By Marian Glaser © September 1997
Louise counted her blazing candles.
Nine, one for each decade.
Her great-grandson’s sapphire eyes
reflected them. The seven other
boys and girls were finishing their loud
game of hide and seek before
sitting down. She’d heard their laughter
echo, filling this now empty house.
This Black Forest cake
would please them. She’d blow before
candle wax could drip on the mounds
of whipped cream her daughter had spread
over the rich dark chocolate cake.
The cherries soaked in kirsch might
make them tipsy, but not for long.
This ninetieth birthday had made her think
of the stream of life and death.
This group clustered around her
had come from her body
joined with Ralph.
Their sons and daughters
had played, cried, grown, loved.
Watching and loving each one had given them
a pleasure so deep it still filled her nights and
it had Ralph’s until his car crashed.
A heart attack had left a good driver dead when
his car hit the maple now blazing with oranges and reds.
She’d run down their steep driveway
ten years ago, knowing the crash meant injury or death.
He hadn’t met six people here.
It was easy to love them for him too.
He would have gobbled his piece, just like them.
Good thing her daughter had promised to wash
every plate, cup and glass while her husband dried.
Cleaning up after a family party was not a celebration.
Ralph had dried on his eightieth birthday,
finding that more relaxing than sitting
in his chair, his feet up, reading the weekly rural news.
Suddenly his arm had circled her waist.
She had looked up and he’d pointed to their television.
A group of Japanese macaques were washing
anonymous globs of food in sea water.
After washing came greedy eating,
the salt giving added zest.
Ralph had laughed with her, delighted.
No wonder she’d miss him until she died and rejoined him.
Her herb garden helped but
plants in pots could not replace
the beans, corn, tomatoes, asparagus, rhubarb,
gladiolas, cosmos, portulacas, and tobacco plants
she and Ralph had grown.
Now a grandson dug while a granddaughter dropped
tulip and crocus bulbs.
She enjoyed the colours, wished she could stoop
this stiffened back and await death
planting a thousand daffodils.