Things That Are Changed—March, 2020

- 1955-

A bandana. A cardinal. An apple

No. 2 lead pencil—the mechanical pencil, now empty—appears more vivid 

A box of toothpicks—now that I'm baking bran muffins

Rubber gloves: that Playtex commercial "so flexible you can pick up a dime." I tried once and it's true. Thankfully, I have yellow rubber gloves—like those Mother wore. We never had a dishwasher. No, that was her, the dishwasher. Not even this gloomy daughter was assigned the chore. Though I did learn in Home Ec. to fill a basin with warm water and soap; wash glasses before the greasy dishes then silverware and finally pots and pans. Rinse. Air dry ("it's more sanitary"). And I do.

Scissors: I cut up dish clothes to use as napkins. When I try sewing on the ancient Singer (1930?), the knee-lever doesn't work so I abandon the hemming. Then hand stitch while listening to the news. I am grateful for a full spool of white thread. 

Scissors: where once I used these to cut paper, now I use them for everything. Including hair. Father always directed us to use the right kind of scissors for the task—paper, cloth, hair. Had he lasted into his nineties, how would he have dealt with sequestering? With belligerence, no doubt.

Empty jar: I think to grow beansprouts and look into ordering seeds. Back ordered until May 1.

Egg shells: should I start a mulch pile? Mother had a large empty milk carton by the sink where she'd add stuff to mulch. And now T reports that because they are making every meal, Our mulch pile is so alive.

Sleeping Beauty, yes, that cocoon—

Moby Dick, The Tale of Genji, Anna Karenina—I left Emily Dickinson - Selected Poems edited by Helen Vendler in my office

Notebook: March 20, 2020
A student in Elmhurst cannot sleep for the constant ambulance sirens. She keeps her blinds drawn but sees on tv what is taking place a block away—bodies in body bags loaded onto an enormous truck. The governor calls this The Apex. And late last night, R called—"helicopters are hovering over the building!" She remembers the thrumming over our brownstone in Park Slope on 9/11. And just now I learn that religious people just blocks from her were amassing by the hundreds, refusing social distance. And I am full of rage. Some communities have begun to use drones to disperse people. The president states he has "complete power." And I am filled with rage.

Binoculars: a cardinal

102.7°F

Puzzling 

A neighbor goes out to pick up my prescription. I leave daffodils on the porch for him. I picked them with gloves on. 

More by Kimiko Hahn

The Sweetwater Caverns

Curious to see caverns,
we detoured in Tennessee
to ramble through Fat Man's Misery,
past a ballroom and gun powder machine
till we reached The World's Second Largest Underground Lake—
on which my husband had promised a ride
in a glass-bottom boat.

There, a kid hunched over a hot-rod magazine.
Dan, I think his name was,
radiant, in clammy, artificial light.

I asked Dan, college-break?
He nodded inside his hoodie
then helped me into the glass-bottom hold.
I peered into the milky water
and watched the seeded trout swim up for the chum
he dumped overboard on our account.

He was milky white, himself,
from months of cave sitting.

I wondered if he'd write a poem
on a summer spent underground.
Thought to suggest it—how foolish—
then wondered if what I really wanted was Dan,

as I stepped into his boat, to take my arm and ask me something—

at this middle age, probably for a couple coins
then give a promise of safe passage
as he ferried me to the realm of the dead

that I've been thinking about for several years
not because of a girlfriend's cancer
but because my body is no longer young.
I mean, lovely—
and that there's no turning back to that water's edge.
There's only the couch
every afternoon at four o'clock
and not wanting to ever move. Not wishing to die exactly—
just not wanting to rise
because the light feels so pressured. And I can't have 
that ardent glow reflected back while brushing teeth
or fastening a necklace. Now there's this

casting around for other stuff—
the daughters' secrets—the pathetic urge to write about their secrets—

or a crush on Charon. Not an old man as it turns out
but a youth, colorless and tired of his i-Pod.

No, he's not really of interest to me.
And this is my secret: that I wish he were—
as with those arms
reaching through clouds of cigarette smoke
to lead me into reeking dives.

I'm past that. And he, Dan,
not the poetic Charon—
will probably climb out of the caverns
into the six o'clock evening sun. Stretch. Change his shirt,
eat his mother's meatloaf and head off in a rusted Honda
for the Piggly-Wiggly parking lot
with a six-pack and a girl,

those hand-sized moths flitting in the light
as the sheriff chases the kids to another dead end spot—

those enormous dusty moths my husband caught
for me to hold in my hand
because he knows, in the afternoon light after the dank caverns,
how fluttery the furry wings will feel.
Which is more than melodrama can bear.

To have wished for Dan to ask me something?
I know the passage is not what you wanted to hear.

Alarm

Before doctors learn how it is that the brains lights turn on, they may have to know a lot more about whats happening when the lights are off. 
                        —Benedict Carey
 

In her dark she surveys empty: the vanity
from the in-law's Bronx apartment,

the brooch from a lover,
loafers by a coat tree, trench coat,

the husband's profile, an alarm

for news and forecast. Here
                                              she appraises fidelity
before the light violates.