Merton’s last stop in the world
before the monastery.
He understood flowers,
sewn signatures, bright
15th century choir books—
wine, blood, bread, flesh—
the goat skin,
One side of the page
the hair side,
the flesh side inside.
Dark and light.
How does anyone reconcile
what they have to do to live?
Spring Birthday Romance
Jane has given me a bluebird, Mrs. Dalloway, a meadow, Jo, an ode to my hair. Jane admires
Mrs. Dalloway’s black earrings; I turn on the flashlight in my phone to read Jo’s card. Lines
from Ferlinghetti: “The little airplanes of the heart/with their brave little propellers…”
We share spring lamb, wild salmon redolent with memory of the desperate swim upstream.
Mrs. Dalloway and Jane order sapphire martinis. Jo and I drink Spanish wine. We all admire
how the twine around Jo’s wrapping paper picks up the pastel blues and yellows of its tiny
flowers—periwinkle paper that reminds me of dresses I wore when I was small.
What treasures they’ve brought me: Forche’s new memoir, silver earrings,
a thin yellow journal, a cache of lavender. Mrs. Dalloway has made her own gift-paper,
dark-haired women lounging in a park.
We try to take pictures, but the room is gauzy-gold with candlelight.
Each year we look more like our ancestors caught in amber, heirs to lemon cake, chocolate
Sundays. Saved for last; lattes, cappuccinos, chocolate wafers wrapped in three naked ladies
standing in black heels at the bar.
Black and white suit them, season after season, their dimpled cheeks, sans airbrush, ample
gamines from the twenties who encourage us to strip down to our secrets—little shells in
boxes we open through the evening one by one.
I’m grateful for the laughter, pulling bags from higher shelves, hangers flying, (no one gets
hurt!), hair-swishing that wakes an old man up from his dinner with Nancy R. to feel the air
around him disturbed—yes! he’s perturbed, but alive!
I always leave something; a scarf, my gloves. Once I left my black cashmere coat, the one I
bought years ago when I had a little dough. Tonight it was a straw hat with a broad brim to
shade my face from sunlight.