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A Few Small Gestures of Concern

Just north of Hartville, Ohio, where I drove today,

thick woods opened out to fields and cattle pastured

down to the lake. My mind was full of lists

of meetings, picking up medication and dry cleaning,

when suddenly for no reason, I was remembering

the time Lynn bought my lunch when

I had money enough to pay for my own, but because

she didn’t know what to say to my grief,

she said I want to buy your lunch,

and it was expensive and good and I was grateful,

which made me think of Sandra whom I haven’t seen in years,

walking beside the Willamette in Portland

in the cold sleet of a November night.

Nothing happened. We walked two city blocks

talking pleasantly about nothing in particular,

then she asked me if I wanted to borrow her gloves.

One afternoon, thirty years ago or more,

in my makeshift office in the Cathedral of Learning

with no furniture but a view of the Heinz Chapel spire

dark with rain and city grime, Ed stuck his head in the door

and said It’s a little alienating, isn’t it?

I wasn’t sure if he meant Pittsburgh, or teaching,

the view, or life in general, but they all were,

and who would have thought I would remember

this so clearly for all these years?

In December 1971 I was visiting Jane Bennett in

California, Pennsylvania, where I called my father

from a wooden phone booth in a drugstore.

He was three days away from his death,

alone in his apartment, aphasic from the strokes.

I told him I love you, and he said

You’re right. Those were his last words to me.

Sometimes when the years come close like this

everything that happened once seems to have been

happening forever: someone is putting cold cloths on my head

because it hurts, someone is sitting on the edge

of my bed where I am a fevered child in another world

far beyond hearing. Today I was only busy,

but when Anna touched my shoulder and told me

Take a little nap, you’re exhausted, I could see I was,

so I lay down heavily, like the bales of hay

the good farmer of Hartville pitched out for his stock,

because the ground is frozen solid,

because the weeds are iced with hoarfrost.

And like the cattle,I ambled over the cold field

to take whatever might be offered now

from the flat bed of the mostly reliable wagon.

from Dear AllFind more by Maggie Anderson at the library

Copyright © 2017 Maggie Anderson
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

Published in Maggie Anderson Poems

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.