Michael Bornemann


She was another lonely lady in a home for them.

At first it was no problem to be kind
and listen as I drew the blinds or moved a chair
to how her hair was once so long

With every extra blanket, came her memories of friends,
of whom she didn’t know how many were alive
except the one she married
(who, indeed, was dead),
and sometimes in the way I turned my head
she saw her son
(who never came to see her anymore).

My daily chores on her behalf
began to take a longer time than I had kindness for,
so soon I would excuse myself with some pretended task,
and then I passed in silence when I had to pass her door.

The nurses said she never cried
but only sat and waited.

I prepared the body when she died.

Teasing Her

Let me put some peanut butter on her nose
So she’ll look cross-eyed down her whiskered snout
And stick her little pink tongue out to clean the lump away,

Or how about I place a strip of Scotch tape
on the bottom of each paw
so we can watch her shake them
like a bride wanting to look dignified and beautiful
who’s forced to do the hokey-pokey
with the groom?

I see too late that you are not amused
by my pretending meanness to your cat,
As though I were a prank-pulling jackass after all.

“Oh, Michael, stop.” you say, bending once to pet Sophie
before leaving the room
with her bouncing behind you on tippy toes.

All day you turn your face away
avoiding the stink of my bad joke.
You stay annoyed with me and with our marriage
like two sticky things I placed on the soles of your feet
some thirty-seven years ago.

© Michael Bornemann

Michael Bornemann is retired from a career serving disabled and underprivileged individuals. He remains active on several agency boards of directors in his community and influential committees in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. His articles on disability issues, family relationships, death and dying, and social justice have appeared in the Op-Ed section of the Baltimore Sun. His poetry has been published in the Maryland Poetry Review and the Baltimore Sun.

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9 thoughts on “Michael Bornemann”

  1. i will b the first to comment- and, guess what- one of the few- i challenge to see if others digest wnat loch raven offers? i do
    these poems deal with important issues- the first one has real punch in the ending (rare these days)

    • Thanks for your comment, mozela9. I like the bittersweet taste of real life in a poem. “Orderly” I wrote about 40 years ago when I first learned of my capacity for being indifferent to someone who needed me. And, yes, I did help strip the clothes off the lady’s body while the undertaker was on his way to pick up the corpse for burial. “Teasing Her” I wrote a couple years ago. In it, the “Her” could refer to our cat or to my wife. They resemble each other in so many charming ways. Some days, I am the jester meant to try their dignity and poise. There are some deeper insecurities in our long marriage suggested by the simple incident in this short poem. But that’s Life, if your poem can point the way in words, right?

  2. Paul Horatio Hornblower said:

    “Not just Poetry,” but dreams filled with the emotions of a young man.
    Who because of his written words, will indeed prevail forever.

    • Thanks, Paul. The dreams and emotions in the youth of the author of these two poems faded long ago. If it weren’t for the tool of the written word, the events that inspired me might not have prevailed at all – let alone forever.

  3. Nice works, Mike. The first one made me a little sad. The second one had me smiling. Don’t know if those were the emotions you were anticipating, but….

    • Thanks, Cindy. You can’t give a “right” or “wrong” response to a poem. It’s not a guessing game, and the author tells you whether you got it right. I’m glad each of the two stimulated emotional responses in you – for whatever reasons I may not have anticipated. I know why I wrote the poems and what they mean to me now. I am glad they mean something to you.

  4. blindwalker said:

    Nice poems Mike. Both touch on vivid regrets that linger following our good intentions. Exhausted by kindness? Playfulness? Waiting for companionship that passes us by quiet as a cat?

    • Thanks, blindwalker. “Orderly” is certainly about regrets. I guess it is frightening for each of us to realize for the first time that our capacity for kindness (if not love) is finite. What we feel after that – indifference, annoyance, even animosity – may be all there is left. “Teasing Her” is about my frequent mistake of taking a joke too far, as my wife often reminds me. She says there may be some real malice behind my teasing that I try to excuse as just pretending. Upon reflection, I think she has a point. By suggesting we torment her beloved cat, I am really teasing my wife.

  5. the first poet in the issue- seemed to b no spot for comments- btw facebook has banned me from comm enting- i must have pissed somebuddy off for calling his/her poetry prose?

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