Arthritis, Salad, and Harvard Yard
By Michael Estabrook
. . . when you’re young
you haven’t time to think
about being old . . .
Grandson hears me groan
for no apparent reason
as I’m walking up
the stairs so I explain
that old people
get a condition called arthritis
and when it’s rainy out high pressure
builds up in the atmosphere
pushes down squeezes your joints
and it’s painful and . . .
The whole while
I’m talking to him
he’s looking at me as if
I just sprouted a second head.
. . . feeling useless in the presence
of this woman knowing I’m unworthy
to breathe the same air she breathes . . .
Sometimes I become completely overwhelmed
by merely being in her presence
like this afternoon
at McDonald’s with the grandchildren
suddenly I’m choked with emotion
barely able to speak
while simply watching her
sitting there eating her salad, quietly, unassumingly.
I had to work at not crying
(What a silly spectacle I would’ve been.)
dabbing at my eyes with a crumpled McDonald’s napkin.
“Guess my eyes are watering because it’s so cold outside.”
(Sure, nice try, you silly old man.)
I understand being so smitten when you first fall in love – how can you not! The beauty, the youth, the vigor and vitality, the inescapable mystery of it all, crashing over you like an avalanche in the Alps. But come on! I’ve been at this now a long time, with this woman for half a century!
How could it be possible that I still get choked up watching her sitting there simply eating her salad?
. . . men are idiots
around beautiful women
there’s no getting around it . . .
In the quad thinking about Dad being gone thirty-five years
and still missing him so.
Harvard Yard is warm this evening coatless weather
and the moon is full.
“What are you doing here?”
“I don’t know, Dad. Certainly I would never have been admitted to this place as an undergraduate, best school in the country.”
“You can do anything you set your mind to.”
“Yes, yes, certainly,” I nod.
“They have interesting courses here for older more mature persons with jobs and mortgages and children to feed.”
The moon is full, like I said,
on this anniversary of Dad’s death, yes
the moon is so full.
And Carol, my sweet, dear Carol from Rutgers twenty years back returned my e-mail. We took classes together in Provencal poetry and the French Renaissance studied Moliere and Racine, Rousseau, Pascal and Montaigne in the library and walked the campus paths with Ellen before the cancer took her.
My dear Carol is a professor of literature now in Atlanta, Georgia, of all places. I found her homepage with her picture so I sent her an e-mail.
She’s still beautiful, yes
like I knew she would be, her hair
still brown and lush and long, and full, too
but not like the moon.
Michael Estabrook’s most recent collection is Controlling Chaos: A Hybrid Poem (Atmosphere Press, 2022). Retired now writing more poems and working more outside, he just noticed two Cooper’s hawks staked out in the yard or rather above it which explains the nerve-wracked chipmunks. He lives in Acton, Massachusetts. https://michaelestabrook.org/