Wow those are nice earrings there’s
something playful about them you know
what I mean they remind me of a
charm bracelet the crossbar with the
little doodads dangling down those beads
are such a pretty shade of blue
or is it turquoise
I really wasn’t hitting on you
but I can understand it’s uncomfortable
to have a stranger give such attention
to your earlobe
I brought my own bag
Yes I’d like the receipt
The Best Handshake Ever
None of that fancy dance with hip-hopping fingers.
Strictly old school,
first time Don shakes my hand.
Flesh like rough-sawn lumber.
Each finger a roller on a conveyor
belt of warmth
passing top to bottom,
index to pinkie with a special
squeeze of thumb. Wow.
A wary smile of evaluation
as we lock eyes
and hold one second, two.
From that instant onward
we are true.
I Find Myself
As grandchildren run between my legs
chasing their old dog Gonzo
who I love like another grandchild
I find myself wincing at Gonzo’s stiff-legged limp.
I find myself explaining to my daughter
my new-found empathy for the pain of elderly dogs,
their dysplasia, their arthritis like my own
as I approach human-year seventy
while Gonzo approaches dog-year ninety-eight.
I find myself saying that in the future
I would put a geriatric dog to sleep
earlier than I have in the past
given my new feeling of their suffering
though of course, I hasten to add,
Gonzo is far from that.
Sometimes a conversation
is not the one
you think you’re having.
Here is where my daughter frowns at me
with deep, downright psychiatric concern.
I find myself hearing “Before you reach
that point, Dad, will you please call me?”
The man tells me in Chinese
how the water drips from upstairs
into his kitchen.
I tell the man in English
how I repaired the tub.
The water doesn’t speak
We hear it, though,
Naked Angel, Old Girlfriend
The heirloom glass angel
from storage is dusty,
a mouse-dropping for a mustache,
still boldly naked but greasy in her crevices.
We joke that cleaning by hand would be rude.
She’s ridiculous, you say. Take her. A gift.
Idly you glance down at your sweater
with my gaze following
and we both notice your nipples firming up,
prominent now, a sudden blossoming
where I had not been aware.
Now looking straight into your eyes I say
Thanks, I’ll take the angel. As trade
I’ll bring a load of firewood,
split and stacked. To keep you warm.
Which translated means
I am trying not to think about
how pretty you would be
if posed like the angel.
You, looking straight into my eyes, say
Yes, to keep me
and my husband warm,
I know exactly
what you are not thinking
and it is all your fault,
See you later, I say, and we hug because
we are friends. Old friends. That’s all.
Joe Cottonwood is a frequent contributor to The MOON. A builder by day and a poet by night, he lives with his high school sweetheart in La Honda, California. JoeCottonwood.com.