The Old Town

The traveler had gone this way before
and the route was familiar in its bends
even though the roadside inns he had known
were shuttered closed and eyeless.

At a spring made from snowmelt,
he doffed his hat to cup the cold water,
dousing his sunburnt face
when he saw the town’s stone marker.

He brushed his thumb against it fondly
and in his mind’s eye he cut the forest for grass
returning it to cow pasture, full of forget-me-nots.

A shy girl he had asked to dance on May Day,
decades ago, had loved them,
and pressed them between old books
to preserve them through the seasons.

He rose from aching knees,
knowing he couldn’t stay any longer
or he’d forget where he was going.


A Friend from Summer Camp

A girl who wore red ribbons in her hair
took one off to tie around
the wrist of her dear friend
asking her to promise to never take it off.

It stayed there through summer, fall, and winter.
In spring, the bare-limbed trees
began to sprout green buds.

While the ribbon had withered,
turning brown and tattered,
the girl had grown three inches
and cut her hair short;
She no longer wore pigtails.

Christmas Card Etiquette

For years I sent you Christmas cards and never received a reply.
Once, my well wishes included an apology because we had argued.
(Neither the card nor the apology was acknowledged.)
This year, I lost someone and decided I would try one last time.
I thought that at least a goodbye should be full of good intentions and sweet.
This was the year, you decided to thank me for my card.
I cried, knowing I would never send you another one.

At the End of a Long Illness

I have seen Death and he is neither gnarled nor gray.
He wears no hooded cloak nor does he hide his face.

Instead he takes on a form of such limberness and grace
And sings sweetly of beginnings,
Like a child at his play.

Dawn lingers in his footsteps;
He says to leave the night behind.
There is no need to reset:
Nothing to rewind.

Old aches and pains,
Rueful memories and sorrows,
Are but in this lifetime,
a set of burdens borrowed.

So I have seen Death and heard his whispered words
to one who already seeks him,
he is but a welcomed light.