My Mother’s Stories

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I do not care if my daughter

forgets all my empty stories

of blank cityscapes,

of colorless times,

of limping struggles.

 

My daughter must remember–

remember, keep alive

stories of her grandmother,

stories of lineage, of place, of era,

of strength in women, in family,

of struggle containing meaning

like Jacob’s struggle by the river—

stories living in her DNA,

strengthening the helix of her history.

 

She must remember,

pass on to her progeny with pride

in her spirit living, not here in this place,

in this dusty Lonestar state,

but among those mountains

bathed in stained glass colors

at sunrise and sunset,

or smeared gauzy blue at noon,

or at times, shrouded in grieving fog.

 

So many times, I have watched my daughter sleeping,

a toddler she seems still at twenty-three–

I marvel at how that can be–

Her lips parted just a bit, slightly swollen in sleep,

her lashes long, thick, and dark against her cheek,

so like her grandmother’s lashes,

a trait I did not inherit,

her breathing whispers youthful innocence,

her tousled hair that of a child wearied from play–                                                

And I— I believe I see some ghost umbilical cord stretching

from her, leaving the house, and could I travel it,

follow it—I know where it should lead me–

a black cinder block house on stilts somewhere

miles outside Charleston, West Virginia—

so far up into the mountains

that as we drove the one time I saw it

I felt tilted back as if for

a rocket take off to some distant star—

my aunt’s eyes send a flood down the valleys of her face,

my mother gasping at sight of that tall cinder block house,

narrow and black with four small windows in the front,

unfriendly and uninviting it appears to me,

as it stands in the dirt yard

with a single clothesline, tires,

some chickens pecking the dirt around the stilts,

contrasting the lush green mountain top

touching the sky behind it.

My recalcitrant 13-year-old self thinks–

How the fuck does someone build

a cinder block house on stilts like that? 

And black?  Why black? 

This is where the ghost umbilical cord

leaving my daughter leads me,

this place, this link to the earth—

to the spirit within this earth

where her grandmother,

my mother grew,

nurtured by the dirt, the green mountain tops,

the harshness of poverty in harsh times,

coal mines and cave ins, winter fevers,

spring forest escapes from ideas

of death and survival.

 

Where I too am linked,

bound even as I struggled

to free myself for so many years.

Now, at this age, I know it was this spirit, this link,

that poured its strength into me

when I needed it though my youth

scrubbed me of the wisdom to recognize it.

 

My daughter must know her grandmother’s stories,

of how hope lived in an election during the Great Depression,

her great-grandfather forbid even his wife to take a switch

to of one his children on the day of FDR’s election,

of how death can be heard walking the floors of empty rooms

when the family gathers round a dying toddler,

of how potato sack dresses itch,

of how her great-grandfather built the cinder block house

after a snow melt flood washed away the wood house

and nearly killing himself thinking he had lost his family,

of how to hunt rabbits and skin them,

of how squirrel tastes better than possum,

of how to hold your head when you

ask the company store man for credit,

of how grief over the death of twin toddlers

can turn your mother silent

of how your father explains the death of children

kills a mother’s heart,

of how an orange for Christmas is the greatest of all treasure,

of how it is tedious work to darn socks,

of how joyful it feels to go without shoes in the summer,

of how rich and important you can feel

when new shoes arrive in the fall,

of how when a boy asks to escort you home from church,

you better not walk more than six feet in front of your mother,  

of how to watch for your shoeless mother walking home

in the snow from the Post Office in Charleston because

you know she only wears her shoes to church to keep them good,

and how to warm her feet so she doesn’t lose anymore toes—

 

All these stories and more,

my daughter must know

must remember,

breathe and bleed life

in the telling of them to her children

for they are woven, a tapestry,

double helix patterned within us,

our earthen souls.

 

 

 

 

 

Bouquets of the Ramshackle

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With ramshackle shards
Of heart, soul, self
Falling away like the browned petals
Of a long-wilted bouquet,
We create a riotous noise
In ramshackle attempts
To find some connection.

Lumbering, awkward attempts
At reaching out to touch once again,
To replace, to freshen 
The brown wilted and missing parts
With new bouquets of spring
Whose stems sit in eternally
Fresh, clean waters.

We dream of a life lived
No longer ramshackle,
With no long-wilted bouquets
Of a past to haunt with falling petals,
But a life returning whole,
To move without noise
Through the world once again.

A Prayer to the Ancestors

Image courtesy of BBC

What would I learn 
Could I raise your bones
From the earth?
And like some ancient medicine woman
Scatter them like runes to read
Or use them in the making
Of a sacred instrument
To rattle next to my ear?
What would their music tell me?
Would their rhythms move me?
Would there be some wisdom spoken?
Hidden within the notes of rattled rhythms
Of all your dried out unearthed bones
Is there enough marrow left to have
All my ancestors speak to me?
Should I, in some ancient tribal ritual
Of ancestral cannibalism,
Ingest your ground bones
Mixed with magic into an elixir
Infused with your ancestral spirits, 
Be given the power of thunder
And lightening that is your strength
Earned by you through the ages?
Is this how your spirits will travel through me
Teaching me of all the earth and sky?
Is there a way to know, to learn
To hear all the secrets you deem I need,
Need to know in this time, this place
For this, this last chapter
Of what I have left to me?
My ancestors, for I have wasted 
Away pages and chapters,
Squandered decades of the anthology
You have written into me.
Ancestors, speak to me, 
So I waste not the years
Left to be written 
By your spirits into me.

Walking

Image courtesy of nationalgeographic.com




Walking through days---
There are too many left
And not enough 
To let me forget.

I walk into sunrises
Into sunsets--
There are not enough
Sunrises or sunsets left
In life to let me forget
And too many yet to live
To live in remembering.

I walk to gain forgetfulness.
There are not enough miles,
Not enough steps,
Not enough earth
To walk
To bring 
About forgetfulness.

I walk, seeking shelter
From thunderstorms
Yet they remind me.
I walk, seeking exhaustion
In the mountains
Yet they remind me.
I walk, seeking the healing of salt
From ocean waters
Yet they remind me.
All speaking
In whispers 
Of the earth’s remembrance.

It all reminds me—
The brilliant azure sky,
The verdant green of forests,
The primal roar of oceans,
The Rorschach shape of clouds,
The roil gray of storms—
It all reminds me,
Brings me back

Nothing allows me to forget.

The Gargoyle

Foggy Night and Moon Light over The Gargoyles of Notre Dame in Paris (Courtesy of istock.com)







When the prowess of early morn

And the touch of dawn’s fingertips

Overwhelm my heart and soul,

I am reminded of some story

I heard somewhere as a child—

From a book or cartoon

Or some sitter’s wild

Imagination of bedtime tales,

The story of the gargoyle

Who was beckoned

To a place in heaven

By an angel fair.

 

And there the gargoyle stayed

For a day or three or more

Or maybe a week or three.

For a moment,

The gargoyle knew sweetness and joy,

Thinking, perhaps, for once, just this once,

The universe had smiled down

Upon one of the gargoyle race,

And felt the cracking of stone begin.

 

But the gargoyle, being a gargoyle,

A somewhat silent, stony creature,

Soon bored the angel who withdrew,

Having angel business to attend too.

 

The gargoyle knew. Knew from the start too,

But had hoped it was not to be held true–

That angel and gargoyle were not a pairing to be made.

Such creatures being out of each other’s realm

Cannot last but a season or two.

So, the gargoyle fell to earth again

To crouch forever upon a building,

 Keeping watch upon the city and the sky. 

 

The gargoyle knew this was the nature of things

And thought itself blessed for ever having known

The sweetness of an angel.

For what angel had ever doted upon a gargoyle?

The gargoyle asked.

 

For years, the gargoyle crouched,

Watching the city and the sky,

Remembering, reliving the sweetness

Known of an angel.

Yet wishing such sweetness had never been tasted,

Never been touched,

Forever was too long to remember

The memories encased in stone

Where wind and rain would never touch,

Would never wear them away.

 

Thus, the gargoyle paid the price

For allowing stone to crack.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Work of Spring

image courtesy of anoregoncottage.com

I clipped away dead branches

From the living shrubs today.

Not an easy thing,

But a thing that must be done.

Strange it is how dead things

Will cling so tightly to the living

As if to squeeze

The last remaining bits of life away

And thus, have company in death and dying.

There is yet more to do

So only the living things are left

To flourish in the spring sun.

Emerge

Image is my own

 

Days lengthen,

The sun returns

In an earnestness

We have not seen in months.

Not yet does the earth send warmth

Enough to climb through the soles of our feet–

Not yet warmth enough to creep onward up our legs,

Stretching, reaching toward our souls,

Where I carry the wish I have of you

One day, perhaps—

Perhaps, I may find the courage to grasp

In an aching, aging hand the bone to break

And set loose the wish I have of you.

An Afternoon of Creation

Image courtesy of NIH

Curtains drawn against the sun

Of an autumnal afternoon

Spent in another hotel,

She drowns in what

The bathroom mirror shows

Of emptiness in sapphire eyes

As her empty heartedness grows–

Her wrinkles a road map

Of crosshatched lies

Told and lived even now,

As her fingers grip

The sink edges of porcelain

Cold against her skin.

Her mind swirls,

Dizzy, lost in her creations

Of new golden plated lies.

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Schooled

Image courtesy of Daily Hive
https://amanpan.com/2020/10/12/eugis-weekly-prompt-foresight-october-12-2020/
https://godoggocafe.com/2020/10/13/tuesday-writing-prompt-challenge-october-13-2020/

 

In the fading light,

My hindsight schools, lectures, drills

My foresight

In how to take steps,

In how to look away,

In how to live hopeless,

In how to heal with saltwater dreams

Overflowing with hope.

Yet still with foresight

In how to guard,

My scars, my wounds,

My picked at scabs

In this

fading light of days

Unfilled,

Lived,

Cheered,

Flowering with dreams,

Left

Of life remaining.

Mystical Fields

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https://amanpan.com/2020/10/05/eugis-weekly-prompt-mystical-october-5-2020/

Meet me in the field

Where heather sways with the wind

Through time we will live.

 

Life, never a friend,

Kept us from knowing true joy,

Meet me in the field,

 

Where loss is gaining

And grief blossoms into joy

Meet me where gold grows.