Morning Routines

she’d scratch at the crossword
each morning, Monday through Sunday,
just after pouring his coffee. a dollop
of milk. a snap of sugar. is it a bacon
or scrapple kind of day, he’d ask,
not really caring.
she enjoyed food prep. oven timers.
eggs over easy. grease on griddles
pats of butter in pans. he was always
hungry. ate everything she made.
daily. never trimmed the fat. didn’t want
for anything. together, they solved life’s
most persistent dilemmas —
            eggs that ran
            milk that soured
            squabbles in pans
            less than tender beefs
            salt and/or pepper debates
he didn’t care much for puzzles, 
what’s the point, he’d say,
she didn’t care much for cold grits
or unfinished grids business.
eat up, she’d reply and pour
more coffee, spoon more jam,
then twist a No. 2 pencil
in her hand-held sharpener. 
one across. two down
four-letter word for ______
an antonym, six letters, for ___
another vowel
a word that rhymes with ___
also known as ___ 
he’d eat and smile at her sighs.
watch her brow crease. listen
to her knuckles crack. field challenges
for consonants. scavenge for names
of philosophers. the puzzles unsurprisingly
predictable. curate males – Aristotle and Plato.

hunt for cities plotted on faraway continents.
track stocks, real estate trades, and horse bets 
seven letter word for __
another name for ___
a famous trial. a Greek God. a rare bird
he’d offer letters — a few,
usually wrong, words
of encouragement (Y.E.S.)
and tease when he could
three across and four down share a vowel…
a four-season flower?
she was his answer
to many riddles — Knock Knock, Who’s There 
and he hers
             First winner of the Kentucky Derby
             Newton’s ____ Law of Motion
             Author of Pride and Prejudice
             Phillies Pitchers from the 90s
             Dolly Parton’s Birth City
             80s Surprise Broadway Hit
             70s Daytime TV Star 

memories tucked in ketchup dollars
and saltshakers. Decades on auto-dial.
palms always cupped. trades
always open minded
            not that. nice try. tricky word
            off spelling. wrong verb 
            too long. not long enough
            how many years ago?
he mostly waited

            for empty grids to fill. syllables to form
            coffee to cool. eyes to lift. I _ U 
for her – time

she didn’t need
much help
he didn’t need
much attention
just each other’s
the crossword, eggs, grits, coffee,
condiments, kitchen table, questions 

            —  accessories to their morning routine

                       for fifty years
                       and then

                                       — never acknowledging
                                       they’d always been on a timer
                                       the alarm rang
                                       / five-letter word for heartbreak