ALTERNATIVE UNIVERSE

At college, Father’s letters could be embarrassing.
He often drew stick figures on the envelopes
and sealed them with stick-figure hearts.

The year I was thirteen, Mother was in the hospital.
Dad explained that her bad days were epileptic attacks
and that she couldn’t help her angry outbursts.

Summers, during elementary school, I often went
to work with Dad at the shipyard. I had my own cap
printed with my name. It hung in Dad’s office next to his.

On my fifth birthday, our puppy dog chewed
the back out of one of my good sneakers. Daddy
bought a new pair so Mommy wouldn’t find out.

When I was two and a half, a man whose big truck
got to the corner just as Daddy’s car was crossing,
was able to stop in time.

 

Mary E. Moore

 

 

DRAMATIS PERSONAE

My mother starred in different roles,
some which caused me dread.
She'd sing pop songs and play piano,
then wish that we were dead.

Nana and Grandpa kept things steady,
playing their parts with skill.
Nana dealt out fun with card games,
made Jello when I was ill.

At the cellar bench, I worked with Grandpa,
loved tools, to his delight.
"Mame," he'd say, "if you want to do it,
be sure you do it right."

Concealed in Mother's cedar chest
lay clues to another's life:
uniform buttons, ivory chess set,
a poem, a pocket knife.

From these props, I cast a father,
I hoped someday I'd see.
With changing times and story line,
he did appear— in me.

Mary E. Moore
From November Day,
Shadows Ink Publications, 2008

The HyperTexts

 

 

 

REID AVENUE, PASSAIC, NEW JERSEY, 1938

It was a dead end.
My grandparents had moved there
from Circle Drive on Hughes Lake.
They’d had to trade their nine-room house
for a second-floor flat they shared
with my widowed mother and me.
Grandpa, a retired meat merchant,
made cold calls in his 1930 Chevy coupe,
peddling Hobart slicing machines.
Mother, a kindergarten teacher,
found herself chief wage earner,
Grandma homemaker and stand-in mother.

In that street, we kids rode bikes,
roller-skated, and played stickball.
On trash day, we went “garbage picking,”
searching the refuse for treasures.
An empty lot was “The Woods,”
ideal for campfires and Wild West gunfights.
“Imussbe a Cowboy!” “Youmussbe an Indian!”
The embankment, blocking the street,
held the railroad tracks, a perfect place
to flatten pennies and take dares.
No dead end for me.

Mary E. Moore
Loch Raven Review, Spring 2008

 

 

MARY ALICE, MOTHER AND ME

Mary Alice was, by all accounts, the smartest
of five children. Musically talented, she loved singing,
playing the piano for silent movies, the organ for church,
tastes ranging from Berlin, thru Gershwin to Bach.
Not pretty (she had her father’s Prussian nose),
but slim and attractive, “Alice” (her nom d’ecole)
was elected treasurer of her senior highschool class.

Latin and French were among her favorite subjects.
Learning new words and discovering their origins intrigued her.
She attended teachers’ college, taught kindergarten.
On a South American cruise, she met the ship’s purser.
He called her “Buddy”. He wrote often and earnestly.
Sweetheart, you are, as it were, the other half of me.
She left home at twenty-five when they were married.
She did not know me. I did not attend her wedding.

I called Mother “Timmy” (short for “Timber Wolf”).
Beginning in her late twenties, she had epileptic seizures
which slowly affected her psyche. Widowed at thirty, when
I was two, she moved home with her parents. Depressed,
I’m going to drive this car into a tree and kill us both,
easily angered, she was often overcome by fury,
shouting and throwing whatever came to hand.

Now it’s your turn to take care of your Mother!
my aunt declared, when I had finished college.
Years later, when I had earned a PhD in Psychology,
You only studied that to learn how to drive me crazy,
A psychiatrist, called to see her, instead confronted me.
Are you a child? Thus it was that I left Mother.
At forty-three, by now a medical doctor, I was married.
I knew Mother well. I did not invite her to my wedding.

Mary E. Moore

 

 

 

WITH DAD WHO DIED WHEN I WAS TWO

I went
to lunch once when
I had reached womanhood.
Seated on stone, shared my sandwich —
soul food.

Mary E. Moore
Amaze:The Cinquain Journal, Vol.6, #1, 2008

 

 

 

LIKE MOTHER, UNLIKE DAUGHTER

I realize that come next month, I’ll be
the age my mother was at death. So strange. . .
for she was old, back then. Yet now, not me!
I’m barely past my prime. There’s been some change,
it’s true, but in dim light my wrinkles fade
and, with determination, I can hold
my back erect. The young don’t offer aid,
don’t proffer seats to me for fear I’ll fold.

But, Mother, I can almost hear you say,
Compared to yours, my life was downright rough.
Small wonder you don’t think your looks betray
your age. Although some years we shared were tough,
I passed to you the genes for healthy growth.
I think I did the aging for us both.

Mary E. Moore
Time of Singing, Summer 2006
The HyperTexts

 

 

CELEBRATING A LIFE

She died at 92 and a half,
mother, aunt, grandmother,
great grandmother to far-flung survivors.
They gather at the funeral home
to affirm family, celebrate a life.
Recall her loss of a young daughter,
the premature death of her husband,
her second life as significant other,
educator, world traveler.
Note her proclivity to lie with what
she truly believed was a straight face,
her love of fun and nonsense.

Later, at a restaurant
after the food and wine,
her grandson unexpectedly asks
“What about those Birdmen?”
Everyone grins.
Three generations, as one person,
make circles of each thumb and index finger,
extend their elbows,
twirl their palms outward
until the remaining fingers
fit under their chins,
raise the circles to their eyes and sing lustily
“Into the air Junior Birdmen, into the air
upside down...”

Mary E. Moore
Loch Raven Review, Winter 2007

 

 

THE BEST CHRISTMAS PRESENT

For Christmas, the year that I was ten,
I don‘t recall what I gave Mother or Grandma.
But I‘ll never forget Grandpa‘s gift.

I‘d had in mind a tool. At his workbench,
side by side, we‘d built a relationship with tools.
Mame, he‘d explain, If you are going to do
something, do it right.

I‘d passed up screw drivers. Too ordinary.
Adjustable wrenches. Too expensive.
Then I‘d spotted it. The perfect putty knife:
Its blade – sharp-edged and shiny.
Its handle – clear amber, so bright
it seemed to be made of light;
pressed into one side, a small circle
enclosing the head of a demon, a Red Devil.
And, at twenty-nine cents, affordable!

Now, a lifetime later, re-wrapped in memory,
its contours are still distinct. I still see it gleam.

Mary E. Moore
Lucid Rhythms, Issue 3 - 2009

 

 

 

FLYING SOLO

He practices takeoffs.

Two nights in a row, he climbs out of bed
over raised rails, makes it to a chair,
preferring not to face death flat on his back.

I stack pots and pans around his bed,
a clatter alarm, to wake me in time
to prevent his falling down nearby stairs.

The next morning, after a quiet night,
he is once again sitting in the chair,
aluminum barricade undisturbed

When he qualified for hospice care,
we abandoned our common course,
plotted separate routes, learned new skills.

I engaged daytime home-health aides,
rearranged the master bedroom and bath
to best accomommodate the care of one.

Renting a hospital bed, I had it installed
where my half of our conjoined twins
once stood, settled myself in the guestroom.

I practice landings.

Mary E. Moore
Loch Raven Review, Fall 2007

 

 

WIDOW

My husband died five years ago
after twenty-five years of marriage.
At first, I missed him very much,
felt the lack of his presence
throughout the day.

But that has changed.
I began to hear his voice.

Coming in from walking the dog in the park,
“My God, Mary, look at that kitchen floor!
Can’t you ever remember to wipe your shoes?”
Balancing the checkbook, “Is it too much
trouble to fill out the stubs for checks you write?”
In the evenings, “Are all these lights necessary?”
Soaking in the tub ’til the wee hours
of the morning, “Are you coming to bed, or what?”

Next, I found my dogpark shoes
coming off in the garage,
my kitchen floor shining,
checkbook records complete,
lights not needed, off.
With more chores, I was up earlier,
to bed before eleven.

Then, the other day, I looked in the mirror
and there we both were.

Mary E. Moore
Loch Raven Review, Winter 2007

 

 

ME, IN BRIEF

Word is the instrument fashioning thought.
Verse is a siren whose stage-craft I sought.

Teach is the mother and daughter of learn.
Heal is the ultimate goal of concern.

Friend is a sibling despite DNA.
Love is commitment that cannot betray.

Age is a danger by virtue of length.
Lone is the basis of weakness and strength.

Dog is the animal studies our eyes.
God, if He is, may be there in disguise.

Mary E. Moore
Mary Meriam, Blogspot, Basic Me

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