Marilyn L. Taylor
A former copywriter who found her true calling writing deathless advertising jingles for AM radio, I am also the former Poet Laureate of Wisconsin (2009 - 2010), and the author of six poetry collections. The most recent of these, titled Step on a Crack, is just out from White Violet Press (Kelsay Books.). My work has appeared in many anthologies and journals, including Poetry, Able Muse, and Measure, and I also served for five years as a regular poetry columnist for The Writer magazine. I currently live in Madison, Wisconsin with my poet-husband Dave and an aging cat, where I continue to write, teach, and hobnob with some extraordinary poets who also call Wisconsin home.
Mmm-mm, it melts the very core of me
to listen to the cheerful clink and jingle
in your deep pockets. I begin to tingle
when you declare that I'm your chickadee.
and you’re my guaranteed annuity,
my piggy bank, my breakout IPO;
and should you strike out in a year or so,
I could become your 501(c)3.
A little bit of Warren Buffetry
is all it took—a little real estate,
a tiny merger— to emancipate
those lovely megabucks. And I agree,
the time has clearly come for you to lay
your Freddie Mac against my Fannie May.
Women at Sixty
turn from their bodies
in embarrassment, as if
they had found themselves
wearing the wrong thing.
They wonder how
it could have come to this,
how the gardenia flesh
could have wilted on the stem
and how the boys they married
could be hovering like mayflies
around the wet-bar, learning
the slow idioms of old men.
They try to bring to mind
what they were doing
on the day growing old began:
opting for the condominium,
the artificial Christmas tree?
Catching their children speaking
in profundities? Or was it when
they first noticed, thunderstruck,
that their fickle bodies were
casually betraying them,
relentlessly eroding under
the damask of their skin?
It no longer takes them
by surprise, these revelations.
They have begun to understand
that they (of all people)
must finally slip into the role
of elder, of relic, of crone
and take their leave—gathering
their cloaks about them,
holding the edges tightly
at the throat.
The 84th Street Care Home
If you’re not ready for a nursing home,
live where you belong—in a comfortable
house in a pleasant neighborhood.
We live in this house.
It fits right in.
Its windows face
the long afternoons.
It fits right in,
and no one would guess
the long afternoons
mean nothing to us
and no one would guess
that the other houses
mean nothing to us—
except for the little boys
that the other houses
gather in at dusk.
The little boys
think we’re ghosts
gathering at dusk
to frequent their dreams.
They think we’re ghosts
when our night visits seem
too frequent. Their dreams
make them shudder—
our night visits seem
like shadows, wavering but persistent.
Make them shutter
their windows, face
their own shadows. Wavering but persistent,
we live in this house.
Drive All Night
Simply set your cruising speed at sixty-eight,
stick to the Interstate, and you’ll arrive
like morning’s minion, pal—your hair
wind-flattened on one side, pulse walloping
at optimum efficiency, tight schedule intact.
Just repeat after me: avoid small towns.
That’s right, eschew those towns,
friend, those glomerations of eight
or nine hundred rubes named Dwayne, intact
in their dullness. Their collective aim: to arrive
at the local wienie-works on time—hair
greased, molars brushed, haunches walloping.
It’s true, of course, that your own walloping
windshield wipers could turn some of these towns
(for all their Wal-Marts and parking meters and Hair
Chalets) into vapor-lit versions of eight-
eenth century streetscapes. Especially if you arrive
under canopies of ancient elms, all intact.
And if a row of bungalows, equally intact,
happens to feature one lace curtain walloping
crazily in the night breeze, you might arrive
at certain conclusions about small towns.
You might even come within a hair
of staying for supper. Even if you just ate.
Maybe you find a chrome diner, circa 1958,
with pictures of Charlie Chaplin tacked
to the walls. A waitress with long copper hair
grins and takes your order: a walloping
plate of beans and ham, followed by the town’s
finest apple pie. Then the locals start to arrive:
Where’s your girl, Dwayne? You got a riv-
al, buddy? You just been eight-
balled? Well, here’s what the town’s
been saying—she ain’t what you call intact,
boy. Broad needs a good walloping
to keep her zipped up and out of your hair.
—Fade out. No diner, no copper hair, no small towns.
Only those walloping tires and the hum of your V-8.
Drive all night, friend. Arrive intact.
Home Again, Home Again
The children are back, the children are back—
They’ve come to take refuge, exhale and unpack;
The marriage has faltered, the job has gone bad,
Come open the door for them, Mother and Dad.
The city apartment is leaky and cold,
The landlord lascivious, greedy and old—
The mattress is lumpy, the oven’s encrusted,
The freezer, the fan, and the toilet have rusted.
The company caved, the boss went broke,
The job and the love-affair, all up in smoke.
The anguish of loneliness comes as a shock—
O heart in the doldrums, O heart in hock.
And so they return with their piles of possessions,
Their terrified cats and their mournful expressions,
Reclaiming the bedrooms they had in their teens,
Clean towels, warm comforter, glass figurines.
Downstairs in the kitchen the father and mother
Don’t say a word, but they look at each other
As down from the hill comes Jill, comes Jack.
The children are back. The children are back.
'"Simple Arithmetic" was originally published by Aralia Press as part of a crown of sonnets titled “The Seven Very Liberal Arts” "Women at Sixty" was originally published in Smartish Pace "The 84th Street Care Home" was originally published in Verse Wisconsin "Drive All Night" was originally published in Verse Wisconsin "Home Again, Home Again" was originally published in Mezzo Cammin ©2016 Marilyn L. Taylor
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