Mom’s Oranges

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photo: “Triple Orange Peel” by fdecomite on flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/fdecomite/3410861761

“Mom’s Oranges” by Sharon Rauenzahn

An orange, cut in neat slices across the grain,
Sits on the cutting board,
Ready for teeth and tongue.
It’s a messy proposition, vibrant, advertising
Sour sweetness on the plate, in the scented air.
My mother loves oranges.

In childhood, she had nothing.
Family of nine living in a defunct service station
Just outside her Colorado town.
Hard-packed dirt floor,
Stained-glass kitchen window
Pieced together from ends of beer bottles
Scavenged from the roadside,
Set in a wall built of oil cans
Packed with sand against rain and wind and snow.
She tells of fixing the chimney in a blizzard,
Her dad coughing below, coughing, coughing
As lead dust from the munitions factory
Seeps from his lungs into blood and brain.
War work, for a man too old to fight.

Mom taught me to peel oranges
With straight shallow cuts, stem to navel,
Pulling the peels off in strips like bright orange canoes,
Or cutting round and round, a corkscrew spiral.
Throw it over your shoulder
For the letter of a name
Of the man you will marry,
P for Peter, G for Garland.

Everything she had was a hand-me-down.
Clothes, books, whooping cough.
Her father’s faith.
Only the orthopedic shoes were hers alone.
Heavy, ugly, wear them every day
Or grow up a cripple.

I thought she grew up in Little House on the Prairie,
Not the 1950’s we used to watch on tv.
Other girls had poodle skirts, saddle shoes,
Boyfriends with cars.
My mother had oranges.
Golden, ripe, sunshine in a box at Christmas
From her California grandmother.

She still eats one every day.
Or two, if she’s forgotten the one
She already had this morning.
She was raised to be tidy, so even the peels
Don’t give her away.
Only the sweet mist of orange zest
In air scented with memory.

10/27/15 (rev. 6/12/2017)

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The Problem with Progressives

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“The Problem with Progressives” by Sharon Rauenzahn

The problem with progressives, my husband said
Walking into the kitchen while I cooked
The problem with progressives, he said, is that
Don’t say it, I thought
Just don’t say it
Let it be unsaid
Don’t say we aren’t incremental enough
That we try to fix everything at once
That we are too pessimistic about people’s abilities
That we are too optimistic about government
Don’t say what you are thinking
That we let identity drive too much policy
That we have no sense of unity
That we want too much and understand too little
Just don’t say
What I know you are thinking
Married seventeen years, I can read your mind
The problem with progressives, my husband says
Pulling off his glasses, rubbing his eyes
He looks tired
I hope he likes this tofu curry
I’ve never made it before
I hope he doesn’t say
The problem with progressives, he says, is that
When you look at one thing with them
Everything else around it
Goes out of focus
I wish I’d gotten bi-focals instead, he says
I should have known he’d say that
That smells really good, he says
Is that tofu?
I wish I’d gotten the bi-focals, he said

February, 2017

Jumping out of Swings (for Esther R.)

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free stock photo via Pexels.com

“Jumping out of Swings” (for Esther R.)

When you jump out of a
Swing
Your stomach rises as you do
Hovers
As the sand
Hovers
Hanging below you
Then rushing up
Slow at first
Faster
Fast
If you’ve jumped high enough
Really leapt
Out over the playground
Higher than houses
Or airplanes
Then you come down hard
Into the
Sand
Rushing up
Swallowing your feet
Pressing up into your bent knees
Pulling your hands and face
Down into the sun-heated grit
Getting up again
Laughing the sand
Out of your
Mouth
Dusting the sand off your
Hard knees
Getting old is like that
Stomach not quite under control
The land rushing up
Slow at first
Faster
Fast
Not laughing so much now
As you cough the
Sand
Out of your mouth
Getting harder to stand back up
From the dust
Swallowing your feet

February 9, 2017

Advent: Waiting

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photo: “Dayton Christmas trolley bus in 1968” by David Wilson

“Advent Waiting” by Sharon Rauenzahn

what are you waiting for?

the new house (any house)
new job (any job)
for christmas
for my birthday
for him to notice me
for them to appreciate me
to grow up
for my kids to grow up

waiting to die?
waiting for life most of all
waiting for justice to fall, to keep falling
like the rain we’ve been waiting for
dry so long you forget what it tastes like
still waiting
he said he’d be here
how long has it been?
two thousand years?

i feel like it’s
just around the corner
like waiting for that bus
leaning out into the street
the smell of diesel in my mouth
that’s what hope tastes like

if it’s christmas
i can wait a little longer

December, 2016

Advent: Starlight

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Photo by Judy Merrill-Smith via Flickr (link below)

“Starlight Advent” by Sharon Rauenzahn

Starlight, and the winter snow
All wise men and shepherds know
Fall alike on cardboard stable
All cold myth, old fable

Yet when these dark streets erupt
Still I look up, look up, look up
At that imagined infant’s cry
To see if angels might reply

December 9, 2016

Photo credit: Judy Merrill-Smith https://www.flickr.com/photos/23881436@N05/5259313533

Shopping, Christmas Eve

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“Wal-Mart at Night – Menomonee Falls, WI” by Tom Boese, Flickr

“Shopping, Christmas Eve” by Sharon Rauenzahn

Momentarily blinded by the light of the star
Shining down on me from the Walmart sign
I gather my courage, enter in
Seeking, following
Where has my heart led me, again this year?
Looking, as ever, for that one perfect gift

Will it make someone happy?
Knowing only love would lead me here
This day of all days
Searching out that long-awaited, eagerly anticipated
Representation of love

For what else is a gift, any gift
Freely (or expensively) given?
Socks, slippers, this year’s fought-over Furby
Forgotten tomorrow

Yet there is love even here, even at Walmart
One more shopping day before Christmas
I know Christ died
I know
That things are only things
Grass fading, flowers falling

But today, this day made for man
I will be battered and bumped
I will seek and not find
I will wish for something simpler
Something
A little more real

All the time picturing
Little boy Jesus
Playing with Myrrh
Wishing for a bicycle

December, 2005 (rev. 12/7/2018)

Advent: Emmanuel

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“Advent: Emmanuel” by Sharon Rauenzahn

Where do you go?
We go to school, to the office, to the job
To the busy, the hard, the responsible
Going, go, go
Out and away

But the old songwriters knew
Years and centuries ago
What we need now is to return
To return to
Come back to

Back to the beginning
Back to Bethlehem
Come, faithful and adoring, joyful in song
Come to the cradle, to the crib
The birthplace, your native land

“Come, all you who are weary”
Says our Lord

Here we arrive
Here we rest
Here we come back
To the small, central heart

Mother and child
Man and wife
God with us

Home

December, 2008

Shake Out the Beach

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Shake Out the Beach” by Sharon Rauenzahn

Let love go.

Let the tide roll in, washing
castles
from the sand, washing
stars
from the shore, washing
wishes
out of tears.

Shake out the beach and go home.

9/4/1992 (revised 11/25/2016)

Photo: “Ebb tide, Sandsend” by Pauline E. http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/2771686 (cropped)

Colorado

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Photo “Flatirons” by Michael W Murphy, via flickr

“For Tom, in Colorado” by Sharon Rauenzahn

You see the world from here, atop your rock,
Spread wide before you in the summer haze.
So guard this memory, and pray it stays
To comfort you, when like a rust-bound lock,
Time’s distance bars this beauty from your sight
And you must dwell below, confined to earth.
I cannot measure what your heaven’s worth:
Though swearing not to leave without a fight,
Yet you’ll go quietly, and quiet weep
For days spent far from home, and endless nights
Spent staring, not at stars, but at the clock
In some hotel room, wishing you could sleep.
No earthly peace awaits, where you must fall;
You’ll carry it within, or not at all.

July 23, 1993 (rev. 11/25/2016)