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Suburban Patience

Each spring, we watch as the house up the street rips up
dead palm trees and replaces them with new ones.
In the winter,
during freak snow storms,
we gingerly drive up the street, past this house
One of us will shake our thumb towards the pale gray house with white shutters and Grecian columns
“Look at this asshole.
every year, the same thing.
When is he going to realize
palm trees don’t grow here?”

The answer: never

Our neighbor across the street has a sprinkler system
that drenches his dead grass
golden like hay
crispy like leaves crinkling on dead branches during a drought
i noticed that one of the sprinklers is pointed into the street
the pavement needs washing too, I suppose
(because the rain is never enough)

Not to be forgotten,
our house
the proverbial mullet:
fine in the front, disarray in the back
with tree limbs laying about, lazy in the baking spring sun
which fell from grace
during one of those southern snow storms
“the devil’s dandruff” as we say

the deck has been missing railings since my husband and his father
were out there, “just power washing it”
until I glanced out the window and saw my husband, sledgehammer in hand, demolishing rail by tiny rail
his eyes glistening behind clear safety glasses
sweat, beading on his forearms
dotting the lining of his hat
“Don’t worry!” he screamed over the roar of the power washer.
“It’ll be fine!” he mouthed as my arms flailed wildly from the other side of
the window in the door.

That was five years ago? Maybe seven?
my father in law has since passed away
we still haven’t figured out what style of railing we’d like

Frequent guests are familiar with the lay of the land
yet when new guests arrive, I arrange the patio furniture so that no one falls off the side
cracking a rib
or losing  tooth

we’re used to it

it’s the lull of the suburban life:
cars parked in the street
the faint shriek of children on trampolines; somewhere, someone is breaking an arm
the overgrown shrubs that line the curb,
that tap the passenger side mirror,
in front of the house,
where the elderly lady once lived, but she’s gone now
the mom who smokes a cigarette on her front porch
while her toddler squeezes himself between cheap blinds
trying to figure out where she went

the SEC flags, the Big 10 flags
the lady who
keeps Mardi Gras beads hanging in her trees

the suburbs are patient
like boys
who are eager
to have their first kiss



Bookmarks and Coins

Soon enough,
there will be handfuls of two cents
being shoved your way:
tiny offerings with the most heartfelt meanings
extra large “because I said so’s”
big bowls of emotional soup
piles and piles
of cents

take ’em all,
toss them over your shoulder
file them to a folder
in your mind-
because actual folders full of loose change makes
no sense.

eventually, you’ll count them all
(not at once mind you)
there may even be a select pile where you got 4 cents, 8 cents and yes, even twenty-five (because conversations tend to drop off mid-sentence; those are your half cents or unfinished cents)
roll the coins-
make your own purchases
look back
those coins,
flip them over in your palm
when you need them most
remember the moment they were given to you
remember, if you can, who gave them to you
conversations will begin
fanciful throwbacks to
how it was,
new age findings of
how it should be
current affairs on
how you should go about it

oh yes

take it all in stride
smile with grace
tuck them away
little feathers in your hat
because there will come a time
when you may need those two cents
the reminders of how it was will play out like a well-produced musical
I promise

on an afternoon when you’re standing in a store
with a cart full of nothing
yet busting at the seams
when you can’t stand the sight of the paint on your wall
the way the carpet doesn’t fit just quite center in that room
or how you suddenly can’t recall where you set your coffee cup down
you’ll feel a scream rising up from your stomach and into your throat

stop for just a second
(maybe two)

pull those dulled coins out
to remind you that we understand
we’ve repainted rooms
thrown away carpets
and your coffee cup is probably on the bathroom counter
and let the scream escape,
you’ll feel so much better afterward.