Now that we have driven
all the way here, from one end of town
to the very end of the other—
past an airport with small planes
and a restaurant with a giant chicken,
through traffic thick with cars
and one school bus stopping every mile—
she does not want to see the ducks,
the ducks that are just over the hill
in the creek by the trees near a sidewalk
that is so paved and so accessible that
I thought this trip would be a good idea.
And I want to see the ducks.
“Let’s go see the ducks!” I say,
but she stares at the big green field
lying there like a vast wilderness
past a snake of a sidewalk.
She does not want to go see the ducks.
It’s not enough that I want to see them,
or to stretch my legs while I push her chair
and flex my arm muscles and soak in sun.
She needs to want to see them too.
And so we pause at the playground
where a girl is pulling a baby up the slide.
Both of them are laughing hard.
“Look at that!” my mother laughs.
And we watch these two children,
and they play on the slide, up and down,
and the sun starts setting over the ducks,
and the traffic on the road calms down
enough for us to get back in the car
to drive back up the road towards home.
A Poem with a Camel In It
The smallest is the size of a rabbit,
its fossils as fragile as an old woman with osteoporosis.
The largest, 15 feet, is too big for the old woman’s room
even if it were not a fossil but a plush toy.
Plush toys are never all that skeletal.
They are the opposite of skeletal,
with padding and fur and comic-strip features
on the most realistic specimens.
A 15-foot camel, either plush or plastic, is not an option
for a small, shared room in a large, shared nursing home.
Bones from a museum case would fit better,
under the bed or in the closet or separated into piles
for each of the old woman’s four drawers.
But that is no sort of camel for this old woman.
She can show you exactly what a camel should be.
If you mention archaeology or Egypt, forget it.
If you mention the desert, she will turn her head.
Ask her what a hump is, and she’ll laugh.
Just show her the little yellow plastic camel
that lives in Noah’s Ark and she will grab it
and make it dance and soar across the windowsill,
a camel with wings on its feet
flying over the heads of all the other toys.
Fun with Dick and Jane
I used to sit on the redwood bench
at the picnic table that was our kitchen table
and read to Mama while she cooked supper
or rested for a minute to read with me,
moving her fingers with mine
to trace letters that made up words
that made up the world I would want:
fun with Dick and Jane and also Spot.
Puff the Cat was my cat, tiger orange,
running wild in a field behind our house.
Jane really, really was my best friend.
We had more fun than I can remember.
Spot wouldn’t enter my life for forty years,
but she’d show up one day and stay.
I met Sally after she moved into a nursing home.
The afternoon she died, I played bird songs for her
and pretended I was back in that field with Puff
even though I was sitting with Mama
across from Sally, watching penguins dance.
This evening, in the dining hall where Mama eats,
I found her with Sally’s bear and a storybook.
Together we turned the pages and read as
Mama pointed to words and made sounds
that made as much sense as the world I always wanted
and when she got to “Ooh!” she said Ooh.
I was as proud of her as she once was of me.
Dick is my husband’s best golf buddy.
The two of them can play and play for hours.