Riot (1968)

 

 

 

We’ll weep, Black Sister, we’ll weep together

For her whose home is dust.

Charcoaled ashes from riot weather,

A bitter wind of mistrust.

Hatred lies smoldering, pungent, and deep,

Shifting like sand.

Will she have a memory to keep

In this abounding land?

Must we, like Antigone, daughter of despair,

Live without sweet reconciliation

And beyond deeds of repair?

They’ve forgotten, those men of the law’s creation,

Whom the law should heed.

They’re not for you, Sister, so we must weep.

*from Poets are the Bravest, written 1968

Pandemic—One Poet’s Moment


In this quagmire of a virus

That spreads like quicksilver

Over the country     everywhere

Yes     even before here

The world

I would write of the sadness

Concern that borders fear

Inside me

I feel with my every breath

But words are no longer

Liquid

They wrap themselves around

Tears

That speak for them

In inarticulate language

I struggle to express

 

In these weeks of reported

Illness

Reported deaths

Numbers fall into thousands

Thousands

Beyond my ability to conceive

This is real

I pray for them

Pray for the Light of the Universe

To surround every hospital

Every blessed one that cares

For the ill

Closes the eyes of the dead

Alone     alone     alone

Their families

With the rest of us

Sequestered now

At home     at home

 

-2-

Every morning

I open the shutters

Of my bedroom windows

To look up

Into the sky

Is it clear     or covered

With clouds

Is the distant hill

Distinct     or shrouded in mist

Each day is of itself

Hour follows hour

It is as it has always

Been

 

One morning

I look     I see

A new leaf     then another

And another

On the bare branches

Of the Crepe Myrtle

It is late March

Time for new leaves

To arrive on this tree

 

And they do

For everything there is a season
And a time for every matter
Under heaven.
Ecclesiastes 3.1

Truth to Tell

I Love these days

Letting go their light

Into a darkening sky

Late in an autumn’s

Afternoon

As the sun descends

Over the waiting ocean

Sends its final rays

Against the side

Of a distant hill

A canvas for many shades

Of mauve

That signal the end

Of day

 

I love the hints of

Coming night

Street lights on

House windows lit from

Within

Are there children

Around a kitchen table

Heads bent over books

Pencils in hands

Logs in a fireplace

Ready to burn away

A season’s chill

 

Then images of the many

With no place of their

Own

Nowhere to go

Push their way into my

Thoughts

Of home     of comfort

Full bellies

Stark realities of days

Growing shorter     nights longer

Colder

It is a duality of feelings

Inside me

Long in my life

Have I Loved fall’s dwindling

Days

Loved a friendly dark

Closing in

But there are two sides

To this picture

I would it were not

So

Would it were not

So

Not so

September Really?

I notice with startling

Observation

From a quick glance

Out my window

Night slowly coming in

Sky from the west

Lavender fading into darkened

Gray

This cannot be     can it?

Bright sun

Remained high in the sky

Just a minute ago     wasn’t it?

As I scooted home

My True Love

Close behind me

Both scooters very visible

Even with companionable conversation

With friends

After our meals

 

September a gentle

Month

Day and night

Live as equals

Until the Autumn Equinox

Slow as a snail     at first

Allows a darkening sky

To overcome the light

Of day

 

I am wary now

Will keep watch

Make note of when

The days fold into

Night

And know the time

Is almost here

To welcome in

October     really?

For Now

I cannot put my words

Together

It is as if they are trapped

Inside my brain

Words I need

To express my distress

Feelings of disbelief

And if I am truthful

Horror

At what is being allowed

In the unraveling of my country’s

Beingness

I cannot get the words out

Write them down

Will have to let other voices

Be heard

Other voices exclaim

The anger     bewilderment

Outrage

Like silt building up

In the pristine waters

Of a mountain stream

I will listen

Follow where they lead

Trusting it be

Into the light of reason

Again

 

For now

My hibiscus blooms large scarlet discs

Under my window

 

For now

I watch crazy flights

Of a Phoebe bird

As it snaps up insects

On the wing

Am mesmerized

By these different sized evergreens

On a hill

Above the Camino Real

Swaying as one

In the wind

 

For now

Music     laughter

Kind voices from anyone

Anywhere

Human and animal

Voices of my children

My True Love

Sounds from my own world

The only real word now

For me

Stench

It usually happened in summertime

Hot humid winds

Out of the west

Blew east

Over the city of Chicago

To the shores of Lake Michigan

Bringing with them

A stench

From the Chicago stockyards

The slaughter houses

There

 

Stench

A word from my childhood

Spoken by the adults

Around me

The words     stockyard

Slaughter house

I understood surrounded cows

Waiting to be killed

For meat

Now rationed by World War II

It had no impact on me     then

Until

A photograph in a magazine

A holding pen

With cattle crammed together

Waiting for slaughter

Made me sorrowfully aware

Of what the west winds

Signified

 

The Chicago stockyards

The slaughter houses

Long gone

But not holding pens

Slaughter houses

In other places

Cattle crammed so tightly

Together

None hardly move

 

I have stopped eating meat

 

There’s a stench

Here

An awful stench

Here

Words from a TV commentator

A congresswoman from the House of

Representatives

They face a large enclosure

Like a cage     a true

Cage

Inside     a hundred or

More

Immigrant men

Standing shoulder to shoulder

No room to sit     to lie down

To sleep

A few fortunate ones on the

Floor

They stand looking out

The TV camera

Records     their faces

Some raise their arms

Silent

Helpless

 

Seeing these immigrant

Men

Crammed together in that

Cage

I think back on my

Childhood

To the west winds

Blowing to the east

Over Chicago

On hot humid summer

Days

And remember the stench

I remember the stench

And what that stench

Means

 

I remember

Clouds …

… My ever moving art gallery

My daily weather report

It matters not where I am

In the comfort of home

A car on the freeway

Among other drivers

The slow     the speeders     motorcycles

That startle as they roar

Past

My attention is out the

Window

My eyes on the sky

 

Clouds are like people

Like everything in the natural

World

Different shapes

Colors

Different purposes of existence

Exuding an aura of diversity

Like everything alive on earth

Diversity is life

 

As a child

I imagined myself lying down

On big white puffy comforter

Clouds

But never on those forecasting

Storms

Darkly ominous blankets of solid gray

Over my head

Then rushing across the sky

Pushed by erratic winds

Still drawing my eyes upwards

Always upwards

 

Nothing has changed

Clouds     my ever moving art gallery

My daily weather report

Awake each morning

I open the shutters

Look through branches

Of the Sycamore     Crepe Myrtle tress

To find the clouds

Only to discover     now and then

The sun has risen on this day

Into a cloudless blue sky

 

The Visit

Joan “Tall Rabbit” Katz

He and I

Come to knock

On your door

Our monthly visit

To you

To laugh to talk

To enjoy our special

Companionship

But your daughter Elly

Opens the door

Comes out in the hall

Tears on her face

Says the words

Heart attack

You suffered a heart attack

Are not expected to live

Much longer much longer





Her words slam through me

An electrical bolt jolts

My entire body

Renders me glued to the seat

Of my scooter

I cannot move cannot catch

My breath





Honestly I thought you’d live

Forever

Even tho you told me

Told everyone who’d listen

You are ready to go

Ready to go

It is not that I didn’t

Believe you

I know the authentic Joan

Speaks only her truth

But my truth is this

I don’t want to let you

Go let you go

But a soul’s choice

Is not for me to deny

And so I tell you again

I love you Joan

I love you





Goodbye

Spring

Today

The first day of spring

Already Sycamore births her

Small green leaves

That will evolve into larger leaves

Adorning her branches

Until far into fall

Then drop     one by one

Slowly to the ground

I cannot remember the song

From the very first robin

Singing its arrival

Early in an Illinois spring

Its song brought me joy

After a long cold snowy

Winter

California springs brought

Mockingbirds

Their songs ringing out

Through the Myoporum

Over the canyons

Then eerily at midnight

Into the early hours

Of the new day

I’d hear their trills

I miss that first robin

I miss the mockingbirds

Heralding spring for me

The air around me feels silent

Save the lone mourning dove

Who calls     calls     calls

No one answers

Then

Mating season for crows

Arrives

Their squawking voices

A different harbinger

That spring is here

I tell myself

They too

Are of the natural world

For I am given

Love everyone everything

Yes

Even noisy crows

The Eclipse Super Blood Moon

 On the driveway 
Of our home
We stand together
Heads back    looking up
Into the black of the 
Sky
As the full moon
Allows earth's shadow
To cover the brilliance
Of her light
Slowly   but not truly
Slow
Her white light
Disappears
As tho a blanket
Were being pulled
Over her naked 
Face

You hold my hand
You keep my feet
Steady
On the cement
They stand upon
It is a closeness
An intimacy I feel
Together
Under the sky
This gift from the natural
World
The Universe Itself
Oh   thank you
Thank you
Thank you