Crossword First clue I know right off— “Dwight’s competitor.” I write ADLAI and mother resurfaces, angry: “How can we beat ‘I Like Ike’? ‘I’m madly for Adlai’? We’ll lose.” And we did. I have her button somewhere, all it says is ‘Adlai Stevenson.’ Other clues fall into place, some bringing images, some not. I am supposed to do this, the doctor suggested, for my mind, that the syllables may not slide down the fading roundnesses of brain, collect in the dark skull between the hemispheres. But you really do it for your soul. You want the secret message, from the Puzzler to you alone, the hidden word spelled diagonally or hidden otherwise. After the Andrea Doria, and the poor dog abandoned in space, triumphs and tragedies and trivialities, and what the devil is a kep? You want to be in it, then, a part of the puzzle. Your own name. Evoked, included. When it’s all filled in.
In the Front Garden Solitude: the iron chair, the table. Leaves drift down as I write. The rake upended, the watering can overturned, the hose an untidy curl. Jasmine and pittosporum and weeds that grow uninvited, rusty clippers, a two-step ladder, empty flower pots, one broken. This November day, the 1280th of my widowhood. You clipped bushes, mowed back jasmine. I see you now, taking the empty chair. You don’t accuse me of neglect, point out the rubbish. You are just there. The leaves fall to the table. Perhaps tomorrow I will tidy up.
Janet McCann is “an ancient Texas poet.” Her last collection is The Crone at The Casino (Lamar Univ. Press, 2013)