“Miss Marietta” by Stefanie McCleish

Miss Marietta sits on her front porch
smoking a cigarette,
talking to her boyfriends–
the matriarch of White Oak Estates.
As she flicks the ash into her water bottle
a makeshift tray,
Blair zooms by on her scooter
hollering, “Hiiiiiiii Miss Marietta!”
Marietta cocks her head back
releases her mystically hoarse laugh
returning the greeting with an effortless and joyful,
“Hi honey!”
Her perfectly placed curls
barely waiver as she smiles
from her throne.

Miss Marietta appears on her stoop
her foot casted and trapped,
her spirit unchanged–
the epitome of resolve
as she details her plan
to heal from the fall.
Blair chases lighting bugs
on the front lawn
appearing inattentive
but yelling, “Get well soon, Miss Marietta!”
Always sitting on the porch,
always the gracious beneficiary
of a little girl’s warmth.
Blair and Marietta,
each a beacon for the other
illuminating what just a little
can do for a person.

Miss Marietta doesn’t emerge
onto the vacant porch.
It’s been a few days.
Even five-year-olds notice
these things.
The rumors are swirling
and we hear enough to know
Miss Marietta isn’t well.
Kindergarten Blair has heard about
filling other people’s buckets.
She knows what to do.
An avalanche of art supplies
dumps onto our well-loved kitchen table.
She is determined to fix it all,
relentless hope inside,
with the crooked letters
she is just learning to make.

It doesn’t matter how little we know
about the beautiful stories
or the wondrous adventures
of Miss Marietta’s life.
A person doesn’t need to be
to be cherished.
Blair taught me that.

Miss Marittea’s spot on the porch
remains empty, unoccupied.
the silence,
her absence
A visual for a conversation about loss
that will soon need to occur.
The house next door searches
for peace and comfort
juxtaposed with ours,
full of cartoon characters, giggly squeals
and storybook dreams.
Blair’s encounters with death are limited
to angels and pets crossing rainbow bridges.
And I’m thinking about how
I don’t know how to even begin
to parent through this,
but each night
she says a prayer for Miss Marietta,
never wavering in her unending support.
Stating, that if she needs
to go,
she will watch over us all
and always be
our great neighbor,
our friend.

Miss Marietta,
the Matriarch of White Oak Estates.
She watches over us all
from her front porch throne.
A beacon for Blair,
a light in the clouds.
A person doesn’t have to be
to be cherished.
And I just try to remember
what a little tenderness can do for a person,
because Miss Marietta taught me that.

Stefanie McCleish is a high school English and Multimedia Communications teacher in a suburb of Illinois. Although a voracious reader and lover of the humanities, she is new to the poetry scene. She is excited to grow as a poet and show her students that it is never too late to become a writer. The mother of two inquisitive children who keep her on her toes, she lives in Frankfort, Illinois with her supportive husband and dog Archie.

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