By Janet Reed
What was I thinking watering the petunias
after the air hardened,
the days heavy with pumpkins?
Summer’s sweet fruit, spring’s easy blooms
weeks gone, yet the old strumpets
stayed on — splashes of red lipstick
still kissing their puckered mouths.
I didn’t see the wolf spider
until its maze of spun string,
silky resin and wet spray crawled
like a wool scarf around my neck;
its black eyes stared back at me
legs tassled in the dangling web,
daring me to let go
of the dried and used up.
And then I saw the cherry tree
flowering out of season —
bereft of green in its fertile season,
waitlisted for a chainsaw and chipper,
it had the fire of Pentecost in its roots;
stamen clothed in white lace
baptized its wayward branches,
tufts of new leaves sang hallelujah.
As Lazarus woke and walked,
I took up the hose and watered
those battered hags
until their lips plumped;
we are not dead yet.
The couch that last week
lumpy like the boxes
half-packed and rudely stacked
offered little comfort though
still life with tedium continued.
Some moments stayed on repeat.
The pasta boiled. The milk spoiled.
We ate Hamburger Helper,
Cheeseburger Macaroni, the four of us.
The news at 6 and 10 predicted rain.
Hiccups of regret formed on surfaces:
“If all it takes is a trip to Paris,”
he said, “I’ll book one tomorrow.”
Too late, some teenaged boys came
with a dolly and hauled the couch away.
Spoils of war stayed behind:
his grandma’s iron skillet,
the ruin-a-room blue recliner
sheets with conjugal smells,
the bed where the children began.
Things crippling to lose moved
quickly: the cat in its carrier,
old pictures, a glass and vase or two,
grandma’s hope chest, empty now,
its hope long spent —
The unsalvaged pieces, miscellany
collected over time, the detritus
of us declared a total loss.
I called the adjuster for an estimate
and let the lawyer do the rest.
Janet Reed teaches writing and literature for Crowder College in Missouri. She is a Prius-driving, Birkenstock-wearing, tree-hugging flower child whose poems reflect conversations she has with voices in her head. She is a 2016 Pushcart Prize nominee. Her work has been published and is forthcoming in multiple journals, and she is currently at work on her first chapbook.