THE INFOMERCIAL HOURS
I flip from station to station of promises
for cures to what spins around
in my after-midnight mind.
For only three payments of $29.99,
I can lose weight, tighten muscles,
peel back years like Joan Lunden.
Only seven minutes left to sign up
for a seminar on how to earn six figures
flipping houses or patenting a better widget.
If I send a $100 “seed,” the evangelist
testifies my offering will multiply
to $1,000, every time.
The doctor on PBS explains
that if I buy her book, and cut out sugar and flour,
I can keep my memories and brain cells.
Operators are waiting
for my call
if I can just wake up.
The irregularities and variations in the weave and occasional
gentle shadings are characteristic of the fabric and are in no
way to be considered as defective. Do Not Pull Loose Threads.
These years later the fallow dress my mother bought,
with the care tag and its warning still tethered, is grayed
with dust from those thirty years it hung in my closet
unworn since my husband decided we’d elope.
I tried it on again after three decades (inspired
by the prospect of wedding-dress shopping
with my future daughter-in-law), only to find myself unable
to see the eye and hook, or force the zipper closed.
I haven’t gained weight, but it’s true that my rib cage
expanded from pregnancies. My heart and lungs
gained extra space from all those kicks
inside, so my flesh spread and covered.
I put on the scallop-edged hat too, smiled
at the bride in the mirror. Finished my dress-up
ensemble with my daughter’s off-white
size 8 shoes. I wear 9s; I couldn’t walk.
An unexpected impulse longed to get hitched again.
This time, not in the snow, but in June, on a farm,
somewhere in Tennessee, walking barefoot
through a field of black-eyed Susans and paper-whites.
This time, I’d sing Zeppelin’s “Thank You” to a man
of a certain age with a guitar, waiting
under an oak with his back to me
and his white shirt sleeves rolled up to his elbows.
This time, I wouldn’t repeat the standard vows
“in sickness and in health, for better or for worse,”
I’d read Cummings. “I carry your heart…”
I’d completely skip the “until death do us part.”
Showered, naked, the day barely breaking,
I step onto the bathroom scale.
There it is, a perfectly acceptable number
(especially if the doctor’s charts are true),
but it’s not the number I hoped to see.
It’s 2 pounds 6 ounces higher.
I’m 20 years past my slimmer self.
The number of words I wrote
yesterday at my kitchen table
is fewer than I had planned,
and the number of pages
to my novel, also lacking.
I watch my husband stare at spreadsheets on his iPad;
every morning, night, weekend,
his numbers change. He has budget projections
for bankers, revenue numbers, expense numbers,
column totals that need to tip past balance
to profit, like the number of years we’ve stayed married
has passed my concerns for them by decades.
All those 30 anniversaries still
haven’t passed my tide line.
The number of feet above sea level that FEMA considers
a flood zone has changed too. Our 55-year-old home
is in a different sector. And so on our table sits a stack of
numbers from architects and contractors, estimates
for time and materials to raise our home
4 feet to meet new code.
The number of friends who are dying also rises.
I clicked on an obituary this morning
for the man who sold us our boat.
He coached baseball, graduated high school
1 year after I did, he had 2 more children
than we do, and 2 of his 4 are already married.
And then, I open the e-mail with proofs
of my 27-year-old son’s engagement pictures.
I stare at the couple holding hands
by the water’s edge while I bite into my grapefruit.
My beige mother-of-the-groom dress is a 4,
and there’s no time for alterations.