Guest Poem: Cleaning the Tea Buckets

The ladies in the senior center craft room
Complain about their aging husbands:
“He never this …” and “He always that …”
I think about the two hydration bottles
-- tea buckets we call them -- 
My Curtis takes to work, counting the days
Until he can retire from the railroad. 
They get grimy on the train engine
And they’re hard to clean.
Sometimes I think, “If I have to scrub 
these tea buckets one more time … !”
But I say nothing. 

The men at the senior center do it too.
They shuffle down to the exercise room
Stooped or pushing walkers
To sit on the equipment and talk 
About their aging wives.
“She never this …” and “She always that …”
Except for Walter, who doesn’t say anything
Because his wife just died.
What he would give to have her here
To complain about again!
The way she always threw out his favorite clothes
Just because the hat was stained, the shirt faded
Or the pants had holes in the back pockets.
Now it’s her scarf he can’t part with.
The silk still carries the scent of her perfume.

Sitting in the craft room, 
Stringing copper- and teal-colored beads
On thread, making necklaces for the prom closet
At the Methodist Church, I am quiet.
“Hey, you old people!” Oscar shouts, laughing
From the doorway as Doris shoos him toward the car.
I was widowed young, then remarried. 
I know if it happens again, if he goes first
It will be those tea buckets, 
And the infernal cleaning of them,
That I will miss the most.

Copyright Cindy Brookshire, 2023

CINDY BROOKSHIRE is a regional representative for the North Carolina Writers’ Network and an advisor to Triangle East Writers. Her books include A Heart for Selma; Little Towns; and (as contributing writer) Johnston County Creates. She coordinates weekly Activate Selma meetings and Telling Our Stories sessions in Selma, North Carolina. She loves small towns!



















































































The ladies in the senior center craft roomComplain about their aging husbands:“He never this …” and “He always that …”I think about the two hydration bottles-- tea buckets we call them -- My Curtis takes to work, counting the daysUntil he can retire from the railroad. They get grimy on the train engineAnd they’re hard to clean.Sometimes I think, “If I have to scrub these tea buckets one more time … !”But I say nothing.  The men at the senior center do it too.They shuffle down to the exercise roomStooped or pushing walkersTo sit on the equipment and talk About their aging wives.“She never this …” and “She always that …”Except for Walter, who doesn’t say anythingBecause his wife just died.What he would give to have her hereTo complain about again!The way she always threw out his favorite clothesJust because the hat was stained, the shirt fadedOr the pants had holes in the back pockets.Now it’s her scarf he can’t part with.The silk still carries the scent of her perfume. Sitting in the craft room, Stringing copper- and teal-colored beadsOn thread, making necklaces for the prom closetAt the Methodist Church, I am quiet.“Hey, you old people!” Oscar shouts, laughingFrom the doorway as Doris shoos him toward the car.I was widowed young, then remarried. I know if it happens again, if he goes firstIt will be those tea buckets, And the infernal cleaning of them,That I will miss the most. Cindy Brookshire 2023

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Katherine Gotthardt

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt, M.Ed., writing concentration, hails from the Northern Virginia/D.C. metro area. She considers herself a writer by nature and by trade, having begun writing for fun as soon as her mother helped teach her to read. An active part of the literary community, Katherine is current co-president and a founding member of Write by the Rails (WbtR), the Prince William Chapter of the Virginia Writers Club. Katherine has been a Prince William County Poet Laureate nominee and was the winner of Inside Nova’s 2019 and 2020 Best of Prince William award in the category of author. Her poetry and prose book Get Happy, Dammit: Staying Inspired and Motivated in an Often-Unhappy World received a Silver Award from the Nonfiction Authors Association. Katherine's children’s book, A Crane Named Steve, hit number one in its category on Amazon in 2019. Katherine then took first place in the free verse category of Loudoun County Library Foundation’s 2020 Rhyme On poetry contest for her piece "Discussion Topic." The Prince William Arts Council and Poet Laureate Circle awarded her the 2020 Outstanding Poetry Project Award for her leadership in Write by the Rails' Poems Around Town poetry installation. In 2021 Katherine earned second place for "Aftermath" in a Poetry Society of Virginia national contest and the regional Seefeldt Award for Arts Excellence in the category of Individual Artist. She won first place in the Virginia Writers Club statewide Golden Nib contest in the poetry category for her poem "Kayak." Katherine was recognized as a PW Perspective 2021 DMV Best Business award winner in the category of author. In April 2023, Katherine’s poem “Now Entering Manassas” was the winner of Manassas, Virginia's adult “time capsule” poetry contest. Katherine read her poem at the 150th anniversary celebration, the translated version by Jorge de Villasante was read in Spanish by Bianca Menendez, her poem was published in Neighbors of Historic Manassas magazine, and it was included in the city’s time capsule. While Katherine is well-known for her poetry, she also has established a solid reputation for writing articles, columns and short fiction. She is published in dozens of journals and anthologies and has authored 12 books: Poems from the Battlefield, Furbily-Furld Takes on the World, Approaching Felonias Park, Weaker Than Water, Bury Me Under a Lilac, Late April, A Crane Named Steve, Get Happy, Dammit, D.C. Ekphrastic: Crisis of Faith, Thirty Years of Cardinals Calling, Get Happier, Dammit and We All Might Be Witches. She uses proceeds from her books to support giving back initiatives.
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