like a pair of small birds,
cabinet to cabinet, gathering.
preserves into glass jars, marking
the name of a
neighbor on each lid.
favors on the table, covering
the lot with
a white bed sheet. She plants
a sign in the
front yard: 80 in great neon
Crowns herself with a triangular party hat,
falling past her lips like a prayer.
Cadenhead is the author of two chapbooks, Inventory of Sleeping Things
(Maverick Duck Press, 2010) and The Education of a Girl (Maverick Duck
Press, forthcoming in 2011). Her work has been featured in such
journals as Illuminations, Ruminate, New Plains Review, and various
others. For more, visit www.heathercadenhead.com
I've noticed that the elderly are almost romanticized. There is
something mystical and perhaps a little frightening about them. As
young people, we often plan out the types of elderly people we want to
be—my mother wants to go sledding when she's 80, for example. My
father, who has perfect vision, wants to wear glasses. I want long,
In a way, this poem is what I'd call a future memoir—it is an
event that hasn't happened to me, but represents in every way the type
of elderly lady I plan to be. I imagine I'll find odds and ends around
my house to give as Christmas gifts. I can picture throwing myself a
birthday party at age 80.
We've thrown birthday parties where only two or three people
attended—and sympathized with the neglected child. I thought it
would be interesting to adjust the scenario and visualize an old woman
whose birthday is forgotten. And to speculate that, even at age 80, we
might still experience it for the simple tragedy that it is.