But none of those were quite like Anita

The taxi-man
who hangs out on Liberty,
smokes outside his cab
with his fedora folded over to one side.

He reads the paper
with December swirling around him,
and waves to old so and sos
by the fish market.

He’s ferried boxers
to their big-time fights
and mayors and other politicians.

But none of those were
quite like Anita.

Old Jack here,
frankly doesn’t give a damn
about washed-up, has-beens who
frequently stiff him for the fare.

He was an infantry soldier,
owned his own business
even won some awards and accolades.
But he doesn’t think about his former life,
now ten years into retirement.

Alls he thinks about now is Anita.
She, with her short, dark hair,
sat in his cab for 35 minutes
and asked him all kinds of questions.

She asked him why he looked like
he’d seen a thing or two.
She asked him if he liked jazz.
If he liked driving a taxi.

She asked him if he’d ever
kissed a girl in the rain.
If he’d ever been to another country.

She then asked him about the war,
but got real quiet when she did.
He thought that was mighty cute.

She was about his age,
though you couldn’t tell on account of
her hair dye.

Anyways, she got outta the cab,
that cold December day,
grabbed Jack by the shoulder
from the back seat
and whispered something in his ear.

She wrote her number down,
but he lost the slip of paper
before he built up the courage to ask her out.

Now, all Jack does is drive real slow
when he’s on Liberty –
trying to find a girl who will ask him
some more questions.

Jody

Walk into the service with your head hung low; a sign of misplaced respect for the deceased. Hug old friends and shake the hands of people you only slightly remember.

The deacons tell you to pick up a stone from a basket at the entrance. Curious, you think, but you gladly hold the small gray stone in your palm and massage the smooth surface with your fingers.

Smile and wince simultaneously at folks who nod as you pass them by in the tight pews. Too tight, you think, why do they make them so close together?

Throw the back of your brown, tweed sportcoat behind you. Notice, for the first time, that every man is wearing a black or navy blue suit with a white shirt and a dark tie and every woman is wearing a black dress with white fringe somewhere. 

Organ music swells. You wonder how they build instruments like that. So encompassing, the sound.

The service begins. The minister speaks like poetry. A rhythm that’s unmistakable. There’s no words out of place. Each word is as beautiful as the last. Each word carries a cosmic weight.

Friends and siblings speak effortlessly about her kindness, her wit, her writing, her love. Your friends cry when her sons get up to speak. When was the last time you saw any of them cry? You can’t recall really, but it’s been a long time, you’re sure of that.

They get through their short speeches with indelible strength. They pause when they must, to choke back all the things that come rushing forth. You are proud of them and wonder how you will do when you find yourself in their shoes one day.

You feel something hanging all around the room. God? You ask the inside of your head. He doesn’t answer audibly, though, maybe he doesn’t need to.

Her husband speaks. He is a good man and his goodness is profound in that moment. How deep his love is for her. Is not was. Is.

Piano playing, poems recited, favorite blues songs echo from the speakers. All of it quiet reflection for a woman who was like a second mother to you. You cry too, but mostly because it’s beautiful.

The minister tells the congregation to remember the stone they are holding in their hand. This stone is from Rhode Island. She has been going to the beach where the stones were collected since she was a small child. Feel the weight of the stone. Feel its texture. Cup it in your hands. Now, imagine that in one of her many years at that beach, she may have picked up the stone you are holding in yours hands. Then, think of a word that describes your relationship with her.

“Mother”

That’s the only word in your head. Mother to her sons. Mother to her son’s friends; adopted and brought in to the family.

The minister asks everyone to get up, row by row, and place the stone in a basin at the front; an act of letting go.

You let the stone go and listen to the sound it makes as it hits the rocks below it with a slight thud. It sounds like a final page turning and a book closing. It sounds like closure.  

You throw your arms around her sons and her husband. You sing a hymn you’ve never heard and you leave; with your eyes forward and your head up, a true sign of respect for your second mom.

oath-edged talk and pipe smoke

Sitting late on a Saturday smoking pipes,
laughing. Drinking wine and beer, but
not too much of either. The tobacco
crackles, glowing red as the 10 o’clock
rainstorm blows in. We, porch-sitters,
rock back in our chairs with our feet on
stumps of wood and call out to neighborhood
kids as they run by.

Two dobermans chase each other to the end
of the street and yelp when they get caught.
The radio tower is covered every 10 yards by
gray clouds and a soft red light pulses behind.
Our hands smell like earth ashes and we look
far away like we are glad to be alive on a day
like this. The next door folk wave and carry racks
of bud light into their modest home that’s yellowing
around the trim.

Don’t ever talk shit about our town.

Sometimes it feels like we’ve been doing this a
long time, only to remember, that we are too small
of creatures to determine things like time’s passing.

I take a deep puff of smoke, hug my friends goodbye,
and leave with my head buzzing. A midnight drive is
perfect for a state such as this. Plenty of time to wonder
life’s big questions or small ones that pertain
only to me.