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Kathleen Ripley Leo

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Up, Over the Steep Hill
by Kathleen Ripley Leo

'May we strive to touch and to know the great common woman's heart of us all...' Mary Stuart

Catch her by the waist, a woman friend,
whose laughter you hear in the night
ringing in your ears: over your elaborate strategy to lose weight;
over the grand joke you keep to yourselves;
over swearing her to secrecy for driving you
to the Secretary of State when you're late renewing.

Catch her by the waist, a woman friend,
whose baby daughter crawls through your dining room
looking for all the world
like a pink shell on the carpet, she moves so sweetly;
whose son shares his bike lock with your son at school,
the son she cheers on to win the race, to make the grade,
to stay alive one more day in the isolette.

Catch her by the waist, a woman friend,
whose hostas and phlox bloom in your garden;
with whom you kneel and pray for peace;
with whom you silently walk in the woods
hoping the raccoon, sunning itself
on the branch overhead, does not wake up,
hoping the deer in the clearing does not bound away,
who watches with you, both apprehensive and in awe,
as two snakes curl and dance in the sun
on the cement pavement at Maybury;
who takes care of the cat, the mail, the paper,
the broken ground between your houses,
picking you up at the side of the road
when you've locked your keys in the car,
quelling the shaking wings of your heart.

Catch her by the waist, a woman friend,
who has lunch with you after the angel tour at the Art Institute;
who helps you overcome your panic attack at the mall,
or on that crowded street in Washington DC,
or at that Brighton home tour;
who asks you to write your poems and to read them outloud;
who helps you pick out glasses to fit your odd and funny face;
who carefully tends to the basil parmesan bread,
so you can take it to your progressive dinner party
and claim you made it;
who washes your clothes in her machine when yours gives out.

Catch her by the waist, a woman friend,
who tells you what happened to the bank of sweet woodruff you dug out
the spring your father died, because in the fall
you couldn't remember doing that;
who tells you how to think about toxic criticism;
who helps you cope with aggressive jealousy;
who drives you to the hospital when your baby needs x-rays,
and then when your husband's there;
who drives you to the doctor for the procedure,
and carefully holds you when you cry;
who sees your letters unanswered,
and your invitations refused, sees your hurt and stays quiet;
who catches your waist, too, and together, laughing and crying,
you pull each other up, over the steep hill.

Kathleen Ripley Leo
(c) 1998 Leo

Other featured poems by Kathleen Ripley Leo

Pole Barn
Nawrot-Aron Poems
Where Truth Lies

Foot Massage
Flower Picture
Up, Over the Steep Hill
The Familiar
The Kiss