One Day in My Life
On the morning of September 24, 2019, I wake with a question. What does an ordinary day look like when one pays close attention?
The lamp casts a shadow of my hand moving across the journal. Intrigued, I press down on the pencil as if trying to imprint time on the page. I feel more than hear the scratch of the Pentel.
I write time!
When I look up, the shape of the wind is a river of beech-yellow leaves and I think how we each have our own signature. The wind’s is a loopy flow, with a freedom I don’t feel. Mine is focused with each letter made separately. I want my handwriting to look neat. I want control.
Turning my attention back to the bedroom, I’m confronted with piles of books under the window on the floor. Looking at them produces discomfort—a reminder they have to be put away. My husband’s expectation.
Hopper’s Nighthawks, for example, lies open, a full two-page spread. It occurred to me that it might be fun to write a haiku sequence to the painting, although it has probably been done. On top of painting are two haiku journals. The Overstory, and Jamison’s, The Recovering fall off to the side along with Midnight in Sicily. This written assignment on top flutters in the breeze.
Back to Nighthawks, I write another haiku in my notebook, ignore the small voice within that tells me I have nothing to contribute.
in the midnight city
The cellphone rings and I automatically answer. When the call ends, I drift to the iPad beside me. I scroll through messages, answer a few, until I realize my calm has been replaced with anxiety
Without a segue, sadness sweeps everything else aside. Tuesday, September 24th. This was a Judy Day. I visited her once a week on Tuesday, but yesterday I learned that after our last get-together, she’d died. How could Judy be dead without anyone telling me? I even missed the memorial yesterday having no knowledge of her death. No one called—her sons didn’t call. I think of the gluten-free chocolate-layered cake in the freezer, the one she loved. I was bringing it today along with her black tea. How can she be dead?
Later, I sit on the front porch. I look over what I’ve written, observe the sun-juddered trees, the evergreen’s long shadow in the middle of the court. Louise Erdrich’s The Painted Drum lies open on my lap. She speaks of how life will break you, betray you, but you’re here to risk your heart. I did that and Judy is dead. Erdrich’s solution of sitting under an apple tree, listening to apples falling wasting their sweetness, telling myself I’ve tasted as many as I could, doesn’t help with the hurt. Doesn’t help with her death. But I read it again anyway. Just in case.
Mary Jo Balistreri
Mary Jo has three full length books of poetry and one chapbook. She was a musician most of her life but due to the death of a grandchild and a consequent loss of her hearing, she turned to poetry. Mary Jo has always been interested in art and received her BA in art from the U. of Pennsylvania. Please visit her at maryjobalistreripoet.com. She lives in Wisconsin.
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