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Archive for the ‘Poems’ Category

Shame

 

 

 

 

My brother and I played

 

Mackie and Jackie,

 

Mackie was the strong one (my brother)

 

Jackie was the smart one (me) who told us what to do.

 

When our family was introduced by great aunts or my grandmother,

 

They would say, “This is Susan, Clara, Nancy

 

And Robert Romulus Moore the Fourth!

 

Being the last sister before the boy

 

Made me invisible.

 

 

 

At five, I was left at a rest stop

 

Because I went to the bathroom a second time.

 

My dad would drive until my bladder

 

Felt like it would burst.

 

The rest stop was in the mountains

 

Without exit ramps for miles

 

After, it took my father a long time

 

To run back along the highway to get me, I’m told.

 

I don’t remember.

 

Sometime that same year,

 

My dad came home from the hospital,

 

Post car-accident coma.

 

My mother took me to the doctor

 

For strep throat, again,

 

And I fell out of the car on the way home

 

In the middle of an intersection.

 

I ran for several blocks

 

Chasing our station wagon,

 

The right, back door swung open,

 

Before my mother noticed.

 

Swabbing my bleeding knees and hands,

 

“Don’t tell your father when we get home.

 

He might have a seizure.”

 

 

 

As a six year old

 

The stair landing was a convenient

 

Catch-mom-going-to-do-laundry,

 

Halfway point,

 

“Are you and dad getting divorced?”

 

I was sitting in the middle of

 

Sifting through burn-barrel trash,

 

The contents scattered around me,

 

Kleenex, scraps of note paper, newspapers

 

And shiny white tubes that slid in and out.

 

Later I would know

 

These as tampon inserters.

 

Mom’s face boiled and pinched.

 

I found it curious that she was more mad

 

About my question

 

Than from my playing

 

In her personal trash.

 

 

 

At eleven

 

I couldn’t sleep on my stomach

 

Because my chest hurt,

 

My mom took me to the doctor

 

Probably so he could explain my body to me

 

Better than she could,

 

He roughly stuck round band-aids on each nipple,

 

He did not talk to me and he did not say

 

It’s normal to have knots of pain

 

In budding breasts.

 

 

 

After my mother had “female surgery”

 

I wrote a poem,

 

Something about taking time to smell the roses,

 

A thirteen-year-old’s idea

 

Of cheering up her mother.

 

Church camp that weekend

 

Was chilled and stiff,

 

Mom’s face hung in hurt-lines,

 

I accepted her condemnation

 

A cheap, scratchy-laced nightgown

 

Against my bones.

 

 

 

At twelve,

 

I was practically decapitated

 

Riding my bike across the neighbor’s property line,

 

The newly, unmarked wire

 

Strung exactly neck high.

 

“You shouldn’t have been riding

 

That close to their house.”

 

Over the next years,

 

The shouldn’ts expanded into

 

“You shouldn’t flaunt yourself”

 

“You shouldn’t hurt people’s feelings”

 

“You shouldn’t be selfish”

 

“You shouldn’t be too confident”

 

“You shouldn’t ask questions.”

 

 

 

My first marriage lasted 3 & 1/2 years,

 

We date my entire teenage and college years,

 

I gifted this time to him,

 

Unquestioned.

 

My mother found my supply

 

Of birth control pills between my 2nd and 3rd year of college

 

“If you’re going to sleep with him

 

You need to get married.”

 

I sit on my mom and dad’s screened-in porch

 

Explaining how the wedding for which they paid,

 

How the vows I promised would last,

 

How my world had veered in a drastically different direction

 

From theirs,

 

“I hired a private detective….

I won’t stay in a marriage with a cheating husband…

 

I gave him the separation papers,”

 

I fling helpless words

 

At their blank faces.

 

I leave out the part where my husband

 

Explained his wandering was

 

My fault

 

“If you hadn’t let me do so many

 

Things without you;

 

If you had just told me no.”

 

 

 

Almost thirty,

 

I feel like calling mom

 

For the first time in years,

 

“Hello,” mom answers

 

In that distant, reluctant way.

 

“The neonatologist at my hospital,

 

Who is super-conservative, he never approves anything,

 

Is going to let me do massages on the NICU babies.

 

Can you believe that?”

 

Silence,

 

Throat clear,

 

“What’s wrong with being a pharmacist?”

 

The phone receiver

 

Burns my ear.

 

 

 

After working at the hospital for 6 years,

 

I learned from listening to the

 

Labor and delivery room nurses

 

That I didn’t want to be one of those

 

“Yelling” laboring moms.

 

Thirty-six hours into

 

Pushing out a 10 lb. baby

 

Can evaporate the resolve

 

To not be a “yeller,”

 

Alone in my

 

Bone-shattering,

 

Baby-extracting marathon,

 

I didn’t care

 

Whether I lived or died,

 

And yelled this fact frequently.

 

Not even my baby girl

 

Nestled in her daddy’s arms

 

Could budge me from

 

My pain reverie,

 

My shocked focus on

 

When I could get

 

Another dose of pain medication.

 

 

 

Now a real boss,

 

Just turned fifty,

 

Telling people what to do.

 

My friend, an orthopedic surgeon,

 

Asked for crossing over help

 

For a physician friend

 

With end-stage pancreatic cancer,

 

Ghost/spirit whispering being my secret life.

 

His friend wasn’t finished living,

 

Refused to cross over, firmly.

 

I watched him hopelessly drag his body around

 

Trying to find a place to plug in his light body

 

Which was withdrawn all the way to the

 

Top of his head (last place before dying).

 

My friend always states the obvious,

 

“No one lives for over a year with end-stage pancreatic cancer.

 

He shouldn’t still be alive.”.

 

After observing his friend deny his body’s decay

 

And ignore his wife’s exhausted vigil,

 

I had to agree.

 

“You’re right. He shouldn’t.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The rage-unaware therapist

Concluded I must have

Control and independence issues

Because of my distrust of God

I wanted to leap on her desk,

Claw and scratch the annoying,

Mahogany-mirrored surface,

And rip the tedious, artsy prints off the wall.

I wanted to hurl her smiling, family pictures

And priggish, velvet-upholstered furniture

Through the over-large, antique windows,

Listening for the satiating crash below.

But most of all

I wanted to erupt my belly-full of emotions

And dragon-breath the whole room,

Hell

Blaze down the whole world

While I’m at it,

Down to embers and coals,

Letting my lack of trust in God

Bleed out through my pores

And rot gratefully in the earth.

Still sitting in the room,

Outwardly composed and reflective

I’m left with a humming inside

From my illusory deluge,

A buzzing, electrical charge

Vibrating in my ears and in my bones,

Like the call of a courting bird

Moving through layers of dense wood,

Reaching across foggy ravins

And bands of forest chirps and chitter,

Inexplicably received

By its intended

As a shivery echo of throat-song,

A summoning pulse of hope.

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My father’s secret life, the suit and tie accountant by day

On his tractor at night, the light pacing back and forth across the field.

The good father, doing his duty, dedicated to family,

My mom pushing his hands away from her hips, cooking dinner,

“Bob, stop…”

Sometimes he’d load us kids on the frame of the plow blade,

Clots of red clay, bubbling up potatoes.

His car accident,

Me, the five year old,

While he lay in a coma,

Deciding whether to live or die.

He lived and something in me died.

Forty years later, I remember.

Wondering on the mystery of

Believing you’re abandoned

Resulting in two failed marriages.

“Your husband is cheating on you”

My rebellion of religion

Yet crying when hymns are sung,

My resistance of tradition,

Hating the celebration of days

Because it’s the day

Preferring to celebrate for no reason,

Yet homemade biscuit-bottomed,strawberry shortcake

Will always mean Valentine’s Day

And German chocolate cake with oozy coconut-ladened icing

Will always mean dad’s birthday.

My dad cut trees and I would dance across the fallen trunks

Like a fancy gymnast.

He’d come home from hunting with rabbits stuffed in the front of his jacket.

He never cranked his tractor for the season

Until the yearly wren nest had finished its duty

Of chick hatching.

My dad in the box of pictures I found in the attic

Lovely pinups taped inside his locker,

He stands proudly in front of the girly display

In uniform, smiling at the camera.

His smile, a secret, unknown smile to me,

The same smile I see sometimes

On my 16 year old

Standing in front of the mirror,

Examining his arm muscle-swelling efforts

The raw splendor,

The unashamed smile of a 16 year old

Growing his body.

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He isn’t just a hearse driver, you know,

But you see him the in the “shadow light”

The time of day when stillness melts over into life.

His back is charged with purpose

As he exits the black limo

And swings through the screen door.

Mama doesn’t care

That he never called her even once,

She only cares that he’s here

And he’s hungry,

And he gives her a smile

That cracks her heart.

It’s the yellow-night-time

When the crows aren’t even

Brave enough to be obnoxious and loud.

He wanders around the house

Touching things.

Her eyes water from the corners,

Self-consciously,

Remembering the tousled-headed toddler

With outstretched arms.

“It doesn’t matter,”

She wants to say,

But the words won’t rise,

Like heavy roads

That burble under the pond foam.

He’s not hearing anyway,

His eyes lost in black and white memories

And unopened presents

From birthdays he missed

While he battled life

With closed fists

And clenched heart.

Everything begins to unwind and unfetter,

The clock moans as darkness

Swarms the room

And the house

And the space between

Mother and son.

“It doesn’t matter,”

Her heart whispers,

But it does,

Lost in the dark;

Nothing.

Even that

Means it matters.

 

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The green is fading to black,

And she doesn’t feel anything

About losing the color

In her big eyes,

They don’t function well anyway,

And she sees

What she doesn’t want to see.

What agony to know

The underbelly of the underneath,

Everything is warm and desirous

And hidden.

The are secrets

That mothers knew

But never dared to speak of,

And the children learn

That running through the woods

Can get them killed

Or worse.

I wander in the grown-up world

Like a kid with an old encyclopedia

Turned to the section

“Reformed,”

Not understanding the words,

Like a deaf-mute to the old ways,

I try to use this

To forge a new way,

But there are plenty of lonely nights

And briar patches

To navigate,

And I get so tired.

But she is dying

Behind the green-less eyes,

And it’s my job

To save her.

Leave me alone,

And I will make it,

I’m sure of my skills

And courage.

I just hope I haven’t run out of

Time.

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Image

She tags you “it”

And you squeal and reel in laughter.

It’s only better

When the fog lifts

Off the meadow

Like rising cream.

You aren’t elated

Because of the weather,

You’re inside the outside collar

Of all the choke chains

Of the world,

Big-world, global-chokings

That tie off your joy

Like a snuffer on a candle.

You revel in the chase

Of new delights,

Not old games with stubbed toes

And bent-up kick cans.

Even the best of us

Can explode at the thought

Of one more compression

On our spirit,

Like a flat-iron on our soul,

The squashing

Feels like dismembering our toes

From our dancing feet.

You aren’t lucky,

You are selected

For “good times”

By your own bidding.

You picked the merry path

When you tired of the storm clouds.

Believe in the fairy

With the dashing smile

And buzzing wings.

You never know

When light will turn to water,

Will turn to tears,

Will turn to sweet nectar

Dripping into your insides

Like honey brewing

In a hive.

“Yes,” we say, “Yes.”

“Yes,” I answer, “I’m alive.”

It’s good to be alive.

Let’s see what

Other skips and scampers

Are in my step.

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There was a time

When everything was smooth

And mellow,

Like a muggy summer night

With lightening bug scents

Suspended in the air,

But yesterday you suddenly

Erupted into your tomorrow,

Full of fear and newfound respect for 

Death and despair.

You are surrounded by friends and family

But are alone in your knowing that

The dreaded tomorrow is already here.

You didn’t realize it would be

This palpable;

A twisted trajectory

Of anguish and near death.

It doesn’t matter that others

Have been here before you,

It’s strange to you,

Untrodden, unbidden.

You felt safe in having paid

Your healthy dues,

Thought you’d mastered the “lack of cause” position,

But it wasn’t enough,

You’re here anyway,

Against all odds,

One heart attack closer to

The conclusion.

Where is death lurking,

If not now?

When will the finale be final?

The rules have been broken 

And you’re reeling in the

Unwritten, unfairness

Of it all.

You say, “What if I go to sleep

And never wake up?”

I don’t know the answer

To give you peace.

Death doesn’t believe in   

Preemptive invitations;

It casually calls your name

Whenever it likes, wherever it likes,

Whether you are ready or not.

Peekaboo, where are you?

Ready or not, here I come.

I have no wisdom;

All I can think to say is,

“Sleep well, my sister,

Sleep well.”

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