TH (August 25,1945 / Plainwell, Michigan)

Scrambled Eggs

one egg apiece
she names the eggs before she fries them
she writes the names on the shells
before she drops them into the skillet
that way she knows who’s egg is which
anyway some of these days she screams
she screams “I can’t stand it any more”
“The problems of everyday life have gotten me down”
“I can’t program my VCR.”
“I’ve got carpel tunnel injury
and I can’t stand the pain.”
But it’s you, my husband, who gives me so much stress
more than you realize
you don’t know how much it can build
until I am at the breaking point
until I am beyond the breaking point
until I am broken
I have to fight for every square inch of territory
inside this 12’ by 16’ hotel room we call home
it seems we are fighting too much for people
who are supposed to be on the same team
we are playing different games together
sometimes it seems like we are fighting on a deeper level
than what we are arguing about
could it be we are really arguing about
leaving the refrigerator door open?
where to put the audio tapes? the telephone answering machine?
we argue a lot about the electric fan.
I don’t like fans because they blow the papers
and make a lot of noise so you can’t enjoy
listening to music or listening to the silence
when I was in jail there was a 50,000 B.T.U. air purifier
on the ceiling of my cell that rumbled loudly day and night
and was never turned off
but of course you’ve gotten so deaf you can’t
hear how loud it really is
so deaf you can only hear every fourth or fifth word I say
so I have to repeat every thing
so I have to shout—and that makes you mad—
and still you didn’t hear it, but everybody else in the
building did—
and you could have a hearing aid, but you won’t get one
instead you just accuse me of talking too softly and
jumbling my words—until I am so stressed that I stutter
or can’t speak at all-
until I am getting a speech impediment—
how frustrating to have talked it all out with you
expressed my innermost emotions
told you just how I feel about things
only to realize moments later
that you never heard a word I said.
you used to be able to hear if you put your mind to it
and we were talking in a quiet room.
you used to hear what you wanted to hear—
but not any more
so now you won’t talk on the telephone
I have to make all your calls for you
and of course we argue about my friends
you don’t like any of them
you think all they want to do is
steal from me and waste my time
particularly if they are good looking young gay guys
then your jealousy verges on violence—
as if I was going to have an affair with the first
cute young thing that paid any attention to me—
don’t you know if I had an affair it would be
with some old man as grizzled and weather beaten as you? ? —
and I am getting older, now, too, and need to
become more independent, more self sufficient,
able to do things on my own, so when the day comes and
there is no one to help me, I can still
be able to help myself
have to be stronger and take the initiative even if it means
stepping on a few toes or hurting someone’s feelings
-so because I had two things he didn’t have—
ability to hear and ability to see—
-after all, he is a senior citizen—
I began making telephone calls for him
and filling out applications, writing notes to the landlord,
gradually taking up more and more time until now when he comes in the door
until he leaves it’s “Honey, do this, hold this for me, what does
this say, would you hand me something out of the refrigerator—
be sure to close the door—what do you mean you won’t
hold the flashlight? ”
the only time I have to do any of my own work or get on the computer
is after he’s gone to sleep—then he wants the lights off and me to
sit there in darkness—
and I just can’t abide by that—
it’s just a single hotel room
have to stand my ground no matter how miserable he gets
he’s going to be 70
he’s still strong, vibrant, active,
still able to carry boxes up the stair and
move furniture with the strength of several horses
but time has more meaning, now,
and there is no one who can help us with our troubles—
young people come to us for help with their troubles—
and depend on us for wisdom and understanding
who can help us if we can’t help ourselves?
it’s been so long and we’ve been through so much
surely the best time is ahead of us now
we know it won’t last forever
his children are grown
and I have no children of my own
once I depended on him when I had no place to go and
no one to turn to
when I couldn’t make it on my own
when I was homeless and had nothing, he was there to help me
I have to practice the piano. I have a performance Saturday night
she names the eggs before dropping them in the skillet
then she scrambles the eggs
the outgoing messages on her answering machine
are quotes from Bob Dylan songs 30 years out of date
the phone rings the answer phone says:

“All along the watchtower / The princes kept the view /
While all the women came and went / Their footservants too /
Meanwhile in the cold distance / A wild cat did growl /
Two riders were approaching / The wind began to howl”

-August 20,2001

(Dedicated to Douglas D. Carlyon, my common law husband
of eighteen years, who died April 18,2002, less than eight months
after this poem was written. So long, Doug.)


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Robert Frost

The Road Not Taken

Comments (1)

This indeed is a scrambled egg poem. So many issues. We fight about such small matters and yet they seem so big.