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Poetry By
  Fred Longworth

Published on: 1/31/2011
The Woman on the Veranda
at Seaside Retirement Hotel

The way she sits,
spine straight, hands folded
in her lap, eyes pointed due west
toward the waves
advancing on the beach
in columns of monotony,
suggests at first glance
a tranquil, disciplined spirit.

A quarter mile north,
the egrets and blue herons
of San Elijo Lagoon
stand in the shallow water
almost motionless, each slender leg
a pretence of a reed.

Suddenly, the woman's hands
slip from her lap.
Something held in them
clatters across the deck.
A slim Hispanic man
in an attendant's grays
walks up softly.

He gently takes her wrists
and places them in her lap.
Then he picks up the object --
by glint and outline a crucifix --
and folds it into her grasp.

As she sits there, erect
and impassive, a faint saltwater mist
frosting the lenses
of her glasses, the attendant
heads for the lobby,
stopping only to straighten
a vase of stargazer lilies.

To the north, a helicopter
from the Marine base whop-whops
low over the lagoon.
The fisher birds scatter to the air.
Then, as if connected to invisible
tethers, they return to exactly
the same spots.

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