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MARCH PILGRIMAGE

By Ansie Baird

Behold the ashen cat poised

On the kitchen counter.

Behold the old man at the stove,

Boiling up a cup of ginger tea.

His hands tremble, his stained

Beard drips like egg on his chest.

Behold his lush young wife, bent double

In pain. Her liver’s wracked.

Her scarlet Chinese jacket shot with

Black dragons gapes over her white nightie.

Behold the hospital bed amid the crumpled parlor.

They take turns taking naps. The tv mutters on.

It’s Spring in Munnsville, but it isn’t Spring.

Everywhere is mud and melting snow.

Some valiant buds threaten to erupt

Beside the battered fence. Not yet. Not yet.

The feeble-minded woman from next door reports

She seen a robin but it isn’t so.

You’ve arrived with soup and bread,

Lemon cake and lilies from a long way.

No wine. No way. No longer

It’s permitted in this place.

The spasm past, the young wife straightens up,

Cuts a slice of cake for each of you.

Quite stealthily the pain slinks in again

To grin and slice her into disarray.

He bends to take her in his frail embrace,

Her auburn hair a flair against his chest.

Civility prevails and ancient love.

You gulp your soggy tea and settle in to stay.

ANSIE BAIRD will join visual poet and University of Toledo Emeritus Professor Joel Lipman in the next Earth’s Daughters Gray Hair Series reading at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Hallwalls Cinema, 341 Delaware Ave. (near Tupper Street, $5). This poem is from her 2009 collection “In Advance of All Parting,” which was awarded the White Pine Poetry Prize.