Today my hands got filthy
picking miniscule pieces of my family
out of the vacuum
even though the package said
it would “minimize contact with dirt”
that reminded me of life
in a way.
her hair has, in my mind, always been
as stark as her accent and
as delicious as the bohnenkraut
in the beans from her garden
to my ears
it shimmered, unashamed, in a new land,
a cultural relic of appreciation of age,
which is why, when grown, I was shocked to discover
from a poem, no less,
the secrets that lay in the nape of the neck
and sure enough she too
had a history, richly dark, in contrast
to her current color
that lay hidden from the cursory view
of a child
perhaps it took that realization
to enmesh her and her stories,
to see she was her history
like the arrowhead of a ray of time
and a line that lead, eventually,
so that seeing the salt start to come through
in the mirror, I wonder what new story life
will plot me in today
so I can earn my badge of hair
and wear it as proudly as her
Someone’s civil war takes place in the frontyard
we cannot look into each other’s eyes
for the glint of truth that splits the day
The letter carrier delivers terms of agreement
to the box, slides off the porch like an ell;
across the way a pink cab expels a uniform
We recount our various positions:
the collector of complaints
a keeper of birds
late night clerk at Video Max
wrapper for Manhattan boutique
What’s left is left at the courthouse
in some old wooden file drawer
Will history speak kindly of how we surrendered?
You have lived on the edge
Of my periphery
Also at the back of my mind
And the tip of the tongue
I tried to understand
How you were so many things:
A murderer to some,
An advocate for others
Some believe evil people
Do good deeds
As a way to lessen the guilt.
Outwardly, you never expressed
Any guilt – no emotion at all.
That would make you
A sociopath – incapable of feeling.
So why then, did you
Do the good things?
It matters not.
Yesterday I learned
Of you execution.
Members of the tribe do not subscribe
to the theory of evolution. Rather,
they ascribe to a supernatural force
characteristics that jibe with those
of monkey, chimp and ape.
Members of the tribe inscribe strictures
that prescribe, proscribe and bribe,
that promise afterlife to imbibe
in eternal, blissful vibe.
If I say
I’ve got gold dripping
down my fingers,
it could seem pretentious
until revealed I’m painting,
If I say
I’ve got gold reflecting
from my soul,
it might seem less cheesy
if I claim to be the moon,
If I say
I’ve got gold beaming
into my ice-blue eyes,
it will seem only natural
to name you as the sun.
The more I stare at your picture,
the less I remember your face.
The lines don’t match up–
like a map
that’s a little outdated.
I used to think
you’d live forever,
and when that dark day came,
I committed your casket to memory
and the dress you were wearing
and the little bag they gave us
with pieces of you
that will never be whole
It felt like a concentration camp.
“Take the shoes,
they don’t need them anymore.”
Does death look different
on a child’s face?
“Take the jacket,
the cold can’t nip at them.”
Or am I just
remembering it wrong?
I go back to that map
trying to retrace my steps
and find out
where it all went wrong.
Was it Christmas Eve,
when I wanted
to do with you?
Or was it 4 a.m.
when you were vomiting
into a McDonald’s bag
and I was rolling my eyes
because it sounded fake?
What about the times
When it was okay
What did I know?
I was a child.
I am a child.
I am a child
Place me – my denial will rest
among those who but rose
a poet’s galaxy.
I know not if I am it. In what may be
persistence, I flower like so and reward
No life would be ridiculous: which poem
in slighting slights itself? The poet made well
if it equals the rose.
A rose is an answer as might be betrayed
in would-be poems not inclined
to do much.
What says the world facing what the poet in me
will become? Myself, I think what
could I wish I were.
(from an exercise using “The Pink Locust” by William Carlos Williams)
Back patch makes my skin itch,
Drips sweat in my eyes,
Burns the top of my feet.
Parched I pause, stop the torture
To remember another garden
Another day’s fruitful abundance.
Corn, tomatoes, squash, new potatoes,
Green beans, Ah!The lowly green bean.
Limas, peppers, cantaloupe, broccoli,
radishes, lettuce, beets, watermelon,
Sweet red, juicy watermelon.
Treasure of ancient pharaohs and kings.
All that richness generously poured
On the groaning harvest board,.
Stretching our middle, pleasing our brain,
Slowing our steps, delighting our psyche.
Forget the bugs, a sizzling sun,
Droughty days or hungry critters.
Close your eyes, flick off the bee
And dream of harvest tomorrows.
Papaw always said, “Work hard in summer.
Good gardens beat snowballs any day.”
K. Bruce Florence