Monthly Archives: June 2009

Snowflakes

No two are alike.
Snowflakes. They say.
That’s one of the truths no one disputes.
There comes a time when it is easier
to swallow a truth whole than to bite into an argument.
No two are alike. Arguments.
Sometimes they end in silence. Sometimes in an avalanche of
words.
Words that once said cannot be unsaid.
Cannot
be forgotten.
There comes a time when it is impossible to make
peace one more
time.
Better to leave the battle lines in place.
And feelings frozen.
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Elegy for Daddy

After hearing Mark Strand’s Elegy for my Father

Did you love me best? Sometimes. When it was convenient.
Did you love me best? I loved you as well as I could.
Did you know you were going to leave? I was never really there.
Did you know you were going to leave us? I was never really there.
Were you ever innocent? No one is innocent.
Where you ever innocent? Sin is in the eye of God. I spit in that eye.
Is there a God? Why do you ask me?
Is there a God? I am God, now.
What is in the box? An empty box in an empty box in an empty box in an empty box in an empty box.
Why did you leave us? You will understand someday.
Why did you leave us? You will never understand.
Who did you love best? Myself.
Who did you love best? You are my daughter. My true daughter. And I always love you best

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Act III

Flash Fiction

The second act was very long.

Victoria exited ahead of the crowd and walked unsteadily to a waiting ottoman. She lowered her ample backside onto the yielding cushion and let out a deep breath, closed her eyes and fanned herself with her program.

The cushion sank lower as another bulky form joined her’s on the ottoman.  The two women turned their heads at the same time. Their eyes met. Their faces froze. They gasped. 

“Annie!!?”

“Victoria??!”

Victoria immediately rose from the ottoman, the effort visible in her flushed face. She had only taken a few steps when Annie spoke to her retreating back:  “You can’t still be pissed off. It’s been 15 years for God’s sake.”

Victoria turned. The pink had darkened to scarlet. “Yes, damn it. I am still pissed.  I have woken up pissed every morning since you waltzed off with the only man I ever really cared about.”

Annie rose, smiling smugly, her hands on her satin covered hips.  “Funny, dear, I haven’t thought of you in years.”

The two women stood facing each other separated by the ottoman but neither of them seemed willing to move.

Slowly, very slowly, Victoria’s complexion returned to normal and Annie’s smile grew less smug.   She leaned across the ottoman toward Victoria and said quietly “You know, that’s not true, Vickie. I’m lying.” 

Cautiously Victoria lowered herself back onto the ottoman. “What do you mean, Annie?”  She looked up at her old friend who was now smiling down at her.

Annie spoke, her eyes filling up with tears. “I knew I’d run into you sooner or later, Vickie, and I always wondered what I would say to you. Hell.  I still don’t know what to say to you.  The truth is I’ve thought about you hundreds of times. I think about you each time I trim that rose bush we planted together…when I drive over the Bay Bridge…or bake sweet potato pies…   Vickie, honey… the bastard left me too.”

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I am Simple

 After hearing I am Metis by Deb Vos

I am simple

I am not complicated

I am not educated

I am not learned, but I am

I am like my mother

I am like the family I ran from but never escaped.

I am hiding. I am hiding.

I am hiding the truth.

I am hiding the truth about myself.

I am isolated. I am isolating. I am isolated by my shame – and more

I am aging.

I have a younger woman in this body. This body.

This body with the bad knee and the gray roots

The failing vision. The short term memory loss. The high cholesterol.

The depression. The depression.

The depression that I cured with pharmaceuticals

Proving that the cure can be worse than what ailed us.

I am cured. I am cured. I am cured.

I don’t cry. I don’t cry.

I don’t cry at sad movies, sad poems, sad songs.

I don’t cry at parades anymore and I always cried at parades.

My emotions are memories

The scent of musterole

The taste of molasses.

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I Crawl

 I crawlI crawl between the stones that mark paternal graves

The ivy stains my knees and palms.

Tears rain from eyes to mossy earth

As ivory angels keep silent vigil over

Aisles and aisles of artificial blooms.

 

You left your daughters ill prepared for sisterhood

Expelled from a uterus that gave us shelter but no haven

We shared a used bike and twin bed

And watched you from a universe away

Yearning and yearning for love that never came.

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Gospel

 Once, blinded by a twinkling night on Carolina sand

While comets fell and passion rose his seed was darkly sown.

Cunina[1] bore the golden child she wrapped in silk and gingham

And fed her well with fairy tales and nectar from lobelia

But ardor dimmed and pledges died. They were as Hollow Men.

Branded by her secret’s singe and scarred by prickly pears

She hid her marks with crimson scarves

And dwelled in twilight worlds

Where truth was blurred and constant pain was dulled by her surrender

And memories merge with daydreams to weave imperfect cloth.

Her child still wears those twice worn rags 

But with the help of Knockers[2]

She mines the veins of twice told lies and layers of subterfuge

To find the truths she will retell to other women’s daughters.

 

 


[1] Cunina was a minor goddess of infants. She was responsible for guarding the cradle

[2] The Knockers  live beneath the ground where they wear tiny versions of standard miner’s garb and commit random mischief, such as stealing miner’s unattended tools and food.

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Because

After reading Homage to Calvin Spotswood by Kate Daniels

Because I couldn’t be the daughter they wanted

The one they should have had

The one that liked the smell of collards cooking,

Fatback frying

The sound of billiard balls banging

Because I liked to read, to pray, to ponder

Because I liked to play in my good clothes

Because of was tired of having people drop me off at the corner so they wouldn’t see where I lived

Because I was tired of watching my mama slowly dying over her ironing board

Because my daddy never talked to me

When he almost asked me

I ran away with him.

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She Carried Large

This week all my posts will be “first drafts” of writings done here at the International Women’s Writing Guild in Saratoga Springs NY.  You will be reading them here for the first time and you may read them later when they are polished and revised, but there is something precious about a first draft.

Each year Myra Sharpiro has us do the portrait exercise. We stare at a stranger for thirty minutes without saying a word. Then for ten minutes we can ask that stranger any questions that have occurred to us. We use the responses to write a poem. Yesterday I met Frances for the first time.

 

She Carried Large

 

She carries a lifetime in her face

But her hands are smooth and unveined.

She has her mother’s hands.

Impish eyes peek from below a fringe that has changed from platinum to grey .

She carried home a degree from Brooklyn Law

She carried home a husband

She carried his children and she carried large;

When her feet swelled she refused to surrender her Margo Gerald shoes from Sacks.

“I ruined my feet” she said.

She carried a family from Brooklyn to Queens.

She surrendered a career to care for her dying husband but he died straight away.

“He went out like a gentleman” she said.

She carried her grief to Manhattan unveiled.

She carried 15 Buddha’s from China

Only one laughs.

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Life as Nursery Rhyme

oldwomanThere was an old woman who lived in a shoe.
She had so many children she didn’t know what to do.
So she gave them some broth without any bread
And thrashed them all soundly and put them to bed.

The old woman’s name was Frankie Mae. But she wasn’t really old. She was weary.  And she didn’t have so many children – only three. But she didn’t know what to do. She didn’t really live in a shoe. She didn’t even wear shoes most of the time. Too many bunions and broken toes. She lived in a clapboard house on a creek where the plumbing didn’t work and the cupboard was bare. (I think that’s another nursery rhyme where Old Mother Hubbard’s dog goes hungry.) Frankie Mae’s children had a dog. His name was Waggles. Waggles fended for himself just as the children did. The thrashing was real. Spanking. Whipping. Switching. Most of the time. Frankie Mae used her hand but when the punishment was pre-meditated or when her hand was sore from previous spankings she made her children go out and cut switches from one of the fruit trees in the back yard.

The children often went to bed hungry and crying and too tired to dream. When the oldest child grew up she made sure she never had a bare cupboard. She never had any children either. She didn’t live in a shoe but she owned lots of shoes. She had a pair of dogs that ate much better than she and her siblings ate when they were children. She never went to bed hungry. While she watched what she ate the rest of the day, just before she went to bed she became the little girl who went to bed each night with an empty belly and she would raid the refrigerator before she turned out the lights and went to bed. Life as Nursery Rhyme

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For John

roadsignAmong wishes, I am your candle.
Among journeys, I am your road map.
Among losses, I am your lesson.
Among anger, I am your fist.
Among heartbreak, I am your clown.
Among deep forests, I am your breadcrumb.
Among the dying, I hold the ashes.
Among the hungry, I hold the bread.
Among Time, I count the minutes.
Among danger, I am your comfort.
Among delight, I am your mirror.
Among cold nights, I am your blanket.
Among women, I am your wife.

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