AUBADE

The sun peers through
the skylight, sneaks
catlike up the comforter.
He strokes her cheek,
they are drawn together,
lips touch,
toes twine,
hips press,
fingers trace,
the mattress a world
of infinite gravity.
Downstairs
the cat paces angrily,
the coffeemaker
thirsts for beans.

First Published in the 2005 Scars Publications Poetry Wall Calendar

CAT’S GAME

The cat is sleeping on the lanai, on the plant table among the bromeliads. The cat spends hours sleeping on the lanai when she isn’t walking on tables. There are tables on the lanai she walks on regularly. Walking on tables is forbidden we repeatedly tell her and we know she understands, but the cat reminds us that forbidden in a transitory term when you are a cat. Cats, she says, must go where they want, consequences be damned. And, she adds, I know you will always forgive me.

SOPHIE

She maintained an aura of what she
imagined was elegance, a carefully
constructed persona carried out
in the most careful details.

Her furniture had slipcovers, lest
someone spill and mar the fabric,
a tea cart always at the ready
although I never saw her serve tea.

She spoke with carefully chosen
words, certainly not the vernacular
of the city, perhaps of London
where she had been born.

Those she met would never guess
that this was the same woman, who
on the death of her husband, wielded
a baseball bat in the liquor store
she operated in the heart of downtown,
one she had used on one occasion
once enough that the word got out.

STORY

You are still there. You have a patience that I will not know in this lifetime. I know I can always find you, even though you never reach out to me except in my dreams. There I tell you my life story and you listen intently. You have no need to ask questions, knowing I will tell the whole story in due time, And time is one thing you have that I, increasingly, lack. So I’ll be back for another visit soon and you will be waiting for me, mother.

UNTIL

I was the adoptee,
was the whole for years, until.

It is always the until
that is your undoing, was
mine when she
remarried, then two births.

I was one third then, never
again truly whole and when
she died I discovered
in her will I was only
one twentieth, and
then never even that.

I want to forget her,
forget them, deny
them, but all I
know how to do is forgive.

STET-US QUO

The mind can be
a brutal editor, revising
history, rejecting memories
without a substantial rewrite.

My step sister, many years
dead remains five, that
young face engrafted
on the woman ravaged
by unrelenting cancers.

My first wife of 30 years
is mostly faceless, the
mental pictures and dreams
edited until only she
is unrecognizable.

And in moments of reflection
I am no longer adopted,
the step-siblings were,
but they are now
just like family, almost.

A SEPTEMBER SKY

Lie back, I said to her,
just stare up that way
stare into the sky
without any clear focus.
Do you see him now,
the hunter with his bow
outstretched, the belt
cinched about his waist
locked in his eternal search
for the prey that would free him
from his nightly quest.
And there, I pointed
can you see the great bear
gamboling with her child
or there a goddess reclining
on her heavenly throne.
Now she said, that’s
not it at all, not even close,
look over there, don’t you see
a small child crying out
for her mother,
and there, two lovers
locked in an eternal embrace,
their lips barely touching,
hips pressed together
reclining as one,
and there, clear as day
a cat lying curled
as though sleeping
in the warmth of a hearth.

Publshed in As Above, So Below, Issue 9, August 2022
https://issuu.com/bethanyrivers77/docs/as_above_so_below_issue_9

AT FIRST

The first time
I heard it
I knew
that voice
came from a place
I had never visited,
would never
be able to go.

It penetrated me
reverberated
within me
a harmonic
that shook
me to my core.

She reached
and grasped
what I thought
I had kept hidden,
and as I danced
with my
new bride,
I knew Etta
had led me
to love
At Last.

MAGIC MIRROR ON THE WALL

The face in the mirror this morning
was not mine, perhaps it was
that of my grandparents, all
I never met, having only
old and faded pictures that vaguely
resemble the mirror’s face.

It might be my parents, both
dead before I found them only
yearbook pictures and just possible
a vague similarity to the face
that i see in the mirror each day.

I tried to ask the mirror who
it was hiding in the glass, but
like most mirrors it was silent,
a sad reflection of its ilk, so
the old man peering out will
continue to be someone
that I have never met.

ONLY ONE LEFT FOOT AFTER ALL

We took private dance lessons,
she already versed in the dance,
a natural grace and flow, and I
moving with seemingly fused hips,
unsteady, bordering on clumsy.

As we went on, it began to come
to me, never graceful, but no longer
embarassing to myself nor her,
and the teacher said I could be
a natural, a kind and gentle lie.

At our wedding we glided around
the floor, a slower Eastern swing,
and when the song ended, I smiled
knowing that I had found the one