The old washboard
stands in a five dollar flea market tub
with three faded, scratched up tall coke bottles,
a rusted plaid patterned lunch pail,
a red plastic mesh bag filled with used beach toys,
a broken hobby horse some kid rode once
while yelling, Hi, Ho, Silver! Away!
Among this disregarded dusty junk,
the old washboard looks fragile
as if the wood surrounding the corrugated steel
might fracture should a woman grasp it
intending to use it to scrub stains
from familial laundry
like my mother did with her’s.
I remember my mother’s washboard
standing in her soaking bucket,
filled with 20 Mule Team Borax, Biz, and hot water,
which stood in the concrete laundry tubs
in the basement of the house.
I remember how her knuckles turned red,
the skin raw looking, as she scrubbed blood
from a blouse, pouring salt from a Morton’s
salt container onto the stain then scrubbing
up and down, up and down on the washboard,
then dunking the blouse twice
to see if the stain was gone.
Pour, scrub, scrub, dunk, dunk
pour, scrub, scrub, dunk, dunk
pour, scrub, scrub, dunk, dunk
The pattern, the rhythm, until the stain erased.
I have no soaking bucket,
no Twenty Mule Team Borax, no Biz,
to get my stains out.
My bottle of Oxi Clean Stain Remover
pales in memory
of my mother’s washboard.
No understanding in
how winter comes.
For it arrives uninvited
at too many times,
often when it shouldn’t,
snatching away all the covers,
driving out the flames,
like a gentle, timid lover
will winter drift into days
as autumn delicately falls,
little dip by little dip, into winter’s icy arms
then a frozen world is made.
At times, making a last stand
against the coming thaw,
with sword drawn
to wreak havoc on all things
green and growing
stilling all hearts
feeling the flow of life begin.
At those times, winter rides
until sweated out
in the course of time.
Yet winter may freeze us solid
in the midsts of summer’s heatwaves
as we stand over the gaping mouths of graves.
As some breathe in the hope of spring,
others, being eaten by winter’s black ice
of hunger and need, stand as witnesses
to winter’s winter growing larger still:
beyond artic, beyond talk of tundra,
or whispers of permafrost—
but something too many know.
We will not end in fire
nor will we end in ice,
as Frost once wondered.
In the end,
it will be the lukewarm breeze
the one to do us in.
days spinning faster
now toward twilight it seems
hours before dawn
years ago hours
lived, died, born again screaming
before twilight’s edge
watch the dawn hours
spin, dizzy and drunk with years,
into twilight’s grave
My militant mind reels,
victorious over sleep,
now warring with the words—
I grapple, attempting to find
the right ones,
the ones I left behind in dreams
or at war with other chores,
so in these early hours,
during a brief cease fire,
watch the sky
begin to pink
in the east.
I do not want to wish
yet it is easy,
I have Samson’s strength
to break this encasement
of fear of longing,
this fear of loss.
nothing gained —
I used to think that way
before the drought
came and withered
hope away before
could be made
and that thing
inside became like
the stalks of an orchid
shedding the petals of spent,
thin and dry as parchment paper,
falling, drifiting to the floor,
leaving the stalk empty.
I may wish to reach my hand,
twitching with something
to the eastern horizon,
where I imagine you
warm and dreaming still
but fear cements me still,
fear of longing
fear of loss
for that place inside
cradles no hope
for green stalks
I tire of seeing memes about having a positive attitude and choosing one’s feelings plastered
social media. It is no surprise our young people are in the midst of a mental health crisis when constantly bombarded with messages telling them, in essence, “The only reason you are sad is because you are making the choice to be sad,” or, (one of my favorites for sabotaging anyone’s self esteem) “You have a choice to make your day wonderful or not.” While such simplistic messages are well meaning, I believe they are sometimes extremely toxic. After all, what if your parent died on that day? Did you make the choice to have a horrible day? What if you go home to a toxic abusive environment? How can you choose to make your day wonderful? So before reposting those wonderful positive messages on social media, let’s all take a step back and think about what we are really saying to someone who may be going through something or in an environment where there is no choice in the matter but to feel what he or she feels. Let’s send messages that say it’s okay to feel what you feel and acknowledge it and to take time to feel it all,so something can be gained from it—a lesson, a positive action taken, whatever it may be, so we know our suffering was not for naught. Hence, this piece.
I gathered my despair,
my tears, my losses, all my grief.
Sat with each,
held them close,
let them dry,
waiting for spring.
When the ground warms,
softening, ready for tilling,
I will plant my despair,
sow my tears,
plough rows for my losses,
dig a hole deep enough to hold all my grief.
In the turning of time,
from the shrubs of my despair,
I will snip flowers and herbs
for healing others.
From the vines of my tears,
I will pluck the fruits and vegetables
to pile upon the table for all who need.
From the fields of my losses,
I will reap the harvest grain
to store for when a time of need arrives.
Finally, from the tree of all I grieve.
I will pick the sweetest fruit
Since I drove right by it
on my GPS selected route
on my way to dinner
I had to stop:
Here now— pulled over, paying reverence,
to time, youth, innocence, tragedy
When we loved each other
in this home we made together.
Here— this moment of reverence paid
unlocks the door of a room
where you are kept
preserved in perfection,
untainted by guilt
by the judgement
I rendered upon you
in my innocent ignorant self-righteousness
and so unleashed our tragedy upon us.
Now— could I travel that twisted high wire of time
back through the forty years
yet keep the wisdom of lessons
learned of forgiveness and judgment—
we would be young lovers
starting out again
and I would gift
you treasures of ancient gods and goddesses—
olive oil, an olive tree to plant,
casks of rose water,
roughly hewn amber, the mythic tears,
in which we could be captured.
I raise my head, turn my eyes to the road ahead,
locking the door to that place
where you are kept
preserved in perfection:
Sitting in the window seat,
your head tilted to the light,
sunlight glistening off your copper color hair,
smile wide as you lift your drawing pad
and begin to sketch,
your thin lovely hand floating
in movement above the page.
There,I leave you once again,
As I drive away.
dry, drought ridden earth
riddled with cracks inches wide
forms chasms decades deep
layered in dry dust
rising as rain pelts away,
determined to flood
chasms, erasing all cracks
but this earth is too hardened
unyielding to any rain,
seeking to soften hard soil
Inspired by this line from Mary Oliver
Feast not too often on meager crumbs of joy,
fallen haphazardly from someone else’s table.
Thinking yourself filled, sated,
you will find yourself crouching, smiling,
lowering your head to be patted by the hand
that cares nothing for you.
Then, when beaten back from the table,
you will scuttle away crouching low,
spirit yielding to fear.
But rise, rise then, standing—
staring eye to eye.
Lift your head and turn,
walk to new horizons.
There, build a table all your own
where you feast wholeheartedly
upon the delightful dishes of joy
inviting others to share.
Each one partaking in as much joy
as can be held
at your table
where no one
need feast on crumbs.
An early morning, dogs walked,
Time to sit. Read the news.
Enjoy a cup of coffee and listen to the birds sing.
A twenty-two year old woman falls into a coma,
dying later at the hospital.
The police say she suffered a heart attack,
claiming their goal was educational only—
to teach her the proper way to wear hijab.
Now in Iran, women
bravely cut their hair and burn their hijabs
in protest of Mahsa Amini’s death.
I listen to the songs of cardinals
as they come to peck at the seeds from feeders
swinging from tall shepard hooks in my neighbor’s yard.
My hands shake as I lift my coffee cup to my lips.
No power. My hands hold no power. My body holds no power.
No power to help the women of Iran. No power to protect them
from the brutality of the “Morality Police.”
I can not help but think of my own daughter of twenty three,
only a year older, just a year.
A moment of gratitude for her life,
For a moment, a sense of relief
that here in the U.S we have no “Morality Police”
Or “sharia” law— for my daughter’s sake….
But the moment of relief drifts away
on the song the cardinals sing—
We live in the state of Texas,
Which now holds dominion over her body.
My hands shake
Powerless at the moment
Only at the moment.
Power rises as does anger.
The state, the nation, the world counted on fear to make us powerless.
Yet now, injustices kindle the flame of power within us
And nothing can stand against us once we unite.
Bandaged, gauze covered, blanketed--
She never thought of bandages
until one wound oozed infection,
a malevolent fluid.
Thus, she learned of cleansing wounds,
bandaging them for protection,
Twice, she thought her wound healed, scarred over,
rejoicing, removed her bandage.
Twice, her scar split open, infection returning.
Resigned, resolving to keep her bandage always,
Refreshed daily, keeping infection at bay.