Anna McLoud Gibbs

On growing old

In winter, the wharf turns quiet and still.
Tired couples walk strollers as ice snaps
And the elderly make tea with rose hips.
School buses follow the coast and turn orange
In the sharp sunrise. And I can hear horses,
That quiet way the estuary shifts and steams.

I sit at Cynthia’s table and watch her through the steam
Of our tea. We talk about the past because it still
Interests us. She moves haphazardly like a colt.
She can’t walk on grass during cold snaps.
From her window, she watches a pot of orange
Flowers die. Ninety pounds, ninety years, one hip.

My grandmother knows broken hips.
She knows to hold congestion and tears above steam.
Her table is covered in cloves and clementines.
She wraps rubber bands around her life stills
And feeds us whipped cream after she snaps.
When I visit her, I drive past fields of horses. 

On the way home, too: horses.
I walk to the wharf to the hum of cricket hips.
The water reddens and I pass the strollers snapping
Clam shells. A boat drags itself ashore, steaming.
Did I not come here to feel stronger the loneliness? But
I also vowed to hate orange, and the water glows orange.

And it tastes like orange, and it smells like orange.
These magnificent creatures that we put down like horses.
Cynthia walked to her husband’s grave, where he lay still.
She watered his flowers and broke her hip.
Her husband watched quietly. No steam
For warmth. As she lay, her bones residually snapped. 

We never expected the strength of the snap.
My grandma forgot the tree, and the tea we made with its kumquats.
She walks to me with a bowl of steam.
Inhale. We notice together. We breathe together like horses.
I cannot choose between being a horse and breaking a hip.
How does one lose a mind without some loneliness? Still,

It all snaps with pressure. A horse
Ambles by, grinning an orange. I cannot worship
Steam much longer. Heat precedes stillness. 

-Sestina, Spring 2019