Blissed-out woman
Gladys Runnels Pease, 1912-2005


Follow that blissed-out woman
In a full life, another blown like snow across perception
from the schoolhouse to the marriage bed
What might we take from her
where children feel the kiss of light
what might her passing mean?
Follow that woman
Through drifts I lumber to the old potato field rife with milkweed
who knows mothering doesn’t stop in the kitchen
A partridge, flushing, leaves its wingprint where it bedded
and rallies farmers to claim fair price for their sweet corn
Other creatures have made their tracks before me
She ministers to prisoners. Churchwomen snub her
their imprints retreating through the woods
Follow that woman for half a century
Each milkweed plant is individual
to the desk where she composes letters to the editor
the field itself a thoughtful abstraction
her insistence audible as a church bell
cuneiform of stalk and pod
On Main Street on the eve of the invasion
In my lens snow becomes white background
she sits wrapped in blankets in solidarity for peace
the white on white of down on snow
and trumps a tonguelashing octogenarian
bowed, bunched, umbrella-d, tatted
I’m ninety-one, my dear, and you don’t know what you’re talking about
congregating, stuck to a surface, windspun
because she’s seen flag-wrapped coffins
like a film of smoke
because she’s known woman’s grief
above a dropped black glove
black hat framing her translucence
against a bright white blind
eyes cradled in a smile
a pod boat stop-framed spilling its cargo
it is as simple as smiling and persisting
its split hull of seed
in conclusion beaming at the youngsters
On the long sail through winter
Next week, I may be watching you from Heaven
on the leisurely browse
but week by week she drafts her letter to the editor
each creature finds what it needs here
and reappears, one of her daughters setting out her folding chair


Lee Sharkey