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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?

Harvard Yard

. . . 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.


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