Burnt Toast by Linda Laderman

Burnt Toast

I don’t know how to be old.
Everyone I loved died years before old age.
My mother, father, friends taken without warning.
Most days, my brain lies to me. It says I’m young.
It doesn’t take long for my body to say otherwise.
Yesterday, the woman who colors my hair watched me
struggle to open a bottle of water. She offered to help.
Her look said, poor old lady, I’ll never be old like that.
Any bit of patience I possessed has vanished, like the years.
My therapist tells me to be understanding with my husband,
who is fine with being old. When he asks, What did you say,
for a third time, don’t confront. Answer again, and again,
if necessary. She says I shouldn’t complain—that most women
my age would give anything for a man who rubs their back.
The first thing I smell in the morning is the bitter scent
of my husband’s burnt toast. He says he can’t smell it,
so I crack open the window and wonder why we have tiles
that read Home is Love and Joy on the sill when we still
argue about silly things, like the time I asked if he’d move
the porcelain chicks from the middle of the table onto a shelf.
He declined. Our conversations are riddled with deliberations.
We discuss the dishwasher. Should we run it, or wait?
What do we want to eat tonight? Carry in or cook?
Catch a movie or stream something to watch?
Today was too cold to be out. I barely made it to the grocery.
Sleep, when it comes, is a relief. Somewhere only I can go.


Linda Laderman is a 73-year-old (almost 74) Detroit poet. Her poetry has appeared in One Art, The Willawaw Journal, The Jewish Literary Journal, The Hole in the Head Review, and The Write Launch, among others. She has work forthcoming in May in The Writers Foundry Review. She’s studied with the Sarah Lawrence Writing Institute and workshops regularly with the Poetry Craft Collective, a cohort of poets who review and encourage each other’s writing. For many years, she was a docent at the Holocaust Center near Detroit, where she led adult discussion tours. Find her at lindaladerman.com.

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