Ellen Stone

Today is the Sabbath of medicine

We have gathered all the little pill bottles
in the sanctuary of the kitchen table,
lined them up like good parishioners.
Together we tell them when it is their turn.
You hold the list and can’t pronounce
the names quite like you used to.
I find myself correcting.  We count
the number and the milligrams, cross-
checking one another.  This is our daily
bread now, the plastic box, its tidy slots
where each one rests, the white, the pink,
the blue.  We are thankful we have enough.
Glad Walmart pharmacy provides.
That the refills have arrived.
Cardiology, transplant, psychiatry –
anti-coagulation, the latest of the clinics.
We are practicing gratitude in the belly
of America – on this day of rest.  You
live here in your wheelchair now, your
eighteen meds keep you alive. You still
have your Medicare and Medicaid,
my prayers & curses floating like fluff
out the subsidized apartment window,
Norway maple flowers junking asphalt ,
with hard green buds, new lilac blooming
somehow smelling like bereavement
or grace, I cannot tell the difference.


Dear garden shed

After Matthew Olzmann

(April) Just now, the tallest trees above you do a crane dance in the storm light as if the uppermost branches could take off and fly down the boulevard out to the river. Tonight I do not want to be alone. Can we gather in you – out of the weather with the field mice, the fat squirrels? I could turn the plastic buckets upside down for seats. Your smell is like my grandfather’s cellar, the old barn: grease, soil, dried parts of ground – grasses and leaves. Sweet & dry. No wonder I want to live in you.

(June) Lately, I have had these thoughts about transformation. Carrot tops curl into the sink like green salamanders. What is found under rocks. Or what contains me, my skin. What I have taken for granted. What I hide under, or in. Shedding my skin, shedding my fears. The other day when I went to water the garden, there was a cicada carcass attached to the underside of a cucumber leaf. How weird is that, to be able to just leave behind your skin and grow another? I wish we humans could have changeable skin, like hair color. Talk about walking in someone else’s shoes. Were I green as katydid, brown as grasshopper, my life would change irrevocably. What I would learn.

(September) What of risk, garden shed? Envision these baby acorns or hickory nuts littering your backyard. So early, they aren’t fully formed, but here they come. Only babies are supposed to flail themselves to earth, but suppose all of us did, regularly? Wouldn’t we be happier? I just know that feeling of falling to the ground, believing it will hold you. What else feels the same way? My sisters and brother and I used to regularly fling ourselves off trees, swings, down grassy knolls, knowing we would land. Not knowing how lucky we were.

(December) Shed, this odd & ugly winter, we have left you open. The squirrels gnawed their way in, leaving doors in the sideboards, little passageways. My father says every living being needs the same thing – harbor, somewhere soft to rest for the night. He lets the honey bees live in the chimney, flying squirrels in the plaster walls. So, come red ones, black and grey, orange acrobat, catapulting off the oak leaf hydrangea like a cannon. Hang upside down from the feeder; eat until you are full. Tiny creatures, make your nest in some warm dry hollow, tarpaulin or garden pot. It is winter in our country & we are afraid. Dear garden shed, we have opened your borders & taken down the fence.


Ellen Stone teaches at Community High School in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Her poems have appeared lately in Passages North, The Collagist, The Citron Review and Fifth Wednesday. Michigan Writers’ Cooperative Press published Ellen’s chapbook, The Solid Living World.  Her poetry has recently been nominated for a Pushcart prize and Best of the Net.  Ellen’s favorite sweet is her Granny’s rhubarb cake.

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