TWO POEMS by Ellen C. Bush

/ / Issue 12, Uncategorized



It is my birthday ritual but every year I am surprised
to see my optometrist still alive, seeing me. He must be
past eighty, mustache and skin of a former smoker, stale breath.
I must have so much time left.

I’ve been returning to this chair since I was seven, but have yet
to memorize the chart. The majestic “E” that reassures
all doctors use the same measure
is all I can recall.

Today he begins too many sentences with
             As our bodies age
and he is not referring to his own but to mine. The astigmatism
changes, its clever nomenclature once with-the-rule turns
against-the-rule. Fifteen years ago my corneas were footballs
lying on their sides. Now they stand on end.

Which do you prefer: one or two?
Or two.

What should be a snap judgment
to me is anything but.
The lenses click in, click out
and although I can tell they are different, neither seems
better than the other.

Or two. 

                                      Are you in a relationship?

Or two.

Do you prefer to be alone?

Or two.

The curvature gets trickier
to measure, requires confirmation
through multiple methods. We must
duplicate the results.

Or perhaps one of us is just
unreliable. He steers out of reach
             the suspended mechanical arm
to retrieve a vintage contraption:
             thick eight-pound glasses
             I must hold up to my face,
             like watching opera through a periscope.

He slides lenses in and out of the armory
as my arms tire.

Or two.

                                      Would you like to have children?

Or two.

Which sounds worse to you:
being alone forever
or never being alone again?






Whereas the streets have glazed over in a quiet havoc
of black ice and the mail truck
glides sideways into a parked Chevrolet; and

Whereas the skulk of red foxes from the side yard
wood have barked their alarm one night
too many and the litter is one kit too few; and

Whereas the barred owl has flown from the willow oak
where we’d carved our initials and we no longer
know who cooks for whom; and

Whereas the dog stands atop the dining room table, nose thick
with mashed sweet potatoes, teeth wresting the pink
from the ham bone; and

Whereas the tea kettle’s whistle has grown
so weak we miss its whimper until the smoking
copper bottom pierces our nostrils; and

Whereas the child’s mitten hangs snagged
on the chain-link fence in a tangle of red
unthreading, unlooked-for; and

Whereas the bed holds the shape of the body, the cup
clings to the pulp of the orange, the door
swings, and the door swings; therefore

Be it resolved. Therefore the pavement, and therefore
the tires, the steering wheel, the hands upon the wheel;

therefore the fox, the wood beyond the clearing,
the red mitten, and therefore the child;

therefore the owl, the song of the owl, the tree
that held the owl, that holds the symbols
of our names;

therefore the tea and the leaves of the tea
and the kettle, the kettle,

and therefore the food, therefore the service,
the child, the dog, the child,

therefore the bed, and therefore the cup,
and therefore the door at rest.