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Brush Strokes on eighty 


Paint stroke #1


a shock of alone 

arrives in late evening

when there’s chill on the house

and silence lingers with cobwebs,

it doesn’t startle, doesn’t break open,

it stands still, face to me, stark

but alive and assured


seven beats of frozen silence

facing my self’s new countenance

reflected back in alone’s solid stance

i let go daily, but cannot revive lost loves,

cannot embody my disappeared agility,

standing side by jowl with another

does not assuage this solitary singleness


i am alone

my attentive children surround me

with pleasures of inclusion

but i live a secret 

they cannot share

i am alone

and we have settled in together


Paint stroke #2


She turned back from the curb

a house

her house 

forty years ago a middle age woman 

wedded again with a new marriage bed

a new garden, new habits to build


twenty years ago, he took 

his final leave, stolen from her

from the inside out,

snatching breath, fraying their life,

the slowness of the rip

still burns along the edges


ten years ago, she can see it still,

collective concern for her public fall,

she pushed against their good intentions 

cutting into her days, ragged remains of her time

accidental lacerations to ego still tender, 

she leans against the car defeated


the precious nest that enfolded her life

worn bare to the borders of the porch

the screen door aslant on loose hinges

dingy drapes still hanging dutifully 

furniture dissolving like hunks of bread

as she opens the car door she can’t look back


Remember, ‘retirement’ home,

not hospice! She repeats over and over

as her daughter slips through traffic

up over the only big hill in town

and down onto the oneway drive 

delivering her to the end of her ride


Paint stroke #3


we watched my genial mother-in-law

mutate every hour she stayed alive

into ripe resentment of what

the years had brought her to,

she sat silent and angry

in the midst of the children 

she had made a life of,

she refused to embrace 

alone, who 

she knew

had stolen 

so much away

from her


but now with my own visit 

from alone, 

i opened the door 


let her in 

nakedly unprepared

she has come 

not as guest

but as new inmate,

she brings 

nothing with her

she leaves no footprint

she is alone.




© Sharon Lopez Mooney, “Brush Strokes on Eighty”, originally published in the Cold Lake Anthology 2023, Burlington Writers Workshop, Vermont, 2023

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