Growing up in a small town,
we didn't notice
the background figures of our lives,
gray men, gnarled women,
dropping from us silently
like straightpins to a dressmaker's floor.
The old did not die
but simply vanished
like discs of snow on our tongues.
We knew nothing then of nothingness
or pain or loss—
our days filled with open fields,
turtles and cows.
One day we noticed
Death has a musty breath,
that some we loved
sometimes takes time.
Now, standing in a supermarket line
or easing out of a parking lot,
we've become the hazy backgrounds
of younger lives.
How long has it been,
we ask no one in particular,
since we've seen a turtle
or a cow?
"Straightpins" by Jo McDougall, from Satisfied with Havoc. © Autumn House Press, 2004
Woman: "My husband. He was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer on Thanksgiving Day."