Somehow oddly beautiful in how they park,
their soft bones in libraries and coffee houses,

tough to offend after six or so decades
spent in toil under capitalist sky, old women

who bore the sons of alcoholic war vets
now dead, birth itself a kind of battle,

old women whose daughters never call,
who smile when pastoral poems turn erotic,

who recognize that knitting isn’t cute
as Keats and Byron and Shelley aren’t cute,

old women whose eyes go damp
for no reason—abruptly, like autumn rain

on a blue tablecloth crowded with wine,
like twilit thimbles of snowmelt, old women

who volunteered in munitions factories,
who shucked corn on the back porch at dusk,

who were up by dawn, wrist-deep in soap,
who drove through a tunnel of frowns

on their way to vote, to deliver casseroles
to so-and-so with dementia, who inhaled

the spent breath of Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia,
a rosary of cancers, whose frail hands

could crush walnuts after the combined
heft of a few hundred cradled infants,

a million sponges powdered with lye,
old women who fought sunlight to a stalemate

and wear such scars with nonchalance,
with the wild élan of fighter pilots,

old women whose cinnamon-apple pies
still bring all the stray dogs to the yard,

who absolved countless broken windows,
fractured curfews, stints in rehab,

who shouldered hatchets clean through
the neck of a thousand chickens

without savoring the murder as men might,
as they enjoyed the weight and swirl

of skirts gone social in church basements,
square dances smoothed by bourbon,

train rides perfumed by mountain air,
delivery rooms scented by the wild cry

and the briny afterbirth, and the kiss,
a wet approving badge on the forehead.

Image by: Runran