Before Dying My mother never spoke in an unladylike manner. Her lips were incapable of forming foul shapes allowing vulgarities to slip through. She'd whisper Hail Marys when we had the chickenpox in a voice so pure it sounded like an aria, flowing by my bedroom in tones of paradise, mauve and blue. I remember the way she wrapped licorice over popcorn balls, salted and dipped in Carmel and how she'd weave tinsel over evergreens, shredding silver at Christmas time. She tweezed tiny splinters that pierced our fingers with the care of a surgeon and she'd sew the stitch of an invisible hem on black watch skirts; her needle so fast the light would catch and shine in continuous loops of whirling thread. She'd sauté sausage with scramble eggs on Sunday always dressed in her gold kimono, hair coiffed, nails the shade of orange poppies growing wild on the hillside. Oh, there were women who appeared close to her perfection, Audrey Hepburn comes to mind or Jennifer Jones for her role in Song of Bernadette- yet none could match such godliness from a daughter’s hazel eyes. But when her body began to fail and the sound of her voice dwindled like the soft grate of a needle on the vinyl of an old 33, Couture bowed to flannel gowns, cooking, morphed to TV dinners, primping turned to the swab of a tepid washcloth anointed in lavender suds. And when I heard her whisper bitch in the nurse’s ear, for adjusting the trachea tube when dying was in her mind, I realized what a burden it must have been all those years- upholding all that saintliness I’d assigned her.
Just Like John Wayne You've offered me so much in life my dear Come sit with me awhile my husband, here I have some things I'd like to let you know Regarding attitude towards information Maybe Just a minor transformation Would be grand if you could possibly reflect A moment on the blueprints of a man, Just like an architect, I fear perhaps you may Have missed when learning how to caulk a ceiling, was it omitted from your list? Because I've wondered when the toilet overflows Do you know the way to use a plumber's hose? It seems that I am more the manly one The woman with a tool belt strapped around My waist, it’s hanging low about my hips While I drink my beer with tiny sips, But aren't you the one my dear who's gifted? In this area, perchance I lifted Just or trick or two from those manly-men I dated when I was just a girl back when I courted many with their bags of tools Who rendered mostly brains of silly fools And you have all the attributes of which I gallantly commend so dear I hope You’ll take this with a grain of salt, ahem Never would I want to intimate or send The feeling that I'm unaware how superb You look in underwear or when you kiss Me how my heart beats ten thousand times With lips so full, they taste like lemon rinds Because your heritage is Greek and oh You have a grand physique, but if I could Suggest or make the tiniest request When you see an opening in classes Teaching ruggedness for men with glasses Like the guys who walk with cigarettes rolled In their sleeves bringing damsels to their knees With all the brawny ways of Hercules Well would you ask, if not for you, but me About a lesson plan you could enroll One that implements instruction giving Students a control explaining not to overlook, The ways to hang a picture on a hook, Or turning screws around until their in It's not that difficult, and yet for men Sometimes I think a class could help or aid A Manly- Class, without a failing grade And then when we're between the sheets each night I'll thank you for your willingness to learn, Cuz gee it would be nice to watch you spit And chew while opening your woodwork kit You’d swagger down the lane, a tough as steel Just like John Wayne without the cowboy heel.
Carol Lynn Grellas is a Northern California-based writer. She attended Santa Clara University and has had numerous poems appear in magazines and online journals, including most recently The Oasis, Las Cruces for Poet's and Writers and Munyori Poetry Journal. Her poem "Before I Go to Sleep" is scheduled to appear in the January 08 issue of The Storyteller Magazine. She has published one book titled I'm Packing Things for Heaven. She lives with her husband and five children who inspire much of her poetry.