Tinker to Evers to Chance

Dawn is the rising star of my day
and a ball of black fur shakes between my knees –
‘the end of the world is coming’ –
crackerjacks light fires in the sky.
And you had gotten away from the city
running towards shaded trees
and Coppertone.

I laughed at my father the poet –
who didn’t know it
as he highlighted my kindred verse
‘tears on flowers
no rain today
tears on clouds
sprinkle my way.’
And you rejected poetry, sending me
notice in a white business letter.
You turned your head towards needle
on song.

My pencil challenges the New York Times.
And you always beat me at poker.

Goethe is ‘Goethe’ I say,
letting black fluid rummage in my veins.
Goethe is ‘Goothe’ you pronounce.
You would riddle me with passages,
words that reflect a brother’s thoughts,
teasers – I could never abide it.
But you would always laugh.

I pivot my eye on the ball
hoping for another strike.
‘And that will be the fourth strikeout of this game.’
We get high on Strohs and popcorn
and cheer at outlandish scores.
You asked me who the third baseman was,
you, the expert, waiting for an answer.
I didn’t disappoint you –
you and your Harry Steinfeldt.
and me with my braids.

1975

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Shapeshifters

They slip in and out-
the words we use
baked in a confection that cloys
ah-
how we understand
and misconstrue-
the life of a frog.

He leaps past shadows
worn grimly-
the cloak of atrazine worn on
our grandmothers’ scars
leading to malformation
and death.
Unending, yes eternal
this passage into darkness
avoiding resonance and swaying
from side to side.
Broken sentences are glued
together by time.

Of him-the tadpole born
skips through roughen hands.
Begotten from the arc which distorts him-
this civilization born to
recklessness
ends with the metronome-
beats back survival
tick tock tick tock-
nothing means anything
and all the rest is wash.

1/17/2017

Every woman has a story

I know a woman who served you cake
you needled her about woman’s work.
I know a woman who’s eating cake –
She wouldn’t be silent, she kept her worth.

I know a woman nearly drowned by water.
You took her head you held it under.
I know a woman who rose from the dead
She struck like lightening, she roared like thunder.

I know a woman with a knife at her throat
who said I do though she didn’t.
I know a woman who didn’t quit.
She worked, she lived, she survived it.

I know a woman – our neighbor’s spouse
she was beaten black and blue.
I know a woman who left that spouse.
She wasn’t murdered, she lived her life.

I know a woman at twelve years old-
they nearly married off.
I know a woman who screamed and hollered.
She pitched a fuss, she saved herself.

You ask me why I came today
I’m telling you this is true.
I know a woman with a tale to tell,
I know this woman, you bet I do.
And yes, you know her too.

1/25/2017

Don’t touch

Hey you, archaeologist,
this piece of porcelain
is fragile.
She didn’t ask you
to mark her
with your heavy paws.
She breaks
when you play with
her like
GI Joe-
falls into pieces-
splinters off-
irreplaceable-
even with a strong adhesive.
Flickers of bone and soul
are gone forever
and the lines-
those shadows
are permanent.
She Breaks damn you!

This piece of porcelain
does not belong to you.
She is unique,
none like her in
all the world.
She is a singular
piece of work,
beautiful in her tones,
the curves-
those patterns three dimensional,
promising more.
But she does not
belong to you!
So keep your grubby
paws off!

Hey you, archaeologist-
someday this piece of porcelain
just might break
on top of your skull-
crack your head
wide open.

7-19-89

Every man a musician

The music of your life is pain.
You orchestrate the scars
in bloodletting fingertips,
urging the lizards out the sides
of your hands.

The music of my life is words.
They come
spilling from my ears,
a resonant timber of consonants
and vowels
in a vocal profession.

Let the music of my life
rain upon your scales
in notes of ease.

1979

walking in the city

i follow them – two men
letting my feet tread quietly
yet they stare back at me
letting me know that i’m either
crazy
or stupid
to be alone

i sit on a park bench counting dandelions
and shine as the park lights do
a man in blue and gold
comes up to me
and lets me know that i’m either
crazy
or stupid
to sit there alone

i stand at a bus stop
it is late at night and i am waiting
impatiently
worrying about the one
whose pride was stolen
and i let myself know that i’m either
crazy
or stupid
to stand there alone

he says “i don’t walk downtown”
he says “this is a rotten neighborhood”
he says “it’s not safe here for you”
i reply “my rights are being infringed upon”

yes dear you have the right to lose your pride
you have the right to lose your life
but ask them “do i have the right to walk
in the city?”
and they will let you know
that you are either
crazy
or just plain stupid

1989

Frederick Douglass

 

My typewriter does not recognize you.
When I type the letters of your name-
beep-
not in my vocabulary-
beep-no such word
beep-no such word

But what do machines know?
They cannot work without the light,
know nothing of dark nights
and quiet passages.
The power they have comes from
volts and plugs and cords.
They are nothing without outlets.

But you!
You know the truth behind words
written in long hand,
words capable of touching
the lowest soul
and igniting sparks of energy.

What of machines!
What do they know-
nothing.

1989