Pressing Forward, by Grace Harriman

Pressing Forward
by Grace Harriman

If I could just
move, or even push, my way
(like a spectator edging up
to the front of the crowd,)
then perhaps the lungs could open
the eyes clear of memory,
the hands begin to build
something, anything,
that is fresh, colorful,
full of textures
beautiful to leave behind.

Grace Carley Harriman spent her life in Cambridge, Mass., teaching English and Chinese History to Middle Schoolers. She self published two anthologies of a wide variety of poems with creative writing assignments for each entry. She has traveled to China 14 times, to tour and volunteer teach in the Pangliu Village School and the Dandelion School outside Beijing. She retired to Bath, Maine where she writes poetry, gardens and walks her dogs.

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MOUTHS, Grace Harriman

Mouths
by Grace Carley Harriman

1.
Cambridge. MA, 1975

My young son
Steers the pulpy letters
From alphabet soup
Until his tomato red finger
Spells out in the bowl:
YES, BIRD, NO.
He raises the bowl
And drinks his words.

2.
Bath, Maine 2013

On Winter Sundays
I drive to Hill House and Winship Hall
To deliver the sacrament
To the very elderly.
I carry a linen cloth,
The gold chip,
The correct number of wafers.

I know the eleven recipients well,
Not through conversation,
But through the details:
The reader of mystery novels,
The laughing lady
With coloring books and crayons,
The dignity in the posture of the veteran.
The twin sisters with rouge spots,
The beautiful woman with coiled hair,
Crocheting an afghan.

They know me most Sundays,
Except Elizabeth, on the Alzheimer ward.
She scoots her wheelchair
Her slippered feet move fast,
a scuttling crab.
When I touch her shoulder
She will look into my eyes.

I would not attempt
To guess at the words
They would choose
To steer in empty soup bowls,

Every open mouth is familiar
To me as their faces.
I place the wafer on each tongue,
Between glossy gums.

The wafer disintegrates.
“This is the bread of life.
Taste and See that the Lord is good.”

Do not diminish or demean.
The rooms fill and empty.
Do not recoil from decay.
Do not diminish or demean.

Grace Carley Harriman spent her life in Cambridge, Mass., teaching English and Chinese History to Middle Schoolers. She self published two anthologies of a wide variety of poems with creative writing assignments for each entry. She has traveled to China 14 times, to tour and volunteer teach in the Pangliu Village School and the Dandelion School outside Beijing. She retired to Bath, Maine where she writes poetry, gardens and walks her dogs.

OSPREY NEST, Grace Harriman

Osprey Nest
by Grace Harriman

When the blizzard moved
Out to sea
I broke the deep drifts
Out to the last pine
A lookout over New Meadows River. Close by the tree
I found a winter crime scene:
High winds had knocked down
The Osprey’s mammoth nest.

I lifted the heavy nest,
Fingers tingled
As I turned it right side up.
From its private center,
Spiraling outward
In widening bands of sturdy sticks,
Aligned by mud and sea grass,
The nest expanded
To find its ideal width.

I have spoken, touched, gestured,
But what I leave behind will not reflect
The intention and care
In this fallen nest.

But I have, standing knee deep
In snow that has finished off a winter,
Worked at meaning and words
With similar persistence.
To see the interior of the fallen nest
Is not only a sacred gift,
But a fossil cracked open for me
To read the hieroglyphics of effort.

The Osprey’s sticks
As words expanding
Until they are a poem.
Sticks, an alphabet to build,
From what we have gathered,
What we hope endures.

BABY SABOTAGE, Grace Harriman

Baby Sabotage
by Grace Harriman

When I was four
I sat in a sunny window seat.
My hand grasped
My mothers’ heirloom choker
12 rows of tiny seed pearls
With an engraved gold clasp.

I had to jam and twist the scissors
Between the tight rows,
Until the strings gave,
Sending the seed pearls
Scattering across the floor.

When dressing for an evening out:
The necklace was the final touch:
Black velvet dress
With cream satin collar.
A fresh gardenia in her hair.
Silk stockings slipped into
Strapped and pointed high heels.
Perfume on the inside of her wrists.
The seed pearls fastened,
The final touch
Before departure.

FORT ANDROS FLEA MARKET: CHRISTENING DRESS: CIRCA 1895, Grace Harriman

Fort Andros Flea Market: Christening Dress: Circa 1895
by Grace Harriman

I bought the tiny dress as a rescue
From the crush of chunky costume earrings, rusted Tonka trucks and soiled teddy bears.

I saved the dress from dirty suffocation
Amid 50 years of hoarded human trash.

When she was washed, starched, ironed
She seemed to take a long look at me,
But said nothing.

I wrapped her in crisp tissue paper,
Wary she might come alive
To tell the short tale
I could not bear to hear.

Folded, she fits in the palms
Of my joined hands.
The tiny package
Radiates forgiveness
for my most brutal mistake.

Grace Harriman lives in Bath, Maine and is writing a great deal since she retired from teaching.