Octogenarian

Monday November 18

I got off to a busy start today and here it is mid afternoon.

No introduction to this poem except that it was written by my neice Terri Breeden, another in a series she wrote about her grandmother, my mom, who died in 2005 at 102.

Storms battered our state, blessings on those who got hit,  and blessings on the people of the central Phillippines.

Today’s poem

 

Octogenarian

I was nine that summer

when you taught me satiated.

It came after precocious

and pernicious, but was obviously

and immediately the best word yet.

 

We refill the drinks with extra ice, cool ourselves

with condensation, that slick of sweat dripping down

our glasses. You proffer crackers; I decline,

satiated and smug about it. You shuffle and deal,  while the sun

slowly loses its glower in the Menomonee River.

 

I place each card carefully, fingers splayed,

intent.  I hunch a bit, slanting my anticipation

toward the deck in those gnarled fingers, toward

the sheen of sun on water, the road and the bridge,

the cities on the far side, toward you.

 

It doesn’t matter what we play: 66, gin rummy,

cribbage, even two hands of solitaire, laid out

like opposing armies or fields fresh planted, seven shirts

spaced out on each side of the clothesline, falling straight,

quiet in the fading heat.

 

You hold your cards loosely, competent,

a word from last summer, but you don’t

always win.  I learn to bridge the cards without

spraying any into the porch screen,

dragonflies darting toward the river.

 

I learn about matrimony from the thin band

embedded in the swollen skin of your ring finger, about eternity

from the way you refer to Grandpa as though

he were still here. And I learn about gratitude

without noticing, even how to spell it.

 

Some things though I didn’t learn, like when you taught me

octogenarian and I thought it meant

a person eight decades old, thought

it meant you at your next birthday, never comprehending

that it really meant

you would leave me someday.

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