Seen.

Once, I traveled to India
through all the over-sensory whirl
of sounds and smells and colors
out to hot fields and small houses
where I met my friend’s mother
who
calmly presided over her
home
(in a language I did not understand).
But I saw that
her eyes spoke compassion;
her laughter, delight;
her wrinkles, strength.
And then_
she turned and
looked at me.

The other

across cracked stone
the river runs
pouring
prideful
rubble red and
cold the sky
a broken reflection across
words in flames and placards

the people stand against the banks
in ranks
a rising stench
the sticks and stones that conquered bones
have built with rhetoric
a fear
begun years and thousands ago
summers of sweat
and placing bets

my hand – I win –
just because I was born
here and now and with this
not yours, not you

I am not
at ease with my own evolution
through no fault of your own
but some one rolled the dice
and I came up
able to breathe out of the river
un-drownable.

American.
Straight.
White.

others
maybe not

birth order and color and status and passport
all seem to make a difference
perception and expectation puts a powdered wig
on truth
a spiraling simplification

by them. by us.
by ‘we the people’
and I have the choice to care
or not care

wall

The Euphony of Baltimore

Inspired by Pastor Chris Dreisbach’s sermon at Old St. Paul Episcopal and a good man on Eutaw Street:

A step over cracks and chicken bones on
Eutaw street
I pass the flock of Raven-decked men in
deliberation:
“You don’t know what…”
but I never find out as I keep walking
and “Loose ones!” drowns out
all else
in my ear

A wide U-turn by an MTA bus spurs an angry honk
by a yellow taxi cab
The doors breathe open
letting out umbrellas, tired faces, a hope that today,
Tuesday, may be a little sunnier, a little
better, bring a little more money, maybe that
check will come in today, maybe one day…
…there will be less maybes

I can’t ignore the silent man sifting
through the layered cardboard
packed tightly in Tito’s Vodka and
stereotypes
and an aroma of sour loss
And I can’t ignore that just last week
Lexington street taped in yellow warnings and
flashing lights frightened mid-western visitors
from crab cakes in Mrs. Faidley’s.

But one,
one grizzly bearded small man
steps back up the curb toward me,
looks up from under his purple hat
nods and casually says
“Good morning, Dear Heart, good morning.”

makes me smile, simple as that
and I can’t help but think
Baltimore is beautiful
Baltimore is beautiful

lexington market

Whimsy

Just kind of had some fun with this commentary. Still needs work and I got lazy and didn’t do a fourth verse, but here it is from March/Nov 2014

What if mermaids poured down
from the sky into Baltimore Street?
Fins flapping
Flopping as they land.
And they crawl away in search of water
anything wet…mist, puddles, the ocean…
How long would they survive?
From the middle of the city to wherever
they could drag themselves
breathing heavily, short breaths
the gills in their neck, panicking the scales
leaving shimmering slime behind
as they crawl down Charles St
towards the harbor
ignoring the shouts all around,
“Don’t go there! The water will kill you!”
It’s a risk to try.
Or not to.
What would you do, if you were a mermaid
landing desperate in Baltimore?

A pulp of orange
pumpkins turned jagged-teeth men
or witches, cats, aliens,
an unusual likeness of Elvis
sit wondering on St Paul, waiting for what they’ve heard
will be the night of nights
what they’ve been grown for
will glow for.
What would you do as you sat with a candle in your head
knowing – because you’ve heard –
that tomorrow you’ll still sit here. Your hat burned.
Your hate brimming? because you’ve heard
that soon your mouth withers, wrinkles, wraps around
your teeth and eyes, sinking in to cement steps.
And you’ll still sit here.
And sit here.
And sit here. Still on St Paul.
But on that night, would you refuse to glow as high candied legs
yell “Trick or Treat!”?
Would you straighten up proud of the carves and scars
that will rot tomorrow anyway?
Would you think why not shine?
Do you feel a choice inside?
Until a good child gone costumed stomps down. Hard.

Standing strong against the sun
snowmen, bravely hold out their skinny stick arms,
giving the world a high-five. Or the finger.
Some just want to be left alone –
to freeze (for what they may imagine) forever
What would you do if you knew?
Maybe you would want freedom – to melt
in your own way. Maybe head first
or you’d let the left belly-roll slide off.
It all flows back in to the ground. Or the gutter.
How would you withstand the heat,
knowing – against hope – that spring was inevitable?
Would you slip into oblivion? Silent?
Or protest on the corner of North Avenue, as you stood there
until your mouth melted.

Then there’s Spring.

water-drops

The Middle

I can’t imagine what it’s like to flee my home as a refugee. Just a few sketched words:

Sand sifts,
brushes against the canvas tent
A small quavering
refuge
that barely replaces the once
solid house
now crushed in bones under rubble
Joy. It breaks and cracks,
Five hundred miles in the past.
The wandering is one thing
But the wondering is hell.
There’s a Nowhere in the heart.
And the soul is a worn stone, ground
as sand shifts
brushing the quavering
canvas of
refugees that barely can place
their home
now crushed
buried under waiting.
Peace. It looks away.
And hope grows in withered form here…

Your wrinkles

On Thanksgiving Day, I met a 94 year old girl full of life and sparkle and just couldn’t help but write about her:

There’s a history in your face
Every line that
Draws up
Down
Each curve
In these few
Moments that I’ve met you
I see

The little joys in the upturned lip
The slight piquant in your nose
in your eyes,
Your daughter’s life
And death
And two marriages in your dimples

“They called me ‘heygood lookin’!'”
And you pinch me
I see the loneliness reaching up but you’ve pressed it down
Shaken it up
Disallowed it in every coursing blue vein

Your breath
Is difficult, shaky, comes in tiny breaks
But you catch every sound around you
Every whisper
Half-smile
You watch me closely
Your eyes alert

Ready to soak in my life, more life, more

Yours is crowded so beautifully on your face.
Not a Mona Lisa but a joyeux de vivre.
Still.