Zero through Ten
When hollyhocks grow along the fence,
Carol and I make a dandelion chain that
goes around the whole house!
Feeling magically holy singing “Away in a Manger”
In a church lit only by candles.
Sitting lunch, dinner, then breakfast, lunch, dinner
the next day in front of a graying scoop of liverwurst.
Finally I decide to gulp it down in one big, horrific moment.
I do, throwing up all over my grandmother’s shoes.
Even kids win some of the time.
Eleven through twenty
A vast voyage all the way from
lying in my treehouse reading Nancy Drew,
to making love in the back seat of a borrowed car.
From learning fractions to studying Latin,
from paper dolls to hair curlers made from frozen orange juice cans,
from sock hops to no socks.
From believing that being grownup means I can have ice cream for
breakfast every day,
to the terrifying realization I am going to have to come up with the rent
every month for the next 50 years.
Twenty-one to Thirty
Working for a living,
going into therapy,
joining a church,
dating guys who plan to become dentists or lawyers,
while, in my mind’s ear I hear, the heavy metal doors of
suburban marriage closing behind me,
bridge and barbecue.
I want to discover the meaning of life.
I sit on the backsteps of my little house
on Christmas day splitting a can of tunafish with the cat.
I want God!
Thirty-one to Forty
Now I have a career,
senior editor at McGraw-Hill,
where I change whiches to thats and thats to whiches.
In forty years I will hobble to the front of the employees lounge
and be given a Timex watch and a piece of cake.
I take up Tarot cards and move to Florida,
as the Major Arcana advise.
There, my life is waiting for me,
my husband, my friends, theater, art,
Paynes Praire, Poe Springs,
heron and bison and poetry workshops,
love and turmoil and beauty.
Forty-one to Fifty
When I was a child older women did volunteer work
and had hobbies.
They put together care packages for missionaries in Africa,
pushed bookcarts at the hospital,
organized church bazaars and quilting bees.
I would never be so pitiful,
I thought to myself.
I will be writing books,
long and lean and much sought after by men who live in New York City.
Genetics is destiny?
I turn into an old Vermont woman,
Stewing down home-grown tomatoes from the garden,
raising cats and, yes,
doing volunteer work.
Fifty-one to Sixty
Is like peri-menopause,
the organs of creation in a frenzy,
plays written, poems published,
children off to college.
The existential void looms,
“Fill me! Fill me!”
“The gift of time is upon you.”
What was it that I wanted?
I remember, I wanted God.
One day behind the counter of a homeless shelter,
an old vet asks for his mail.
I look at him and he, shape-shifting,
turns into Jesus, just for a moment.
(This I keep to myself, until now.
I’m old, it’s okay to have crazy secrets,
no one cares anymore, especially me.)
Sixty-one to Seventy
Busy, busy, busy!
For 69 years and 364 days I believe that I am in
late middle age.
I ignore being tired, I ignore being stressed,
until I can’t anymore.
I turn 70.
It hits me like a meteor from outer space.
I’m old! I’m really old!
I’m at the age people start dying.
Will I die today?
Will I die next Tuesday?
Time to find God now!
(Can’t I just go back for one day and make a dandelion chain
around the whole house?
Can’t I bike across town, wind blowing through my hair?)
I read mystical books,
I surrender, I don’t surrender, I surrender, don’t surrender, surrender,
little swarms of Godness dropping from the ceiling,
rising from the floor,
blessed decades gone,
blessed days are mine.