by Jill Breckenridge, Arnie Johanson, Linda Back McKay, Becketwood Members
Becketwood is so fortunate to have Members willing to share their labors and talents with the community. A recent poetry reading in the Windsor Room included widely published Members Jill Breckenridge, Arnie Johanson and Linda Back McKay, sharing moving, exquisitely crafted works. Drawn from varied and rich experiences, the poems ranged from the natural to personal worlds, from somber to whimsical portrayals of aging in these times. Here are a few selections:
by Jill Breckinridge, Sometimes (Nodin Press, 2014)
Sometimes I Give Thanks
for Becketwood, where we live,
a cooperative for people fifty-five
and older, mostly older,
on fourteen acres graced with
four-hundred majestic trees,
also older, and too many birds
to count, including five big
Coopers Hawks, two Barred Owls,
wrens, finches, and bluebirds.
When the sun is just right
and it’s mating time, a male
bluebird, usually peaceful,
fiercely defends his property.
In a frenzy, he attacks the
side-view mirrors of our car,
first the driver’s side, you
can hear him pecking, and then
the passenger’s side, but when
he flies back to the driver’s
side, his relentless rival
has returned. The only thing
that can end the feud is one
black sock pulled over each
mirror, and then he will get
back to mating. Soon we’ll have
four or five nee eggs to peek
in at, and soon they’ll hatch,
and soon they’ll fledge. The
bluebirds repeat this mating
dance several times, and by
the end of summer, thirteen
priceless new bluebirds have
survived to grace our world.
for Gene and June Peterson
Sometimes You Feel
by Arnie Johanson, Bayleaves
The latest addition to the church décor
stands in the alto section, angel face
aglow below a blond-streaked auburn halo.
Her red gown can’t conceal her curves,
audibly distracting the tenors lined behind her.
Men in the congregation pretend not to stare
remembering what Jesus said about “looking
to lust after her.” Women glare with disapproval
and jealousy, a few with hints of lust.
The minister concentrates on the text.
It is good she looks so beautiful
since her voice is something else. Early
on the entrances, always fortissimo, usually flat,
with the timbre of a dentist’s drill.
A mixed blessing, to be sure, but in this church
any blessing we can get is worth a loud Amen.
In a New Hope Nursing Home
you lie in your floral robe, the bed’s head
raised so you can sort-of sit,
your head propped by pillows.
Eleanor, your youngest, spoons oatmeal
into your toothless mouth, urging you
to swallow. You spit it out
with something close to vigor.
How you doing, Grandma? I ask.
No response. Eleanor shrugs,
not sure how bluntly she can speak.
I grasp your hands, all bone and wrinkle,
blue veins bulging through bronzed dry skin.
A momentary glitter in your eyes
tells me you have one more joke to tell,
but it goes away unheard.
I say goodbye. You say nothing,
your head drooping. I slip into the hall
unsure which way to go and mouth
the words you always added to goodbye:
Send me a card
when you get to the old country.
by Linda Back McKay, The Cockeyed Precision of Time (White Space Press, 2007)
There Is No Such Thing as Free Time
Everything has its cost, even if that cost
is only time, which may not be worth
much to some people, but if you think
about it, time is the only way to organize
things, a relentless forward motion,
metronome, sundial, stopwatch, never
enough of it, even when there is
too much of it on your hands, time
is on your side and away like a lover
waiting for the heart to grow fonder as it
stands still for no one while healing
all wounds. But you aren’t a traveler
with all the time in the world. So bow
to an audience that appreciates your timely
ideas and remember, if you’re very lucky,
there is always a next time.
and The Next Best Thing (Nodin Press, 2011)
The Lapdog’s Soliloquy
I was busy creating my destiny until someone
pointed out that I am a poodle. Miniature, no less.
Someone grooms me on a regular basis. I am let out
when I go to the door. On the top of my head is a pompom
poof with a big bow and I wriggle when people pet me
right there, under my chin, a little more to the left.
Now that I know, it is not so bad, being a poodle,
lapdog to the movers and shakers.
I am prized in those circles. My senses are keen.
I can scratch in public. Not much is expected of me.
It is good to go for walks and visit my friends
the trees, drink the nectar of the autumn sky, my
little heart pumping fast and all that dog traffic,
ecstatically ripe and effusive.