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Saturday
Dec062014

At the  Library

I go through the turnstile hoping nobody at the desk on the left notices me. This isn't my town. But I go to libraries when I have time to kill. They're quiet. Inside, people are looking down at books or magazines or their laptops. They're comfortable. I move into the space with tables and chairs acting like I belong there. I walk past stacks of books (Why do they call them "stacks"? Aren't they book cases?) I look for a lonely place where I can huddle, open up my tablet, and read or write some words. The smell inside is kind of comforting: book paper or binding, I'm not sure how to describe it.  I find a table where no one's sitting yet. I pull back the heavy, rigid oak chair and gently slide into it. I pull out my tablet as the Velcro on my bag announces my presence with a loud crackle. I unfold my tablet cover, prop it up, and sign in as the bright bluish display glares at my face. I slide and tap on the screen to navigate to the notepad where I can begin writing about "At the library", my writing warmup exercise for the day. Now, a question for you: did I write this at a library or am I making it up?

Saturday
Nov292014

Open Refrigerator Door

The day after Thanksgiving brings a swell of gratitude that matches the feast preceding it. Here, in front of my refrigerator, I see food ready to tumble out if I'm not careful: cranberry jelly, Brussels sprouts, a container of mashed potatoes, stuffing, some extravagant chocolate cake a guest brought, wine, excess beer. All I want is a simple breakfast, but this array triggers my sense of obligation to use what's before me. This bounty forces a collision of palettes on my breakfast: I add mashed potatoes to my morning menu with eggs. With the quiet thump of the door close, I juggle my collection of containers over to the counter where I'll assemble and sauté a mixture of scrambled eggs with seared mashed potato cake on the side. The smell of the butter cake brings an aroma that fills the kitchen only once a year or so. The smooth, stiff potatoes melt in the heat and butter. The eggs congeal with the melting cheese in them, steaming up and appearing just done enough to slide onto my clean white plate sitting next to the range. My post-Thanksgiving breakfast clamors for my devotion and appetite. 

Wednesday
Nov262014

Widow

He passed in the afternoon, falling asleep for the last time as she watched his eyes shut and his breathing mouth pull in air. She wasn't sure if this would be it--she'd been expecting the end for days. But this was the last. After an hour, he simply stopped breathing. Silently, his soul must have risen to join the waiting Jesus--wherever that place is. Silence. Relief. She touched his hand again. But this time, no warmth, no pulse. He was gone. She made the calls, let the crew in, and went through all the busywork that invades a home when something like this happens. She wanted to move forward into grief, like plunging forward into the surf when it's big. It might knock her down. She didn't know what to expect. They took him away. She and her daughter cleaned up the room and removed all the things that looked like a hospital: the IV, the medicines, the special pads and covers. With all that hard work, she was pushing towards eradicating Hospital and Death from her home. And she would make that dive into the large curling wave in front of her just as soon as she could reclaim her home that evening. And so she did. A normal dinner with her daughter. No more running over to her husband's every groan or gasp. Just moving forward to her new normal. Her first plunge forward would be laying down to sleep. She dreaded the new dreams, the waking up in the night, and the waking up in the morning. But she went to bed anyway. And she did startle awake, listening for his sounds. Silence. Her pillow was moist with perspiration. She turned to God in prayer, to find comfort in Him alone now. Sleep crawled over her again. She awoke again, this time light in the room. It was morning. Like any other. Except this time, that wave came crashing over her, thrusting her down towards the sand. She pressed upward to pierce the surface and breathe. In the ocean, in her room, she was alone. He was really gone. She could not hold onto him. More waves were coming. But God made her a good swimmer. Or a lifeboat might need to come out.

Sunday
Nov232014

First Frost

Tomato soldiers refuse to quit.

Yellow, trying to force red

They cling to the vine while the plant's leaves are turning pale.

Other leaves caress the grass and bare soil below

Quitting, dying, but decorating the ground in a lavish performance

That goes on for weeks.

We look on the beauty,

Yet we chase them off the stage with rakes and loud blowing machines.

Squirrels frantically bolt from nut to nut, filling their mouthpacks

With provisions for winter.

If they can ever find what they bury.

How do they do that?

Birds don's seem so anxious.

Some just leave for warmer places. Others

Stay, and patiently find seeds and something, anything

In the ground to eat.

It will get too cold tonight. The cold

That kills.

Signaling tomatoes that their fight is over.

Just quit. Die.

Let someone pluck you, whatever color you are.

You won't resist.

But you will give your best to our mouths

As we cut you and savor

The last of summer's harvest.

Saturday
Nov222014

Early Winter

The spanking hand of frigid winter weeks before Thanksgiving hit the land like an icy stab of a knife. Walking on 17th Street to work, I bent my head down slightly to bury it in my soft gray scarf. But the blasts kept coming, cutting into my face like ice water. The wave of air swirled the half-pipe between the walls of buildings on either side of the street. I pressed into the oncoming surge, using the top of my head like the nose of a jet to cut through. The aroma of pancakes and bacon at Little Pete's came and went in a second as the gush of wind cleansed the air of all but the pure smell of cold. Again, the smell of Peet's coffee escaped a café but the force of Winter's vigilant hand scooped that up as well, leaving nothing behind.  For just a moment, I imagine sipping a hot cup of rich coffee from that shop, comforting my cold body. The trucks and buses seem quieter today. Even they take a secondary role in the symphony of city sound when the wind tramples on stage. The trees on the street still haven't gone dormant yet--they still flash green here and there. But the hard slap of this skyward hand will steal what little remains on their branches.