Maxine Scates

March 23, 2018 Scates Maxine



I think I will accept my life, the moment
of its briefness, which means I must accept
my failures in this cosmos where only angry gods
reside.  When I am disconsolate, I wonder
did they ever cry?  If they did I think their tears
were always tears of rage which led them
to the carnage.  And though they were never
sorry, all of their mistakes were always
tragic.       There is so much I do not want to know
about what I’ve said and done, my daily meanness
and indifference, my stupid carelessness,
remembering instead a ghost town halfway up
a mountain, the graying clapboard of a church,
its open windows, or how my mother searches
for her blue ledger, the one she stopped using
fifty years ago though it seems just yesterday
which is why she’s searching and cannot find it
on any shelf or table in her room.       And isn’t
that the heart of it, my heart anyway,
she never cared as I do for the past and now
it’s a wave slowly sliding over her taking more
of each remaining day as it pulls away.  She knows
her name is written in the ledger’s pages
with the many she has lost, but when I say
I’ve lost my friend my mother is not listening.
She’s busy breathing in the time she has
when I’ve thought if I kept saying goodbye
my grief would lessen until I remembered
what I’d been thinking about when those windows
were open and the brightness flew in and out
and either way was fine,  a lilac blooming
and a dingy curtain waving all at once.

Maxine Scates’ fourth book of poems, My Wilderness, was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press in 2021.  Her poems have been widely published in such journals as AGNI, The American Poetry Review, The Iowa Review, Ironwood, The New England Review, The New Yorker, Ploughshares, Plume, Poetry Northwest, Poetry and The Virginia Quarterly Review and have received, among other awards, the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize, the Stafford/Hall Award for Poetry and two Pushcart Prizes.