At Age Ten I Am the Joy of Old Ladies


Their husbands are dead. They’ve continued
their little shingle retirements playing pinochle
and canasta and driving their old Buicks, rusty
bulbous and passé as our tired resort town

with its bumper cars and motor courts and no
reason to pull off the highway. I catch on fast,
a clever partner when they need a fourth and
always happy to empty ashtrays, to refill

plates of jam-stuffed cookies served on sets
of ‘40s Heisey. My presence is unquestioned,
though my preteen boygirl body - my lazy belly
and unmanly breasts - strains my clothes, strains

Dad’s tolerance, Grandma’s indulgence, other
boys’ ready inclusion. These ladies deal me in,
let me have real coffee and the scoop. I know
about the mayor’s first wife and why Tommy

doesn’t look like his sister. I know Mr. Sims
used to sell homemade booze. I know about
Bobby, whose mom owns the Curly-N-Cute,
how he got arrested in Portland for something

I couldn’t quite hear and was sent to Salem
for shock treatments. The ladies tut and coo,
pass me more cookies and admire my meld,
tell me I’m smart, say I’m a wonderful boy.

About the Author

David Pickering’s poetry has been published in the Raven Chronicles, Gold Man Review, Listening to Poetry, Portland Review, Gertrude Journal, in the anthology Salt, and online at NonBinary Review. Because he earns his living as a human resources director, David writes on Saturdays in the best coffee shop he can find. David recently moved from Portland with his husband to The Dalles, a town sadly bereft of good coffee joints. He continues to write, anyway.


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