Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Rag Man \ Prayer For My Old Age

Nancy: Because my Granny told me so, I believed.  Hid behind the porch railing or the thick screen of the Moonvines.  My realistic bogeyman had a regular route.

The Rag Man

It was a well known fact that children
who misbehaved were taken away by the rag man.

When the rag-man came, you searched your heart.

The sing-song.  Any rags?

Any bones?  Any bottles?

Hide.  Repent.  The bottle-man
with his familiar, rag-bone horse.

Not the ice man, egg man, bread man,
vegetable man, who called smiling.

The shivery man.  Sack of bones man,
bag of rags man.

Oh the awful quiet bundles of the rag man!

Look, don’t, don’t get caught
looking, at the rag-man.

He’s going down the road singsonging

past the house
past the drive
past the last tree
and he’s gone!

Nothing this week for the Rag Man.

Alan: Watching my mother move through the stations of the cross that is nursing home care today, I could see that, whatever else, she remained generous with what she had.

Prayer For My Old Age

Oh, may I not be a saver
of small things, like my mother
and so many old women
and the occasional surviving
old man.

Let me not accumulate
used tea bags in a saucer
or opened single-serving-sized
salad dressings in the fridge.

Let me not hoard newspapers,
plastic bags, books, or ideas.

Let me relinquish, as she is doing now,
phone numbers, motor skills
and the days of the week.

And as for memories, when the time comes,
may I take them out, one by one,
and give them up lovingly
to the people sitting beside me,
to my right and to my left,
who have none.

“The Rag Man” first appeared in East of the Light (Stone Man Press & Slow Dancer Press, 1984).

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