Alan: In a small town, small incidents – small kindnesses, slights, gestures or failures of reciprocity – linger, becoming the stories we tell about ourselves and our neighbors. Scraps of experience woven into the fabric of the place.
You owe me two dollars, lady.
Not me. Those nice folks
who do the plant sale each June.
Remember them? It’s for a good cause –
charity. Remember, ten, twelve years ago
you came by looking for forget-me-nots?
Not the blue kind – everyone has those –
the white ones. Sold out. I was helping, so
I said I’d dig you some from my garden.
Two dollars. For charity. And I did.
I brought a pot-full by the next day,
left it (you were out) with a note
on your front steps. You never paid.
Ever since, whenever I drive by
your piece of suburbia
carved from spruce woods and puckerbrush –
filled and level lawn, gum-drop shrubs,
gazing globes on white pedestals, twee figurines,
that symbolic bit of half-sized picket fence –
I think, you owe me two lousy bucks, lady,
for charity! That’s the kind of thing,
around here, we never forget.
Nancy: Bent fences, trampled gardens, nights filled with caterwauling, banshee squalls, hoots and howls – the wonderful wild roil of life at night – dawn and a sense of something missing...
Night, The Old She-Bear
A crazy old woman living on a hill.
She saw the night coming,
saw the heart shining where it hung in the ribs,
beating, saw the bones shining,
red, the old she-bear’s bones were red.
She saw the belly, welcoming;
she wanted to cry out, “yes, Old Mother,”
but she was afraid.
The Wise Dogs were licking one another’s lips,
and fawning, and singing love songs.
The woman noticed that all of the animals
were taking off their skins; she saw
that they moved easily, unencumbered.
They were going to dance in the night air.
She wanted to dance, but her skin was too tight.
Lululu, they were all singing, drumming.
The woman counted them, two, two, two,
singing hungry songs and waiting for the moon;
she saw them drinking the moon and thought
how much she wanted to drink and sing,
but they were twos, twos, and she was alone.
The moon went west and the sun came east
and the woman felt the light. She felt it
on her skin, her hair, in the clock of her belly,
felt it through her closed eyes. The women felt
the light, felt the light ! oh, I, I feel
the light, feel it in my mouth, taste it,
the light, and feel how wide the bed is
as I spread my legs in the cool sheets. Light
cool wide empty bed, the woman, I.
“Night, The Old She-Bear” first appeared in East Of The Light (Stone Man Press & Slow Dancer Press, 1984).