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.
Marshal forces Of the earth, moon, orbits of planets, Laws of time, All we hold mighty and true, Stop everything in its tracks, Turn it all back Before the start of any of it, Falling away, Marshaled from memory.
Pulled my anchor from this harbor
Yet the current pulls me back,
Some irritant speck,
Yet to yield a pearl,
In the soul,
Some rough edged
Needless need chafes away
Until confession is made
And a pilgrimage to graves
Must be paid—
There is no why to this–
This steel wrought laundry list
To be run down and checked through
A visit, a meal eaten
At the landmark restaurant,
Where new owners chiseled hieroglyphics
over a history of years when
the landmark lived across
A narrow brick paved street
And my family lived upstairs,
Erasing my mother’s sacrifice
Of bloody fetal tissue,
My fraternal twin,
On the bathroom floor there
While I hung on to be born.
But such bloody sacrifice
Doesn’t sell cheeseburgers,
Greek salads, and over easy eggs,
A fairytale of family ownership-
Sells well and makes for spots
On reality television shows.
A drive by the childhood home,
Sentimentality at its highest,
Revisit the torture chamber
A wooden yardstick and when it broke,
A metal one I had to buy to be taken
Across my back by a drunken mother
Until the skin broke open to bleed.
Why the drive by?
Who the hell knows?
When all I’d like to see
Is it all disappear—
Then the statue of Christ
In Hopkins Hospital lobby, a must see.
Where I stood as a teen
Confessing the darkest
Thing upon my soul—
A part of me wishing
My mother had died
In that surgery of fifteen hours
The other part thanking Jesus
she had lived.
Then the graves,
To place some flowers,
Talk a bit to the air,
Turn my soul inside out
To find it dusty and dirty again.
We can think our souls clean
Until turning them inside out—
That is where we find the grime
Of all the living done.
I visit my brothers,
The man who was my real father,
Then on to the man I thought was,
And then my mother,
The saint she was,
The monster she became.
At her grave, my soul aches the most,
Tweezing thorns left from her old rose bushes and my own,
Turning itself inside out,
Leaving all the grime and dirt behind,
Or so it feels.
Then on to visit with what is left of the living.
And though, I love the living,
There is little, so little–
To charm me into staying.
But the currents, the tides
Of some blood element,
Like an ancient memory,
Bring me back
From time to time.
This is Baltimore—
Factions of the past
The many monsters,
Gods and Goddesses all,
Worshiped and created
By a thousand wars
And fights still
Against the poisons
Standing on the battlements
Within humanity’s own
Are the multitudes
Who still exist
Within the air
Of a past colliding
Upon your present.
Unpleasant for you,
I know, disruption
To the course of your
Day to day
Good morning harmony,
The dripping sugar whiteness
Of your “girl next door” hood.
You are not faceless.
You are not nameless.
Your language drips privileged
White pearls of empty empathy.
Turn your television off with white pride,
The faceless and the nameless
Will not apologize for the noose
You feel tightening around
Your Good Morning Positivity
As faced and named change comes
To Our Nation.
This week’s prompt ~ Dance
For visually challenged writers, the image shows a pale sun piercing the mists above a green path through a golden field, leading into the center of a circle of stones.
A mist of souls weaves among the stones
A dance between grasses of green and gold
Breezes chant in ancient secret runes,
Speaking in tongues of priestesses and druids–
A single soul leaps toward a shrouded sun,
And something in our blood no longer runs—
At all fluid.
Our eyes turned inward.
Suspicious of air,
We could not take spring
Deeply into our lungs,
Feel the warmth of it on our skin,
Taste the freshness of it on our tongues
We counted our first born
And tried prayer.
Had we forgotten the blood of the lamb
Above the lintel?
We sought protection in distance,
longing for human touch.
Hate and fear drained us.
We grew weary hearing–
Wash your hands
Don’t touch your face
Wash your hands
Prayed Mother Mary full of grace
Six to ten feet apart we must stand
We feared to touch
All the more–
Yes, this will make us aware—
Appreciate what now
We could not do.
Yes, we would improve,
We would appreciate all.
Technology would see us through.
Somewhere in our collective soul
We had doubts, questions–
We had to know–
Hadn’t there been signs?
HIV, Ebola, Bird flu, Swine flu,
Zika, West Nile too,
All killers, all unseen—
Natural disasters ripping
The world to shreds.
Had we done this to ourselves?
We hadn’t been the good stewards
We were charged to be.
Drowning seas with plastic, killing bees,
Melting ice caps, making greenhouse gases–
Killing the mother God gave us.
We hadn’t loved each other as we were loved,
As we were instructed to do.
Then our arrogance, a weed within our souls grew.
We killed, pillaged, maimed, raped, started wars–
For the one skin that made us master,
For the name of God, the only one to worship,
For riches, since the strong should prey upon the weak,
For gender, after all women were things to use,
For sexuality, holy books said there’s but one way to love,
For everything was ours to take.
We’d killed each other
For these grotesquely grandiose ideas,
While calling ourselves Godly,
Saying our actions were sanctioned
By our God, our religion.
Only we knew the natural order of things.
In pride, we claimed
Where we walked—
Then guilt filled our lungs,
We finally questioned—
Was this it–
The fourth seal broken?
Had the pale rider been loosed
Upon the land?
While wanting to believe
It was all simply science.
Turn toward the hours passed.
Size them and arrange.
Let soak in dyes of prism colors
As the minutes pass away and then
Lift them, dripping dye,
To hang in the warming sun
Over tight strung wire.
Watch the colors drip, splashing on the floor.
Wet splotches collecting in puddles
Of liquid silk to be mopped away
As the hours drip colored dye
In the drying of time.
America, we never were a great nation.
Not with the genocide of native peoples, slave auctions
And slavery, Jim Crow, The Trail of Tears,
Japanese Internments, and the KKK.
No, we were never great.
We are always a nation of becoming.
A nation of ideals.
A nation great in flickering moments
Like old news reel footage:
When Harriet led her railroad,
When the suffragettes marched for the vote,
When Rosa would not be moved,
When Martin believed in the one day
Every child would have,
When Edie and Thea showed
Marriage should be defined by love,
Not biological gender.
We are a people of hope, of dreams,
Of knowing life would be better
When we made each other great.
Now, hate ripples from one sea
To another, and neither shines any longer
With Liberty because her torch
Grows dim with this reign of hate.
And there are many who want to forge once again
The chains to her ankles, shackling her in place,
Because they want to keep her,
But just for looks sake. Her mate, Justice, remains
On life support, having been beaten to a bloody pulp
By those who see color, who see gender,
Who see all the women who need
To be put in their place,
Who see a society where Justice serves only
The white Christian right, or rather, where Justice is made
Their slave. No, this is not a great nation.
This is not a great nation
When a leader can bully and spew hate
While the First Lady urges kids
“Be Best” in a limp campaign to not do the same
And few mention the irony.
This is not a great nation.
This is not a great nation
When a leader can urge violence
Against the media, immigrants, those who disagree
And so few carry an outcry.
This not a great nation
Where 18 trans women, 17 of them of color,
Can be murdered within less than a year
Yet our highest court must hear how
Laws do not apply to LGBTQ.
No, this is not a great nation
When so many must blame, exclude, and hate,
When so many must abase another to uplift themselves,
All the while professing Christianity.
Our founders gave us rules of law to make us better than this.
We are not a great nation
Until we realize the American Dream
Doesn’t see color or gender,
Doesn’t see race or religion,
Doesn’t see sexual identity,
Until none of us need to stand on the backs
Of others to feel better about ourselves—
Until we realize the American Dream is freedom and equality
And there is enough for all to go around,
We can not be a great nation.
But the greatness in our nation is this:
That we can be
If we recognize our humanity.
Splinters these things:
A Cherrywood vanity
Of fine detail,
Queen Anne legs
And dovetailed drawers,
A square ring left in the surface of the finish,
Where perfume dripped down the sides
Of a stoppered crystal bottle;
A dull walnut jewelry box
With red velvet lined drawers,
An attached mirror
Makes it too large,
Ungainly, for today.
These things, leavings,
Leftovers of a life lived,
For remembrance, for reverence,
Symbols of the intangible
As spring greenery
Is glimpsed and seen
Through a sunlit dusty screen
On a late afternoon,
Containing a muted gold softness
One can never touch.
Lackluster as they are,
They are her, her leavings,
The leftovers of the grinding times
She spent between
Rocks and hard places.
You will have her splinters
And my dusty ashes:
A picture or two, photo albums,
Old fashioned things to look through,
No links to clouds but to history, yours;
Some pencil scratching and ink splatters,
Words hurled, tattooed, etched, brushed
Upon page after page,
Notebook after notebook,
Drive after drive;
Yet you will never know or guess
How many were destroyed,
Burned, ripped, broken,
All trashed over my years.
And if you should read my leftovers?
Press your lips together,
Drawing them thin?
Sigh and raise an eyebrow?
Roll your eyes then burn it all?
Or simply, send it all to the trash
In green plastic bags?
Find one old photo,
one written line
Worth the keeping,
For remembrance sake?
You will find something
Among my dust and ash leavings
Of the grinding times I spent
Between rocks and hard places
And view it
As spring greenery is seen
Though a sunlit pollen dusty screen,
Void of vibrancy,
But containing a muted gold softness
One can feel yet never touch
Then know my damning sin,
Like Jonson’s, “was too much hope of thee”
Then find your heart softened and free.