The Day King Died

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is 7:30 in the evening      a Wednesday

And the children have finished their supper     yes

It is April 4, 1968

The television makes a noise from the den

Behind the laundry room

He and I sit alone at the table

Bones from lamb chops

Splay over the plates

Empty milk-lined glasses

Stand on the landscape of the oilcloth

Like tree stumps in a meadow

 

I get up from the table finally

I want to wash the dishes

Put the kids to bed

He sits on at the table

Weary from riding to Chicago

On the 6:19

And out to Waukegan again

On the 4:39

And all the things that happened

In between

 

I carry dirty dishes

Over to the sink

And look out the kitchen window

My neighbor whose name

I can never remember

Stands above his galvanized tin garbage can

Holds a bag of garbage in his arms

Like a baby wrapped in a receiving blanket

And I let the water run

And stare at my neighbor

As tears roll down his face

I am shaking now

And lean on the white porcelain rim

Of the kitchen sink

Because a man whose name I can’t remember

Weeps

 

Then my eldest son starts to yell

Words at first I don’t understand

Until a name becomes clear

Martin Luther King Jr.

As he runs back into the kitchen

 

My knuckles are white

From my grip on the white porcelain rim

Of the kitchen sink

While in my head I hear

A dream explode

 

Written in 1983, inspired by a Frank O'Hara poem, "The Day Lady Died"

“Feed my Lambs” -JC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My day is almost over

Light lingers on far off

Hills

But cannot hold the sun

That moves below the sea’s

Horizon

Leaves a clue of its descent

In a small pink cloud

 

Supper comes

When day is closing

Thoughts of those

Who won’t have this

Meal

Rise inside my mind

Fill my heart with a living

Sadness

 

“Gather ye the harvest”

Of wasted food

Do not throw away

What does not sell

What isn’t ordered

Off a menu

Sold by dates

Not long past

Give to the homeless

To shelters

Where the unwanted

Live

Wasted food     so much

Waste

Enough to feed the hungry

World

-2015

Image credit

Miss Mouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

An aura of judgment

Surrounds me

Invades my growing years

Settles into my consciousness

I take it as truth

It is who I become

Hesitant     shy

Afraid to take chances

Holds back     holds back

Cringing at judgmental words

Spoken around family dinner

Tables

Between Father and Mother

Words critical of other people

Known     unknown     of me

I live my nickname

Miss Mouse

Hear a voice

Inside myself

Tells me over

Over     over

Don’t try     don’t try

What if you fail

What if you fail

 

I listen to the voice

Play life safe

Unadventuresome     fearful

Of everything

 

I blame no one

There is no one to blame

Save my own self

 

Now

Only remnants of the aura

Remain in my consciousness

Like wisps left from a morning

Fog

They pass through my awareness

Are gone

 

Aura—“a distinctive atmosphere surrounding a given source” –New Merriam-Webster Dictionary

—June 2015

 

Sister Moon

 

Tonight a crescent moon

Thin like a strand of silver

Thread

Wisps of cloud move around

Her gentle shape

That disappears as a marine

Layer

 

 

Comes to command the night

Sky

 

Waking in early hours

After midnight

I look for the moon

Look for Orion

Out the bedroom window

Earth’s rotation

Brings them to me

Different hours

Different nights

Orion with reddish mars

Above

Sirius below

Her brilliance shimmering

In the dark

 

Many times

The moon is come

Is gone

Before I wake

But many times

Its light falls on me

Through the window

Many times

I see the moon

Go down

Behind myaporum

Its face fractured

Like broken glass

By the branches

Made whole again

When it rises

Tomorrow

 

There is an energy

That connects me

To all of them

My spirit sings

In the night

Claims the moon

As sister

-2011

Left Out (2015)

circa 1940

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feeling left out

Follows me like a winding

Mountain road

Curves around     around

My childhood years

Into all the chapters

Of adulthood

That come after

It takes root

I feel sure

This discomfort of aloneness

The Thanksgiving Day my father

Leaves

 

Father’s place at Grandmother’s table

For Thanksgiving dinner to be served

At one o’clock sharp

Stays empty all through the meal

I have no memory of this Thanksgiving

Day

I am seven years old

Can only now

Imagine what the atmosphere

Feels like surrounding the

Family

Gathered for Thanksgiving dinner

This Thanksgiving Day

 

No one can know

No one can guess

My father is on a train

He is leaving my mother

Leaving me

The emptiness of feeling left out

Begins this Thanksgiving Day

With only Mother     no father

In my home

A need to have what others have

The same size piece of chocolate

Cake

Is born

 

Now

A school of many years

Is passed

I abandon judgment to these

Years

Opening wide two doors

One to my mind

One to my heart

Nothing that happened

Owns a consequence

Everything evaporated

Into the ethers

Gone     done

I am only the observer

And

I am free

               

The Music of Silence

 

The Ethiopian government bombed a kindergarten in Mekelle, the capitol of Tigray, August 26, 2022.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is there ever silence in war

How do you find silence

With bombs falling from the sky

There is no silence in gunfire

No silence as tanks and artillery

Rumble through the streets

How could there be

In chaos only noise exists

 

How can children grow

With no silent midnights to sleep in

Who thinks about children

When planning a war

Who remembers what it feels like to be a child

 

Oh     if I could

I would buy my own country

Gather the children

Like a bouquet of flowers

And give them the music of silence

For there is silence in birdsong

There is silence when wind blows

And the leaves on trees dance

There is silence as a brook

Meanders down a mountain

Over rocks

There is silence in their own

Laughter

I would say to the children

 

Listen to the universe

Listen to it silently move through

The hours of a day

Through the sweet silence of the night

And take this silence

Put it into yourselves

And there you will live

In Peace

-Winter 2000
*repost from Thunder from the Mountains

Cricket Music

 

Note from the poet:

This poem was written in honor of my beloved husband, Stephen, on his 87th birthday. Stephen knows how much I love hearing the crickets, and so calls me to an open window to hear what I call Cricket Music, as the sky darkens and night is falling.

 

 

And the sound of its

Beautiful rhythm

Repeats     repeats     repeats

The same sound

I heard when I was a child

At Grandmother’s

Rented summer house

In a suburb of

Chicago

We called The Country

The same song

Same rhythm

Repeating     repeating     repeating

The mysteries of mysterious

Night

Melting into the rhythm

And the voices I heard

Then

As one voice

I hear now

Singing one certain

Song

Over and over and over

 

Then

Come to this open

Window

My dear man calls to

Me

It is the time between

Day and Night

When the sky loses

Light

Out the open window

I hear them

His gift for me

The beautiful rhythm

Of their song

Repeating     repeating

Repeating

-August 6, 2022

What Did You Say?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What did you say?

I cannot hear you

Please

Turn the volume up

On the TV

Cannot hear what anyone is saying

Either

Never mind commercials

 

It is called

Sudden Hearing Loss

Suddenly my left ear

Was like

Plugged

Far off sounds

Filtered through

Crazy     weird

Ah

But the hearing

Test

Did not lie

Suddenly

There was     indeed

Sudden Hearing Loss

In my left ear

 

Well     okay

Things could be a lot

Worse    a lot

Worse

photo credit

What is Wrong with You

 

 

 

 

Tigray     of Northern Ethiopia
Ukraine     borders Russia

They have become the background of
My hours
Hours
That seep into my
Days
Hover over my
Nights

What is wrong with
You
Abiy Ahmed
Vladimir Putin

I have deposited you
On the scrolls of
Infamy
That haunt memories

From
Millennium to millennium

Your bombs   your tanks
Your soldiers
Willing to follow your
Commands
To destroy     Life
As every woman  man

And child
Once Lived it

What is wrong
With you
What cancer
Devours the essence of your
Humanity

-April 18, 2022

Hands

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grandmother is old, she is frail

I am one-hundred years

She says, though only ninety-seven

Her fingers trace patterns on the lap robe

And she watches as they move

To the right, to the left

I am nervous, she says

I am nervous

Then her hands lie open

On her thighs

Palms touching the blue wool

She lifts them up, then down

Slowly, again and again

I sit in a chair

Close to the one that enfolds her

Cover her hands with mind

And feel the flutter of her nerves

Like a thousand butterflies

That struggle for release

From their cocoons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Written 1982, from 2001’s Poet’s are the bravest.