Sunday, May 31, 2009

After all these years she keeps hoping

“Let goa’ me girl!” Her stiff arms pushed me away.

“But Momma, Daddy’s gone…”

“Hush, don’t cry.” Not wasting a glance, of her squinty eyes, my way.

She soon left me, moved to the city. People said there was work there ‘cause of the War. I started living with family; aunts, uncles and cousins. Momma’s people, then Daddy’s and some I wasn’t sure the relation. Most were nice, but I missed my Daddy, and I wanted to go home.

‘Bout three years of achin’, lost without my family. Heard Momma might be getting’ married. Maybe they’d come for me. Maybe.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Holy Days

The fourth of July
Maybe in the mid-sixties
Years, not temperature
At our house
In the front yard
Cousins were there
Actually it was Aunt Joy and her family
She wasn’t my real aunt
But my dad’s cousin
We said she was our Aunt
We called her kids cousins
Which, I guess they were,
She wasn’t our Aunt
But saying so
Seemed to simplify family connections

They lived in California
The bay area
Had lots of money
A view of the water, maybe Alcatraz
We went to their house once
Saw the bridge through the fog
Out of a bedroom window
They said that was normal
My parents said
The money was why her kids
Were so spoiled

I remember the time, maybe times,
Aunt Joy would call our house
Long distance
She talked for what
Seemed like hours
I was afraid to make a
Long distance call
It was very expensive
She talked funny
She had a problem
She was probably drunk
Which was no big deal
In our family
Lot’s of my relatives got drunk
Some were sloppy and funny
Others went to treatment
Which I heard never worked

We were running around the yard
With sparklers
Sputtering wires
Of color and heat
In brave moments we’d throw
Them in the air and
Dodge the descent
Until one landed on the roof

My Dad got a
Pan of water and
Threw it upward
Over the gutter in hopes of
Extinguishing the sparks
My guess is the hose was
In the back yard or
He would have used it
The flame and memory fade
From that point…

It’s Memorial Day
At our house
In the front yard
Throwing a puffy football
With my son and grandson
A neighbor kid wanders
To join us
The boys’ with moppy heads
Bounce as they run, fall, and giggle

We play “keep away”
Paced for kid fun
Not exasperation
They can go forever
Chase, stumble, begin to cry
“Shake it off” I say
Quickly I’m bored and want to go
Back inside to sit and talk
Maybe see the end of the game
But I’m caught by the moment

Does my grandson know this is
Something more than
A day off from school and work
That it is one of those times
When family gathers
Because they are family
And is this day one that
Will spark like fire across his synapses
To remind him of a moment
Decades and generations from now
Creating boundaries of belonging?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Facing Mom

I was thirteen, maybe thirteen and a half and realized I was taller than Mom. It wasn’t saying much to pass all five feet of her, but I’d arrived. After I made a smart comment her hand flashed toward my face. I caught her wrist before she connected. “You’re not big enough to do that anymore.” My arrogance grew with each breath and word.

She looked me straight on, paused then said, “Do you want me to settle this now or I can tell your Dad about it later?”

My response was as quick as my release, “Anything you want.”

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Let me go

It was brutal. Rec league for guys under six feet. Ball-hogging little guards with egos bigger than Wilt.

Game’s bleeding to an end. The foul-fest has us playing four on three. We have them outnumbered, we’re gonna lose.

I’d give anything to be on the bench at the end of this slaughter. One more foul and I’m out. Screw the ball, I dive going for an opponent’s body. He slams to the floor. I dance, giddy, waiting for the blessed whistle.

Ref back-peddles by me laughing, “Nice try buddy. You’re in ‘til it's over.”

I stayed, we lost.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Drifting Toward Twilight

A cool breeze brushes my face, sunlight hits my eyes. I blink, reach for you. Get up, grab the paper and fix oatmeal, for two. Eat alone, the television newscaster mumbles.

Phone rings. Kids want to take me to dinner and talk. I know what’s coming: They love me. Want my best. You’ve been gone so long. I forget things. Might hurt myself. They’re busy. Can’t always check in. They’ve talked to the doctor. Found a nice place. I'd enjoy being with people my own age. They love me and want what’s best.

If you were here I’d be OK.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Silent and Afraid

Waiting for the microwave to ding
The TV reporter caught my eye
She was young and styled,
Like all of them, at least most of them
With her tailored wool overcoat
And the wind gently mussing her hair
She stood with a mic near her lips hoping
Someone was watching, maybe they cared,
She spoke of a new park where,
“…drugs and brutality had once ruled the streets,
Children will play and families will picnic.”
Bulldozers groaned in the background
While houses disappeared

My thoughts drifted,
To an ageless matriarch
Sitting in the nook
With her house coat half buttoned,
It was once sunny yellow,
A smoldering cigarette
Bounced between her stained, cracked lips
Smoke hung in layers
Around the room
Occasionally she’d sip
From a near cold cup of coffee

Over the years a parade of men
Would come and go
Some would rummage the fridge
Making a sandwich or
Popping open a beer
Few would stay more than a month or two

Kids would giggle and slide across
The slick wooden floors
Until they got too close to the nook
Then all would be serious,
Silent and afraid
In other rooms they would play
Dreaming of being far away
When one got hurt they’d
Fearfully knock on the door of their
Mother’s room
Praying her anger would be less
Painful than their injury

Their mother was usually in her room
Resting, until she’d need to stumble
To the kitchen to refill her glass

At night the music got loud
Men would huddle by the curb
Under the street light
Talking and laughing
It seemed the night would never end

It felt like home
All over again
I turned off the TV,
Ate my dinner
Silent and afraid

Sunday, May 3, 2009

First Sight

To see it again
And yet for the first time
Because I want to
Or will myself to
As something stirs within
It is the confirmation of spring and
Once more I walk through the
Turnstile and corridors
Until sunlight’s glare
Causes me to squint
But I must look to
See the field,
New, yet familiar
Facing homeward
Across tight grass, that shifts
Ever so slightly with the
Afternoon breeze
Smooth soil awaiting
Perfect white lines
I go early for this view,
Usually with my youngest son,
There are few people

For some it is only a game
But it is more
It is flesh and soul
Memories of being with others
Watching, cheering
Talking of something, anything,
Maybe the game
Words drift toward stories of
Work and family
On rare occasions deeper matters
Are whispered to those most trusted

The ball rockets off a bat
And I jump, we all jump
Strangers become friends
And celebrate as one,
Grin, touch, nod
Sit and return to conversations,
Always keeping an eye on the field
Through sunshine and rain-delays

Anxious rookies, who stand
At the dugout rail
Slouching over-sized boys
Refusing to grow-up,
While others are
Desperately trying to
Prove their manhood,
Some selfish over-paid stars
And a few heroic veterans
Straining for one
Last taste of glory

It is a rhythm that I
Cannot forsake
It is some others business
They own it and will
Never know me
That is fine
I own my springtime’s
My camaraderie, my hope
My memories of almost
And the pain of not enough
All of it is mine
And each spring when I return
I look at it, as if for the first time
And I am hopeful, thankful and content