Train Travel

The best part of our trip to Florida

Was the train

It took two and a half days

To travel from Pennsylvania Station to Miami Beach

We had a roomette

With fold down beds and

A tiny bathroom

At night I could lie in my bed

And lift the shade to see

Dark train stations as we passed through

In the daytime I sat on a bench next to my mother

And watched the backs of houses fly by

Tin-roofed shanties

Laundry hanging on the line

Cotton fields and tobacco sheds mile after mile

Each morning we ate pancakes and sausages

Served by Pullman waiters in crisp uniforms

Who poured coffee for my parents most respectfully

With white gloved hands.

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My first husband

Said I smiled too much

So I tried to be cooler.

He thought smiling people were shallow

Unlike him.

He had great depth

Unlike me.

For years every time I started to smile

I would straighten out my face and turn

The corners of my mouth down

In a gloomy and poetic manner

Which unfortunately never lasted too long

Because I forgot right away.

I seem to have an incurable case of shallow.

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If you look at paintings a lot

Which I do

You find so many scenes of fields and

Cities and mountains

Because artists memorialize

Places they have wandered with their easel and palette and

Buyers want souvenirs of where they traveled

So there is a match, from Parisian street

To a spot right above my head although

I have actually never been to Paris

Or on a sailing ship on the ocean

Or in a desert or jungle

I have only been up and down the street

Canvassing for my fancies.

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Growing Up

When I was a girl

I never washed a dish

Or did laundry

Never mopped a floor

My mother said

Time enough for that when

You are grown

So I did no chores

And never learned to cook, although

Once my mother let me stand on a chair

By the stove

And drop a potato slice

Into a hot skillet.

And once on the train to Florida

The porter gave me a broom

To sweep the corridor

While the rain spattered against the windows

And we raced south.

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Pool Time

Today I played in a pool with other women

For an hour

The water bubbled around us as

We made waves, swam in circles.

We wore bathing suits, all kinds

Flowers and stripes and skirts

Our hair got wet from splashes,

We were little old ladies

Tossing a medicine ball back and forth, we

Jogged through oceans

While the instructor stood on the edge demonstrating

Our next move

And the hollow echos of our happy shouts were loud

Against the concrete walls.

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Mother Love

I have a son and

I have a daughter

The lights of my life.

If they needed a heart

And mine was any good

I swear they could have it.

I might smoke cigarettes behind the shed with them

And never tell their secrets

But I think a parent’s death

Is the greatest gift

Especially if you inherit their heart.

Maybe I wasn’t a great mother

When they were little

So the least I can do for them now

Is die.

That’s something they will never forget.

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Lucky in Love

I have been very lucky

I have never been in

Unrequited love

Sometimes a man didn’t love me but

I didn’t love him first

Sometimes I stopped loving a man and it took him

A while longer to get on board

I did however stare at a photo of Jean Paul Belmondo

For hours

And later found out he never cared much

For me

That was a heartbreak as these things go.

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