Three Poems by Mary Lou Buschi

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Oldest Living Things

Spring again, dizzy with babies.
Grisly groundhogs crawl from the shed.
Frenzied Chipmunks traverse the drive.
Cardinals dip and swirl over the doe
hiding in the pachysandras. What my eyes
can’t make out, the new rock my husband
moved near the shed. I walk out to get a closer look.
Not a rock but a prehistoric thing,
giant dusty claw outstretched, a shocking
tail coming to a sudden point.
The eyes closed.
Both horrified and amazed, I get down
to get a closer look when one eye twitches.
Slick green lids slide open and there we were.
She takes a good hard look at me and I at her.
A turtle taking a rest from the crossing
where she will bury her eggs in dirt.
I feel the human arrogance to help her,
wonder if I should lift her, but bring her where?

Later we build a fire in the yard.
J asks if I know how old the oldest tortoise is.
I make a guess, 80?
No, 190 years old. It must be the oldest living animal?
The fire cracks and Max, our dog, disappears.
No, I say, that can’t be right, whales live a long time.
We listen for a while to the fine clean riff of a Stratocaster,
playing through the speakers.
You are right, J says. The bowhead whale,
thought to be the longest-living mammal,
is estimated to live beyond 200 years.
What’s more, the ocean quahog is a fist-size clam
can live to be 500 years or older while protecting its proteins.
Maggie Rogers sings, I leave the fire,
to make another Clove Old Fashioned.
The stars are many.
What about people? I yell from the bar.
Guess, J says. I say, A woman in
Mongolia. She’s 100 and only eats potatoes.
Close. There is a woman in Japan who is 119.
She retired from her job in 1966, the year you were born.
Do you think she made it? I ask.
Yes, she is still alive.
No the turtle, do you think she has made the crossing?
The fire is full and blistering,
illuminating the iron cutouts of moons and stars.
The music clear against the night.
You know the jellyfish is immortal, J says.
Instead of dying it gets younger.
I don’t know if I want that but maybe if I do everything slower?
How old are you, moon, sky, billions of burning suns? I say, to the night.
The next morning stepping out into new heat, a fever sun,
I see her like a ship too large for a port in the driveway,
heaving her giant carapace, steady with each laborious step.

Portents

If you dream of a coffin, your teeth made of wood will teem with termites. If your coffin howls you will be visited by a messenger who will show you three symbols: a Fender Amp, a flickering blue light, and a long line at passport control. One Iconic, one half lit, the other hopeless. If you, yourself, are building a coffin it will be filled with Hyacinth, one of the cruelest blooms to sprout form dead earth. If your coffin is dancing like a tattered umbrella in the wind, you will remember the journey from birth till death like walking a narrow plinth in a shaft of light.

Glowing in the heat / like a minted coin you slide /down a silver slot.

Woman in the Sun
After Edward Hopper

Ron’s wheel is stuck on the dresser.
He’s gone to the wrong room again.
Who are you? He asks. He has cloudy
eyes and a far-away look.
Are you one of the rich ones?
I laugh and before I can answer
Ron launches into a story
about his wife, pills, prescriptions,
and desperation,
Isn’t that something, he asks?
I’m at Irma’s bedside watching her sleep,
enjoying the possession of the late day sun.
We have forgotten ourselves in a shaft of light.

Trundled away by a nurse, Ron appears
later in the day room staring
into the sound of the TV, his baseball hat,
that reads, Choot Um, slips down.
A woman with hair like the seeded
head of a dandelion grabs the brim,
and curves the sides back over his head.
He pays no attention
to the backlit seraphim
rolling their silver boats through the halls
over the yellowed linoleum,
uttering imperatives like a spell:
come closer, see me, I’m here.

It’s time for me to go out
to the wasted field dividing a ruined garden.
Out to the car where I will drive
into a sun that will swallow me whole.

Mary Lou Buschi (She/Her) is the author of 3 chapbooks and 3 full length poetry collections. Her 3rd book, BLUE PHYSICS was just published in February 2024 (Lily Poetry Review books). Her poems have appeared in literary journals such as Ploughshares, Glacier, Willow Springs, On the Seawall, among many others. Mary Lou is a graduate of the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers and holds an MS in Urban Education from Mercy University. Mary Lou has taught creative writing and literature in the SPS division of New York University. Currently, she is a special education teacher working with students on the spectrum.

Image: Jean Gervasi, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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