Stele

A word has power
Whether mined by
demagogues
for control
or carved into stone
for memorial
It can carry us
into exile
From ourselves
From our homes
A word can steel
the heart
or build an edifice
of faith in the future
It sifts or unites
and defines
Yet
destroy the word
You steal
time

rosetta stone

Top photo is the King Ezana Obelisk in Axum, Ethiopia. መንግስቲ ኣኽሱም (Ge’ez language) and  የአክሱም ሐውልት (Amharic language) for the word Axum, photo taken by Ondřej Žváček; bottom photo of the Rosetta Stone in the British Museum

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Goddessless

You always were
reluctantly uxorious
and wanted
goddesses
lusty and free
able to grant
immortality
But we arrived
quietly spinning
Not truculent
or furious

You once called us
the triple One
Maiden-Mother-Crone
then suddenly
declared us
cursed
and you usurped
the place of
our first trinity
Sometimes you
reconfigured us
as mother with
two sons or
banned us altogether
as Thrice-greatest
Trismegistus

You envied
my appearance
at births
during life
at deaths
You stole my alphabet
and tried to cipher
the metaphors
as if they were
power and wealth
to be counted
The dance I dance?
You need a heart
to understand
this rhythm
of chance

You should at least
have welcomed
me as Mother
alongside
the Father
and the Son
For my gentle smile
and steadfast love
are woman’s purest guile
for eternity won
I’ll be there
arms wide open
when you die
Will you recognize me
abandoned long ago
Your Comforter and
Holy Spirit?
Or will you
hunger for more
of these?
Mammon
War
and Mephistopheles

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Top photo of The Three Moirai by Johann Gottfried Schadow (1764 –1850); bottom photo of the Intimate Holy Family by Bramante Studio

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“…Same as the old boss…”

As Faustian deals
once again cement,
it’s too easy to ignore
poor Job’s lament.
But suffering shows
we’re all the same.
So when we’re one,
there’s no one to blame.

Who is it now
that demands we cower
to history
newly reconstructed?
That rough beast
slouching ever lower,
who prefers that reason
be deconstructed.

When liberation
masks raw power
and makes us bow
to new world disorder,
whose tempests now
blow even stronger,
we need an anchor
forged of courage
to withstand them
yet a little longer.

So when they cleverly
try to divide us,
we reject their slogans
of scorn as porous.
It’s in those spaces
filled with our disbelief,
we may speak together
in sweet relief.

There is one word,
one name I trust.
Everything else
has turned to rust.
Love!

first duty is to listen

Top photo shared from LoveYou2.org; bottom in the public domain

BONUS VIDEO: The Who for all you old rockers out there 😉

Won’t Get Fooled Again

 

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Iris

(i)

One winter evening
San Diego at dusk
after pacing the cold
linoleum floor for hours
My mother weirdly
stuffs me and my sister
into woolen coats
itchy hats and mittens
Drags us into the raw wind
to the nearest bus stop
When safely perched
behind the driver
I get up on my knees
and put my mouth against
her perfumed silky scarf
I breathe into her ear
“Where are we going?”
She puts her soft
tobacco scented finger
to my mouth
“Shhh…” she whispers
and mutters something goofy
I get scared
My stomach hurts

…This reminds me of the time
we walked circles in
a little grocery store
but couldn’t buy stuff
We stayed until dark
way past closing
The owner had to put us out
He asked if there was
anyone he could call
Mom was so afraid
to walk past the church
on the way home
A monstrous cathedral
Thought the devil was going to
jump out and grab her
An excommunicated Catholic
since being divorced…

Two hours later
it’s completely dark
and we’re still riding
the same bus
Susie and me jump across
to the opposite seat
As the bus empties
every few stops
we hop back and forth
not even annoying Mom
She looks very far away
Mostly we stare at
passing cars
neon bar signs
and closing shops
Entranced by
red tail lights in the
lucky cars ahead of us
My little sister whines
“I gotta potty!”
Mom blurts out even louder
“Let’s go to Auntie Bev’s!”
Her sister is newly wed
to Uncle Carlo
They live in the old
Little Italy
Grandpa calls him a
“wop lawyer”

(ii)

Carlo welcomes us into suffocating
warmth and aromas
Marinara and Italian sausage
simmering on his mother’s stove
She lives upstairs
“Beverly isn’t here. She and
Joanne are out bar hopping
and trying all the Big Boys
for the perfect strawberry pie.
It’s the new craze.”
He has a high nasal voice
I stare at black curly hair
smiling dark brown eyes
and heavy five o’clock shadow
Carlo’s rolling up his sleeves
a now wrinkled white dress shirt
Mom was clearly agitated
Entered then quickly emerged
from the hall closet
with her coat still on and buttoned
“Hitler’s in there with Stalin.
They told me to kill
the Negro Communists upstairs.”
I watch her for a long time
Search Carlo’s face
wondering how he’ll help her
But he’s waiting for my aunties
to provide a distraction

So in they burst all smiles
and tipsy laughter
From one hand
Bev drops jangling car keys
into her new jacket pocket
In the other
she balances her treasure
for Carlo
A perfect slice of pretty pie
Giant sliced strawberries in a
red gelatin glaze topped with
a dollop of whipped cream
still neatly peaked on top
“Jo, why don’t you take the kids
to watch television.”

Soon there’s a commotion
So I peek out the living room door
Two men in white coats
wrestling with my
betrayed mother
struggling to put her
into a straitjacket
Then without looking back
she leaves us again
I already know
we’re headed for
the children’s home
or some new foster parents
“The girls can stay here tonight.”
Carlo insists but Bev counters
“Just tonight.
We haven’t the room.”
I wanted to grow up fast right then
and take Mom to my own house

(iii)

Carlo’s father was first generation
Sicilian-American with a
shiny new taxicab
and paper bags of numbers
to send his son to law school
Carlo worked for free
or took fresh produce
brake jobs or new tires as payment
He defended Mom in court when
she slapped a kid tormenting Susie
Whenever he saw Mom
smiling and sane or
sick and mumbling
walking downtown
He’d yell, “Hey Iris!
How about a cup of coffee?”
We never could keep track of her
Always picking up and packing off
to only God knew where
We wondered why He
didn’t change her
She needed to take care
of Susie and me

At night Carlo drove downtown
to pick up racing forms
After I graduated we went
to Del Mar track
to play the horses
He also played poker
One cigar reeking night
lost the deed to their
new house in the suburbs
Later won it back
That house with the big bathroom
Smelled like gold Dial soap
And the summer I lived there
each morning over the sink
I very quietly stirred
baking soda in a glass
Trying not to clink
the metal spoon
Drank it quickly
to stop my morning sickness
before I told my boyfriend
I was pregnant

(iv)

Carlo got involved in politics
and Auntie Bev divorced him
But it was his own friends
who set him up and
took him down
Legally of course
Then diabetes, heart attack
and coma
But at the very end
before he slipped into
final dreams
I sent him a Thank You card
“For all your many kindnesses”
A few months later
Iris bolted and barred the door
to her room in the boarding house
She set out her
uncashed welfare checks
Pointed the new rifle she bought
and blew up her own heart
Next morning when
she didn’t show
the young caretaker couple
noticed her missing and worried
Because Iris was always
the first one to wake up
and make coffee
for everyone

strawberry-pie-slice-whipped-cream-picture

Both photos in the public domain

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Consider the Lilies

Autumn

Barn swallows
puff up
and huddle
atop our cottage roof
sated with a summer
feast of mosquitoes
Cool morning mists
shroud their migration

Grapevines bare
their sleeping limbs
and russet colored
leaves fall beneath
a harvest moon
But scattered among
that leafy blanket
frosted purple grapes
burst and weep perfume

Winter

A solitary blue jay
that squawking sentinel
guards the snow-laden
gates to the woods
A brilliant cardinal  
pauses
garment aflame
Then flits over cedars
where tiny sparrows
shelter from the wind

Spring

Melodious
in the pond
thawing frogs
croak frantically
Look skyward
calling down the night
and sing to Orion
on his ever silent crossing

One night we ran
with the mayfly hatch
frenzied and free
dodging trees
And just before dawn
three lonely loons
called for each other
across twin lakes

Summer

Seven golden ones
honey combed
and milky breasted
Seven children
made a home
a sacred garden
Laughing little gods
on their greenest beds

At twilight
fireflies darted
their farewell flicker
among the leaves of the
black maple tree
Tiny stars
and dancing children
together beneath
an end-of-summer moon

Barn-Swallows-a-Tree-Swallow-1024x768

Both photos in the public domain, no attributions found

 

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In Appreciation

Rebecca Budd is the most encouraging, enthusiastic and inspirational blogger I have the great privilege of knowing. She has several blogs, some of which you already follow, so I advocate for all of them! Rebecca is the busy bee of our blogging community, bringing sweetness, kindness, and compassion wherever she alights, not to mention her manifold artistic talents.

I am once again honored to have Lady Budd read one of my poems. Please visit…

Clanmother, On The Road Book Club

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Transmigration Blues

Come one
Come all
to the quarky ball
Where dancing skeletons
pick up stones
on this earthly scow
and clone the bones
Stand up now!
and let those photons
shoot right through you
Scotty to Kirk:
I’ve giv’n her all she’s got Captain
an’ I canna give her no more
But Jezebel says:
There’s music in
these old bones yet
Just ask Ezekiel
The Lord God says:
Son of Man
can these bones live?
Let the frosting melt
in MacArthur Park
’cause the recipe isn’t lost
in the rain
in the air
in the dust
in the dark
Carry Me Back to Old Virginny
Out through the orifice I skinny
Does DNA dream
in Schrödinger’s kitty?
I’ll never be nothing
now or then
I’m already
Here We Go Again

 

dancing skeletons

Top photo courtesy of Marissa Anderson (Flickr Creative Commons)

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Antilogy

Moments of joy
and terror
are not balanced
with the precision
of a “blind watchmaker”
Where there is
no chance
of error

Nor can these be
blamed on a
reckless
“devil’s chaplain”
innocent of intent
Who just asks
that we trust him

Theory can’t
unweave
the poetry of rainbows
Yet believes it shuttles
the weft and warp
Starts pulling at and
rearranging its own
tapestry

Its sparkling strings
trick and trap
but unravel
when fitter words appear
We follow their
endless strands
around our heart
protecting our soul

Concept cannot
ascertain
why life is short
Can’t explain
how for some
their bliss is
unthreaded
too early
For others pain
knotted too long

Its dogma proclaims
love is chemical
love is practical
A function
whose time itself
is passing
merely
into electrical
simulacra

It is not self-evident
that our mind
is a “meme machine”
There is also
the reason of faith
A humbler story
of the meek and
mysterious
evolution of spirit

 

Michelangelo's_Pieta_5450_cropncleaned_edit

Photos from Wikipedia; Michelangelo’s Pietà by Stanislav Traykov

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Crucible

What scene did she make?
The one we can’t
cut her out of
but not
It’s a Wonderful Life
a story written by
others
An orphan
she married the musician
artist and writer
Escaped into his script

He took work in the foundry
Forged a family
Kissed her with
factory blistered lips
Caressed her
with calloused hands
Sang her songs
Wrote her poems
After their day jobs
had captive all-nighter
utopian longings

Two roads converged
Their children grew confused
ignored
and tossed between
his creative soaring heart
and smouldering rage
against The Man
Unpublished work
engraved his closed walls
His genius wrapped in a shroud
of secrets and poverty
She began plying peace
at any price
Weary of schemes

Then left
and she could breathe
Found the right words
Heard
her children’s dreams
Saw their gold
cast pure and radiant
Told her amazed
new literary friends
who asked her
What scene did you make?
Being no martyr no hero
in that bed she’d made
simply said
I should have made one

 

children waves

Photos courtesy Flickr Creative Commons (top by Lance Cheung, bottom by Giuseppe Tripodi)

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Who Hesitates

You in your universe
me in mine
approach intersections
we shy away from
We speak across
We nearly meet
and never infringe
out in the cold
“comfortably numb”
We hold our breath
greedy and hoping
to maintain borders
But suffocate ourselves

Sometimes we linger
in the chill
near warmer
boundaries
Look backward at
or forward to
outpost campfires
In singular quandaries
move closer toward
the edge of
our event horizon
“The hour is getting late”

Let’s inhale deeply
yes separately
all the air we share
Exhaust and park breezes
These streets
of wounded beauty
and pine forests too
are crossings now
where people can
gratefully intrude

Make plans for
birthdays
comings of age
farewells
the next holiday
a wilderness picnic
a block party
Welcome others
to a feast
of remembering
We make this together

 

broome-street-block-party-160

Top photo Oak Street block party NOLA, courtesy Infrogmation; Bottom photo Broome Street block party NYC, courtesy David Packer

 

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