Tuesday, October 28, 2008
A Part Of Everything / Apart From Everything
There was no smoke coming from her chimney.
They walked the hill to the house expecting the worst
and arriving to find,
the old woman standing in the pouring rain
talking to a young girl who wasn't there.
This is my house.
There's money hidden in the root cellar.
A finger to her lips,
cocking her head to one side,
her eyes to the sky.
Between the drops,
her story's soothing melody
surrounding like a warm bath.
She didn't drive.
Walked to town, to the corner store,
to bingo on Saturday nights at St. Anne's.
Brought the same homemade pickled beets
to any and every church social.
Husband died young, she never re-married.
A hesitating beauty hiding underneath
cheap housecoats and Dollar Store makeup.
She played the organ at Mass.
Gave piano lessons, $3 for an hour,
"That timber could fetch a dollar or two,"
removing his hat outside her door.
"I could figure a price for the hardwoods
in the back acreage," putting it back on.
Help came and went over years.
She killed a groundhog her dog, Lucky,
had cornered in one of the out-buildings.
Shot it with a rusty .22 rifle her father had used
to keep coyotes off the property.
She signed a piece of paper a neighboring farmer
brought over one afternoon.
"...so we can use that field on the south end for
for winter wheat, like we talked."
Court papers arrived a few weeks later.
Duped, she'd signed over rights to the house
when she died.
But she hadn't.
Not even quite sure herself how old she was now.
Only thing, her mind wandered here and there,
time to time.
The horses haven't been fed today.
No horses in that barn in a
couple two, three decades now.
Is my hair appointment tuesday or thursday?
Her one and only extravagance,
the beauty parlor.
Same wash, color and cut and
same Helen making it happen
once a month, twelve times a year
for the last twenty-five or so.
Did I remember her tip last month?
After Dick died, she'd let herself go.
Almost five years went by until she saw a picture
of herself in the church bulletin,
helping out at a cursio meeting.
Prematurely gray hair down her back,
face drawn well beyond her years.
She looked like a widow.
She was a widow, she told herself.
But the next day she found herself
in Helen's chair asking for the works.
In all the years, in that chair,
the same conversation,
defining a life,
keeping it tidy
even if only in appearance.
Standing there, in the pouring rain,
in her best housecoat, face made-up,
beauty parlor hair beneath a plastic rain bonnet,
a finger to her lips, but not quite quieting
the downpour slapping at the mud beneath her barefeet.
A part of everything.
Apart from everything.