Estate Sale Trappings

dusty boxes of faded physics texts,
outdated Methodist doctrine,
“How to Survive Breast Cancer” booklet with dog-eared pages

Scarves and gloves:
chiffon squares with rolled hems,
Sunday gloves, yellowed and safety-pinned into pairs

suits, and neckties of varying width,
closets stuffed with housedresses
their sizes creeping upward,
a lone prom dress,
its mating call color and shiny fabric
out of place amongst polyester pantsuits.

shoebox of family snapshots
undated, unnamed, unclaimed;
high school graduation portrait
alone in a nail stubbled hallway.

Medical equipment:
cane, walker, wheelchair
testaments to decline.

Employee of the Year award from a now-gone department store;
gold rimmed 50th anniversary plate;
perfect attendance certificate from the Lion’s Club.

once life’s treasures, their masking-tape price tags
now reduced to MAKE AN OFFER
on the last day of the sale.

Fort Davis, Texas

The ignorance of memory

A packet of my past is buried in the bottom desk drawer.
I don’t know what these dozen letters say,
even though I wrote them.

The recipient stood in my kitchen yesterday,
handed them to me – a birthday present, he said,
that money couldn’t buy.
The letters, neatly rubber banded together, were in chronological order.

He read them before the return
giving him the advantage
of refreshed memories. I am, however,
more comfortable in my ignorance.

There are things I remember:
sweaty backseat makeout sessions,
his sister dying in a car wreck,
the ways he planned to change the world.

And once, riding shotgun with our friend Doris,
I turned around in the seat, on my knees.
As he caught my hands in his, our eyes met and locked together.
I was the first one to look away.

The next-to-last envelope is dated July 25, 1977. The last one,
twelve months later, is an invitation to my wedding.
He gave us a place setting of our dishes,
a gracious gesture from a jilted lover.
Those same plates watched him hand me the letters.

Tonight, when I replaced the rubber band with a narrow red ribbon,
I realized that he’s not yet broken his gaze.

Lubbock, Texas
March 2006

A World Lost

A wagon wheel light

(a move prop abandoned
in the town with a Biblical name)

Tossed dim light onto burlap curtains

(salvaged from the basement
of Holy Family Church)

Competed with votive candles

(reflected off plastic tablecloths
as white as sacraments)

Lit two front-row priests

(and heard “Born to be Wild”
played on a mandolin.)

Nazareth, Texas

Assisted Living

No one should have to live in
places like this:
warehousing the elderly
is all it is
and anyway
other societies
their elders.
Not like here.

But you just don’t know
until it is your decision
to make

And you realize
there aren’t any
right answers
so the best can you can hope for
is the least-wrong

Which leads you to following along
at a barely-perceptible pace
behind an elderly parent
heading to dinner
at 4:30

And you avoid eye contact
with other middle aged children
which seems odd
except maybe none of us
are completely comfortable
with these decisions
we’ve made.

August 4, 2013

Saturday, Austin

Two glasses of chianti last night
lead to a headache today.
At the trendy hotel
a half dozen self-consciously hip patrons
eat granola and yogurt by the pool.
Five blocks down Congress
a crotch-to-knee wet spot
on a man’s ill-fitting jeans
trails a faint ammonia aroma.
An indignant street corner prophet
sheds one of his grimy coats
and begins his sermon
to the automobile congregation.
You buy four scones, seven daisies
then drive home.
I choke down three aspirin,
navigate airport security
and fly away.


Between Cancer and the Equator

The hotel’s pink stucco façade –
faded from age and sun and inattention –
guards the narrow street.
Four Americans crawl
from a blue Ford
pushing their way through air
glutinous from just-ended rain.
Crossing the desolate lobby
to a jacaranda-shaded veranda
they sit on dented red chairs
drink tepid Coca Cola through paper straws
eat pineapple pan dulce.

Below them
a languid river creeps past
its thick water the same color as the pastry.

© 2003 Melinda Green Harvey

It might be just a phase

It’s like sitting behind a car
and noticing that your turn signals
are synchronized
until a tiny difference in their timing
starts to make them,
slightly at first, then more noticeably,
pull apart.
The difference grows
until they are completely off
from each other.

And if the light is red long enough
maybe they will once again blink together.


Sky Harbor

The old lady’s enormous plastic eyeglasses,
high on her aquiline nose,
reflect blue-white light of Arrival monitors.
She clutches her substantial vinyl pocketbook tightly
under her left arm,
clinches a creased plane ticket with her right hand.
Her lips work with the effort of reading
the long list of flights. When she reaches the end,
she frowns, looks at the monitors again,
then edges to the ones marked Departures.

Behind her, in the B21 boarding lounge,
a brown and gray sparrow flies toward
a window, seeking a route to the outdoors.
The bird, up against the glass, sits a moment
on the aluminum window ledge, then flits away.

The old lady hitches up her purse,
its outside pockets bulging a crossword puzzle book
and last week’s checkout stand tabloids.
She looks at the monitors
at her ticket
at the monitors.
Noticing her lengthy stay
an airline employee comes to help,
scanning screens briskly
announcing Gate A2.

Meanwhile at B21
the bird wheels in again
to make another attempt at liberation.

The old lady’s face collapses
at the comprehension that she’s not even in the correct terminal.
Her rescuer unclips a two-way radio
and DO YOU COPY? crackles across the lounge.
He then helps her sit down,
facing the concourse, to wait for the transportation cart.
The old lady, perched on the plastic upholstery, twirls her wedding band,
already worn as thin as gold leaf.
The furry ruff of her threadbare gray coat rides up
and uneven ends of her sparse steely hair poke into it.

The bird looks toward the tantalizing outdoors
where catering trucks and luggage trolleys swarm purposefully,
hops a few feet down the ledge, stops, looks again,
then loops away toward the sports bar,
which is blaring Super Bowl pre-game shows.

The old lady looks jerkily up and down the concourse until
the cart arrives. The driver double checks
ticket, departure gate, then settles her
into the backward-facing passenger seat.
Still hugging her pocketbook
a hint of calm at last settles on her face
as the cart driver executes a swift
turn and heads toward the correct terminal.

The bird returns again,
flying at top speed straight into the glass.

What you gave me

Slices of your world
given to me –
careful, simple gifts.

     Coffee is on sale this week
     I am a light sleeper
     Today would have been my mother’s birthday

With what might be grace
I accept, trusting that each offering
is profound in undiscovered ways,
then smooth out the wrinkled wrapping
wondering what to offer in return.