Sonnet

So many cars (no windshield stickers now).
At intersections stationed traffic cops
Direct the families creeping so slow,
Eyes scanning the lawns for their final stops.

Worn khakis and Hawaiian shirts on chairs,
And sulking teens and babies’ laughs in peals.
Armenian ladies, arm-in-arm in pairs,
Improbable hair wearing six-inch heels.

Here’s a lone one, a man turned back to boy.
He brought his new Harley to show her
And now he sits sad, forgets his parked toy,
How proud she’d be of what is and who were.

Everyone’s at the convention today.
All together now, “Happy Mother’s Day.”

Written June 12, 2012; revised and published June 27, 2017.

Sustaining One’s Looks

A hospital bed evening beauty treatment:

  1. Lay a hot washcloth over her face to moisten the skin and open the pores, then use it to gently wipe the crusties in her eyes away.
  2. Massage cream cleanser in little circles over her cheeks, her forehead, her chin, her sweet and dainty nose, and end with gentle sweeps over her closed eyelids.
  3. Use the now-warm washcloth to gently wipe the cleanser away, rinse it well in hot water, and make another pass to make sure her face is clean.
  4. Saturate a cotton beauty pad with toner and gently sweep it over her face in upward strokes, avoiding her eyes. Use the rest of the pad on her neck.
  5. Put a dollop of Oil of Olay in the palm of your left hand and dip and dab with your right, smoothing the beauty lotion over her skin.
  6. The whole time she will lay quiet, eyes closed and smiling. Once finished, ask, “Does that feel good?” and she will look you in the eyes with that singular mixture of gratitude and pride and say, “Yes, baby. Thank you.”

An Oral-B electric toothbrush turned out to work very well for her — it had a large enough handle that she could grip it and move it around her mouth on her own with her now-simple dentist’s hands. We decided that this electric toothbrush was, in fact, superior to the old manual brush — I got one for myself as well.

Flossing was not solved so effortlessly. She walked me through the same lecture on Flossing a Patient’s Mouth that she had delivered to countless dental assistants. Easier than one thought, but challenging to carry out to a dentist’s satisfaction. With index fingers holding taught 1cm of floss, having made the rounds top and bottom, I’d ask, “How’s that?” Frowning with concentration, her tongue made the same rounds and she’d declare, “One more. Here.” She’d open her mouth, pointing at the offending spot with the prehensile tip of her tongue, and I’d dive in again to clear it out so that I could have that singular look and those words again, “Yes, baby. Thank you.”

Pacheco Pass

There’s a stretch of One-Fifty-Two out east of Gilroy where the trees bend over backwards and splay their arms out and up to the sky. They’re close in a row by the road and the power lines. They must have begun blithely upright, but now that they’ve grown someone has to come along and cut them away from the lines. Oak trees are sacred in California (there’s a fine for cutting them down) so whoever-it-is only cuts out the middles of their branches and leaves the rest to spread out on either side of the wires. Only when you drive down that road do they line up so that you notice the way the wire cuts a path right through their heads.

When you’re on the back of a motorcycle, though, and turn your head to look at them from the side, they look just fine. Your driver’s helmet blocks the front view, so you turn your head and look at the trees and fences and barns. You hold on to his hips and turn your head to the side and figure out which plots of land you like best and why. When you see a particularly rusty old car or a particularly large old barn that might make a nice garage, you point and he looks to the side too and nods and smiles. On the back of the bike, Los Angeles is a shiny plastic snow-globe in the back of your mind.