March 5, 2017

Two Poems by Ellae Lawton: "Musings of a Retired Suburbanite," and "After My Daughter's Wedding"

Editor and English professor emerita Ellae Lawton has been a feminist since she discovered Queen Elizabeth I at age six but has considered motherhood her greatest privilege for nearly half a century. Born a Hoosier, she now lives near her daughter in southeastern North Carolina. Some of her work has appeared in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Referential, Wild Goose Poetry Review, Iodine Poetry Journal, and When Women Waken.

Musings of a Retired Suburbanite

Two of my dearest friends since high
school half a century ago motored
here last week. Musing in the bath, I recall
how our bubbies used to salute blue skies
when the world was full of magic
and now, many babes and decades later,
they contemplate earth above midriffs
rounder than busts. Where is my twenty-
inch waist of yesteryear?

Then I think of all the women in the world
who have never consulted tape measures
or considered the circumference of their
waists but only whether they’d have food
to put inside them, or inside their children’s
swollen tummies, as I think in every bath
of all the old women who have no hot water
to soothe their aching hips.

Out of the bath in a muumuu my bosom
feels cold. Maneuvering into a bra, I think
of all the women with cold bubbies who
lack another layer to warm them.
Maybe they’re in refugee camps; maybe
they hold a child close for warmth–but
maybe the warm milk in them for that child
is growing thin.

I cannot bear thinking that the babe grows
cold and here I am with drooping, useless

But the world still holds magic. I go
to a machine on my desk, click an
odd little gadget, and send clean
(though not hot) water, milk, sustenance
halfway around the earth to warm
someone’s chilling babes and bubbies–
a far better measure than twenty inches.
Growing old is really not so bad.

After My Daughter’s Wedding
in Fort Walton Beach

On Monday after the wedding my shrunken
mother and expanded sister come to stay
for the week, planned to let them overlap
a Saturday and snag a lower fare. I find
this incomprehensible, as they flew South
last Friday, but no matter; my sister learned
her logic in the land of the Red Queen.
Harboring bridesmaids (and especially bride)
was delightful, but now they’ve all been                              
hugged farewell at the airport and my elders
have moved up to Shalimar from the beach,
the chatter has changed with the sheets,
and my feet hurt as they’ve never hurt
before. Shoes feel like iron maidens.

At least these ladies distract me briefly from
the painful hollow in my nest: both my children
have left their native country, one for England
with dear new spouse, the other for Saint
Petersburg–not the lively town downstate, but
the cold one far away in another alphabet,
the one until lately called Leningrad,
to remain for perhaps a year.
they don’t distract me from my aching feet;
besides, a hot stove would be superfluous,
so I drive them through longleaf pinewoods
in the muggy late-June evenings toward
bayou or waterway to sample new-caught  
Gulf Coast seaflesh with red-opal sunsets
for dessert. My mother relishes riding fast
in my red Firebird, marvels at sunsets.  Despite
her graceful-as-ever laps in the pool, my sister
groans climbing in and out behind her, where
only a  few days earlier, with the seatback
folded down, a shimmering silk and lace
gown rode regally on pristine white sheets
to the white stucco church on the Sound,
chauffeured by my handsome Spanish student
who likely had never before driven sedately.

One night I “carry”us down to my favorite
dive, tucked under the bridge to the Island.


Affronted by log walls and sawdusted planks,
my fastidious mother complains constantly
(between bites, of course) as she savors
every delicate morsel of amberjack salad:
“A saloon! What an odd place to take one’s
mother! And Hog’s Breath? Why does it have
such a horrid name?  I can’t enjoy my dinner
for thinking of that name!”
        The day before
returning to Indiana, my mother asks to revisit
“that place with the ugly name” not to enjoy
more of that lovely salad. As she butters
her third cooling hushpuppy with small
blue-tracked hands clawed like crabs,
I’m thinking of my children, two in a pub
with a Guinness and an Old Peculier,
one drinking Stoli in Cyrillic,
and my feet ache.

 © Ellae Lawton

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