Sunday, June 20, 2010
The snake is exquisite when concealed by sticks and reeds,
Bending her way on her journey,
Wearing her cloak of camouflage;
Diamonds, shingles and shoals
In brilliant colors, silver and gold,
She glitters in her sly, crafty manner.
Some rattle before striking,
Others attack in silence
And the viper treats death
With casual disdain,
Undiscriminating when choosing her victim.
Perhaps the bite is not fatal
But its effect is everlasting,
The damage always permanent,
The site of the assault bears the scar.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Just to visit perhaps, in a blink of the eye
(Lord knows I’ve no intentions of staying)…
But to ease myself into that old kitchen of memory;
Smell onions frying,
Beans swelling in the pot,
Mixed with the stale garbage that wafted in the daily heat
from the covered can with green peeling paint,
that always gave its daunting scent as a greeting to all who entered
(I remember well.)
The screen-door, full of clawed holes that let in tiny flies,
which buzzed around in a gray circle,
because that old alley cat (who left this world long ago)
gave meaning to the term caterwauling;
Always someone telling him “hush”
Then the baby wakens from the noise.
South Westmoreland confused those seeking it;
Never getting the name straight.
Turn left at McArthur Park
Pass the Elden Street Church
Where daily, the choir sang their hymns,
In harmony with ever present sirens.
How young we were when we were young
Skin tight on our cheeks
Touched by the sun without a bother.
Bodies firm and unsuspecting
Voices raised in protest of things we now favor.
To go back for a little moment
Dangle my feet in the pool I never found the time to dip in
(Life was too busy)
(What on earth were we doing that was so important?)
And thank that brown eyed boy for saving me,
Even though I seemed to get lost time and time again.
Sounds and scents are vivid reminders
Of images put to rest long ago.
Living takes on new meaning in life’s decline;
Songs bittersweet intone long ago forgotten lyrics,
Tokens of the past, omens of the future,
Carried in the same tattered pocket,
Confused in the memory,
Blessed in the moment of when.
Monday, June 14, 2010
You gave everything
‘Til the emptiness was something you could feel,
Like little teeth nibbling at your center;
So you must rest then.
Your hands with all their sadness,
Cradled in your lap,
Have long toiled honestly your entire life;
It’s time to rest then.
You pushed with mighty strength,
Expelled from your body
An entire human being with an uncontrolled destiny;
So you can rest then.
Your legs pumped with relentless vigor,
Drawn from unknown depths
And the victory is yours now;
You can rest then.
Your heart sang like the thrush,
A sacred melody of love until your very bones
Ached with joy;
It’s your turn to rest then.
You fought the unknown enemy
In darkness seared with only blinding light.
Weariness takes you in its arms
And you can rest then.
And found the resources to give more.
You never relented and encouraged others to go on
Take time to rest then.
Friday, June 11, 2010
Forty-one years ago today, I gave birth to a baby boy. I’d entered the hospital in the middle of the night and labored until the early evening. Doctors examined me once an hour and were accompanied by students since I was in a teaching hospital, where I was giving my baby up for adoption. I was nineteen years old, turning twenty in a couple months and my parents, mainly my mother, had persuaded me to not keep my baby. During that day three friends visited me while I was still in a hospital room, before being transferred to labor and delivery. Although I was drugged, I was aware of their presence and have not forgotten their kindness and thoughtful words. Other than that, I was alone.
The doctors discussed several times taking this baby by cesarean section but the heartbeat remained strong so surgery was delayed. Shortly after 7 in the evening, I was wheeled from the labor and delivery room to the birthing room, where a tiny baby boy was taken from me with forceps and suction. He was strong and healthy and gave a vigorous cry. I fell asleep soon after.
When I awoke, I was in a lot of pain. It was morning of the next day. I had been given an episiotomy and also had lacerations. I will never forget lifting the sheets and having a peek at my deformed stomach and pubic area. It was a shock that I just as soon would forget about. The nurses kept trying to give me drugs for the pain but I’ve never been a big fan of semi-consciousness, so I refused.
They fed me a breakfast of hot cereal and a grapefruit with half a maraschino cherry decorating its middle like a big red belly-button. I didn’t have much of an appetite but I did eat the cherry. After they took the tray away, a young girl opened the door and brought a blue bundle to my bedside. When I told her that I was surprised and had been told I wasn’t meant to see the baby, she left him with me and went to ask someone what the proper procedure was.
I placed this little baby boy in my lap and sat up as well as I could. His little pink face peered back at me with rosy lips, shaped just like a cupid’s bow. Stork bites covered his eyelids, just like all the babies in our family who came before and after him. I unraveled the blanket and found the prettiest little body, dressed in a diaper and tiny t-shirt, blue booties on the feet. I pulled off the booties, inspected the toes and counted fingers, too. Peter Anthony, I whispered to him, having picked a name for a boy months before; I’d never thought of a girl’s name. I’d been convinced the baby growing in me was a strong male, who deserved a name with power and clout. I chose two names that historically belonged to men who were peacemakers, conquerors and leaders.
As this little boy-child lay between my sore and aching thighs, the door burst open and a matronly nurse with the face of a sow appeared, followed by the remorseful and apologetic aide who had mistakenly brought the bundle to my bedside. The superior nurse chastised the girl and me, even though I was of total innocence. The die was cast. Though my baby was returned to the nursery and with a whole week in the hospital, I never saw him again, I began my scheme to get him back. After all, he was mine.
Thanks for reading.
Monday, June 7, 2010
I’ve learned what to be quiet about,
And when to say my piece;
Times in the past I missed my cue
And failed to keep the peace.
But now I know when to speak
And when to hold my tongue;
This is a gift bestowed with age
Rarely given to the young.
The thoughts I spewed upon deaf ears
In my clumsy past
Have issued forth some mellowness;
I’ve discovered tact at last.
Friday, June 4, 2010
Playing with the devil,
When he carried a guitar,
Living on stolen time,
While riding in his car.
We thought we were invincible,
Ours cares were never free;
They were bought and paid for
With willful obstinacy.
We stormed the Crystal Palace,
Blew our minds out in the park,
Read Ginsberg and sang Cohen,
Burning candles in the dark.
The devil lit our pipes for us
With deceits our parents feared;
Ignited bras and draft cards,
And then he disappeared.
Ages later he came back again
As what we loathed the most
To spew more lies and twist our minds
He’s the Radio Talk Show Host.
On Joseph’s Abrupt Departure
signal of strident discord
caught my attention, disturbed my feeble attempt at work;
Rattled windows and
put portraits on the staircase askew.
I cringed and leaned across my pockmarked desk,
Rising slightly from my chair
to pull aside lemon colored frilled curtain…
There he was, striding long
the street shiny with rain
As the day embraced dusk.
White starched shirt flapping against his back,
Cap at hasty angle,
Jerking his worn and well traveled
pack over one shoulder blade.
Imagined his white knuckles, fierceness of his face,
at least for now.
Pounding on the staircase,
Wrenching open of the ancient oak door,
it, defenseless to the battering,
inset beveled glass catching prisms from inner lamplight
sending sparkles of light
flying across ceiling of the foyer hall.
wailed my sudden repentant daughter
Standing on tiptoes at
But Joseph’s intention was not related to relent –
Until he relented.
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
N is for No
No, said the voice on the telephone;
No, was the weary reply from ages away.
No, said the girl at the end of the bed;
No, agreed the man, shaking his head.
No, said the chin as it swayed to and fro,
Visiting one shoulder, then the other.
No, said the child who’d grown so old.
No, said the father, No, said the mother.
No, said the clown, this is not a joke,
As they said no from one to another.
No, said the motorists all in a race.
No, said the rain on an upturned face.
No, said the walker who followed his dog.
The answer is no and remains the same;
It could be Nothing by another name,
Or maybe the end of ceaseless pain.
No, is all that you need to know.
Clear the board, pass the deck,
Clean the slate, go home.