Sunday, April 13, 2008

Eloise's Hat, a work in progress.

Finally, after many months, I've written a poem. I just wrote it this morning and it's undergone some changes, but I expect, with feedback from my writing friends, it will improve.

I wrote it in memory of a woman for whom my daughter was one of many caretakers the last few months. Eloise died of breast cancer, so this is for her and for all men and women who battle this disease.

Eloise’s Hat


The clear sky chides me from my study.
Knee-high grass waves and laughs.

I must mow.

I have waited through cold and wind and rain.
The hulking mower stares
from the garage.

I delay. I dress. I stop
for water, grab the key,
pull on my grandmother’s boots,
find gloves
and Eloise’s hat.

I am ready.


The lawnmower scares me,
all roar and wire and stuttering.
It could blow up.
It could stall out.
It could run out of gas.
It is like me.


It is red and loud.
I would wear earplugs
but I would miss birdsong.
I would be out of touch.

I wouldn’t hear the ping
of pinecones spinning off the blades
or hear the rocks
smash against tree trunks.

The yard flashes past me
at three miles an hour
and I must watch
the tall grass fall.


I take a drink of water, a long breath.
I push the mower into the yard,
slip the lever to neutral,
flip the park switch,
set the choke.
I am deliberate.
I turn the key.
It chugs alive after months of sleep.
I move the lever to forward,
move from choke to rabbit,
increase speed.
I drop the blades.
“Off with their heads,” I yell.
I’m off to murder the grass.


Here is what you see:

A fifty-ish woman
in her grandmother’s boots
scruffy clothes
and a broad-brimmed straw hat
strap firmly under chin.
Her gloved hands
grip the wheel
and give to its swerve.
She seems intent
watches the highs
and lows.
She doesn’t hurry
though she feels
the earth move past
without her consent.


I ride and mow
and think of Flo.
Her boots go with me
to stake and weed and harvest.
They stand with me.
They kick stray logs
into the fire pit.


The hat stays on my head
despite the wind and speed.
My eyes shade clear.

I think of Eloise.
I did not know her.

I imagine she wore this hat
on days when, wheeled to her patio,
she watched my daughter
weed and plant
the gardens out of reach,
this hat keeping the sun
from her face, her head.

I think how seventeen years
with a husband is too short.

I think this is a glorious day.

I think that chemo and radiation
might dim even my view.

I don’t know.

I thank Eloise for the hat
and write poems to her as I ride.

She rides with me.

It is my gift to her.


The broken limbs and twigs
hump over the fire pit.
I strike a match
and thrust it to the heart of things.
The flames rise to low tree limbs.
I hose them down to moderate the burn.
I watch the mound flatten to coals
and think of the women
I would not become.

I am all of them.

Thanks for the poem, Eloise, and for the hat!


Kathryn Usher said...

Yahoo! I'm reading so much women's body stuff into here.. red, Flo (flow), stall.

I can hear your voice read this and miss our times together. I wrote so much then.

Thank you for sharing.

mooveemom said...

This is amazing. Why did you ever stop? You obviously still have so much to say.

Thanks for letting me know it was here! I would love to read more.


dotsmom said...

Ya'll are sweet! Thanks for the comments. But the next time you see it, it may be slightly different. Who was it who said, "A poem is never finished; it's just abandoned"?


mooveemom said...

I don't know who said it...I wish I did. I would use it for my Emily Dickinson paper!


dotsmom said...

‘A poem is never finished, only abandoned’ Paul Valery

I searched for it on the Internet.

K. Smith