Volume 23, Number 1

They Do

Harriet and Sadie met at the library
in 1976. They bought a house,
scraped twenty years of paint
from the shutters, planted a rose bush
on each anniversary, their back yard
a summer rainbow of scarlet, pink, yellow.

They added a room when Sadie’s mother
was diagnosed with stomach cancer.
Harriet took night shift, made pudding,
offered popsicles, wiped vomit,
changed the nightie and sheets
of a woman who refused
to say her name.

Sadie stood in the hallway as Harriet
was whisked through the ER doors,
hand trailing from the stretcher,
unable to speak. Nobody
came to the waiting room
to tell Sadie that Harriet’s heart
stopped, she needed emergency
bypass, might not survive.
Sadie asked at the nursing station,
was told only immediate family
could visit the ICU.

July 24, 2011. Harriet and Sadie
waited on the Albany courthouse steps
at dawn. They exchanged vows,
the same promises they made
every year. Harriet held
Sadie’s arm, helped her
down the steps. They stopped
at the garden center, drove home,
made mimosas in a cut-glass pitcher.
Sadie leaned on her walker, sang
“You’re Still the One” off-key while Harriet
planted a white rosebush by their front door.

—Nina Bennett