sal, providers that we are.
We press the brown bags to our hunter's
breasts and let the warmth seep beneath our ribs.

:: Joseph O. Legaspi, Imago (2007)


Penny Men

(for Emiliano, who came to live, and die, picking grapes)

These are the men from Mexico's boot, the ones
who fell out from a hole in its bottom. They are bony
but well-attached as scissors. When they become
hungrier, they will cut their own stomachs
in half. They come to live like loose change

in a country that drops its pennies
and leaves them there; in a country whose jingle
of coins muffles the sound of backbones cracking.
These men squeezed through the gate, that slot,
and found the backroads with crosses

on which the grapevines wave their leaves
like dollar bills. Green, edible, the vineyards
promise to feed--to stuff--their pockets
though the cups of wine aren't theirs
to drink. Thirst concerns the boss no more than heat,

nor how much of it garlands each head.
After work, their faces glow sun-flat; they resemble
copper centenarios with dust instead of a bridge
over the nose, with a rust-heavy hinge for a mouth.
These faces promise to reveal exotic lands

and languages. But the bridges are impassable,
distant as the waters of a river on a map,
and the tongues are too tired to speak.
They sit beneath the pines for shade,
their heat-suffused hair steaming off. Precipitations

of sweat clean off their arms, those thin pokers
that have been stirring ash all day. They express no
criticism here, no shame. Their ears build up dirt
into stones inside their wells, at times confusing
the memory of a woman who speaks inside their sleep.

To stretch out the afternoon breeze, they play
blackjack and twenty-one, gambling bottle caps
instead of silver. Slowly, the darkness in their eyes
blends with the shadows; the sparkle of the caps
and beer can tabs ascends into the canopy of sky.

Beds are too luxurious; back seats too cramped
and sticky in summer. The men prefer cool car hoods,
their own hands for pillows, the privacy of twilight.
The moon, their second mother, knits their sleeping
coats, which always fade away with stars.

Some dawns, not all the men wake up so quickly.
One man always sinks too deep in dreams, clinging
to the woman he wishes he'd never left--the woman
who throws her voice toward the North, whose words
stir up a breeze for all the men below.

:: Rigoberto Gonzalez, in Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review #6 (1995)


Cast Iron Distict at Dawn

Far down the street an engine curses and starts.
The sound startles pigeons, waking to pick
crumbs in the gutter, their undisturbed hour.
Sunday: no one is going to work.
All down the wide street no one is walking.
A torn poster blown against a loft window
draws the eye upward; note
the building's outmoded grace which survives neglect,
the high-arched windows and generous double doors.
The warehouses closed today, the rooms
where women and children sewed, bent-backed from dawn
through evening, empty for years now and dark as ever.
Here--iron grilles locked against storefronts--
the newsstand's shuttered front denies responsibility
and the long street never turns to look back.
It is a sinister hour, after all. In doorways
men are waking who begrudge the couples upstairs
their morning sleep. Still, morning unaware
comes with its blue light into the city--
a bloodless sky whose light arrives modestly,
evenly in every corner with a true innocence
that does not discriminate. The air is cool,
smell of the sea nearby, the expectation of gulls.
Trees in the park shake their leafless branches
tenderly, and the sunken amphitheatre
around the fountain, and the stones arranged
in their lovely diagonals, invite you. This hour
belongs to no one. Its peacefulness disturbs you
because it is uncommitted, like the dream
in which only you survive the holocaust,
like your own future which you will make out of streets,
buildings, forgotten faces, faces not yet imagined.

:: Cynthia Huntington, The Fish-Wife (1986)


Running the Bulldozer at the State Street Dump

Fifty-two years earlier
I would have saved Rommel
in the African desert.
Instead, I inhale boxcars of stink
as gulls circle with the litter
and scout fresh garbage.
The ground is soft as cake
where my tracks dig
down into the buried heaps.
Litter snares in the north fence
and sunlight finds broken glass
where junkmen dig for prizes,
browse and poke at garbage,
toss mangled valuables
into the backs of their ancient pickups.
Commanding small destinies,
I stand before the field
of dump trucks; they are slow movements
on a map. The diesel smoke
chokes upward as I grind
this monster into a crawl.
The dozer's bucket is a gravedigger's hand,
and all the garbage is nervous.

:: Michael Catherwood, in Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review #6 (1995)


The Circus Dog

Every couple of days the train
pulls into  some prairie town:
Northfield, Mankato, Cannon Falls.

Every couple of days the gymnasts sigh,
and the Flying Latvians mend their tights.
It's all to do over again.

The dog sees only the hoop of flame,
clowns dancing beyond.
He goes for it over and over.

Singed fur, eyelid melting into
perpetual droop. One more skid
to the sawdust  in Couderay.

He's embarrassing to the troupe.
Nobody plays with him any more,
not even the ballerina on her trapeze

gets it. She looks away
from the dog-shaped hole
in the paper medallion,

his chilling obsession
with chance
his cockeyed religion

his furious
of will.

:: Mary Rose O'Reilley, Half Wild (2006)


Camptown Races

At the iron sink I divide
garbage: cobs for chickens
husks for compost

chore the fugitive
daughter of a grim ancestress
ditched in favor of

the Lowell mills (12 hours
a day 6 days a week 18 cents an hour)
better than her home prospects

once the solemnly composed Union
officer bared
his dusty head and delivered
bones swaddled like an unlovely infant

or diaries or nothing. Preferring rupture
to the role of family servant
rude to the consoling preacher

this willowy forget-me-not
spectre of a woman quit

milking slopping spinning
canning fragrant hot
berries shiny as forbidden
lipstick and removed

furtively, like a convict, a few eggs
in her apron, no shoes
or worn shoes pinching
each mile

to a hostel
with her own kind (and wrote
to Aunt Tillie Eustacia Dennett:
"I work for wages not bread")

stared at the piano roiling the parlor:
Camptown Races (racy, naughty)
Oh Promise Me
Billy Willy Kissme Again
sometimes Moonlight Sonata

though skin from her fingers
peeling with lye soap remains
between wide, valuable planks
I pace, casting entrails before

and applecores behind, in her
uncivil revolutionary shadow.

:: Joyce Peseroff, in The American Voice #29 (1992)



I am wearing dark glasses inside the house
To match my dark mood.

I have left all the sugar out of the pie.
My rage is a kind of domestic rage.

I learned it from my mother
Who learned it from her mother before her

And so on.
Surely the Greeks had a word for this.

Now, surely the Germans do.
The more words a person knows

To describe her private sufferings,
The more distantly she can perceive them.

I repeat the names of all the cities I've known
And watch an ant drag its crooked shadow home.

What does it mean to love the life we've been given?
To act well the part that's been cast for us?

Wind.   Light.   Fire.   Time. 
The train whistles through the far hills.

One day I plan to be riding it.

:: Suzanne Buffam, in Crazyhorse #75 (Spring 2009)



I acknowledge the dishwasher his further mopping.
The knives I've dropped.
The restaurant we work in once
was a bank and before that it was a restaurant

and before that it was a bank. We store sugars in the vault and gold
butter foil is sticking to the floor. The tallest man at the bar
leans into me. I hope you closer have into me a good closer, even closer

night. Across the street they're mopping and two doors down
there's mopping too. From the alley is a topographic rhythm

of horn players in succession. I run my hands over every table
with a rag. Maybe someday this will be a bank again

when the waitresses are ghosts and deeds
have been turned over. I imagine my money as a sign of good exchange.

It's late, you've been deserted,
I say to the man dissolving sugar into coffee.
I'm from a big family, he assures me,

I like to be alone. Sometimes I can see in a stranger's eyes
all there is to know. This love of loneliness. Ask me

what state I was born in.
I am waiting on you, my cause célèbre, can I bring you a spoon?

:: Gabriella Klein, in Field #73 (Fall 2005)


The Blue Cup

Through binoculars the spiral nebula was
a smudged white thumbprint on the night sky.
Stories said it was a mark left by the hand
of Night, that old she, easily weaving
the universe out of milky strings of chaos.

Beatrice found creation more difficult.
Tonight what she had was greasy water
whirling in the bottom of her sink, revolution,
and one clean cup.

                               She set the blue cup
down on the table, spooned instant coffee, poured
boiling water, a thread of sweetened milk. Before
she went back to work, she drank the galaxy that spun
small and cautious between her chapped cupped hands.

:: Minnie Bruce Pratt, Walking Back Up Depot Street (1999)


Mending a Net

Outside, an old man who might have been
   a prophet mended a net and whistled
      something tuneless and familiar.

Across the road in the paint-flecked house,
   old women sipped coffee and spoke
      about heathens and church attendance.

The old man knew the voices--Mary Lambert, Eunice Haddock,
   Abigail Crane, the door-to-door breakfast committee
      at Good Shepherd Baptist. They spoke of an Easter Festival,

a Spring Fair to bring lost souls home.
   Words sliced through the screen porch.
      Gulls floated on wind blown

in from the bay, white hard-edged
   divots cut in a calcium sky.
      Down the oyster-shell road, by palm scrubs

and slash pine saplings, ditches stood stagnant, mosquitoes hovered,
   thick as thumbs. Rain had been falling
      for weeks; the old man's knees became his almanac.

His knuckles throbbed with a red, pulsing ache.
   The old women talked in blue, quilted voices,
      words like the interweaving of a cast net

or maybe like the weights that pull it down,
   the cinch that pulls mullet and trout in close
      before the fisherman draws sieve from water.

Someone may have mentioned his name, gestured with a chipped cup lip,
   but syllables knotted together
      and the old man lost the sounds as the south winds blew.

The net now finished, pooled at his feet.
   Behind him, a wooden box of nets to be mended.
      Above, gulls and gray could mean something

if he looked, if he took the moment to decipher
   what might not be a message. But the wind cut
      grooves in his skin. His fingers had gone numb.

:: Jeff Newberry, in Gulf Stream #25, 2006


So What

My father, after repairing triple-load washers for twelve hours
on a Saturday, would put on Miles Davis' Kind of Blue and call
me into the garage. "Hear this, slugger? One four five. That's
all there is. Sons o' bitches. . ." I never understood how any
man could be on his back for twelve hours and come home to
listen to Miles Davis for another three. We split Budweisers.
"So What" always on. I remember it that way. He sang the 
words that Miles didn't need. I was ten, eleven. The sun still
out. Coltrane fading in after Miles' solo, then Miles gone.
Gone for most of the song. He's not allowed to come back
until the end. Those are the rules. That's the thing: my father
taught me this. The rhythm section the whole time keeping
time like running water. Brush stroke, snare off, over and 
again. Coltrane catches the wind of the last phrase, echoes,
and goes off wherever it was he went off to: Paradise, fishing with
a cooler full, the driveway spotted with oil, the gear grease on
his glasses and collar, the grease in his hair glinting blue at his
wake, "So What" instead of a sermon.

:: Alexander Long, Light Here, Light There (2009)


The Riveter

George was serenading me as he showered
and had I not ducked in for a wet grab, a warm view
of white suds where his leg hair was curly and thick,
I would not have been the first to see three clear words
materializing on the steamed-up mirror:
DAVE LOVES and then my name. I cooed
as one hand handled George, and one wiped glass.
Last week at the plant I left my desk and pens
to work down the line from him; a substitute
body was needed to rivet VINs into the hoods.
A woman with a strange machine in her hands,
I riveted in those long steel strips of numbers,
by which any man can prove a stolen car is his.

:: Katie Hartsock, in Clementine 


Road Stop

Not all laundromats are sad.
Back in the Village, the one I frequented
was a place to read and watch what women
turn on the delicate cycle for.
I was younger then and wanted to live
in a city, and count myself among
the fashionably poor. Now these women
at the Wash 'N Dry, fingering their coins
in this terrible brightness, just seemed tired.
Maybe all the women back on Bank Street
were tired; I wouldn't have noticed.
Maybe all women everywhere are tired
and even the loveliest, flimsy things
sometimes feel like burdens to take off--
late at night, say, in the wrong mood,
and someone waiting with a smile.
Today these machines look like
the secured masks of deep-sea divers,
and what swirls in them is controlled
confusion, which each of us understands.
I mix my whites and darks together,
as I always do, and a young woman
with a child and a Live Free or Die 
T-shirt says No, that's bad.
I tell her I'm interested in speed.
I don't say I've a house
with a washing and drying room, or
my clothes are old enough not to bleed.
Nor do I say I haven't been
to a laundromat in twenty years.
This could be a bus station
the way the solitary faces stare, but she
has a child to scold, no time to stare.
I'm far from home. There's no telling
how I look to those who look so hard
or what, to them, my laundry reveals.
Here's a clean man, they could be thinking.
He must have done something wrong.

:: Stephen Dunn, Loosestrife (1996)


Night Waitress

Reflected in the plate glass, the pies
look like clouds drifting off my shoulder.
I'm telling myself my face has character,
not beauty. It's my mother's Slavic face.
She washed the floor on hands and knees
below the Black Madonna, praying
to her god of sorrows and visions
who's not here tonight when I lay out the plates,
small planets, the cups and moons of saucers.
At this hour the men all look
as if they'd never had mothers.
They do not see me. I bring the cups.
I bring the silver. There's the man
who leans over the jukebox nightly
pressing the combinations
of numbers. I would not stop him
if he touched me, but it's only songs
of risky love he leans into. The cook sings
with the jukebox, a moan and sizzle
into the grill. On his forehead
a tattooed cross furrows,
diminished when he frowns. He sings words
dragged up from the bottom of his his lungs.
I want a song that rolls
through the night like a big Cadillac
past factories to the refineries
squatting on the bay, round and shiny
as the coffee urn warming my palm.
Sometimes when coffee cruises my mind
visiting the most remote way stations,
I think of my room as a calm arrival,
each book and lamp in its place. The calendar
on my wall predicts no disaster
only another white square waiting
to be filled like the desire that fills
jail cells, the old arrest
that makes me stare out the window or want
to try every bar down the street.
When I walk out of here in the morning
my mouth is bitter with sleeplessness.
Men surge to the factories and I'm too tired
to look. Fingers grip lunch box handles,
belt buckles gleam, wind riffles my uniform
and it's not romantic when the sun unlids
the end of the avenue. I'm fading
in the morning's insinuations
collecting on the crevices of buildings,
in wrinkles, in every fault
of this frail machinery.

:: Lynda Hull, Ghost Money (1986)


The Napper

Strange to assume this half-forgotten
posture: the skull's weight resting
on crossed arms tingling with sleep

the body's pose invites while mind
refuses to accept. An opened can
of soda ticks at his ear. A button's

pressed its small circumference into
his left temple. Glasses folded neatly
beside a stack of charts that must

be read, but not now. Now
he'll close his eyes, think suddenly
of milk in half-pint cartons,

puddles beneath piled galoshes.
His body remembers. Faint
elevator sounds, passing steps

slip beneath the closed door.
Phone is off the hook. The secretary
has instructions. He lets his mouth

go slack, his arms go numb. He holds
his eyes closed tight. He could
be five again. He could be anyone.

:: Ron Mohring, Beneficence (2003)


My Father Washing Dishes

For fifty years he stood at his job
growing a small pension and varicose veins
that still ache when he walks

Yet he refuses to get a dishwasher
to save his back and legs: it was for her sake
he stood    and ours

Nothing has changed    He leans
against the sink    bends his stiff back
over the suds

She had cooked for him for almost sixty years
had been a partner of the first water: loyal
loving    a constant friend    and a gypsy

on the dance floor where his legs felt young
despite the pain    And so he stands and scrubs
each cup and plate    the frying pan    each fork

while the hot water pours from the tap like music.

:: Charles Fishman, Country of Memory (2004)