Pat Replies to Barbara

Of course I still think of you, Barbara.
You and I were such close friends, tho I don’t
think I remember it quite the same way you do.
I know that now the whole world is focused on
looking for these things, accepting or celebrating,
and maybe you fell into that same trap. But
that doesn’t mean I don’t think of you fondly,
all those sleepovers when we listened to records
and talked about boys—did you forget that part?
I’m sorry you never got married, but I hope
someday you still can, and that you’ll be
as happy as Ralph and I have been. That’s
what I wish most, Barbara, when
I think of you.


Henry Notices Ellen

On Thursday,
I fell in serious high regard
with a younger lady at church.
I think she’s about 55,

which I remember—young enough
to tell yourself you’re still in bloom,
not withering as I am now. Withered.

I had seen her before, I’m sure,
but something about the stained-glass
light across her face as she laid quilts
over the pews for the annual show,

something about the patches of light
and patches of fabric, a lightness
in her hands. I thought of possible



Ralph Prepares for the Estate Sale

None of these objects mean anything,
is what I would like to think—not
my father’s chair, not my mother’s glasses
on the side table by her (matching) chair.
These are just things. They could be priced
tomorrow, sold as a lot or one by one,
haggled over as I stand here in this stale

living room

where no one ever really lived, but where
I stood many times before, and never again.


Marge Tends to Her Houseplants

All these people looking for love,
but what is it all for?

Sailing out, day after day,
then dragging back home—
but what is it all for?

When I had love, it annoyed me.
The pestering at night, the

what was it all for?

Now I stand here,
deadheading my cyclamens,
drinking coffee,

enjoying silence
and space.

But what is it all for?


Ellen Remembers Belén

Speed up! she said,
thinking it meant wait up.
Cheryl got a wicked look in her eye,
passed it to the rest of us, like always,
and we took off running, as Belén
stood there bewildered, like always.

Cheryl said.
We taught her some English.
I wanted to speak up, I did—


you know how it is, when you’re
popular but not at the very top.
It takes maintenance of some things,
some people. Neglect of others.

Whole books have been written about that.

I could have written one myself, or about
how if you’re lucky, you eventually
become nicer in ways that aren’t too painful.

But I wasn’t nicer then.


Susan Longs for Frank Again

Know that I am wearing velvet,
a river of it,
a shadow of a whisper of
the color of my eyes

(I know you remember it,
so I won’t say)

Know that I am petals of
what I used to be, scattered,
but if you were here, you would
gather me up how you used to

in your hands

(I know you remember it,
so I won’t say



Ruth Remembers Her Rosebush

It’s lucky he didn’t end up with a trowel in his forehead.
Imagine! Planting a rosebush while I’m having his first son.
Not even sitting and smoking in the waiting room, but
running home to make sure I would have roses every
summer after that one. And I did. I’ll give him that much—
some years better, some years worse—but always roses,
yellow, on such strong little branches. Stronger, somehow,
after Ralphie almost ran away but didn’t, came back home,
thank God. Ralphie thinks I never knew, but I did. A mother
always knows such things—a good mother knows, anyway.


Ralph Tells His Grandson About a Decision He Made


The whistling wind was raw
and I barely had any jacket on
because I was young.

At the end of the alley
was a rigid, dead rat.

I remember thinking
that I had to make a choice:
whether to leave, then and there,

or whether to go back to my parents’
inferior brand of love, expressed
in food, mostly. Not what I needed,
but there it was, three times a day.

I chose to go back, of course.
I was only 10 years old, maybe 11.
But I paced in that alley for a long time,

and I buried the rat under the rosebush,
the one my father planted for my mother

on the day I was born.


Susan Tells Frank He’s Wrong

But that’s just it.
I don’t remember anything,
even though you say I should.
If I met you then, I met you then.
It doesn’t mean you know me now.
You should go back to your wife
who looks for you
in her heart

or out your front window.
Do you ever bring her flowers,
like the ones you just brought me?
I am not your lucky paradise. I don’t own

red lipstick

Not for a long, long time.