happy face, a poem

Late afternoon, a glowing amber sunbeam
Seeps between the ivory colored curtains.
In the fading light the pictures on the wall
Are like a gallery of her lengthy life.
The dust wanders and meanders in and out
Of the dying light like mischievous children
As unpredictable as her scattered memories.
It blankets the Hummels and windowsills
and the mantlepiece and the grandfather clock
Whose hands haven‘t moved in many years.

The children’s games are still there on the shelf
In their faded, colored, cardboard boxes:
Candy Land, Happy Face, Monopoly, Chutes & Ladders.
Katie always loved Candy Land and Happy Face.
The toys are still in a box in the corner,
A random jumble of gaily colored plastic.
She saves them for the great grandchildren.
She knows they’ll want to play with them someday.

She wonders if he’ll call today.
He called last week from Albany,
Or was it Schenectady? Or was it last month?
The kids are doing really well, he said.
He couldn’t talk long, though.
He was in the car. He’s always in the car.
He had a meeting in a few minutes.
He promised he’d call again.
He’s such a good boy, I’m proud of him, she thinks.

She goes to the mailbox, waves to a neighbor
She doesn‘t recognize. Looks at the handful of mail:
Catalogs, bills, return addresses from strangers.
She eats her soup with Alex Trebec as her dinner guest.
She changes into her favorite nightgown, the pink one
With the bluebells. It was from the grandkids.
Jay Leno will visit her again tonight;
But she always liked Johnny Carson better.
She shuts the light, lies down and whispers her prayers
In the darkness that covers her like a shroud
And goes to sleep.

–Stephen P. Smith

5 Responses to “happy face, a poem”

  1. November 6, 2007 at 6:58 am

    Ode to getting old(er).
    My sentiments are scattered over a soft background of loneliness as I follow your lines. Or are they scattered because the background isn’t as soft?
    Then I realise: it’s a poem.
    I almost missed that, so clear the images, so real the emotions.
    Yes, glowing amber sunbeam just sums it up perfectly.

    I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  2. November 7, 2007 at 8:40 am

    I love your skill – your writing prowess. The more I read this, the sadder it gets, or I become. I think I’m just filling in the blanks that way. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a sad poem. It’s just a very small slice of a late afternoon. Who knows, in the morning she might get up and pack her bags for her annual Swinging Seniors Symposium in Las Vegas. Yeah, that’s it!

    I deliberately left it so the reader could fill in the blanks, as he or she saw fit. How you interpret it is up to you. Thanks for stopping by; always nice to see you, Lolly!

  3. November 8, 2007 at 12:57 am

    This was nice – read like a poignant short story. The images clung nicely.

    Thank you for those kind words. I suppose it was a little like short story. Hadn’t thought of that!

  4. November 12, 2007 at 6:58 am

    I noticed you changed the name. 🙂

    I did. I thought the old title was a bit too heavy. I prefer the irony of the new one.


  5. November 21, 2007 at 11:13 am

    The setting up, in the first stanza, of the scene is like well-structured architecture. Skillfully done. The memories in the second stanza makes the piece so real; it’s all ‘show, don’t tell’. Same goes for the ending, which makes me think of marks on surfaces where things once stood for many, many years.

    Wow. It’s almost like you read my mind. Your observations are a very accurate assessment of what I was trying to do here.

    Reading this has made my trip to poetry blogs all the more worthwhile. Thank you. I hope to read more.


    Thank you for those kind words!

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