Hello and Goodbye in Athens

Imagining the Acropolis since high school
Latin I, with Mrs. Carfagno.
Statues and boulders of stone everywhere
marble soft and buttery, never in straight lines.

Today, seen in person, early morning sun
with soft shadows alongside the columns.
Tall, steep steps to climb.

The National Museum holds bursting blond statues
strong naked men, chastely dressed women
in flowing gowns. Busts of Hera, Zeus,
of identified and unidentified mortals and gods.

Most striking, family generations, in marble rooms,
showing how goodbyes were said.

A woman grieving, her jewel box
handed to her servant,
a man holding an infant out to his dying wife,
a father shaking hands with his young son,
husky horse standing between them.

Room after room full of farewells,
showing death’s hello and goodbyes.

No and Yes

First she said, No, her group of piano students
was all full up. Besides, she had applied
for a new position. She and now I were sure she would
be chosen, and then there’d be no teaching at all.
Sitting in the bottom of a sinking sulk
I tried to think of what else to do.

Yesterday she called back and said
she hadn’t gotten the new position,
and that was likely alright, as it would require
too many hours anyway.
She could take a few new ones
for the older students who’d stopped
during the pandemic,
and would I like to be one?

So I jumped rope with my sulk
tossed it away in the wind
and cannot seem to stop smiling.

Ned’s Grace

Besides being a beautiful, kind boy who listened to girls,
Ned was Lower Makefield Township to me, where I moved at ten.
In Bucks County, not flat like Akron. The schools were a grade ahead.
We had a breadman, a milkman, the dry cleaners rattled
as they roared up Brook Lane.

Ned was settled, conservative, fair of face and limb, calm and shy.
He had a group of boys he played baseball with.
Ned was every girl’s hoped-for boyfriend in fifth and sixth grades.
We girls used to sing out his name to the tune of the Mickey Mouse Club’s
theme song: “N-E-D-R-E-Y-N-O-L-D-S, Ned Reynolds, Ned Reynolds,
forever let us hold our banners high.” We sat in the back of the bus
and roared our song on the way home from school.

The group I wanted to join with was already holding boy-girl parties
by the time we were twelve. Dances and kissing games started early.
The girls I ate with in the cafeteria made a list of BILTSW. “Boys I’d Like
To Sleep With.” We raised our celery sticks as a salute to this and carried
a small piece of paper with the boys’ names on it in our wallets.
That was good because we didn’t have much else there.
Ned’s name was on every girl’s slip of paper.

Ned and I went to dances in seventh grade and went steady in eighth grade.
He was my first boyfriend. Always a gentleman. He always made time for me
and it has remained that way. Ned became a thoughtful friend, a generous man,
loving husband and father. And close friend to many of us.

In our last phone call, his dying day, he asked, “Are you coming?”
“I am trying,” I could only say. “That’s OK,” he said, evenly.

How we will miss his grace.