Tales and Secrets

The old woman hovers near the woodstove
and drags a calloused hand across her crinkled forehead
as if wiping away smoke and sweat.
She pauses, looking;
her eyes flash between her fingers
and strike my soul.

I feel her in my mind,
looking,
searching,
all the while reading the history there.

Where have I gone,
if anywhere,
on the avenues in my life?

Her hand falls from her face;
her gaze floats above the stove
and absorbs the glow of coals inside
before it reaches through the door.
Her fingers curl and seize an ember
like a vise to etch a jagged pattern in the air.
Her fingers part and the small red star falls to the black oak table
and knocks a fear in the depths of my stomach.

I wander through the city streets of my past,
lost,
smelling smoky incense that once meant something:
a sweet perfume that led me to intelligent light
that flung away my darkness
and sparked new life inside my soul.

A violent motion—
her fingers stab the black oak floor,
then snatch a pile of bones lying white:
old knuckles, toes and vertebrae—
some with fur and flesh intact.

She holds the bones in her palm;
they float before her eyes that sparkle
the way the night stars flare
on cloudless nights.

I float above the wires of my nerves
trembling like a lake spilling over.

“Suojata,” she barks;
a wave of gnarled arm
and the bones fly like shooting daggers to my heart.
I clutch my breast
while her cavernous mouth cracks a laugh before the tales begin.

Nuts [fiction and jokes]

Sarah once lived in New York City. One day she boarded the Fifth Avenue bus to go downtown when a gray-haired woman got on with her grandson—a young man in his late teens and apparently from out of town. He hesitated a moment, seeming uncertain about the correct procedure of swiping his MetroCard, and she set him straight.

He then started to take one of the seats in the front, when she reminded him that those seats were reserved for the elderly.

“Well, Grandma, you’re elderly,” he said. “We could still sit there.”

“Don’t be a nut,” she replied as she guided him toward the back of the bus. “I’m only 76.”

Sarah couldn’t help but laugh to herself at that.

Later that morning, at a supermarket, a clerk stocked shelves as she wandered in vain through the cereal aisle, looking for oatmeal with raisins. After almost 5 minutes, she found it. Then she spent another 5 minutes wandering the snack aisle looking for peanuts.

“I’m only 21,” she mumbled to herself, “too young to be senile. Why can’t I find what I’m looking for?” Then, “Where are all the nuts?” she finally asked when she saw the clerk.

“Wandering up and down every aisle,” he replied. “Wandering up and down every aisle.”