Ellen Steinbaum

It starts like tenderness


the helping hand cupping the elbow

that we shake off as if we didn’t notice,

as if we felt no sting.  


The children—grown now, middle-aged—

take bundles from our hands,

solicitous in unburdening, and—

like us—calibrating, sounding for decay.


Before their visits we clear the house

of the crimes of expired cereal, aspirin;

cut back the looming shrubs

that shroud the houses of the old.


In restaurants we watch

the slow, unsteady passage

to nearby tables, measure ourselves

against the faltering before us.

Ellen Steinbaum is the author of three poetry collections. Her work has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and is included in Garrison Keillor’s Good Poems, American Places and The Widows’ Handbook. A former literary columnist for The Boston Globe, she writes a blog, “Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe,” which is at her web site, ellensteinbaum.com



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