Whimbrel imprints in the sand.

We walk nearly every morning and some days, when the wind drives onshore, we fill our bags with trash. Other days, like this morning, there was hardly a thing cast ashore. Most trash comes from the ocean.

All of Gary’s Mother’s Day wish is gone this morning. I thought the sand dollars had been swept away, but Gary points to the busy pattern of footprints even above the high tide line. Someone has gone out late yesterday evening and collected them. We do not mind. Take more, we say aloud. Take the other shells left as an offering on the edge of our path. Take the garden clippings Gary will not burn unless the weather turns damp and the wind blows off-shore.

We hope it was a neighbor’s child who took the sand dollars, a child not enrolled in school and not being home schooled, whatever might be the excuse. Her parents have told her that in the fall she will start at the local private school—a strong producer of entitled local youngsters, a few of them independent and charming people, but too many who think they are more important than the rest of the world. Nevermind. The little girl’s parents cannot afford to pay for trash pickup. Private school?

In the mean time I wonder: Is this something I must report? Since I am retired, am I still a mandatory reporter? Do I think this is neglect? I have known many mandatory reporters—teachers, doctors, counselors—who failed to report. My mother was still driving when she could barely walk. Where was the mandatory reporter then? No one ever thanks you for doing this duty. I have known both parents and students who never forgave me. That’s why it is mandatory, that is why I do not need to be sure. I need to have doubt.



Maggie Rue Hess


I learned the beauty of futility, and now I know its sorrow
from cleaning rooms at the Holiday Inn;
what you tidy today will need you again tomorrow.
There’s a satisfaction in work whose effort you can show,
soothing to proper corners what is chaos when you begin.
I learned the beauty of futility, and now I know its sorrow,
because there is no end to the process. You must borrow
time, must accept that the struggle is the win:
what you tidy today will need you again tomorrow.
Is it never done? How do you live when you must go
through the same back-bending motions day out and day in?
I learned the beauty of futility, and now I know its sorrow.
Remember that it’s not just about hotel rooms, though;
it’s just as true for hate, failure, pain, or sin.
What you tidy today will need you again tomorrow.
The good work never sleeps: a housekeeper would know.
We clock in and clean up again and again.
And I—I’ve learned the beauty of futility as well as its sorrow—
what I tidy today will need me again tomorrow.


from Rattle #63, Spring 2019
Tribute to Persona Poem

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