On Nauset Beach searching for Sylvia
with her high words, right and perfect
archaic and pure like her soul
She’s not in the waves
fighting them as usual
rebellious, headstrong against the tide
Rather than finding her rhythm
going along with the flow
like the gulls above and the seals below
Perhaps she didn’t come here
today. She remained behind
to finish her poem
But no, I see her in her sand chair lying still
sleeping perhaps behind her sunglasses
open book of poems across her chest.
How did my mother get to be 89? Seriously. How?
One minute we’re stopping off at the Penny Candy Store
because we’ve been good in church
the next minute she’s shuffling along
like a wounded bird holding onto me.
One minute we’re passing around turkey,
mashed potatoes and gravy
at her sister’s on Thanksgiving
the next minute she’s crying because my brother
is no longer with us
he’s in heaven certainly with Alice and John,
Jeannie and Bobby, Grace and Fred, and Daddy.
One minute we’re all huddled around the TV together
marveling at the moon landing
the next minute she’s telling me for the hundredth time
that if she wins the lottery she’s moving back
to the Cape. Of course
she doesn’t play the lottery
but that only matters in the real world.
So Dad didn’t die when he was only 36
Dr. Zullo gave him an experimental drug
that rolled the stomach cancer back out to sea
And Mom didn’t marry that jackass pencil salesman
with his shotguns and beehives
and his big stupid Lincoln Town Car
She and Dad came around a lot and spoiled
the grandchildren taking them to the movies and ball games
and out fishing like our grandparents spoiled us
And Dad was there when we needed him for advice
and to diagnose the problems with our cars
simply by cocking his head and listening
Michael Estabrook is retired. No more useless meetings under florescent lights in stuffy windowless rooms, able instead to focus on making better poems when he’s not, of course, endeavoring to satisfy his wife’s legendary Honey-Do List. His latest collection of poems is Bouncy House, edited by Larry Fagin (Green Zone Editions, 2016).