I always buy a tablecloth
when my husband visits
his mother.
Well, at least twice
I have. With napkins.
A hedge against loneliness.

Both times at a yard sale.
The first a military family,
a rather high rank with
commodious quarters and good
linens being transferred
somewhere else.
It was a tablecloth like
one I already had. My favorite,
which my sister always coveted.
With a dozen napkins.

“The stain will come out
with Biz,” she said indignantly
to my hesitation.
I have often felt grateful
I risked that tablecloth.
We use the napkins almost
daily. A pale teal,
in a weave I don’t
know the name of,
but it’s very easy
to care for.
That blend of beauty
and utility I try to build
my life on.

He doesn’t see it that way,
of course, he thinks I err
on the side of beauty
and cast utility out
the door.
Which is not true,
just look at us. It certainly
has not always been pretty.

He is leaving tomorrow
to visit his mother.
Yesterday I stopped
at a yard sale in an
affluent neighbor.
This year’s tablecloth
is red gingham with eight
napkins. I hesitated
over the small stain,
as well as the price,
but remembering the teal
one I took a chance.
It makes me feel I should
open a pizza parlor, it makes
me feel like I should have
a large family over for
I iron the wax drip
from its corner,
and soak it in Biz.