Jan Harwood: Three Poems
Selected by Alexis Rhone Fancher, Poetry Editor
A Last Time
I’m a seriously old woman
but I still get the urge sometimes, you know?
And last night, the time seemed ripe;
lying in my bed, a completely sexless mystery beside me,
cat sound asleep and no one else about—I decided to give it a shot.
My fingers felt a bit rough on my dry and delicate clit—
but I thought that might help,
as determination, pressure and friction have always worked fine in the past.
(I believe it was less than a year ago when I achieved multiples of joyful
pleasure time after time,
savoring the multiple smiles on my age-weathered face.)
But last night there was no joy
Not even a damp premonition of delight—
Only some, like, hopeful discomfort —
and eventually, the cat woke up—miffed by the persistent shaking of his
peaceful bed, he jumped down with a soft growl
like a disapproving maiden aunt.
I guess it’s okay, since I never thought I’d be here this long;
and pleasures still come crowding in
through my eyes and ears and palate;
memory constantly lavishes me with a symphony of love, losses,
triumphs and failures—good stories all!
It’s strange to be so abundantly alive in this time of chaos and suffering,
when it’s more clear every day that the center cannot hold.
And last night I realized that, as there has got to be a first time for everything,
there must also be a last.
When she became they,
love soothed any shock
even tried the vocabulary
resulting in strange neologisms
as well as chagrin at dignified corrections
“Not she, Grandma.”
When there was talk of injections, surgery,
when the silvery voice deepened and dark hairs began to sprout
love admired the new tattoos on creamy skin,
held out its arms and held they tight.
NOTE FROM AN EX-ACTIVIST
So much is wrong!
how can I relish the veined cordovan leaf,
sunlight glowing through it?
What’s the good of Mozart, or even Bach—
much less Roberta Flack
killing me softly with her song—
the odd patch of rainbow on a tile floor
as light comes through a prism in my mother’s stained glass
the shocking perfection of any feather
from any living bird
a crisp orange tulip
the comfort of chicken soup, thick with gravy
my delicious warm bed at six AM,
when I can turn my aching hips and go to sleep again
the bottomless trust in my old dog’s eyes
a friend’s hug, and her joke
my brother’s rare laugh on the phone from Florida, echoing that
of our sweet long-dead father
my children’s unexpected kindness, and their good sense.
So much is wrong—but my time is short
and all I want to do now is savor, and praise.
Photo credits: Adam Freidin
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jan Harwood: To my daily amazement, I have made it to ninety years old, living with my very last cat (I swear it!) in a beautiful and colorful little house with a big garden full of birds, in Santa Cruz, CA. I became a (self)-published author at age eighty, with the launching of my first novel, a somewhat-cozy mystery “Dangerous Women,” followed two years later by a sequel, “An Un-Conventional Murder.” Both have protagonists who are — surprise! — old women who live in Santa Cruz, working ferociously at their full-time volunteer jobs as members of the venerable (107-year-old) Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom, marching and demonstrating old-woman singers that bellow their fury at the political messes in which our beloved country continues to sink more deeply with every passing year — with timely new lyrics to old tunes that most people know.) As a life-long scribbler of humorous verses, I’m the chief lyricist for the local Raging Grannies, having put together several songbooks over five administrations, with more than 200 songs. Poetry has been one of my many passions since I could first read nursery rhymes, and some of my dear friends now are poets, who have monotonously urged me to submit my more serious stuff, but till now I have adamantly refused. But I do have some that I like, and, having recently discovered this very wonderful venue, I humbly offer some of them of them now.
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