Bravado

In tender camaraderie
within the covers
of body and mind
I declared to him:
My shoulders are
in my heart
No better yet:
My shoulders are
in my womb
To one up me
he said:
Mark off a spot
I’m all shoulder

Solitary now
Calling on God
for insight
and scanning
the night sky
Entranced I see
the birth of galaxies
He shows me
opening upon opening
wheeling within
Brilliant harmony
Majesty
unfathomable

My vision reaps
ecstatic time with
grateful humility
This is home
While living lies
in the light of others
we can only reflect
self-dignifying
self-justifying
But a better way
is a mystery
To mirror what we
cannot know

Who is able
to bear the weight
of losing matter?
Cloaked in pride
eclipsed by certainty
I grasp reason
and forfeit
precious faith
When I surrender
the shadows
I am lifted into
the Light
of pure Love

Photo, Coconino National Forest – Flagstaff (Public Domain)

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H o s p i t a l

We look down at
dumb magazines
or smart phones
While deep inside
panic zooms memory
down the halls
droning in our ears

We calculate our
luck infinitely
Constrict our
honeycombed throats
Emergency sirens
swarm outside
Claxons alarm us

Hearts in
the waiting room
enter pleas
with promises
and we sit here
guts strung out
on a sting

Hesitant and polite
we dance around
the obvious entrance
where fear and
faith are spoken
What becomes of
our beloved?

At this late hour
regrets cling like
pollen on bouquets
The janitor crosses
a shampooed carpet
to remove the
withered blossoms

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Carapace

Whose fault is it
I struggle
to rip out
the metal cage
of childhood fear
that grew around
my hopeful heart

Its metal mail
nearly absorbed
cripples the pump
capacity to my brain
and crumbled
rusty habits of feeling
battle to remain

I falter
rushing ahead
when talking
corrosion disconnects
gray matter
from my ever
too quick tongue

Skin transformed
to armor
crushes my backbone
with perambulation
clearly unpredictable
I list a little
when walking

The doctors say
I need more iron
But that is suicide
My heart still loves
inside its prison
“Its inside is bigger
than its outside”

 

Edited Carrie, Grandma & Me

(Top photo of eastern box turtle by Casey Greider; bottom photo of my sister and me with my grandmother in front of the county children’s home)

 

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NAVIGATE

For my sister

Once content with
familiar brooks
I feared intriguing
turns and stopped
the flowing
in my heart
that leads to
greater knowing

Then I dreamed
an undertow that
pulled and changed
my course
Forced to brave
a stranger stream
I worried where
it was heading

Now I know sweet
sparkling creeks
trickle in and out of
small ponds
But some fall into
currents swift
Into beautiful rivers and
Beyond

river into ocean

Top photo Chester Creek Trail in Anchorage, Alaska; bottom photo of Plawagan Puger, East Java by Ikhlasul Amal

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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

Intimate_Holy_Family_Sculpture_close_up_1024x1024

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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