I can see through her sliding glass door
every day as I walk my dog early,
before the morning light
has cast its hopeful ray
onto a single blade of grass.
The old woman sits in the same place
in her living room, a tattered cloth
recliner chair with its dirty off-white
brocade pattern, and an obese yellow cat
that is always asleep on her lap.
An aluminum walker waits at her knees.
A plain wooden cane leans on the chair,
both probably part of an intricate
network of aids needed
to get herself into a standing position.
Her hands are knots huddled
together on pink rosary beads.
Crooked, swollen fingers
take in one bead at a time
with a cadence set by lips
once young, plump, and dumb,
but now as thin and sharp
as albatross wings coming in
for a landing on a buoy
in the middle of the ocean.
I’ve never seen or heard her up close,
but I don’t think she’s praying for herself.
The whole thing is too disciplined,
too focused, too entrenched a duty.
It’s an act of war, an act of love.
It’s a shield for the world
and the kids and grandkids
that live in it. A shield for the guy
who delivers her meals,
and the beautician who also does toenails.
It’s a shield for that lady and her ugly dog
who stop on the sidewalk
by the lilac bush every morning,
and watch through the glass door.