Coffee heat rising

Noises

Here’s something that I found while cleaning out DropBox…written in 1997. I don’t think it was ever published, anywhere.

Noises

Classic Arizona Road in Rain

It takes a lot of doing to get into the Western outback. The water you have to haul weighs many pounds more than the other gear you need to survive, more than food and nylon shelter and clothing and tools. Before you start to hike, you have to drive hundreds of miles beyond humanity’s fungoid reach, and even then you’re not quit of its traces. You’ll always spot old mine tailings, rusted tin cans, buried rail lines, bits and pieces of plastic debris. But you keep going, and going, and going: seeking a place out of earshot of Man, the Noisiest Animal.

I doubt if that place exists. In southern Utah, at the end of a long dirt road that wanders through nowhere, is a patch of spectacular red sand dunes, weirdly terra cotta against a cerulean sky, itself so blue it seems unnatural. The sand piles up in soft, shifting hillocks reminiscent of the Rub al-Khali, Saudi Arabia’s vast empty quarter, only rather than bone-white and endless, the dunes are orange-red before a backdrop of violet mountains. It is a place that should be observed in holy silence.

Instead, the state of Utah has built a campground and thrown the place open to dune buggy and ORV enthusiasts. The chain-saw buzz of unmuffled gasoline engines rips the still air, and the brilliant dunes bear the scars of daily floggings. Signs listing the house rules are posted here and there: quiet hours between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. From six in the morning to ten at night, the human animal roars. There is no peace in this remote spot, a place unlike any other on earth.

Last night, after a 108-degree day, the evening was cool enough to invite me to stretch out on my backyard hammock and watch the sunset fade into the gathering dusk. A mockingbird trilled. A cicada sang, and I thought, I could fall asleep to this.

Not quite. As I settled into the swinging hammock and attuned my ear to the bird and insect chorus, a commercial jet thundered over on its way to Sky Harbor Airport. A cop helicopter grumbled above the war zone to the north. Cars surfed past on nearby main drags, and a distant roar like an angry ocean washed in from Interstate 17. An unmuffled car rumbled down a neighborhood street. My dog, Anna, ooked uneasily as she listened to someone else barking. I could make out three canine voices down the block, all yapping at once. On the radio, Marian McPartland jammed on with her jazz pianists; lazy with wine and distracted by the beauty of the evening sky, I had left the stereo playing and closed the door behind me when I came outside. Garbled music sifted through the Arcadia doors as unintelligible, distant racket. An air-conditioner kicked on, its growl as cranky as the copter’s. Wee-uu Wee-uu Wee-uu: a car alarm went off. Another jet whined past.

When I was a child, back in the dark ages of the 1950s, an airplane was such a rarity that whenever one appeared overhead, we all turned out of the house to gawk and thrill to the resonating thrum of the propeller engines. Jet planes filled us with awe, and airports had special viewing decks where people could go for a picnic, to watch planes land and take off. Who would think a time would come when the sky was never quiet? When the roar of jet engines was so commonplace we learned to ignore it, as we scarcely hear the white noise of a fan or a stream bubbling on rocks?

It was a quieter time: that is literal truth. You rarely heard a siren, airplanes were almost nonexistent, and no one was ever subjected to the noise vandalism of the rolling boom box. One of the charms of a city like San Francisco or New York was its noise: after dark, the traffic sounded like surf breaking in the distance. The groan of the stinking buses and the honk of gridlocked horns and the murmur of cars on their mission of commerce: these were the sounds of the city—

The sounds of the city
The sounds that you hear
In San Francisco
On KSFO…560!

Bet the radio station has taken that jingle off the air.

I’d kill to sit beside an ocean right now, one bereft of boom boxes and jet engines and yapping dogs and burglar alarms and motor vehicles and air-conditioners. Yet a beach has its own racket: the bark of sea lions, the squeal of gulls, and of course the roar of seawater pounding on rocks and sand. What is it about the surf and ork ork ork and kee-ew kee-ew that seems better than a jet engine and arf arf arf and Wee-uu Wee-uu Wee-uu?

One day when Anna was a pup, I took her with me to peruse real estate in Fountain Hills, a once-isolated suburb of Scottsdale, Arizona. Although rampant development is fast overtaking Fountain Hills, it retains some sense of remote quiet. With its view of the rugged McDowell Mountains and a bordering, largely empty Indian reservation, it feels in some ways like a small town and in some like a retirement community.

True to her German shepherd breeding, Anna was a high-strung puppy, at 50 pounds wired and difficult to manage. When I would walk her in my city neighborhood, she would drag and lunge and yank me around, despite weeks of obedience training.

At one point during the Fountain Hills excursion, I figured it was time to let her out of the car—the place is an hour’s drive from my home, and we had been cruising around visiting open houses for quite some time. I found an empty lot going to weeds, a convenient place for Anna to do her thing, if she chose. We climbed out of the car into a noticeable silence. This place was quiet. Jets flew over, but there, far from the airport, they were still fairly high. No boom boxes thumped, no sirens wailed, no engines mumbled.

Just as noticeable was Anna’s calm. She seemed relaxed, even mellow. We walked around for a while, and she showed no inclination to yank me along or lunge back and forth.

After a while, some players from a nearby golf course approached in electric carts. They headed for a road crossing a few yards from us, and I thought, Here it comes! Wait till she notices those things! All gadgets wheeled and moving drove this puppy berserk: cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles, skateboards, bicycles, roller skates, baby strollers. I braced for a frenzy.

The carts entered the roadway, so silent we could hear the riders’ conversation. Anna watched. I got a death grip on the leash and planted my feet on the ground. Any second now, the sound, the fury. . . . Nothing. Ears up, hackles down, she regarded the carts with mild interest: not a single yap, much less the usual rabid outburst. We went on about our business in peace.

Amazed, I wondered what could have caused this attack of tranquillity. Maybe, I reflected, she was responding to the very quiet and stillness of the place—or more to the point, in real life she responded to the unsettling racket that permeates her home territory, known to humans as the back yard. Maybe the matrix of aggressive noise imposed on her normal surroundings made her aggressive. For much of the racket that impinges on our lives is aggressive: helicopters and jets are engines of war; barking dogs and car alarms, the sounds of fear; unmuffled Harleys and wall-rattling boom boxes, the thug’s menacing swagger.

No wonder our children suffer a plague of “hyperactivity”: like Anna, they exhibit symptoms of a kind of psychic asthma, a sickness of pollution. In effect, their out-of-control excitement is like wheezing, frantic gasping at a noxious irritant. A hyperactive child, like a wild puppy, tells us what happens to our minds and hearts when we are subjected to a nonstop barrage of hostile noise.

Screeching tires interrupted this reverie, and, enough being enough, the idyll in the backyard hammock came to an end. Besieged, I retreated indoors. Marian McPartland was still holding forth: a beautiful melody poured from the stereo. Here was the only defense in noise combat: I turned up the volume.

June 1997

A Raft Made of Palm Fronds

Where we lived in Saudi Arabia — I grew up in an oil camp full of American expats on the shore of the Persian Gulf — the fences between our houses were made of sticks derived from stripping the leaves off the center spines of palm-tree fronds. Date palms, oleanders, a kind of jasmine shrub, and a tree-like affair that looked a great deal like a paloverde were the only things that grew out there, where the soil was mostly sand and salt. A sort of bermuda-grass would grow, in a sickly and lumpy way. But otherwise that was about it.

I had a plan, when I was a little girl.

It was to run away.

Not just to run away, but to sail away — because obviously, even to the mind of a young child, the only plausible means of escape were by air (impossible for a kid without her parents) or by sea.

The latter would be exquisitely dangerous. Even the ten-year-old I recognized that. But it was reasonable to reflect that to be dead would be better than to continue living in that place.

I was an unpopular little kid — a weird one. School was an unhappy place for me. And home wasn’t a whole lot better when I wasn’t sequestered in my room,  terrified of my father and  miserable in general with life.

So I hatched a Plan.

The Plan was to build a raft, equipped with a sail made from a sheet, and set to sea off the coast of the Rub al Khali, one of the most barren deserts on the planet. The body of this raft would be made of palm ribs, readily available from the fences the Arabs built to delineate the lots that held the Americans’ company houses. These I would lash together with rope and wire.

Once fully equipped, I would sail down the Persian Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz, then make my way up coast of Asia. Cross the Bering Strait and make landfall in Alaska. From there I would walk and hitch-hike down into California. And once home: take up the lifestyle of Little Orphan Annie.

Great idea, ain’t it?

This evening I was led to reflect on my father’s life, blighted as it was from the beginning by circumstance, and how he managed to overcome most of that. Yet…how any extended happiness contrived to elude him.

My father was a change-of-life baby, an unfortunate surprise for his parents. His youngest brother was 18 years older than he was.

His father did not want to raise another child, starting out in middle age. So he ran off, leaving the infant and the 40-plus mother in Texas to fend for themselves. She had inherited a substantial amount of money from her own father, who had made a fortune freighting buffalo hides out of Oklahoma into Kansas. Some time later, the unwilling dad was found by the side of a remote East Texas road, allegedly a suicide.

That, I think, is dubious. Given that during his careers as a prison guard and as a cowboy he had plenty of opportunities to make the occasional mortal enemy, I suspect it’s just as possible that he was murdered. But that, interesting as it may be, is neither here nor there.

My grandmother diddled away her late father’s wealth (equivalent of about $2.75 million in today’s money), swindled by dubious building contractors offering to fancify her home and by spiritualists who promised to contact the dead in séances from the living room. When the two older brothers learned their expected inheritance had been looted — way too late! — they turned on each other. My father dropped out of high school, lied about his age, and joined the Navy.

Hence, a career as a deck officer: Navy, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marine. It was this seafaring work experience that bought him a handsomely paid, all-expenses-covered job as a harbor pilot in Arabia, steering supertankers in and out of the port at Ras Tanura.

He led an interesting life full of interesting (but also often tedious) adventures. He worked hard. He set himself the goal of earning and putting into savings the amount of the fortune his mother squandered. Today, that’s no great pile of dough — to buy my little tract house would cost five times that many dollars. But he wasn’t an educated man and he didn’t understand about inflation. And besides, by the time he retired, the dollar hadn’t lost so much value that he and my mother couldn’t live a modest middle-class lifestyle on what he’d saved. They paid for everything in cash: cars, the house in Sun City, their daily necessities. If they couldn’t afford to buy it in cash, they didn’t buy it. And they lived pretty well.

That cash-only lifestyle — and its obvious benefits when good times turn to hard times — was what taught me never to buy anything that you can’t afford to pay for out of pocket. That includes a house: if you don’t have $500,000 in savings (and then some), don’t buy a $500,000 house. Buy a $100,000 house and pay for it in cash dollah.

[Unless, of course, your investments are returning more than the amount of interest you would have to pay on a mortgage loan. That concept was above my father’s head, but it’s worked OK for me.]

I think he never had a very happy life. Or if he did, it was only for short stretches. He went to sea most of his adult life: hard, tedious work. As for the ten-year stretch in Arabia? Who knows what he really thought about it: he wasn’t a complainer. I doubt if he thought much about it one way or the other: he took things as they lay.

My mother used my (supposed…) infection with mononucleosis in the 6th grade as an excuse to demand that we come back to the States. He reluctantly agreed. We moved to California, where for a few years he shipped out of Rodeo (in the San Francisco Bay Area) and then for a few more years out of Long Beach. By nature he was a homebody — he loved to putter, and he would cheerfully do things like scrub the kitchen floor for my mother. But now “home” was a cabin on an oil tanker.

He retired in the late 1960s…just in time for a wild inflationary period. Shortly, the value of his life savings shrunken, he had to go back to sea: he was on a boat when I graduated from college, and he was stuck in a storm off Alaska when I got married.

Finally he retired again, once and for all, and came “home” to Sun City.

I believe he and my mother were happy enough there, for awhile. But it wasn’t long before she smoked herself to death. Not surprisingly, given that she was smoking six packs a day by the time she died, she lasted only another six or seven years after they moved to Arizona. Then he had to care for her while she died hideously over a four- or five-month period.

Devastated by her death and the horror show that accompanied it, he sold the Sun City house, moved to a life-care community, and married a woman he met there. This was not an especially happy match. But because he was afraid that if he divorced her she would get all his money (Arizona is a community-property state), he stayed miserably in the union. By way of survival, he snuck off and rented a studio at another old-folkerie…he would tell the wifeling that he was taking the car to the repair shop, and then he would repair, all right: to the other apartment and sit in front of the TV all day.

LOL! You shoulda seen the Vigoro fly when she found out about that! 😀

When you come right down to it, life is a raft made of palm fronds, isn’t it?

b-a-a-a-d human!

Okay, I done dood it. Weaseled out of something that I’m too lazy to be bothered with today, and did it by virtue of a…uhm…prevarication.

I am soooooo sick of the brain-numbing thrice-weekly physical therapy sessions. Not that they’re not helping — to the contrary, I believe they’re speeding things right along. Not that the staff isn’t awesome and great — also to the contrary. They’re totally wonderful.

But…

First off, every session eats up, in effect, the entire goddamn morning. True, they don’t start till 10:30. But by and large I’ve got to go out the door by 10. Which means I’ve got to be bathed and hairwashed (a trick when one arm is almost nonfunctional), fed, painted, and dressed, activities that will absorb upwards of 45 minutes to an hour. And that means I’ve got to get started no later than 9:30. Which means that if I have the temerity to walk the dog before it gets hot, I don’t get much else done between breakfast and exit time. And it’s 11:30 before I get out of the place. Sooo…one could argue that the whole morning is dominated by these repetitive, nothing-new sessions.

And since what they have me doing is the same damn thing, Monday Wednesday Friday Monday Wednesday Friday Monday Wednesday Friday Monday Wednesday Friday into eternity, I fail to see why I can’t do those exercises here, without killing 30 minutes in driving time.

Which is what I intend to do today. Sometime.

Called them and claimed my car’s battery died and I’m waiting on the mechanic to come fix it. 😀

Well. It’s a likely story. And they seem to have fallen for it.

Now that that time-suck is dispensed with:

  • Drive up to the head shop on the way to the university and pick up some THC gummies
  • Proceed from there to the credit union, on the GDU West campus; deposit a thousand bucks worth of CE Desk checks
  • Cruise on from there to Costco; buy the things that an Instacart person cannot be relied upon to choose correctly
  • Return to the Funny Farm; get online to Instacart and order up 50# of birdseed from Costco, plus enough other junk to plump up the required bottom line to $35 so as to get one of their excellent runners to traipse over there, pick up the birdseed, tote it back there, and dump it into the bird-seed barrel (The issue being that I cannot pick up a 50-pound sack, nor am I in any shape to transfer 50 pounds of birdseed into the barrel, one shovelful at a time.)
  • Continue on about my business, which today seems to be perfecting laziness skills

Yes. It entered my furry little head that the store where we bought the marijuana plants might have other products…and yea verily: Look the place up online and discover it functions as a regular head shop.

Very convenient! It’s directly on my beaten path: up the freeway to T-bird (the shopping center is just to the west of the I-17), into the Lowe’s as needed (fortuitously, they’ve installed this dive right in the parking lot with the Lowe’s!), onward to the university to deposit clients’ checks, and straight up 35th Avenue to the Costco. Amazing!

Life as a Splinter in the Foot…

LOL! How’s this for a metaphor: Life is a splinter in your toe.

😀

Why not?

This morning I managed to drug myself with Benadryl so as to sleep all the way through until 5:30 and yet wake up without that Benadryl Feeling of  being locked inside a wad of cotton. The trick: break the pill in two and swallow the smallest piece.

So that’s refreshing…given that I’ve been waking up at three or four in the morning every goddamn day, no matter what time I go to bed. Actually got eight hours of sleep last night, for the first time in longer than I can remember.

But — nothing ever working properly these days, after all — the first thing I discover (well…after being reminded that the busted shoulder still hurts like Hell) is a tiny splinter stuck in the bottom of a big toe. It’s one of those hairlike things that’s so tiny you can’t see it…but not so tiny that it doesn’t sting. Found about where it is, reached for the tweezers, and…yeah… You know the outcome of that.

No tweezers.

Oh well. It wouldn’t matter anyway, because the thing is so tiny I can’t see it.

🙄

Honestly. Life has become a whole series of splinters in the toe.

The busted shoulder is more like a log in the toe, come to think of it. That one throws off a cloud of splinters, not the least of which is having to traipse to the physical therapist’s gymnasium every other day (literally!), and on the off-days having to kill an hour in DYI exercises. The PT is appreciated, nevertheless, because those guys have managed to at least return some mobility to the crippled arm. I’m not having to dictate this post, for example — instilling an error in every third frustrating, tooth-grinding word. Even though it’s ever so slightly painful, both hands will now rest upon the keyboard.

This means that late last night I finally finished the client’s 72-page-long Chapter 4, replete with 249(!!!) footnotes. Speaking of splinters in your toe… 😀

That project has caused me to decide that when this book is over, I’m closing the editorial business. Even though it’s an interesting subject, a scholarly study of just about anything will, by its nature, take the “interest” out of the most interesting anything. I am done sitting here for hour after hour after eye-glazing hour plowing through academic disquisitions, no matter what their subject  and no matter what their authors’ grasp of the English language. It’s challenging enough when all is well, but when you hurt so much you can barely think, it’s ridiculous.

And one thing that has become obvious: I just don’t have that many hours, days, weeks, months, or years left in which to plod along relatively pain-free. Indeed, it is entirely possible that I will never be pain-free again.

Yesterday I asked the physical therapist if all this agonizing treatment will work — if there’s any real reason to believe that the shoulder will heal to the extent that it will not hurt all the time. He assured me that yes, sure, right, of course it will.

But…what would one expect him to say, hm?

To get better, I need to get more exercise. But exercising hurts. So…that’s somewhat counterproductive.

Taking the dog for a walk of a mile or two, normally a favorite way to get some mild exercise, is also becoming counterproductive. Really, I need two hands to wrangle the corgi, especially if some other clown comes along with another out-of-control dog.

Last night we went out after dark, because in the present 100-degree temps the hot pavement will burn Ruby’s feet. We’re entering Lower Richistan, walking up the lane that goes into the parklike realms of Upper Richistan, when we see a car parked on our side of the street — the wrong side — with its headlights blasting into our eyes.

Jerk.

So I cross the street to get away from the a$$hole’s high beams.

So he starts his car, crosses over the road to our side of the street, and bears down on us.

No kidding. On the sidewalk.

So I grab the dog and haul her across the neighbor’s lawn, into the middle of the yard.

We miss getting hit, but this little terror kicks off a dramatic reverse-sneezing episode in the dog. She’s horking and horking and gasping for air as this a$$hole drives past, barely missing us. At least he doesn’t actually come up on the lawn.

But now the dog is in bad straits. I consider ringing a neighbor’s doorbell but figure there’s nothing anyone else can do. The dog will either get over it or pass out. If she can’t breathe, she’ll either catch her breath or she’ll die.

I pick up the horking dog — yes, busted shoulder and all — and carry her back up the street toward our house.

By the time we reach Feeder Street N/W, the poor little dog settles down and begins to breathe normally.

We continue our stroll, only through our part of town: the low-rent district.

For a change, no cop helicopters buzz us. That’s something. I guess. The racket from the drag-racing on Conduit of Blight and Gangbanger’s Way is annoying. Supposedly the city has a noise ordinance that bans unmuffled cars and motorcycles. This is most honored in the ignoring of it, by the cops. The cops ignore the drag-racing, too. When one of the bastard hotrod drivers blasted through the fence of a big lot up on Gangbanger’s that houses a small herd of prize cattle, the homeowner noted that the cop apparently knew the (drunk) driver — and just let him go!

So, no: we don’t walk up in that direction.

🙄

My son’s phone rang busy into the night. Since this is unlikely, it means one of two things: either his phone is on the fritz or something has happened to him. This morning I’ll have to try to call him again, probably to no avail. At that point I won’t be able to stand it and so will drive down to his house, which no doubt will annoy him no end.

But I can’t do that this morning because I have the dermatologist today: almost an hour-long traipse out to the west side. That will soak up the entire middle part of the day, plus a quarter-tank of gasoline. Speaking of splinters in your toe.

Oh well. Maybe they’ll have some kind of magnifying glass that can find the real-life splinter.

🙄

I’m supposed to traipse out to the Mayo on Friday to be subjected to some HORRIFIC ninety-minute test that entails jabbing needles into your muscles and setting off little electric shocks to see how your nervous system responds.

The drive out there, one way, is 40 minutes on a good day. So in toto we’re talking a total of 40 + 40 + 90 = 170 minutes of torture — given that driving across the homicidal roads here is itself a species of torture. How I’m supposed to drive home from the Mayo, with a busted shoulder, after this new Adventure in Medical Science escapes me. And in fact I’m thinking today I will call and cancel that appointment.

There is, after all, a fukkin’ limit!

The hour grows late. The dog is unfed. And so…away. I guess.

Forward to the Past…

Military hospital during the Spanish Flu epidemic. My uncle died in one of these places.

Sometimes it feels like the 21st century is carrying us backward, not forward along the current of time. The covid plague is itself a gigantic throwback to the past, reminding us of the 1918 flu epidemic, of the recurrent waves of Black Plague, of smallpox and tetanus, of typhoid and cholera, all of which were commonplace before Louis Pasteur brought us vaccines and sanitation. Since the contagion arose, I’ve taken up a time-consuming habit of my mother’s, something she was taught to do by way of keeping her family healthy.

I grew up in a God-forsaken American camp in Saudi Arabia. In those days, the Third World was seriously the Third World, and the U.S. hadn’t been “First World” long enough for any such concepts to have taken root in the psyches of my parents and grandparents. The company — Aramco — coached all the women on sanitation practices to protect their families’ health. (Married women were not allowed to work for the company; single women came out as teachers or nurses, but if they married someone they had to quit their jobs.)

(Yes, Virginia, that WAS life in the 1950s!)

My mother had been taught that every single piece of produce had to be washed — thoroughly! — in soap and water. This was because most of the produce sold through the commissary was grown in the Middle East, where at the time agricultural fields were commonly fertilized with human waste. Amoebic dysentery was endemic…and believe me, that was an ailment you did not want to catch.

So that’s exactly what she did: every apple, every orange, every green bean, every whatEVERedible was washed manually. Lettuce and cabbage were soaked in a sinkful of dilute Clorox and then rinsed thoroughly before going into the refrigerator. We couldn’t have strawberries or raspberries or the like, because they couldn’t be sanitized in any rational way. Even a melon had be washed with soap and water: a blade slicing into an unclean melon would smear any pathogens on the skin across the melon’s flesh.

And y’know what? Washing every single piece of produce before it comes into the kitchen is THE biggest PITA that came down the pike. It’s nicely exacerbated by having to squirt every cardboard or plastic package and every tin can with disinfectant and rub it down before it can be busted open. Ugh!

It makes shopping powerfully aversive.

I think of my mother having to do that for every shopping trip over TEN YEARS…that’s how long we lived in the godforsaken place. Good grief.

No wonder she had one (count it, 1) shopping day per week!

That’s about what I’m doing, too: limiting the shopping trips to as few junkets/month as possible.

We thought it was oh! so wonderful when we came back to the states and didn’t feel that every bite of produce had to be thoroughly washed with strong soap or detergent and dipped in Clorox. One might rinse it off, but one didn’t feel that every apple and orange and can of soup had to be sanitized.

That was back when America was a “first-world country” because it was one of the only countries in the world that had a USDA and regulations that inflicted some control over the sanitation of groceries sold in stores.

No so, anymore. These days much of our food comes in from countries where farmers can’t read the (English-language) safety instructions on the toxic insecticides and some still fertilize crops with horse manure and human manure. Really, if you were at all fastidious (or in the know about imported produce), you’d dunk all your produce in a sudsy bath of Dawn detergent and water, covid-19 or no covid-19.

Between that and the plague that has brought us a contagion much like the pre-20th-century epidemics of smallpox, typhus, typhoid, cholera, influenza, tetanus, bubonic plague, yellow fever, and — yeah: influenza, it feels like we’re moving backward in time.

Back to the future. God help us.

She had good taste…

Here’s a poem that Puerto del Sol published some time back. Truth to tell, the content is from a letter I sent to my son when he was in college. I’d retrieved a set of my mother’s stoneware from a dank storage bin at my Ex’s house — she died a year before my son was born. I guess the headnote is part of the poem…

Nice Taste

After two years of searching, my ex-husband and his new wife find my mother’s stoneware dishes, right where he/i/we put them, must’ve been ten or fifteen years ago . . . in the tin shed behind the carport, cardboard boxes rotting off them like peeling sunburned skin, roach grubs and scorpions scuttering in and out, but amazingly they’re all intact, or as intact as they were when they came into our hands. I write to my son about the dishes and his dead grandmother, whom he has never known.

It was all Denby and Heath in those days.
That was what the young society matrons
had because of course that was what one had.
Denby. Heath. Big lurching plates in dark lurching
colors, swamp green and mud brown and marsh blue
lighted here and there with dabs of St. Elmo’s fire:
orange and gold.

Well so I had to have some Heathware because
your dad and I couldn’t afford Denby
Though Sara B* had Denby, wouldn’t have
anything else and somehow Barbara B**
got Denby, too, well because her mother
worked in a jewelry store
(shh) and got (a discount).
So what I chose was olive green, not to say
avocado green. “Choose things that don’t
go out of style,” she used to say.

And that was what she would buy for me,
ageless clothes that stayed presentable for
ten years and looked like they were purchased
for my grandmother.

It never occurred to me that olive plates would
someday say, enunciating crisply, “Nineteen-sixty-seven.”
How could we ever go out of style?

The bridal buying frenzy infected her.
After I was settled in my new house she
remade her empty nest. One of the things
she refilled it with was a new set of stoneware,
just like the stylish young women’s: Heath.

Only she picked white. White with dust-brown unglazed rim.
Alabaster and earth.
Simple. Clean. Understated. Elegant.
And god help us,
to this day
they’re the height of style.