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Story of the Week
Story of the Week: May 14, 2019
Her Resolve, Her Power
by Ahila Wilson
I take a sip of my ginger tea next to the beautiful glass window facing high Southern California mountains. How true it is: “The thrill you feel on first seeing some delightful place dies away when you really go to live there” (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity). This unimaginable luxury turned into an everyday event in my life. This house, this peace, this status—none of this was even a wildest dream of mine. My mind flies far and long thousands of miles to the other side of the globe, somewhere deep down in the “third world.” In a park, not so green, definitely not clean, I hear that conversation so clearly in my mind, even after 20-some years.
He was talking authoritatively, as though he knew it firsthand.
He exclaimed, “After finishing this course, they might get a job that pays more than 2,000 INR per month!”
Let me clarify: 2,000 INR is a little less than $40. Now I am chuckling even with the thought of that.
But then, my mother was amazed. I saw a bright look in her eyes. I knew, she was half dreaming. I knew full well one resounding dream of her life is for her girls to be independent—more specifically, financially independent.
In those days, I used to wonder, “How could a woman be so focused, so stern, so adamant, so assertive?” Later I understood that she didn’t have any other choices. She didn’t have time to dream for herself. She couldn’t afford to be flexible. She intentionally callused all her softness that seemed natural to other women in my neighborhood.
She asked with amazement, “Really, do they get paid that much?”
The man, who was an uncle of another prospective student of the nursing program I was waiting to enroll in, said with surety, “Yes, they do. They get paid even up to 4,000 INR if they become nursing teachers.”
My mother let out a long sigh, and we all ate the little packed lunch.
My father was sitting apart from us, lost in his own thoughts. He seemed unbothered by all these conversations, as though none of this was really his concern. At times love and passion are not practical, they are just emotions. My father was a guy with high emotions, yet had nothing to offer to the practical life my mother was drowning in. At times I wonder if it is the thought of my father that makes me resist my natural love for poets and artists. Thoughts about him make me wonder if there are wives in other poets’ and artists’ homes drowning in life and children, as my mother and her personal dreams did once in our home.
While another prospective student who was sitting next to me raved about some teenage jargon, I was fixated on the little piece of paper that was in my hand: the fee structure for the four-year nursing program. The list seemed unending: tuition, books, accommodation, uniform, other expenditures... The total sum was nothing close to any number I was hoping to see. I was torn between the emotions of my two-year dream to become a professional nurse and the reality of the financial straits my family was in. It was more than selfish for me to go to that school. How could I indirectly ask each of my siblings to sacrifice some of their necessities, may it be a cloth, or a shoe?
I took my mom a little further, and holding my tears so tight, I asked, “Mom, how are we going to pay for this? Did you see the fees?”
She lifted my face up, looked straight into my eyes, and firmly said, “I will pawn my own head to pay for it. It is not your concern; your only concern is to study. Study well and become who you are meant to be. All I want for you all is to be independent, financially independent.”
Her words were not feminist gobbledygook. It was definitely not materialistic propaganda. They were the remorse-filled radiations of a young woman’s self-death. Death of her own life, her dreams, her own desires. Even the death of her self-respect due to her financial burdens. As a woman with profound self-pride, she sometimes had to tolerate humiliation to obtain her goals. Her goal was to prevent this kind of death for her girls—a death more painful than a physical one.
Letting go of the tears I was holding, I raised my doubts again. “Are you sure, Mom? It is too much!”
She didn’t answer, she just moved on with her conversation about my financially independent future. A future with a $40 to $80 per month salary. The sad truth was, she was not even sure if her head would be worth the total fees of that private nursing college. But she was very sure of one thing: the power of one mother and her resolve.
Each year passed, and somehow the fees were paid. I remember her visits with simple snacks, my all-night studies, my $2 of pocket money that she pushed into my hands. No tears like other mothers, but just a look on her face as she left the dorm. None of these are just fading, remote memories; it is all recorded in the bumps and dips of my brain so clearly.
Now I am sitting in this 2,700-square-foot house, with extravagant rooms and spaces I could never fully use, this spacious bedroom with the backyard-facing window, making an hourly pay that is more than my mother hoped that I would be paid for a month. All these, all these are true. Even the financial independence that she desperately wanted us to have, we obtained.
But above all else,
Her resolve showed me the power of motherhood,
The power of a choice one woman makes,
Power of one, just one person.
It went far beyond. I am sure that it brought me this far, even to the other side of the world.
Suddenly, I am brought back to the present day and my reality by my laptop’s clicking noise. I close the funny video that I was watching—a video that was unfolding the humorous routine of a mother. The mother threw her children’s backpacks and went back to bed. She drank from her coffee pot and picked up her children’s uniforms from a pile of unfolded cloths. The video raged about how it is okay not to be obsessed with this motherhood task. I laughed loud, yet my heart inside ached a little.
For a minute I wonder,
Are there many motherhood stories like my mom’s untold?
Amid accepting the reality, are we forgetting the possibilities of the extraordinary?
I type in a quick comment to the video. “This is funny. But motherhood is a great calling with innumerable powers to influence little hearts—never forget that, ladies.”
As I am typing, I hear a little moan of waking from my little girl. I close my laptop. I silence my expensive iPhone, tippy-toe to her bed, and cuddle with her, thinking, “Yes, I would pawn my head as well.” But thank God, I don’t have to, all because of one woman’s resolve.
AHILA WILSON’s life is a long story of her search for her Creator God, and the beautiful unfolding of His pursuit, grace, and unfailing love for her. She is happily married and blessed with a beautiful little girl. She has a master’s in nursing education, and she writes for multiple online Christian forums and blogs. She also shares her biblical insights on her YouTube channel.
Story of the Week: May 7, 2019
Stairway to Tears
by Brad G. Garber
Some years ago, I purchased a little black rectangle with speakers in it so I could beam music out of the “cloud” into my home. It had a battery in it, so I could take it along on a foray to the beach or play music through it in my car. Like a lot of modern-day electronic gizmos, it came along with a charging cord. One day, I tried to plug the rectangle into the grid, to recharge the battery, and the cord no longer snapped into it. I could no longer charge the battery. I decided to take the little black rectangle, along with the charger cord, back to where I’d purchased it. Apparently, I had purchased it about five years after the last Neanderthal was killed by a cave bear. When I walked into the store where I had bought the archeologic relic, people gathered around and gawked. “I haven’t seen one of those for years!” exclaimed one “Generation Unknown” employee.
The person who glommed onto me, when I walked in the door, was in his mid-30s. He assured me that the product was no longer in stock. So, I had to pick another sound system to channel my iCloud music through. I had the option of choosing one of those creepy systems that would answer my voice after I walked through the door of my apartment, in a sweet female voice. “Creepy,” I would say, “find me all songs by Joni Mitchell that contain the word love.” And “Creepy” would do just that. I wasn’t feeling it, however.
“Naw, I just want a sound system,” I told my shadow. What do you have that just plays music?
He showed me a couple of speakers that would hook up with my 5,000 tunes through Bluetooth. One was about the size of an apple, the other one the size of a medium-sized zucchini. “Can you play something on them, so I can hear the sound quality?” I asked the sales person.
“Sure,” he answered. “What would you like to hear?”
I thought for a moment, then replied, “Led Zeppelin, ‘Stairway to Heaven.’”
He searched the internet, or some dust-laden cave in the inner recesses of his computer/phone, to find the song, and connected it somehow to the zucchini-sized speaker. Suddenly, there they were, the liquid opening thirds of “Stairway to Heaven,” climbing into the room. I smiled as others gathered around to listen . . . all of them about 30 years old. The person standing next to me, the one who wanted to sell me the speaker, the one who clutched his phone like a control stick to a video game, listened for a bit then inquired, “Does this pick up?”
Incredulous and in shock, adrenaline flooding my body, I asked (fearing the obvious answer), “Have you never heard this before?”
I felt compelled to assure him that Jimmy Page (whom he had never heard of) was going to change his vision of the world with the most renowned guitar solo in the known universe that was coming up. As I was trying to explain to him what was coming up . . . if he would only wait . . . tears started to well up in my eyes and my voice started to shake. He did not wait and turned off the tune. There was a silence in my mind the size of the Grand Canyon. I had never, since 1972, run across anyone who (1) didn’t know anything about Led Zeppelin and (2) had never listened to “Stairway to Heaven.” And, this was 2019!
I bought the damned speaker and walked out. I was still shaken, not so much by what I felt was an overwhelming disgust at the musical ignorance of another human being, but by my reaction to it all. Why would I cry?
When I hear the “ta-dummmm,” in the opening introduction to “The Last Whale,” by Crosby & Nash, I cry. When I listen to Beethoven’s Ninth, I cry. Sometimes I cry when I try to talk about certain musical influences. Music has been a huge part of my life. My grandfather wrote company musicals for Frigidaire, a subsidiary of General Motors, in the 1940s. He had no formal training; he just wrote from his heart. My grandmother went to Oberlin College to study music and played second-chair violin for the Dayton, Ohio, philharmonic orchestra for about 40 years. My father played in that orchestra when he was in high school, went on to play for the Air Force Band, and, at age 87, still plays his drums in local high school musicals. My uncle played trumpet jazz for about 40 years, all self-taught. He could not read music; his notes, rhythm, musical structure, and feelings came from his mind.
I played trumpet for 10 years, then switched to guitar so I could sing. I had dreams.
What is it about music that can turn on the spigot? Is it that a particular tune reminds us of a life situation that we cherish? Say, a first date, the high school prom, a wedding, a death? Is it that we long for that experience and those associated feelings again? Or that we dread the experience and the pain associated with it? It is remarkable what music can do to move us. Maybe I teared up at the store because I was faced with the inevitable irrelevance of my dated musical tastes. I am not a psychologist. I have no answers.
When I returned home, I plugged my new sound system into the wall, charged it up, and played “Stairway to Heaven,” without tears.
BRAD GARBER has degrees in biology, chemistry, and law. He writes, paints, draws, photographs, hunts for mushrooms and snakes, and runs around naked in the Great Northwest. Since 1991, he has published poetry, essays, and weird stuff in such publications as Edge Literary Journal, Pure Slush, Front Range Review, Sugar Mule, Third Wednesday, Barrow Street, Black Fox Literary Magazine, Barzakh Magazine, Ginosko Journal, Junto Magazine, Slab, Panoplyzine, Split Rock Review, Smoky Blue Literary Magazine, The Offbeat, and other quality publications. In 2013 and 2018 he was a Pushcart Prize nominee.
Story of the Week: April 30, 2019
Cleopatra and the Dark Days
by Deborah Weiss
Cleopatra and I were sitting in the brown leather armchair thinking about how we got here. Well, that’s what I was thinking. Cleopatra, our long-haired calico guinea pig, was mostly silent. She had become my confidant since I began caring for my husband, who was recovering from a series of spine surgeries.
With the somber mood at home, time moved slowly, voices lost their lilt, and colors lost their vibrancy. I was occupied by doctor appointments; medication schedules; and making sure that everyone, people and pets, was fed. I really wanted a puppy, but my husband was adamantly opposed to the idea. He worried that in a battle for my attention, even though he was disabled, he would not have a chance against a puppy.
About six months after the first operation, I made my monthly visit to Malibu Feed and left with 50 pounds of pig chow, a bale of shavings, and a five-pound baby guinea pig I named Cleopatra. In an ironic twist of fate, on the afternoon I brought Cleopatra home, Elizabeth Taylor died. If only my foresight could be harnessed for something other than picking the perfect name for a guinea pig, like investing in real estate or stocks and REITs.
A few months before the surgery, Ralph had begun to experience severe pain in his leg, radiating down to his toes. And rather than dissipate, the pain was constant and intense. We consulted a spine surgeon who recommended a one-level spinal fusion at the L5-S1 without which Ralph risked permanent nerve damage.
Based upon the information from the doctor, Ralph would be in the hospital for three days and would be feeling miserable for a couple of weeks and by six to eight weeks would be 80 percent recovered.
Two hours after what was supposed to be a three-hour procedure, my cell phone rang. My mother, who had insisted upon meeting us at the hospital before the 7:30 a.m. start time, was with me in the cafeteria when the call came from the OR. I had told her not to come. She, as usual, did not heed my request, which was both selfish and selfless at the same time. I did not want to be on stage for my mother; I wanted my emotions, my fear and uncertainty, to remain mine.
“The doctor has an update,” said the voice on the phone. I was not alarmed, having convinced myself that the surgeon would tell me that everything is progressing normally, that he found the problem and it was just as he suspected.
My mother and I left the cafeteria and proceeded to the waiting room. A tall youngish man with wavy dark hair wearing green scrubs pushed through the double doors that separated the waiting families from the operating room and headed toward us. He was not Ralph’s surgeon.
The resident, lacking the confidence or polish of the attending surgeon, said awkwardly, “We made a mistake and prepared the wrong level for fusion. We need you to authorize us to do the additional fusion.”
Before I could instruct my mouth to form words, the doctor explained that they had mistakenly cut into the L3-4—two levels away from the surgical site, requiring a three-level fusion.
It was not until much later that I learned that my husband’s surgeon had not been in the operating room when the mistake occurred. That the young resident with the wavy hair cut into the wrong vertebrae. That the head surgeon did not arrive until he received a panicked telephone call from the operating room.
Finally, feeling like I was an alien from another planet, I asked, “What happens if you don’t fuse it?”
The response was unequivocal: Ralph’s back would be forever unstable if the additional levels were not fused.
I sought to channel my husband, a role I normally felt comfortable in. We finished each other’s sentences. We had known each other since we were in grade school, our parents knew each other, and now we had worked together for more than 20 years of our quarter century of marriage.
“Will he be able to ride his bike?” I asked.
“Oh, sure, no problem,” the doctor said. “Riders bend at the hips. He’ll be fine.”
I should have asked how the change would affect his recovery, whether there would be a risk of increased complications, whether the new procedure was safe. But I didn’t.
My mother tried to interject, but I cut her off. Even though I was in my 40s, I imagine that I childishly thought of her the way I did when I was an all-knowing teenager. One thing I learned from this mess is that I did not appreciate my mother’s compassion or her strength.
My father died when I was 13, and my mom, then 38 years old, raised four kids, ages 13 to 4. That should have clued me in to the depth of her character, but it did not. Instead, I focused on myself, my needs, my world.
When I signed the authorization, I unknowingly signed away my prior life. I gave away laughter, humor, and silliness. It was also the end of camping, cycling, skiing as a family.
Five days later, my husband, the expert cyclist, hiker, scuba diver came home but could not climb the stairs himself. He could not roll over in bed. He was in constant pain, not unexpected after spinal surgery. But, unexpectedly, he experienced unceasing nausea and vomiting.
At first, Ralph progressed from a wheelchair to a walker to a cane. After about six weeks, he grew weaker and sicker regressing from cane to walker and back to a wheelchair. I began calling the surgeon’s office to convey each new problem, and each was routed to one of the latest rotation of residents. They had no answers.
The house where we raised our children became a prison to me. For nearly 20 years, we had been living in the mountains, in Topanga Canyon, outside of Los Angeles. The distance from the congested city made our home feel like an oasis, as did the drive along the Pacific Coast Highway and through the windy canyon road to our house. But as Ralph’s condition worsened, the things that normally felt magical were treacherous. When Ralph rode in the car, each curve signaled nausea so that he would vomit each time we left the house. And the final miles to our home on the dirt road that made me feel like we lived on the Little House on the Prairie set, could not be traversed without causing the vertebrae to move or smack into each other, causing screaming pain with each rut or pothole.
Before the surgery, Ralph was my rock. Now my foundation was missing the caissons. There was a structure, but even the slightest wind would blow the house down.
Julie, our pig, began to feel tense. She loved to sit in Ralph’s lap while he stroked her head. But pigs cannot climb stairs with their little stick legs, and Ralph could not sit on the floor. She became lonely and nauseous. The floor downstairs was covered in pig vomit, and there was a new acrid odor that permeated the whole house. The vet could not find anything wrong with her.
In addition to caring for a sick spouse, I was sinking in a sea of pig vomit and I could not tell anyone. How quickly everything slipped away. I had always been so busy working and raising children that I did not develop friendships where I felt comfortable confiding my thoughts.
Cleopatra was a decent listener, but she had her limitations. She could not be house-trained, which was problematic since she would spend lots of time in bed with Ralph. And she could not go jogging or hiking. In other words, the sweet rodent was a Band-Aid rather than a cure.
My relationship with my husband evolved as happens with a chronically ill spouse. What was supposed to be a three-hour operation lasted for more than seven hours. Ralph developed a pulmonary embolism as well as a deep wound spinal infection. He required constant medication, could no longer drive, and his ability to work has been sharply curtailed. He was too unsteady to ride his bike. Our dreams for retirement would never become a reality.
But we have each other, our children, our house. Since I spent more time at home, I began writing down memories, which morphed from a hobby into a calling. We live a simpler life where we feel joy in small things.
I remain haunted with my decision to authorize the surgery. If the surgeon had been in the operating room that morning maybe there would have been no complications. Maybe our lives would have been the same. But, I will never know.
DEBORAH WEISS is a lawyer and legal writing teacher who lives in Topanga with her husband, son, six parrots, a pot-bellied pig, a dog, a cat, a bunny, a turtle, a bunch of chickens, and, of course, Cleopatra, the guinea pig. She is on the editorial board for the California State Bar Real Property Journal and is a program liaison for Habele Foundation, whose mission is to enhance STEM education for K-12 students in Yap in the Federated States of Micronesia. When she is not litigating or teaching, she spends her time hiking with her dog and cleaning up countless different types of animal poop. Visit her at thebarnyardblog.com.
Story of the Week: April 23, 2019
Ways & Means
by Paul Hostovsky
They come every year, the DeafBlind with their entourage of sighted guides, SSPs, sign language interpreters, guide dogs sniffing or obediently ignoring each other in an underworld of ankles, the scepters of the white canes floating up among the listening hands, the chattering hands, the bobbing heads, the faces tending to the sides and to the ceiling as the tactile conversations sparkle and buzz. And it never fails to impress the hell out of the legislators.
They come asking for money, not with upturned hands but with eloquent hands, articulate hands, passionate and persuasive hands; not begging but advocating, speechifying, lobbying the Ways and Means Committee for increased funding for their program, the DeafBlind Community Access Network, which provides 4 hours per week—16 hours per month—of support services, communication access and assistance with errands, food shopping, reading mail, attending meetings and social events—just a few of the things that hearing-sighted people take for granted.
Now they settle into the first three rows of the State House auditorium, where the Ways and Means Committee is soliciting comment from the public concerning next year’s projected budget. One by one they will get up to give their testimony, which the chairperson will remind them must not exceed three minutes, and as each one speaks it will be interpreted simultaneously by a raft of interpreters—a team of two for each DeafBlind person, plus the feed interpreters and the platform interpreters and the voice interpreters—so that every DeafBlind person in the room will know what his or her DeafBlind compatriot is saying as she’s saying it, or perhaps a few seconds after, because of the lag time. And they will be listening very intently, nodding their heads in solidarity, signing YES and RIGHT and TRUE-BIZ, agreeing with themselves and applauding themselves now that they have the floor.
“Madam Chairwoman,” begins the first DeafBlind speaker, “may I ask you: How did you get here today? How did you arrive here in this auditorium underneath the gold dome of our historic State House? And once you arrived, how did you find your way up to the dais where you are sitting now among your fine colleagues, hopefully looking at me and listening to my testimony? For that matter, how is it that you are able to understand me at all, if you do understand me, and I hope that you are understanding?”
The state senator who chairs the Ways and Means Committee opens her mouth to reply, then closes it, and continues listening, watching.
The hands of 20 interpreters flit, juke, juggle, and dance as the DeafBlind speaker asks another rhetorical question in sign language: “And are you taking notes?—I hope you are—and if so, how is it that you will be able to refer to them later on? And how will you know if one of your colleagues is raising her hand to ask a question? And how will you know when my three minutes are up . . .” (Here the speaker nimbly consults her braille watch.) “which, it seems, they almost are already.”
Some titters and scattered applause from the first three rows, knowing smiles all around. For effect, the speaker pauses, consults her braille notes, then she tilts her head at a sort of listening angle, raises her palm and shrugs. “I will tell you how,” she says. “You probably got here today on your own. You found your seat up there on the dais on your own. You can read your own notes and you can see for yourself if someone has their hand raised. You do for yourself because you can. And you take it for granted. I do for myself too, but I do it differently from how you do it. And I don’t take it for granted. Because it’s only granted when you and your colleagues vote for it. Then the funding for these services, which allow me to be independent, which allow me to do for myself, which have enabled me to come here today and speak to you in person—granted, with the assistance of those who speak my language and know how to navigate my world—then and only then is the funding for these services restored for one more fiscal year. But then I have to come back next year and ask again. Which is a little demoralizing. A little humiliating. But I do it. I do it anyway—I know, my three minutes are up—I ask you once again to please fund the DeafBlind Community Access Network for another year.”
There is a pause, maybe half a minute, as the interpreters catch up and the speaker begins rising from her seat at the microphone—which her hands had never touched, her lips never spoken into. And as she begins piloting her guide dog back to the seat she had vacated a few minutes earlier, the groundswell of belated DeafBlind applause suddenly begins to erupt in the first three rows—the feet stomping loudly, furiously, elatedly on the floor of the auditorium, sending the percussive vibrations forth in a widening wave so that everyone can feel it.
Everyone except the legislators, that is, who are up on the dais at a different level, so they can’t quite feel it. They can hear it, though. And they can see it. And maybe they can sort of feel it vicariously, which isn’t the same thing as feeling a thing directly. Or maybe it is. And the DeafBlind people keep on applauding by stomping and jackhammering their feet for a really long time—for too long, really—so that the bailiff and legislative aides and members of the Ways and Means Committee start looking around helplessly, smiling uncomfortably, checking their watches and cell phones, because they have no ways or means of stopping the DeafBlind applause.
PAUL HOSTOVSKY is the author of ten books of poetry, most recently, Late for the Gratitude Meeting (Kelsay Books, 2019). He makes his living in Boston as a sign language interpreter. Visit him at paulhostovsky.com.
Story of the Week: April 16, 2019
Annabel and the Artist
by Lynn White
Annabel had been a Social Worker
for a good many years.
She’d seen it all,
or so she’d thought.
And then she met the artist.
Neighbours had reported concerns,
but were somewhat vague
about the problems.
She called round anyway.
Annabel was like that.
She was old school,
didn’t work to rule.
The artist’s house was large
and a bit crumbly, dirty and decrepit,
rather like the artist herself, Annabel thought
and she didn’t chance the cup of tea, when offered.
There were paintings stacked up everywhere
and, in the corner of one room,
a large whitish sculpture.
It towered upwards
almost up to the ceiling.
Annabel walked round it pondering
its strange shape and texture.
The artist laughed, saying,
“That’s not a sculpture!
Years ago I had a dog
and never got round
to house-training it.
That’s dog shit!
I piled it up.
It went dry,
over the years!
And here it still is.”
Back at the office
there was no cause
The artist died.
her only known sculpture, “Untitled,”
is being installed as the centrepiece
of her exhibition.
First published in Outlaw Poetry, August, 2018.
LYNN WHITE lives in north Wales. Her work is influenced by issues of social justice and events, places, and people she has known or imagined. She is especially interested in exploring the boundaries of dream, fantasy, and reality. Her poem “A Rose for Gaza” was shortlisted for the Theatre Cloud War Poetry for Today competition 2014. She has been nominated for a Pushcart, and her poems have appeared in many publications, including Apogee, Firewords, Indie Soleil, Light Journal, Snapdragon, and So It Goes Journal. Find Lynn at lynnwhitepoetry.blogspot.com and on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Lynn-White-Poetry-1603675983213077/.
Story of the Week: April 9, 2019
These Island Souvenirs
by John Grey
Dwarfed by ships in harbor,
a tiny port town rises,
as sun briefs the fronds, the cane,
to gild their best,
while an old woman
sets up a stall of souvenirs,
cull their purses, rifle their wallets,
to somehow buy enough
to say they’ve been here,
and a few wander off
into the hushed cathedral of the forest,
where gossamer torch of fern and fungi
light the way
or follow the signs to
the magic cadences of the waterfall altar
where worshiping is done with cameras.
the ships pull out,
candles are damped,
chalice wiped and put away,
flowers on the forest floor
rise up from all that trampling.
The island is alone at last.
Wind rattles the skeletons
of cheap commerce.
Midnight's solemn martyrdom
cries out from bitter stars.
JOHN GREY is an Australian poet, US resident. He is recently published in Midwest Quarterly, Poetry East, and Columbia Review with work upcoming in South Florida Poetry Journal, Hawaii Review, and Roanoke Review.
Story of the Week: April 2, 2019
Three poems (in honor of National Poetry Month)
by Phil Ellsworth
Dancing with Margaret
Growing up, dances were part of her life,
Maybell and Baggs and Meeker and Craig
with Charlene and Carmen and Mame and Lou,
like the dance at the Goose Egg up on the North Platte
where Wister's Virginian and one of his friends
switched the babies around and nobody knew
'til they were back home at their ranches next day.
Music and dancing and cowboys and friends,
and she married me and I didn't dance.
I was too stiff to circle and sway.
She didn't complain and I didn't know
the feeling of what I was taking away.
Margaret and Verity
Counting over ninety―
Still might be a few—
Thinking some of heaven—
Things I'd want to do
If we were there together,
If I were there with you.
I think I see some cottonwoods,
A grassy place below,
Someone reaching out to me—
It's you—I know, I know.
I feel you holding close to me
We dance the whole night through
To all the songs I left undanced
But wish I'd danced with you.
I feel the music now. It seems
I hear it in my dreams.
Heaven is some place with you,
Somewhere we have been.
I loved Margaret and when I lost her I was lonesome
and after a year or so I went to Verity
and I said do you want a companion
and she surprised me and said yes,
but nothing physical, you know, she said,
and I said sure, because I was lonesome
and that’s how it was.
For a while. But then there were the stars,
Verity could see the stars.
It was strange, because she had macular
and couldn’t see my face
but she could see the stars,
and we must have thought of ourselves and the stars
and how at night you need someone to hold
and remind you you aren’t alone in the universe.
So we held each other,
and old felt good.
PHIL ELLSWORTH is a retired mineral exploration geologist and was an infantry rifle squad leader in Europe in World War II. He lives in western Colorado. His poems are about love, the hills of home, discovery, and a few about the war and comrades lost. He believes a motive behind much of his writing is that the words will keep alive those he has lost, a paraphrase of Shakespeare in Sonnet XVIII:
So long as I can breathe or I can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee