Mary Beth Hines is a writer following a long career as a project manager. A Massachusetts native, and active participant in Boston-area workshops, her poetry has recently been published, or is forthcoming, in journals such as Crab Orchard Review, Gyroscope Review, the Lake, Literary Mama, and Sky Island Journal, among others.
Off nurses’ voices, emergency responses –
then finally his daughters, breathless,
rush to his side, and he promises
each time, to use the chair,
to call for help.
They never knew him
as the boy from Waldo Street
who climbed one foot, one hand
against a tree, the other
against the garage wall
until he reached the V
then jumped to the roof
and from there to Casey’s,
then Berube’s, Mulshenock’s,
and Conlon’s where the adventure ended
with the long jump down.
An Old Man in His Chair
The sea churns. Boats skirt the rocks
in the painting he hung in his little den years ago.
Now, he rides the waves as he files his nails.
Sometimes his children, smiling out
from another frame, join him. Though most days
he conjures their voices and recites, in order,
the beautiful names he gave them.
Then he stretches out in his chair on the smooth
back of a boulder, and lets the sea rush through him.
In response we build our border
with coils of hand-wrigged hoses,
drenched with cool spray
every sun-struck summer morning.
Summer nights, we drink by a fire, toast
marshmallows, and the hedgerow
blossoming into border between us
and the Burleys and their tangled dump
of brush, dented bumpers, splintered
bookshelves, a cracked mirror flaring.
You chose well, husband—winterberry,
mountain laurel, and rosebays—
pink and purple splayed
across hosta-steeped black bark mulch.
And oak leaf hydrangeas billowing flowers
that white to dry rust, papery brown in fall
amidst false cypress looming
over blue maid hollies who step
from their shadows—tiny front-row dancers,
curtsying in wait for the single male’s
By winter, though, it’s clear we haven’t won.
The thriving pile of scrub, mangled
wheels, fractured grills, all mix
with our rich, organic soil to greet
the hordes of hungry rabbits and rodents,
the tall, ticky deer who step with grace
across the Burley’s trash-bin haul
to rampage our songbirds’ feed –
blinking and grinning as they chomp
and swill down everything crunchy,
salty, savory, leafy, or green.