An elderly woman
sits alone on a bench at the bus stop,
waiting for something, maybe the 609,
maybe her dead husband.
We all wait for the sun.
Incessant rain has sent small stones
and dirt clods tumbling down
the embankment in my backyard.
I can feel my house inch
closer to extinction.
Last summer, people complained
about drought, stunted corn,
impassable spots in the river.
Dry needles flared across acres.
We longed to hear rain beating on the roof.
Everywhere there is excess.
No hope to change the progress of the wind.
It will blow away the clouds or won’t.
I am stitching squares
for my granddaughter’s quilt.
Wedding in Fargo, 1960
I was one of six bridesmaids
in a canary cap-sleeved dress
and dyed-to-match satin pumps
which I left behind
on the way out of town
during a freak summer blizzard.
The bride, a petite Swedish blonde,
my roommate from college, who’d said,
I’ve come East to study Ibsen,
translated – I’m at Chicago to find a husband.
We’d shared an apartment on Hyde Park Blvd.
Dorothy discarded two guys named Ted,
one with six toes, the other a Texas preacher,
hooked up with Tom, a wired artist,
after he’d painted a life-sized lion
snarling on our living room wall, with oils,
the kind that takes four coats to cover,
like goose grease spatters
when our holiday bird blew up in the stove.
The wedding was acres of tulle, champagne,
and tomato aspic, the groom in tails, his beard
untamed. I prayed for the marriage.
Tom could swallow Dorothy with his roar,
she had a way of dissolving,
leaving fisted words
that could make snow-laden corn stand tall.
The Good Witch
My daughter brings home a wren
with a broken wing. She is crying.
She asks me to fix it.
I’m good at fixing things –
clogged drains, flat tires, a lopsided cake.
I don’t know how to fix
a broken wing.
When I was young, I had a white canary.
I forgot to feed it or give it water
or change the newspaper in its cage.
I was busy being a child.
One day I found it curled up
under its feeding dish, stiff
as the fake birds on our Christmas tree.
I threw it out my bedroom window,
hoping it would fly.
I do not tell my daughter this.
She’s still crying. Her wren
is shivering on the countertop.
An old, bent woman lives on the block.
She cares for sick animals
and sings to them in Polish.
The children make fun of her.
They call her witch, say animals
don’t know Polish.
She grows lush tomatoes and string beans.
Sunflowers line her fence.
She lets rabbits eat her lettuce.
We put the wren in a shoe box
and my daughter bravely goes to find her.
Nancy Scott is the current managing editor of U.S.1 Worksheets, the journal of the U.S.1 Poets’ Cooperative. Her poems have appeared in Witness, Journal of New Jersey Poets, The Ledge, Sliptstream, Out of Line, Slant, and other literary journals, and online at Cultural Logic. Her first book of poetry, Down to the Quick (Plain View Press) was published in 2007.