Poetry

Incognito

Graffiti in town recently seen:
   May you be…
   safe and happy
   well and beloved

Where is this vandalism?
   May you be…
   human
   fully and free  
   like the son of man
   in all his glory?
   May you know…
   mercy and grace
   faith hope and loving?
   May you…
   smile and speak
   in the image of God?
   May you not be…
   tested and tagged
   censored or silenced
   jabbed then traced
   afraid or compliant?

Do not go gentle
into that confined space
Rage, rage
against the dying
of the face

Both photos from Wikimedia Commons by Basile Morin

Standard
Poetry

“…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

 

Standard
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

Standard
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

 

Standard
Poetry

Wake Up

Ants cope better
They revive
Being good scouts
determined
to adapt and
sally forth
to defy
insecticides
meant to rout them

Will they
inherit the dirt
they already inhabit
Will there be
a dearth of humans
when asteroids
predicted or not
traject directly
from unseen hands
to silence
the talking species
Will we hear ants
celebrate

Or will it be
“Not with a bang
but a whimper”
An untraceable
genocide
unrighteously conceived
but plausibly denied
by those who deem us
so beneath them
A blight on our planet

Ants can’t write poetry
to magnify reality
or dignify their plight
or dance pointlessly
under starlight
dreaming into
their lover’s eyes
or create symphonies
or paint

What they do well
is cooperate
navigate without
technology
Communicate
on top of
and below ground
They haven’t a clue
about quantum computers
nor take their cue
from statistics
spitting fear and
paralysis

Ants just find
those nooks
and crannies
where toxins
cannot arrive
And faith
reminds us
We do not mind
that there are
flowers
which only blossom
in the night

Night blooming cereus

AntBridge Crossing courtesy Igor Chuxlancev; Night-blooming Cereus by Ernie Murphy

Standard
Poetry

Last Night

The moon shone brightly
through blinded windows
Woke me
Made huge horizontal stripes
on whitewashed walls
I turned toward its familiar beauty
Smiled widely
Then wrapped in my glowing sheets
rolled back away to sleep

The moon shines on
Kabul
Soweto
and Pine Ridge too
I want to be on the moon
and wait for the earth
to rise

Standard