Ted Lord

Paying Dues
She was nothing like Frida Kahlo
my German nurse, Frieda

out of focus in the corner of our kitchen
a jam jar glass of ginger ale, rye bread

with butter, off-white uniform
color of the wall.  No dramas:

steady consolation of a strong back
an infinite patience for games of concentration

with cheating children, weak brown hair
better than any barometer for revealing

the atmosphere that enveloped us.  No Diego:
just the five or six families she’d lived with

five years or a decade, decks of cards
she’d fan out and in a wistful tone

conjure – the royal flush of a spoiled girl,
a magical ace of a grandfather popping out

of a black hole with love or money,
two weeks by some sea.  She always said

that as a young girl, fresh from Essen,
she’d paid the nickel New York bus fare

over and over each time the conductor
made his slow rounds.  That she’d gained

all the weight  six months in a chocolate factory.
That us kids were recompense enough

(her shadow now two inches of grey
by the matting in my favorite family portrait).

Copyright 1998, Ted Lord
Ted Lord is Executive Director of the Pride Foundation, which funds lesbian and gay organizations throughout the Pacific Northwest.  His poems have appeared in Kansas Quarterly, Nimrod, Sycamore Review, Wisconsin Review, and previous issues of Switched-on Gutenberg.

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