Gray, watered-down dawn,
December. Sleep’s oblivion disturbed by arthritis
He rolls from covers.
Cat jumps off the bed.
He creaks along the hall to the kitchen, coffee and toast with meds,
a dream of flying on his bicycle tracks tears from eyes to mouth.
His hand clutches a crumple of pocketed paper.
The list for every day;
1. brush teeth,
3. feed cat.
His eyes slide past the silent phone. He counts days
since the last time a real person called. His mind shies.
She wakes at 7:00 a life-long habit, decades of work
for the county.
Her bed-covers barely wrinkled, she tucks and pats.
She smells medium roast, opens the TV cabinet.
Though the directions say to take her medication with food,
she skips breakfast, worries about fat layering her scarred belly.
She checks her cell for missed calls.
She will rinse her mug, wash and dress, smoke a cigarette
on the porch, leave by 8:30, errands, grocery, pharmacy,
home in time for an 11:00 talk show.
All the FaceBook walls of family groups. Many teeth.
While she keeps her wall colorful, she never posts pictures
of herself with another person.
She shakes herself.
One wrinkled hand
strokes the cat
purring on her lap.
Husband, 10 years dead, a miscarriage, ‘98.
Escaped an abusive second marriage. Nephews helped move
her boxes into a one-bedroom,
third floor, walk-up.
Never stayed for dinner.
No room for her at Christmas,
not even the year her mother died.
She chuckles, thinking of a religion where a long ago
family was told that there was no room for them either.
Nephews go to church.
If she had to take one of those dementia tests
in the ER where they ask you the date, day and
who is the president,
she isn’t sure she’d pass.
Orange idiot supposed to be running the country
haunts her nightmares, but newspaper is no more. She used to
count days based on Wednesdays and the Food Section.
Expired ketchup collection in her fridge,
fossilized popsicles carried apartment to apartment.
Just a cat or goldfish to see you
on your birthday. You sit on a park bench,
eat a hotdog from a corner stand.
Teeth gritted each dawn,
face to face with daylight
until the ash tail falls
off the cigarette.
Rachael Ikins is a 2016/18 Pushcart, 2013/18 CNY Book Award, 2018 Independent Book Award winner, prize winning author/artist with 9 books. Her art has appeared across the region and in Washington DC. Syracuse University grad, member CNY branch NLAPW, and Associate Editor of Clare Songbirds Publishing House, Auburn, NY. Her new memoir Eating the Sun a love story narrative punctuated by poetry and garden recipes available 4/2019 at https://www.claresongbirdspub.com/shop/featured-authors/rachael-ikins/.