Arrangement and photography by Carol Bales
Gardening in Autumn
She’s been a gardener for years
but more and more she brings
flowers inside to arrange a
new garden on her mantel.
She’s in transition, she says,
but remembers summer fondly
in the autumn of her life
and sees winter coming so
she gardens on the mantel now.
There, winter’s not a problem.
Her arrangement, she explains,
has a dahlia, last flower of summer,
bold above hydrangea leaves
burning red in the midst of fall.
The mugo pine warns of winter.
The pine she’s had for 20 years,
remembers planting it and hopes
she’s an evergreen as well.
In the glow
of the porch light
a final fandango
nowhere to go
A Widow and Her Pekingese
after the news at 6 p.m.
the Widow Murphy comes out
of her tiny bungalow and sits
on her front porch swing
with her ancient Pekingese
yapping mournfully in her lap.
She waves to certain people,
just a few, while ignoring most
although she knows every neighbor
after her long reign on the porch
as the queen of our block.
We live next door but she never
waves to us or says hello to me
not even back when I was 10
and offered to mow her lawn free
for nothing, as I used to put it.
She simply looked away and let
the Pekingese yap her answer.
My father told me then not to worry
about the Widow Murphy’s ways.
Her husband died in Korea, he said.
They never found her son in Viet Nam
and she had a daughter doing life
for murdering a man the jury must
have known had beaten her for years.
The man was her husband and a cop.
Later in my teens my mother said
the Widow Murphy had every right
to be a private person and live out
the remnant of her life as she saw fit.
But when I was 10 cutting our grass,
I thought she was a ventriloquist
and the Pekingese her dummy
yapping for all the world to hear:
Life isn’t fair, isn’t fair, isn’t fair.
Donal Mahoney lives in St. Louis, Missouri.
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