First Marriage Show
by Judy Altura
After he broke the glass to giddy cheers
he cradled my face in his hands and
just before he kissed the corners of my mouth
for the cameras and the crowd, he whispered that
he’d run the show from now on . . .that I not forget it.
The band was good, the bouquet tossed and
caught on cue, long-stemmed winter roses
championed home by over-champagned guests. . .
I found the photo in a dusty leather album
my mother kept and left behind . . .
big-eyed bride, boyish hands surrounding
cheeks still round with baby fat. . .
He bought a show dog
though he wasn’t fond of dogs.
He buttoned up my blouses to the chin
brushed the powder from my shine
found my laugh too loud, my prayers too long. . .
I was faulted for the wayward glance
of any stranger on a train.
The day we called the curtain,
wounds well-salted, pennies on the eyes
& all that jazz, he told me that he couldn’t
stay because I didn’t need him near as much
as someone new, never mind
the children . . .puppies really.
He said he was unhappy playing to an empty house.
I thought I was a room in it that needed air.
I will admit I was unhinged awhile,
until I recognized I was uncaged.
Judy was a trial attorney in the San Francisco Bay area for more than 30 years before retiring with her husband to Sonoma in 2006 to write and paint. Her memoir collection, Parking on the Upper Moon, is available on Amazon and Readers’ Books.
Otherwise it Was a Splendid Afternoon
By John Field
First the lazy buzz, buzz, buzz of my cellphone
And then its quick sting in my ear.
Scalpels in unsteady hands
Sense the nervousness of arteries and blood.
After which I stepped outside
Into the warm spring afternoon
And wandered about in my garden,
Unhinged by a choir of small,
Brown-feathered birds—and how little life
They required to make a song.
Thirty seconds, perhaps a minute later
I came back to myself and,
Thankful I was not the chosen one,
Mourned the sudden passing of a close friend
By holding a private service for his memory.
Seventy years old, in good health,
Each breath following the one in front of it
In orderly procession until…………
Well, nobody lives forever. Nobody.
Which is why I thought hard
About the departures of colleagues
Sent off to the cemeteries
Before George—and the ones to come,
Including my own.
But how could I grieve with the grip
On the kind of day a pilgrim
Searching for the meaning of life
Would travel months, even years to discover?
How clear the air, sharp the colors
(If you were still alive, that is)
As clouds scudded across the sky
Like tiny puffs of cannon smoke,
Trees primed to be worshipful
Lifted their boughs to the sun
In affirmation, leafing,
And roses had the seductive,
Satisfied look of flowers
That enjoyed being looked at by judges
At national flower shows.
Small wonder I felt guilty,
Like a naughty child playing hooky
In his own backyard,
Knowing there would be no more
In the flower stalls for George
And there was nothing I could do about that
Except feel mortal from head to toe
While I waited for the green in the leaves
Of the reverent trees
And the red, orange and pinkish-white,
Blue-ribbon roses to yellow in my memory
Like old photographs left in the sun too long.
But one flashback from that otherwise
Splendid afternoon I know for certain
Will never fade with the effort
Of its having been remembered:
During routine surgery
The journey George took
Between his flesh and eternity’s
Was a shortcut I will never forget.
John Field lives in Glen Ellen, California, with his wife Mary. His poems have appeared in the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Inkwell, Midwest Quarterly, Poet Talk, and other journals and magazines. A retired English teacher, he received his Master’s Degree in Education from the University of Exeter, England, where a collection of his poems was published by the Bettiscomb Press.
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