This Janet, Rodd Whelpley

Fragment, Donnybrook sandstone. 2014. 28 cm H x 22 cm W x 19 cm D, Duncan Moon


This Janet


When she first found out,
she direct messaged me:
“If I’d have known in college I was middle aged,
I’d have done things different.”

Now, with less energy, her case dire,
she posts status updates
like: “Today, my little darling came running up the stairs
to tell me about her first day of school. She asked,
When you die, do you want to be buried
in a shady spot,
a sunny spot,
or do you want to be put into one of those shiny vases,
so I can keep it in my room
and hug it?’”

Then, crashing replies for all to see.
Women – none with names I know –
with thoughts
on prayer circles
or chemo
or quality of life
or death with dignity
to this Janet
with children I’ve never met,
with more deadbeat husbands than a stray cat.

Who is their Janet?
Do they see her?
Share meals? Or,
like me,
did maybe they leave her, weeping,
lying in her shabby single dorm room bed,
and were they,
like me,
never happier to close a door?

All these women
and me –
now so many strands of a net
weaved of well wishes and good words
that maybe I bind up,
teardrop shaped,
sling across my back,
never minding what sifts through.

One day
(because the receptionist reported to my mother
I’d read quietly the whole time
in the specialist’s waiting room)
before we left the city
we stopped for lunch at Higbee’s.
For me, the hobo meal.
And we delighted as our waitress
Charlie Chaplined to our table,
shouldering a stick with a bandanna sack.

She walked past, dipped,
let the sack slide down to my place setting.
For a moment,
the waitress
and I
stared at the bright red knot.
Then together
the waitress and I
untied the bindle to find an apple
and a sandwich cut in triangles.

We smoothed the bandanna corners,
squaring off the placemat,
and, as we did so,
she touched my hand.

Rodd Whelpley


Review by Laurinda Lind

This poems comes off a bit picaresque: social media, college flashback, “doctoring” (my quotes, not his), cute waitress. I’m thinking what ties it all together is the sense of moving through relationships with women (mom included).


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