Maureen Cooper is a retired Special Education teacher living in Vermont. She once lived in the Saint Catherine’s orphanage in Albany, NY, Now, she lives simply and loves to write, garden, and spend time with animals.
Hole in the Floor
There was a hole, the size of a watermelon
In our kitchen floor.
Right in front of the kitchen sink.
I don’t know how the hole got there,
But one morning it appeared
Without reason or explanation,
Like an omen, or a sudden rudeness,
Or just plain more bad luck.
We tiptoed and skirted it, tried to ignore it
Like it wasn’t really there
We must have wished that luck would revisit us:
that the hole would disappear one day,
As eerily as it had materialized.
But hopes and wishes would not mend it.
Our house was sagging and sinking,
Leaning and cracking on every surface,
From the frozen pipes in the cellar
To the missing shingles on the roof.
I would wake up before the others
And peek down the hole
into the darkness of the cellar below
“Someday I will live in
a big house
with sound walls and sturdy floors
Then I would go back to bed
And cuddle next to the
Safety of my big sister
And pray for good luck.
There are ghosts here today.
They have arrived on a sea of sadness.
They have stopped the clocks again and
Have flickered the lights and tapped on the walls.
I climb the stairs
And I sense them
In front of me.
They float with me down
And from room to room
As we sway to and fro in unison
Through waves of dust and misery.
They cling to me like barnacles.
I have attracted them
We are invisible remains of long ago disasters.
We are as lost
as our sense of direction.
As lost as a woman
who cannot decide to
get into the last lifeboat
on the Titanic.
Mary Alice 1969
On the third floor of the orphanage
On North Main,
Where we are kept
Unwed and unwanted
Nothing to watch on the TV,
No more puzzles to solve,
No more booties to knit..
I help Mary Alice and
Rub her scarred leviathan belly with oil
Because her stretch marks have begun to bleed.
I gently bind her large center with cheesecloth..
More support for the baby inside.
Something her mother might have done
If she were still alive.
From beneath the strain of fatigue and fear,
Poverty and injustice,
Her beauty smiles at me.
A tired, black, beautiful and graceful
She hugs me
Our huge bellies collide.
Our unborn babies whisper
We gaze out from the third floor window
Of the unwed mothers’ wing
At cold autumn Albany.
Hoping our time will come soon.
Wishing our burdens to be made