Women Aging

Glenda Zumwalt

It happens too slowly to notice:
Pounds come on by ounces,
Color fades gradually
the way sheets, once crisp and royal blue,
become a flimsy, gauzy grey.
The pain in the joints is something
you get used to, like the scraggly stray
that hangs around the house, coming and going,
until you realize it's sleeping by the door
twenty hours a day. It's yours.

It happens over night.
One summer you are walking on the beach
in a two-piece, turning heads at nearly forty,
savoring whatever power that is.
The same summer your children are at home,
slamming screen doors, turning up the volume,
dripping watermelon and ice cream on the floors.
And then fall, a sudden silence. You are wrapped
in a caftan, the waves of cloth rolling with you
through the cool shadows of the quiet house
you are queen of. Whatever power that is,
it's yours.

It doesn't mean what you think it will
no more than first grade did or first date,
no more than marriage or divorce. It is what it is,
not what they tell you--except by then the permanent
record, the one you didn't believe existed,
appears, scripted on skin, to be read in your face,
your hands, your neck by any literate stranger.
An archetypal story, no doubt, but with a twist.
Because, honey, it's yours.


The 2River View, 2_4 (Summer 1998)