Thursday, January 30, 2014

6 O'clock News

I hated Huntley and Brinkley
reading their body counts 
to me every night of my 
adolescence: the X's and the O's.

Box scores of a game 
that would not end.

 I would draw Viet Nam 
in the dirt and wonder why 
everyone just wouldn't
let them settle it.  Alone.

The endless casualties of war 
looked anything but casual to me.
They didn't have to convince me,
I never wanted to go
and die in the jungle
of no return.

Finally, it stopped a few weeks
before I  turned eighteen. 
I lived.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Cricket Songs

  soft sounds of evening-
a crickets farewell love song

  to the sleepy sun

Cricket Thoughts

 dark round cricket eyes
pondering to jump or sing

 -do you see my smile?

Cricket Walks

     slow walking cricket
like an old man with two canes
  -you were born to jump

Cricket Climbs

   on a windy day
the cricket is silent
  climbing up the wall

Friday, January 17, 2014

Still Life

I keep a pair of glasses in a secret pocket deep inside me. 
With them I can look through my six-year old eyes again
at that day so long ago and see her lying on the floor.
I float above her, my arms 
treading the air
while I wait for what is coming.   
My head is cocked a little, my eyes are straining 
to tell me more than I already know about that day.

I don't remember the day of the week it happened,
the month or even the season.  The hour and date are gone,
but with my glasses I can see the day I thought my mother died.

I had walked home from school with a gaggle of kids.
My friends peeled off one by one along the way,
each to their various  destination.
Then it was down to me. 

I turn the knob and open my door,
rattling my empty lunch box onto the counter,
preoccupied by random boyish thoughts.

Surely my younger sisters must have been there too
but they never appear. There are only mom and me.
Mom is lying oddly still on the kitchen floor.
She looks like an abandoned
doll or a dropped sock
from a load of  dried laundry still waiting
to be folded during  Perry Mason.
She is always waiting there for me to find, 
all alone in the middle of the floor.

I have never seen a grownup 
lying on the floor anywhere.
Her motionless arms are splayed out 
and she is half turned on one side. One shoe
is nearly off and her eyes are gently closed.
The house is hushed and the air feels tight and dry.
There is nothing in the world but the two of us.

The scene looks as if it is printed on a celluloid sheet,
the kind animators drew cartoons on.
One single frame of her, in faded 1960's pale colors –
motionless and silent; the subtitled ending, Finé
may be  floating overhead, but not in focus.


Again, “Momma?" 

Grasping her elbow, I carefully tug at her arm.
Nothing still.

As I hold my breath, I feel the fear begin to crawl
like ice up my legs to my chest. It is cold and heavy
and it holds on to me so tightly I can hardly breathe.
It scratches its way up to my throat.
Thousands of tiny crystals of fear are becoming an iceberg.
The iceberg tries to stop any sound from getting out of me;
there is
only enough air  for a few squirming words to escape.

A muted voice bleeds out, "Are you okay, Momma?"
The small words fade away;
the second hand is stuck somewhere and will not tic.
Frantic thoughts begin to erupt in my head.

Then, just like that, the projector whirrs to life,
she lifts her head and life resumes as normally scheduled.
She may have even said, "I hope I didn't scare you.”

But my version of the scene ends when she stands up,
no big finale, slap of the clapboards, bright lights or credits.
It was over and she managed to stay alive after that.
There was no explanation and it never happened again.

So many years later I still put the glasses on and watch
reruns of that afternoon, wondering what I may have missed.
Holding it up to the light, I turn the memory over and over
in my hand, squinting for resolution.