Poetry

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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“…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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Poetry

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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Poetry

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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Poetry

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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Poetry

Distance

From an old bench
while basking in
late Autumn’s sun
I notice something
not belonging
among a mound
of large white rocks
piled on the edge
of our spring fed pond
first enlarged
by town founders
Truckloads of boulders
to shore up its bank
have arrived from elsewhere
like me
who chose this village
twice as home
with then without
spouse

A slender stalk of corn
only ten inches high
sprouts among
the white stones
from seeds sown
too late in summer
This plant has no reason
to grow here and now
for me to wonder about it
But I do

A solitary mallard
swims in the pond
by way of a woman
poor, a bit unusual
and often ridiculed
by locals
She loves and cares
for animals of all kinds
especially illustrated
by flea bites
Scabs and scars
spot her arms and legs

She found that glossy
green-headed duck
worried and waddling
through neighboring yards
and placed him lovingly
in our pond
He soars away daily
to visit nearby waters
but returns
Soon his friends
come to visit
Some stay

A man from another town
drives over once a week
his workday finished
and scatters seed corn
to feed our ducks
and other birds
I’ve chatted with him
We’ve both spent time
with the duck lady
as she’s also known

Greedy squirrels
born here
don’t need to be fed
among plentiful hickory and oak
some of these planted too
The little hoarders
skitter and scamper yearlong
Today one glares at me
for an uncomfortable
amount of time
when I dare
to usurp a bench
she’s staked out
as her luncheonette

But no birds or squirrels ate
that particular yellow grain
faithfully scattered
on the grass
near water and stone
And I wonder
who else has noticed
this tiny futile stem
held “green and dying”

In our cherished park
meeting and greeting
each from afar
we can never
fathom the depth
of knowing how
the heart
never sows out of season

Clouds and corn

Top photo courtesy White-Rock-Lake Blogspot; bottom photo by Dani Simmonds

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Special Thanks

Clanmother has very graciously included my poem titled Sleight in her Sunday Evening Reflection with her lovely video and outstanding photography. Rebecca’s reading evokes, even for me, those unforgettable moments spent in my little park.

Thank you, Lady Budd, for all your inspiration and support within our vibrant online community, which reminds one another daily that beauty and the arts are essential to life.

Sunday Evening Reflection with Mary Jo Malo

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