It Starts with Tenderness
by Ellen Steinbaum
The helping hand cupping the elbow
that we shake off as if we didn’t notice,
as if we felt no sting.
The children—adult 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.