Saturday, January 6, 2018

The Gypsy Moths

I'm remembering the year
when all our community
was reading Cannery Row,
and our library held a short story contest --
to write a tale in Steinbeck's style --
and my story -- about my aging neighbor, Eleanor --
won the award for  "Most Steinbeckian."

I remember also how disappointed I felt
when the library failed to announce the winners,
on their website, or in the local paper --
I so needed this new community of ours
to know I could be gifted...

So it's good, now,
in this year of ordinariness,
to remember, instead of the award and the disappointment,
the subject of my story: Eleanor,
and how she taught me about the moonsnail eggs;
that the annual infusion of sugar ants
could be halted with Lemon Pledge;
that the gypsy moths devouring our beach roses
would never get their wings
if I blasted them with Formula 409;
and finally,
that even if you were determined
to age gracefully alone,
the time would come when a fall in the night
might leave you shivering on a cold tile floor for hours
until a well-meaning neighbor arrived
with your daily gift of oreos,
and hearing no answer, opened your door
to find you naked, lying in your own puddle of pee,
and called the EMT's, whose clumsy attempts
to re-hydrate you caused a heart attack.

Less than a week later she was gone, my intrepid neighbor,
dying in her hospital bed while her children stood there arguing --
two of them trying to save her soul
by forcing her to accept Jesus;
the other two demanding that they let her rest in peace.

All my life a caterpillar,
struggling to grow her wings.
What Formula is this, its mortal chemistry
crafted in my own imaginings,
could leave me struggling for breath among the roses,
my protective chrysalis dissolving, unfulfilled?

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