Four Poems — Jacqueline Jules
A GAME PLAYED WITH HELMETS
No one sits down in the stands,
expecting a game
free of fumbles or interceptions.
A perfect game is a fantasy,
even in a third grader’s mind.
But when a player hits the ground
to stay, our jaws drop.
Why are we surprised
when little men in red shirts
race onto the field with a stretcher?
This is a game
played with helmets and padding.
If we are going to stay fans,
season after season,
we must accept blood and broken bones—
times when healing, for days or even months,
will be required.
the glass door
as I soap my hair.
Two seconds earlier,
a roaring stream
would have drowned
the dangling hook,
luring me out
with dripping thighs
and lathered head.
Just once, I’d like
to leave the unknown
ringing in the next room
and delight in warm water
rinsing the sweat off my skin.
Reading the morning obits
I am stricken to see
Nelly Waldman, dead at age 86
survived by no one.
Husband and son already interred.
No pet poodles or goldfish mentioned.
Having never met Nelly Waldman,
my grief as I sip black tea
is inexplicable except for the fear
of one day sharing her 3 line departure,
printed on paper soon to be recycled.
From childhood, we are raised to procreate, to measure
our mark by living blood left on this earth.
It is a sad thing to die childless
unless of course you are Mitzi,
my poodle of 15 years,
spayed in her youth
to avoid the unpleasantness of puppies.
Mitzi’s humane end was decided at the vet’s
just yesterday. No chemo or surgery
for cancer-ridden dogs. They are privileged
to drift off to sleep with a single injection.
And when I write Mitzi’s obit
I will say she was survived
by framed portraits on my mantel—
cuddling on the couch
with a boy too weak to walk.
My Mitzi will always be remembered
as heroic, having been loved by a dying child,
while Nelly Waldman will remain like me,
the pitied mother of a dead one.
As the nurse bore down
with the oxygen mask,
you gasped, “I’m sorry.”
Why? Why would you apologize—
for summoning me to the hospital
that summer Sunday
when I could have been at the pool
kicking the strong legs you never had,
across depths your genes denied you?
“I’m sorry, too,” I whispered
as if we’d just finished
one of those fights we’d had as girls
over whose turn it was to set the table.
And I left you breathing through a tube in ICU,
your pale hands strapped to metal rails.
Jacqueline Jules is the author of the poetry chapbooks, Field Trip to the Museum (Finishing Line Press) and Stronger Than Cleopatra (ELJ Publications). She has had over 200 poems published in a variety of journals and anthologies, including Killing the Angel, Soundings Review, The Innisfree Poetry Journal, Imitation Fruit, Calyx, Connecticut River Review, and Pirene’s Fountain. She is also the author of two dozen books for young readers including the Zapato Power series, No English, and Never Say a Mean Word Again. To learn more about her poetry, visit her website http://jacquelinejules.com/mypoetry.htm<