Curbside Patties

 
 
Where wander childhood sensations abandoned at the adult door?

Where hides the hood in childhood–buried where, by whom?

Who animates ghost crumb trails lost to fingers of leafy time

casts art’s poetry, memoir or history’s smokey sincerity.
 

But the curiously cured shank of hooded time stored in dark canals,

in brain crevices seeping imagery flattened and folded fit for life,

ages salty sweet in half notions nestled inside enormous desire,

full fledged and bloated with expectation un-dampened:
 

A six-year old, hair a twiggy tangle, growing to the wind, sitting

curbside, forming perfect patties from the meaty pliant mud,

shapes the real from earth and imagination aligned just so,

when nature taught her no bounds to science, only hands.

Happy International Talk Like a Pirate’s Day!

Female_pirate_Anne_Bonny (1)

When I was girl, aye, many a moon ago,

a landlubber me, me mateys too

sailed the ocean in books from the bilge,

the library basement racks, and ventured far,

anchored only by words like hook of the captain

luring us in like Moby, wee urchins to the salty seas,

uprising smartly when it was time to go.

But we’d come another day for a skull’s whistle.

“For a tale awaits on the shores of shelves,”

the spectacle’d lass in pumps and plum lips said.

“Pirate the world in an open palm, my beauties,

Steal the wind with a spell set on shivering leaves.”

Ahoy and avast! And we did, alit below the stars

of blackened ceilings open endlessly beyond

and long before days peering into Davey’s Locker..

Calico Days

  
Like Mary’s lamb, Betty walked us to school each day.

Athough, the street crossing delimited her hospitality.

She left us, standing her curbside guard as we passed,

rounding the corner to the garden playground tarmac,

launching little ones to the land of rowed rote learning.

The morning ritual drew her celebrity as the cut-tail cat,

the shepherd of the suburban neighborhood children.  

She pranced for pets, then skittered past to prod them,

“Don’t be late,” as if urging them to the teachers’ walls, 

brick-lined in students armed with backpacked lunches.

And thus she bid the morning watchfully, awaiting 2:42 

when full of 2+2 and rainbow-colored painted clothes,

her charges returned to their tri-colored ambassador,

strolling four-footed assured along a territory secured

in pats and giggles, amazement and chase of the calico.

Pajama Strangle

 
 
Barely there, I lurked minutes, days, and hours

pretending meaning lay in dark, around a turn,

ever on the edge of understanding or knowing;

the condition of life, they say, that stretching on.

 
Naked I slept, too roused in a strangled sleep,

a mind refusing to rejuvenate in still idle stop,

pajamas abandoned for safety in the passage

to dreamscapes blind, conspiracy plot defused.

 
Exposed in button down, collared pajama shirts

to snuff a peaceful sleep in twisted neck tubing,

constricting dry breath with a cobra flannel grip,

plastic bullets embedding skin imprinted targets.

 
So, nude I slept, exposed in unsuspecting hours 

by day, vulnerable to negotiate the middle path,

invisibly drawn with white ink on scalloped seas

foamy, colorless and frigid for all the life it holds.
 

There you slept with me hanging on for dear love

afraid to let go even in death to loosen your hold,

your legs enwrapping mine in immobilized sleep

beckoning childhood’s grip on a pajama strangle.
 

 

credit: image04.deviantart.net

When You’re a Grown up

  

My daughter and I were at the frozen yogurt store the other day when we overheard a boy about five years old say to presumably his mother, “I can’t wait til I’m a grownup!” Not exactly sure of the context, but I believe his mother had just conditioned his frozen yogurt choices on being old enough to know what was good for him.

Though the exclamation produced a smile on my face, my 19-year-old-off-to-college-this-week daughter quickly turned to the boy and said, “Don’t rush it, kid. You don’t know what you’re asking for.” And she laughed so as not to terrorize the boy.

I turned to her and asked, “Is it that bad?” She nodded, yes.

I know the anxiety of living away from home for the first time preys on her nerves, playing a checklist of to-do’s and what-if’s in her mind on endless repeat. I feel her.

She and I differ that way. When I left home, I had no thoughts. I left on the sheer will of want: whatever I wanted. It was only after I left that I began to worry as I realized I had no idea how to write a check let alone balance a checkbook. I had only one experience with a bank: a savings account my mother opened for me when I was in junior high, one with a little blue, firm-covered, palm-sized bank book in which to register deposits and withdrawals. I remember how grown up I felt then. But that bank book, regulated by my visions of large purchases and the change in my mother’s purse divided by four, did little to teach me about pooling money in time to pay rent, feed myself and pump gas into my car. 

I learned, especially after a few months of barely living on graham crackers and cottage cheese or peanut butter. A visiting uncle, a psychologist  from Texas, remarked to my mother at one family gathering during that time, “Does she have anorexia?”

Burning by my own mistakes was my way. Still is. So long as they were mine. My mother did little to prepare any of us five children for the world as she protected us–wittingly or unwittingly–from the responsibilities of grown-ups, cocooned as we were in our middle class suburban neighborhood.

Maybe it was the time too. She stayed at home and cooked for us, washed our clothes and poured our milk for us. I remember telling her one day in sudden astonished awareness, “Mom, I’m 12. I can pour my own milk.”

My children did not grow up the same way. Their parents worked and so had to fend for themselves more. Even when I worked from home when they were small, I advocated for their independence. As soon as they were old enough to complain about what was for dinner, I let them know they could make their own if they did not like what was on the menu and then showed them how to use the stove. 

I am not suggesting my kids are not over protected or spoiled in other ways, however. While my parents had no means to buy their children things we nevertheless asked for, my kids have had more money given to them than I had. Growing up in a one-wage factory laborer family, we became accustomed early on to the idea that any material items we wanted would have to be purchased by our own means. I worked mowing lawns, helping my brother deliver newspapers and babysitting from the time I was 8.

My daughters, on the other hand, were raised to believe their grades and sports were their jobs, that they had too many years ahead for the paying jobs that they would eventually have to report to daily. “Don’t rush into working,” I always said.  

So my 19 year old has had a job for a year now; she worked part time while attending the local community college to pay for her car, books, concerts and clothes. I know it has been a stretch, the responsibility, though I know it hasn’t been a shock. She is used to budgeting her time and her resources, having been over-scheduled since she was 6 with soccer practice, piano lessons, school, and whatever the day’s playdates or parties brought.

But it is not the practical how-to’s or what-to-do’s that have her worried about moving out. I know it. She can figure things out, and it isn’t as if she is completely cut from the cord. Smart phones have kept us connected for years now anyhow, near or far. I group text my daughters to come down from their upstairs perches (more like second-story caves) to dinner (when I cook).

Nope. What she fears, I imagine, is what we all do. Doing it herself–whatever it is. The psychological state of being on her own, which prefigures the time when she will be truly on her own, no parents to call upon for a word of advice or a few bucks (or few hundred) to carry her over til payday, is the foundational fear–of death, first others and then her own. 

Not to be too dramatic, but Freud did not get everything wrong. Death and sex are primary human motivators. Everything that drives us is rooted in either or both. 

When my daughter goes off to college, it will symbolize that eventuality (hopefully far down the line) of being on her own without the umbrella of parental love. She will experience it as a mix of anxiety and excitement. And even as she will be making her own love, whether parenting or not, which will occupy enormous space in her mind and heart, she will one day yearn–even if it is just for a moment—for a time when the burdens, seemingly too heavy to bear, were barely perceptible just as they were lurking, unnoticed, above her childhood, as she splashed in an inflatable pool in the backyard and wondered what was for lunch and if she would ever not be bored on endless summer days.

I know I have.

And perhaps my mother, sitting among us near motionless in the skin of a fading light, silently reminds her, also symbolically, that connections run deeper than the physical–etched like the voice that called her to dinner at night all those years of play and idle dreaming. Even when the voices are silenced into memory, beginnings and endings forge life forward even as they fall backward in the marching on.