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This is the day we do that summing up.
Annoying, isn’t it, the way
we tally and sort the year’s days
into the things –or people—we like and those
that caused us pain? We inventory
and discard, if we’re smart, whatever
no longer works, or what
carries no joy. We have this need
to take stock, as though we
were running a giant store full of
stuff, boots and gloves, or jars
of face cream and scented soaps.
This year let it alone,
think instead of the faint yellow blush
on the forsythia. Soon we can snip
its branches, hammer the stems
against the stone walk, set it all
in warm water in an old jar.
The small blooms, and then
tender green leaves will unfold
in the corner window.
Reprinted from Hedgerow, # 19
as part of the poem-a-day “Transitions” Project–A poem-a-day by a different poet responding to the recent Presidential election, from Nov. 9 to Jan. 20
I was a junior in high school when my my mother took me downtown to Ford’s Theatre to see “Black Nativity.” I had never heard of Langston Hughes before, Continue reading “Black Nativity”
Here’s the opening poem from my forthcoming chapbook, Baltimore Girls, available for pre-order now from Finishing Line Press. The poem originally appeared in the December 2015 issue of A New Ulster, a Northern Ireland literary and arts magazine.
We lived at home, were always home
for dinner. We thought we dressed like women, but only
when we peeled off the school uniforms and slid into
plaid kilts, blouses with Peter Pan collars and circle pins,
loafers, on Friday night, for a church hall dance.
We thought we knew everything, though we only
knew everything about the things we read in books
or heard on the bus, or on the street. We read
magazines to learn how to flirt.
Being sophisticated meant smoking Benson and Hedges,
we wondered how old we’d have to be
to drink at a cousin’s wedding.
Our mothers thought our world was crazy.
Too much Orbison and Presley, then in a whirr,
James Brown, the man in the orange cape, and
the Beatles, who made us scream, or the
Subversive Dylan, who questioned us,
How does it feel, to be on your own?
–when our mothers wanted us to be safe,.
Take the bus to school, be home on time.
No drinking, no smoking, study hard,
Go to college. Find a nice boy. Get
married, stay in town. Our town, which
changed and burned, changed and burned again.
Some of us left, and those who
Stayed didn’t always follow the playbook.
We are neither who we were when we were sixteen
Nor are we different from who we were, inside,
even though we’ve tried like crazy to: speak up,
grow up, let go, not judge, relax, achieve, kick back,
question, breathe, believe, not believe—
Now we size ourselves up
against the dreams and goals and fantasies
we had as girls, the plans we spoke of,
the ones we hid. Back then, we didn’t say
It’s all good, but it is. The whole journey,
The paths and detours, all good, all worth
something, the living of it, the becoming,
never stepping into the same river twice.
[Read the full poem in issue 3 of the SoFloPoJo!]
The garden was there before we were.
It was so easy to tend. We had only to pluck
the ripe fruits, gather flowers–
I loved the red ones best–
to fashion garlands for our hair. Mine
was long, I combed it with my fingers,
pulled it hard to one side, always to the left–
braided it so that the rope of golden hair
grazed my shoulder, fell over my breast.
We sometimes pruned branches
after the deutzia dropped its last white blooms,
tossed the clippings in the corner of our vast
yard, returned to lie under the rose-covered pergola.
We spent our days singing, entwining our limbs…
for the rest, please go here, to the SOFLOPOJo site!
Sun, then not-sun, clouds
warm, then not-warm.
This slender land can’t
make up its mind.
fungi of every color erupt–
red, colonies of chocolate brown,
or white, something you might
find in your salad.
Not much to do save
listen to Bill Evans ply the piano,
wrestle with the crossword,
turn off the phone.
The guitar of solitude leans on the bookshelf,
its strings loose. It’s out of tune.
Blond wood, near-perfect fingerboard,
It calls to me, mostly in the evening
After a Lenten supper of soup and bread,
No wine, water with lemon, or weak tea—
The guitar says, turn these knobs, make
My strings taut again, press your
Fingers against my wire strings, start
With something simple, like Where
Have All the Flowers Gone, move on
To rock and roll, play a riff from
Smoke on the Water or Whole
Lotta Love, come on baby, rock me
All night long, won’t you?
But there’s laundry,
Bill-paying, taking out compost,
a race to the end of the day
Chores, flossing, baby aspirin, set
The alarm. The guitar leans back
Rakishly. Maybe tomorrow.
Reprinted from 63 Channels, April 2016
Making love to you was like peeling
An onion. I teared up, holding the knife’s edge
Against paper-thin layers, pulled them
Away, one by one by one. I knew I must
Get to the tender parts of you, underneath.
Making love to you was like scraping
The hairy root vegetables, bright carrots,
The pale parsnips, the knife blade flat
Against the tubers- I needed strong hands
To hold you, to interlace my fingers with yours
To show you how desperate I was.
At night, after sex, I should have been exhausted
But I heard you turn on the shower, call
To me to join you. Afterward, I enfolded you in
A rose-colored towel big enough for two.
It was like rinsing tender lettuces in the sink,
Wrapping them in cloth to dry.
Reprinted from 63 Channels, April 2016 issue
— Let out the clutch! Let out the clutch!
We were sitting at the top of the hill on the street where I grew up, suitably named Hilltop Avenue. My grandmother sold me her old Opel Kadett station wagon for a hundred and fifty bucks, and Dad appointed himself my driving instructor.
Dad’s instructional method was to yell when my response had to be quick. Though I was twenty-three, with years of driving experience, I felt like a clueless adolescent…..
You can read the full memoir essay on Silver Birch Press, published today.