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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 23: 28 April 2024
Poem: 285 words
By Patricia L. Scruggs

Cottonwood for Now

Cottonwood seeds hang midair, cover the sidewalks and the lawns 
like a dusting of new snow or maybe ashes after a brush fire. 

Last night, we talked about ashes. What to do with them. Who has them. 
By now, my mother’s have drifted 

down the South Platte to the Mississippi and from there to the Gulf. 
My father’s are in the Strait of Georgia off Vancouver Island. 

Separated in death as they were in life. 

My son still has his late wife’s ashes 
and those of her mother on a shelf in his closet. 

His mother-in law wanted to be sprinkled in Paris, 

while his wife, whose sudden death at forty-one shocked us all, 
never got the chance to choose. 

I don’t want to sit on someone’s shelf. Scatter me 
anywhere along the Pacific coast. 

My husband says he wants to be dumped in the air ducts 
of a casino over the card room, so he can blow ashes 

on those who smoked next to him playing poker. 
If I’m still around when he goes, he gets the Pacific. 

Ever noticed how it’s easier to talk about disposing of the ashes 
than about the actual dying that goes before it? 

No one ever says, I want to suffer, to waste away, 
to fight for breath, to beg for another day. 

At worst, I want to die of old movie disease, 
lying in a hospital bed, hair perfect, a stray lock falling 

over a slight dampness on the brow, cheeks flushed, 
a handsome movie star weeping over me. 

Better still, like most everyone, I want my own death 
to be quick, painless, preferably during sleep. 

To dream, hanging in midair, 
			like cottonwood seeds. 
Patricia L. Scruggs
Issue 23 (April 2024)

is the author of one poetry collection, Forget the Moon. Born in Denver, Colorado, she grew up in Alberta, Canada, where she often saw the Northern Lights in winter. When she was a teenager, her family relocated to Southern California where she has happily lived ever since.

Her poems have appeared in Burningword Literary Journal, Calyx, Crab Creek Review, Cultural Weekly, Inlandia: A Literary Journey, The Lummox Journal, MacQueen’s Quinterly, ONTHEBUS, Rattle, RipRap, and Spillway, among others; as well as in these anthologies: 13 Los Angeles Poets, So Luminous the Wildflowers, and Beyond the Lyric Moment.

A recent Pushcart nominee, Patti earned her MFA at California State University, Fullerton. Now a retired art teacher, she and her husband of 68 years have two children and three grandchildren.

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

Contemporary Stuff in Burningword Literary Journal (July 2023)

A Dazzle of Zebras Escapes From a Maryland Farm in MacQueen’s Quinterly (Issue 12, March 2022)

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