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Listener of Sidewalk Traffic

Through the modest window above their bed, the young woman lay still and listened to voices of passersby with words lifting and falling. She waited in the dark for coolness to find her. Her fast ears wandered and scanned the surface like a submarine, shyly listening. Outside, townsfolk set down heavy yokes and let jokes, simple joys, and fragments of the day fall from their lips like Hansel and Gretel dropping crumbs of bread. Sidewalk traffic walked and talked freely while a bride listened in secret and pictured the lives led by passersby. Their round sounds floated up and pressed in through the screen. Beside her sleeping groom, she lifted a prayer and gave herself to the breez

A Bald Eagle or a Black Swan?

I never thought about living in a nursing home until a social worker declared that Mother needed the care given in such a place. The words whirled, swooped and kicked in the door of her house. No compromises. Her mind fought against leaving irises, gardenias, hydrangeas. No desire to live where wheelchairs grew beside narrow beds. Five years later, I can look back and see the truth: those who bloom in nursing homes are strange flowers indeed. Strange, as in exotic—some throw jokes, others wiggle-giggle, glow, or turn the color of shooting stars. Endangered species. Especially the few who come in smiling about making this decision for themselves. Everyone brings knickknacks wh

Life-Long Friends

Bright and sassy, Joy caught a cowbird with a broken leg. She mended it, taught it to whistle, named it Ringo, gave it a television. Bebopping around, she modeled how to walk like a bird. Then she sang a Beatles song to Ringo, letting her ponytail flippity-flop. One starry evening, Fletcher dressed in heels and blue satin like a starlet and sat herself down in front of a wide-screen where she imagined chatting with the movie star Julia Roberts. Fletcher fit right in. Anna mimicked a mannequin in a department store where we planned to shop. One minute, she was frozen in place, the next, quipping words to unsuspecting shoppers, Hi there! Good to have you here with us today! O

Storms Around the House

Outside, a scowling mass of black clouds refuses to let a ray of light pass through. Leaves tug at trees. Thunder crumples sky, lightning tears at it. And now, rain! It pelts sharp and fast on the tin. Inside, a restless volley of words. Hot tears from the woman. She runs out of talk, but her mind flutters like cottonwood leaves. She catches her husband rolling his eyes, taking a deep breath, blowing out a sigh. Then he puts the heel of one hand on his forehead and presses as if to leave a brand. She waits for flashes of lightning to stop, for low, slow motions to ease. The sky grows thin arms of light, and there comes a coolness, a gentleness. Longing for clear air, she steps into the yard

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