Thursday, December 31, 2009

Sex Education In 1964
















Today the nuns talked about sex, so I put away my book of hymns.
I wondered what they would say and would I giggle and grin?
I listened carefully because Catholic and reproduction are synonyms.

The sisters warned me not to touch the organ made for him.
If I did, I might create, an innocent child within.
Today the nuns talked about sex, so I put away my book of hymns.

I didn’t understand what they said. The news caused my head to swim.
I played an organ. Even took lessons. It made my siblings dance and spin.
I listened carefully because Catholic and reproduction are synonyms.

I found the courage to talk to mother, to take the news however grim
To ask her, “Is my organ male?” If the nuns were right, it made new life begin.
Today the nuns talked about sex, so I put away my book of hymns.

She said, “It is a Lowery. It must be female…I guess… Aren’t you late for gym?”
I figured the Wurlitzer was the problem then, that unsavory fraternal twin.
I listened carefully because Catholic and reproduction are synonyms.

Women of the world listen to me shout. Don’t give in to every whim.
Today we are armed with knowledge and should not be taken in.
We must avoid the Wurlitzer, to protect ourselves from sin
I listened carefully because Catholic and reproduction are synonyms.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Basket of Love
















Get reeds and stakes
pliable, yet strong enough
to weave a basket.

Over and under,
over and under
guide the reeds carefully
through the stakes.

Use discipline
to hold things in place
and prayer to shape
your lovely keepsake.

Over and under,
add another row,
this one dyed red
the next one dark blue.

Create a pattern.
Don’t be afraid
to dampen with tears
whenever needed.

Over and under,
now it’s ready for a
handle to be securely
applied to the rim
inside and out.

Fasten with plenty of laughter,
fill with lots of cuddles and kisses.
Make sure the basket is sturdy enough
to withstand even the heaviest of loads.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Empty Wheelbarrow
















Empty wheelbarrow
rusted and worn
beaten from carrying
soil and stone.

Designed to make
any load lighter, found
in a garden or
construction zone.

A lone wheel
with two levered handles
welded on a bent iron form.

After the work is done
she climbs in
to go about town.

He assures her
she won't be thrown.

She is paraded
like a queen on a throne
until he delivers her
safely back home.

Monday, December 28, 2009

He Is Risen

This is a story the priest told at my Aunt Emily's funeral:















Joey was a young boy with serious health issues but when asked what he wanted most in life he asked to attend school like other boys and girls.

Now he struggled with getting to the classroom and sitting at a desk. He also found it difficult to hold a pencil and to complete the various tasks but he did the best he could.

His teacher on the other hand saw his struggle and worried that everything was too hard for him. It was difficult for her to make so many adjustments so Joey could complete the different assignments but she persisted until just before Christmas when she had enough. She called for a meeting with his mother to recommend he be sent to a specialized school or be home schooled.

Before she could speak the mother grasped her hands and said, “Joey is so happy to come to school and he loves you so much. However hard he struggles he enjoys the many things you've taught him to do.”

The teacher felt guilty for her feelings and didn’t say what she planned instead she made suggestions for ways the mother could help Joey at home so he could continue in school.

Things went on that way through the winter and then in early spring the teacher called the mother and told her to make sure Joey found an Easter symbol to bring to class so that he could participate in the class discussion.

The teacher gave each of the children an empty plastic egg shell and told them to put something in it that represented Easter and be ready to explain the symbol the next day.

The first child opened his egg and revealed a piece of green grass. He said, “Easter represents new beginnings.”

Another child had a picture of a chick and said, “Easter is rebirth.”

A third child opened up her egg and revealed a butterfly, “Easter is transformation.”

One by one each of the children had a chance and finally it was Joey’s turn but when he went before the class he struggled to open his egg and when he finally got it open the teacher could see his egg was empty. She didn’t want him to be embarrassed so quickly moved on to another activity.

Joey said, “Wait. You didn’t let me tell the class what my symbol represents.”

It hadn’t occurred to the teacher that Joey brought an empty egg on purpose but she stopped and gave him time to explain.

“The reason I don’t have anything in my egg is because it represents the empty tomb. Easter reminds us that Jesus has risen. Jesus came to earth to be born in the flesh so he could teach us how to live but the true purpose of his life was to show us that through his sacrifice we will rise again.”

Joey died during spring break but the class remembered his symbol and the true meaning of Easter. They missed him but knew he was with his heavenly father.

The priest went on to say that our rising is like each of us has a large balloon and our job is to do things that allow us to return to the father. Sins are like bricks or weights in the basket that keep us anchored to the ground. We must ask forgiveness to unleash those anchors and do good works to fill the balloon with air so we can lift up from this earth and return to our heavenly father.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sunrise















The sun’s fingers reach
across the horizon
through the clouds.

Awake
all ye who slumber
to greet the day.

Reach
out with both hands
for the dawn,

Wash
your face
in sunshine,

Step
out into
the air

Breathe
out the darkness
breathe in the light

Rub
the sleep
from your eyes,

Listen
to the sounds
of morning

Stretch, Move, Sing,

It is a glorious day!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Song of an Honest Man
















Dark skin, black eyes, head of wavy curls
father of twelve, bills to pay, needs the job
He is an honest man

His desperation tempts your greed,
you have the upper hand and take advantage
with no regret you work him hard and long,
you pay him as little as you can
You know he won’t complain
He is an honest man

His hands are cracked, calloused,
and rough on his baby’s skin,
yet when he smiles you can see he is satisfied.
His toil is a gift offered to his father above.
He is an honest man

At night he sleeps the sleep of a working man,
his slumber deep and profound.
He is surrounded by his cherished ones.
His heart filled with love.

While you on the other hand sleep alone,
tossing and turning, choking on your avarice,
craving for the affection which eludes you.

Learn from him…
He is an honest man.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Final Resting Place

I'm attending my godmother's funeral today. This poem is written in her memory. Here she is with a younger brother and sister at a family reunion a year ago.
















Final Resting Place

Most of her life was spent in California
all but two of her children were born in San Diego
yet when it was time to “go home,”

she wanted the plot alongside her parents
in a cemetery off a dirt road,
six miles from where she grew up
in the red clay of New Mexico.

All those years she was displaced
not quite comfortable in her new home
never wanting to take her family back
except for occasional visits that came less often.

Now for her final repose
she wants to lie beside her mom and dad
because the little girl in her
has missed them everday
since the day they were gone.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Time To Sew
















There are those who know the secrets of a seed
how to plant it deep enough in the right soil,
to water it adequately, using
fertilizer to enrich the ground,
and choosing appropriate plants to grow along side.

They make it look simple
and in the summer they harvest flowers
to bring color to the indoors
and tasty vegetables of every variety,
with enough surplus to preserve, trade or sell.

Others know how to parent, they seem to have an instinct
knowing when to scold and when to praise
teaching lessons throughout the day
to make their children wiser and kinder
and comfortable with themselves and others.

The fruits of their labor are adults
who can stand on their own and contribute to life
they’re not afraid to take risks but most of all
they can succeed and are not afraid to love.

My grandfather used to say, “You reap what you sew,”
but he also lived through the dust bowl
and depression so he knew that individuals aren’t
always in control and sometimes disaster strikes
and it’s okay to weep but don’t give up.

Clean it up and save what you can, tighten that belt
don’t lash out at others or punish yourself because you aren’t
always at fault and in order to survive remember
when the blame falls on you, learn from it

but when it doesn’t get on with it because the season
for planting won’t last forever.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Three Sisters


















She is the pretty one
her features more symmetrical,
my Aunt Maggie’s nose is too flat,
Aunt Josie’s is too wide.

Each woman dressed in a cotton dress,
somewhat fashionable, frequently washed,
probably faded and mended,
it’s hard to tell in the black and white photo.

Their smiles are honest
it is easy to see they are glad to be together
although when they were growing up
Maggie lived with their father and his second wife
Josie with an uncle and aunt

and Celestina, my mother, raised as an only child
with her grandmother and grandfather
until they passed, then she moved in with an uncle
who terrorized her.

Nothing in her eyes
reveals the horror of those days
of her uncle's drunken rages,
beatings leaving her cut and bruised,
and still having to care
for his paraplegic wife and only son.

Many years later
she forgot most of it-
lost in my father’s love,
and the children they had together.

In this photograph, the sisters
with their arms wrapped around each other
offer support to block out the past.






















Moral of the story: We can and do survive bad times with the help of family.
'tis the season to connect, forgive and to share life with those you love.


A Proverb: Practice makes perfect... I sure need a lot more practice on drawing and painting the human form. Ah... something to strive for in the coming year.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Watercolors and oils

Finally... here is the picture of my first rose using watercolors. I tried taking this inside using a flash.



















Here is a second attempt at the same picture using outside light.


















and this is an oil painting of a pear growing in our neigbor's yard.

Learning to Paint

















I see a brilliant red orange
so I select Alizarin Crimson with a Cadmium Orange
and mix them to splash across
my canvas, the color looks right
but when it dries, the color fades, absorbed into the fibers
so I try again, with another layer, again and again
seeking the right combination to match the vibrancy in the color
of fish I’ve seen at the aquarium
or birds in the wilderness
my colors dim in comparison
but I will not be discouraged
I add a Gamboge
with an Ultramarine Violet
hoping the contrast will give the color punch
for the viewers visual enjoyment.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Calling In Sick
















Ten days is all I get
to call in sick
and still get paid
but here it is the end of the year
and I’ve only used six days so far.

Do I give the other four away?
Left unclaimed they disappear.
I think I feel some congestion in my chest
and a hacking cough that if it persists

could last ‘till the end of the week.

Snow on the mountain tops
suggests a perfect getaway

a place to rest and recuperate
spend a few hours by the fire
and if I’m feeling better take
a ride on the lift and ski for a littel bit.

Can you believe my luck,
my boss is at the same hilltop?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Stew
















Stir the dark morass of meat and vegetables,
the bubbling brew of onion and garlic,
mixed with the slices of potatoes,
carrots, celery and baby corn
a few chunks of beef,
sprinkled with salt and a little chili pepper,
so the taste has a kick
when you least expect it.

The odor permeates the house and greets visitors
with a punch to the gut causing the mouth to water.
Add the aroma of corn bread and biscuits
and the meal becomes a favorite
usually served on a cold day
with scraps from a lean harvest
combined to feed a dozen or more.

Laughter and conversation around the table
all blend in memory
to make the meal desired
by many.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Man’s Hands
















Are you repelled by dirty fingernails
calloused hands that snag on your stockings
hands too large for delicate work
do you prefer a man who works with his mind?

Be prepared to hire out for all the little stuff
clogged drains and loose door handles
light fixtures that need changing
anything that requires large motor activity

I prefer a man who doesn’t mind getting dirty
and knows how to use his hands.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Learning To Walk
















Learning to walk
is a natural event, no drums beating
or announcements in the newspaper

put one foot in front of another
and keep moving without falling over

oh… and don’t forget about not bumping into things
or walking off the edges of sidewalks and staircases

and being able to stop and bend over
without doing a somersault
and moving with your hands down by your side
instead of like a circus performer
held high over your head

After walking there is running,
bike riding, and driving.
Learning to walk is a big step toward growing up.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

All Things Being Equal
















When I look at the events of my life
I can attest to many blessings
but the last twenty years have been difficult
because so many I’ve known have gone

My grandson asked about his relatives
he wanted details about how they died
One of heart disease, a few of old age

but cancer –cells taking over the host,
was the disease that struck most often
taking many by surprise.
It broke through the safety net of prayers and living right.

All things being equal I guess it is the way it has to be.
I prefer it to murder, genocide,
natural disaster or world war.

So, as their time comes I say my prayers,
count my blessings, grateful for the time we had together
then bury them one by one.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Another Rainy Day
















I covered my ears to block
the sound of a million ball
bearings falling onto the roof,

a water torture
in one of its incarnations,
continuing now into its third hour.

I will surely break and reveal
my darkest secrets
before this torrent is through.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Forgiveness
















Standing beyond
the daily chatter
of words that don’t matter,
away from worry,
and shopping lists,
things to do,
and shouldn’t miss

beyond the open wound
and scar tissue,
of could have been
and shouldn’t have happened

redundant
litanies
of supplication
ignored or never heard
weeds breaking through
the sidewalk
worms crawling through
the cedar wood

(nothing ever stays the same)

guilt, like an acid, corrodes

memories of past offenses
never acknowledged
inventories of good works
topple

words said out of anger
hang like icicles
sharp daggers

ready to fall again
at the first thaw
and hit the mark
straight through the heart

hiding what she knows
she avoids the
viewfinder
shrouds perception
of who she is
but once unmasked
points her finger

to divert
the viewer,
to visions
of angels
and holiday spirits,
don’t inspect
her soul

a cavernous
hole of fear
and doubt
camouflaged
with holy artifacts
kind words
and a short memory

“Mea culpa,
please forgive me,
I was wrong,”
was all she said.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Saturday Chores
















Sweep the patio
rake the leaves

clip the bougainvillea
careful not to touch the thorns

weed the garden
water the plants

pick up after the dog
fill his water dish

rinse off the patio furniture
set the table

fire-up the barbecue
reach for an ice cold drink

and wait for company to arrive.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Rock Band

















I hear it every afternoon
the thump, thump, thump
from the teenager’s drum.

In a little while
his friends arrive,
each with a different instrument.

Then it begins
the discordant sounds
of becoming great,

but until then, my ears are assailed
with all their missteps,
mishandled cords,
and mangled melodies.

I close the windows
and water the plants,
turn on the T.V. as loud
as I can but to no avail

even my walls vibrate
with the base guitar,
the squeal from the electric one
goes right through my skin.

This is the way it was

every day for several years
until one day they made music
and added a singer
who made their sound really great.
I dropped a note to let them know.

It seemed it took forever
but now their songs are on the radio.
I saw them on T.V., “Hey guys, way to go!”
Read about them in the gossip rags
and somehow felt their success was mine

because I didn’t turn them off
or make them stop when they were
nothing but a dull throb against my skull.
Everyone who lives nearby follows
their career and feels a pride...

our local artists made it.
Isn't it fabulous?
What’s that I hear?
The thump, thump, thump of a drum
maybe another star will emerge
from our neighborhood.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Gingham and Burgundy

This poem is written for my Aunt Theresa who buried Uncle Tony today.
















Pieces of gingham and burgundy
in the shape of a winsome rose
with cross stitches
of sage and forest green
bordering each square.

This traditional pattern
for a wedding spread
covered the bed in their first home.

It held memories of conjugal bliss,
eight children and many grandchildren.

Careful washings throughout the years
let it last a lifetime.

After he was gone
she lay in her bed all alone
recalling the time, not so long ago,
when she sewed the pieces
of gingham and burgundy

and their life together
had just begun.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Winner
















He pumped his fist into the air
the goal was in, the state trophy his.
Of course he shared it with his team
but the headlines printed his name
with a picture of him being carried
off the field on their shoulders.

He had the pick of the prettiest girls,
everyone wanted to touch his hand,
the victory he dedicated to his fans…

until the day of national finals
he became the brunt of their ridicule
shoved and pushed and spat upon.

How fickle the adoration of the masses
when one loses an important game.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Wallflowers
















They sat along the wall in their cotton dresses

adorned in patterns of tulips, cornflowers, forget-me-nots and pink roses

a lovely garden of comely women sitting for easy viewing and quick picking


hair arranged in lovely cascades of auburn, midnight and flax

and one by one they were chosen, escorted on to the dance floor

twirled and spun until they fell in love, then taken out the door


to her father’s house, where he gave his nod of approval,

then to his mother’s place, where she said yea or nay,

finally to a home of their own where they tended their own little garden.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

After The Hurricane
















Along the beach for miles and miles

there was driftwood and other debris

kicked up from the hurricane down south,

Varieties of shells I hadn’t seen for years,

a glass ball from a Japanese fishing ship,

a kid’s tricycle tangled in a pile of sea weed,

plastic bottles and other items, too small to identify,

and a Barbie doll, her hair all wild,

not a piece of clothing, her breast exposed.

I picked up a conch shell and held it to my ear

“Help me!” was all I heard.

I picked up the Barbie,

and took her home to wash her face

and brush her hair,

wrapped her in a pink fleece blanket

then listened to her adventures about the turbulent sea.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Snowboarding















Today was her first day out on the snow
her rented board firmly in hand, the hillside

carefully selected, with enough incline
to accelerate her slide.

Naturally athletic, her first rides were effortless,
making it easy to stay upright.

She maneuvered her board
along the snow banks, carefully avoiding

trees and other riders, competing for space
and cheers from the onlookers, waiting

for her turn to go down the slopes.
With each success she became

a little more daring, choosing a steeper
rise to add greater thrill to her snowboarding.

Her friends, with more experience,
goaded her to take a greater risk

which she accepted atop
the highest peak, trusting herself to succeed.

Nothing in her life prepared her for the speed
with which she sped down the grade,

and without warning the board slipped out
from under her and she toppled

over and over, crashing on to a boulder
with enough force to shatter her elbow.

Other losses flashed before her;
the untimely death of her mother,

friends moving away before she was ready,
a father who refused to acknowledge her,

and John… where was John?
She would always love him.

She heard someone screaming
then recognized her own voice,

the surreal ride in the ambulance,
the rush to the hospital to stabilize her,

surgeons adding a plate and some screws
then sending her home, almost as good as new,

but she never went snowboarding again.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Wild Bird

















How do you capture a wild bird?
See the male with his bright feathers
contrasted against a muted background

a fluff of radiance and shadow
protecting its body from the cold
yet light enough to fly south

for the winter
stopping along the way
to delight birdwatchers

and inspire artists
who try to depict the image
so carefully

using brush strokes
to make it seem alive
ready to flit away.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Unicorn
















Mythical creature colored in white
commands adventures through the night
with angel’s wings and a single horn
it travels back to where it was born,
to the gossamer web of make believe
back to where there are dreams to weave
for every child, of every age
to be filled with wonder upon the stage.

Monday, November 30, 2009

No Assembly Required






















On other holidays the gifts were
hidden in the garage
pulled out before the big day

pieces arranged on the floor.
directions, in three languages,

left me confused
but I always persisted
until the treasure resembled

the picture on the box.
Extra parts were saved in case

they turned out to be critical.
After a quick test,
indicating it worked,

it was wrapped with a big bow
then placed under the tree.

I looked forward to the pleasure
of my children in the morning

as they gave credit to an imaginary
man in a red suit who didn’t have

the decency to deliver the gift
already put together.

He must have heard my complaint
because this year it came
with no assembly required.

She Misspoke

She talked about
a shower of bullets
and running frantically
across the tarmac.
She feared for her life
and that of her daughter
seeking shelter
under the eaves
or behind the building
anything to shield her
from the terrorist rain
"an exciting story,"
the newsman said
then looked up the date
and discovered
the details were
inaccurate.
He found a photo
of a friendly crowd
offering flowers…
a pleasant tale
by any standard
but not one to reveal
the horrors of war
she suggested,
or the bravery required
on the part of the teller...
so why should she be
elected to the presidency
the people wondered
and didn't vote for her.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Famous People























Some people are star chasers
seeking fame by being among the famous
becoming stalkers,
and rock star groupies,
obsessive autograph collectors,
and blurs in the crowds of avid fans.

To what end does this devotion offer?
An opportunity to break security,
to accumulate photos for infamy,
to find a place where the spotlight
shines on their face, however subtly.

The statesman taking position
behind the president.
What’s his name?
Never remembered
and his life in general
of little consequence
except for the picture on his wall.


Others seek reality T.V.
as a means to emerge from oblivion
to be recognized, at least for a little while
but even the famous tumble into the ooze
and are all forgotten in time.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Finding Oneself

Young adulthood is a time to find oneself
experiment with lifestyles and attitudes
we look for role models out in the world
and may diverge for awhile
but usually become a replica
of our parents, too settled,
too safe, too predictable
and if by chance
our parents are crazy
we model after those of our friends
or the adults on T.V.
who reflect the status quo
as we seek the invisible prisons
of perfection rather than the expansive
world of life without borders
where anything is possible.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Captured

Chains upon my wrists and ankles
locked to traditions beyond reason
stand, sit, kneel
one mind
secrets hidden in ritual
blood sport dressed in holy veils

listen to the bell
the monotone language
of long forgotten passion
flickering in the candlelight

tongues of flame
reveal the walls
of my prison.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Gift Of Love

















I’ll give you an onion
as the perfect gift

peel away the layers
to evoke the tears
held back for too many years
release the sadness

that chokes your expression
like washing walls
of cobwebs
those unspoken hurts
cleared out of the corners

so that once again
like an innocent child

you are capable of love
in all its passion
hungry,reckless, wild

pure exploration
to give away
unconditionally

leaving your
heart exposed
to receive affection
more readily.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Purpose In Life
















Each living creature has a purpose in life
some to be food for other creatures
their by-products provide shelter and warmth.

In these endeavors some beings become extinct
while the tiniest propagate and pose a threat
wiping out whole populations.

Human creatures seek a purpose
beyond survival,
many have a burning desire
to do more than eat or be eaten.

Humans want to make a difference,
to be recognized for their contribution,
to make the world a better place.
They ponder the question,
“What is my purpose in life?”

Some examples
of extraordinary souls
Jesus, Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.
are recognized for their generosity,
leadership, and vision,
killed in their prime
and to what end?

Makes me wonder
if taking a public stance,
however inspired,
is the best road for individuals to aspire?

Maybe low key is a better position
just out of range of assassins
and public opinion
where survival is the key.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Lesson from a Turtle

It survived the plight of dinosaurs
eating leafy greens
and occasional insects
birdlike beak without the flight
so unlike the bird
never transcending the pull of gravity
drudging along with all
its luggage saddled for

its earthly journey
without humor
excitement
or speed
steady and true
it still won the race.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Three Unrelated Poems

Jimmy
I remember Jimmy lying in a coffin
dressed up like an altar boy,
a red cassock and white surplus,
his hands clasped around
his prayer book and a black
rosary draped from his fingers.
I wanted him to breathe,
to see his eyes flutter,
so I could get him out of the box
and run with him along the river banks
catch butterflies and do cartwheels
but instead he lay in quiet repose
the silence crashing on my ears,
crushing my chest, until I heard
his mother wail.


Hot Cocoa Before Bed
After a long cold day of chores and play
the only things to comfort me
sitting by the fireplace,

watching the fire,
and drinking a steaming cup
of hot cocoa,

after a few sips, my head nods
and then it is time for bed.


Compuda Belly
In the days of my adolescence
my belly was concave
after two babies it pouched a little
but after hours of hard labor
in front of a computer
and too many years of work
my profile became corpulent

life happy and content

rub my compuda belly
for good luck.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Her Rolling Pin
















The funeral was over
mourners had gone
there was nothing to do
but go through her things
a modest woman whose wealth
lay in her offspring
material items were few
and of little value.

Some costume jewelry
with stones missing,
a few dresses too oversized
for her daughters to wear,
some dusting powder
with a big pink puff,
given to her on mother’s day.

She never used it but
didn’t throw it away
there were two more stashed
at the back of the drawer.

What do you give a woman
who wants nothing?

From the bedroom to the kitchen
some items needed to remain
Dad wanted them in order to sustain
himself now that she was gone.

Out went the dented aluminum pots
and all the plastic cake decorating stuff
everything from the old junk drawer;
extra screws, paper clips,
bobby pins and more.

Some siblings protested,
“What’s the rush?
Can’t we take time to grieve?”

I guess they're right, I’ll just finish
this drawer - a few aprons she never wore,
some holiday towels she never used,
and there at the back, her rolling pin,
the red handles long gone, the wood
worn smooth but the right size for her hand.

I let out a sigh, placing the rolling pin
on the kitchen table, then fixed up a batch
of tortillas for the family to enjoy.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Danger At The Red Light
















We pulled up to a red light
on a Saturday night
my sister and two of our friends.

In the lane next to ours
was a car load of boys
hot and looking for trouble.

My sister flicked on the window
in sync with the beat
and the fellows took it
as an invitation to follow.

They looked unruly
so we tried to lose them
with quick turns
onto side streets.

Desperate we turned down
a long dark alley
and much to our horror
there was no exit ahead.

So we pulled into a carport
and crouched down low
our hearts beating hard,
someone praying an Our Father

We saw their headlights.
The boys were right behind
us and out of their car

without hesitation
I turned on the ignition
then pressed on the gas

drove through
the carport, over a field,
down several dark roads
to the safety of home.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Women Don't Kiss Frogs
















How many woman,
if given a chance,
would kiss a frog
even if she knew
he was a prince?

If you’ve ever touched
a frog you know
its body is cold
and it has little bumps,
like so many warts,
on the outside of its skin
and when it gets excited
it pees all over your hands.

I just can’t believe that
in the time of make-believe
a woman would do it ...
even to break an evil spell.

I think she would settle
for a life less exciting
than to live in a castle
and be the wife of a prince
if it meant kissing
a frog in order to get it.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Conversations


















How many times have you had a conversation
with a child nearby? They seem to be playing
but do you notice how quietly? They
hear every word, especially the whispered ones.
A child may not understand everything said
but moods can be interpreted through body
language and vocal tones.

Whispers about illness or death
do not protect the child from tragedy
it is better to be honest and include them
so they can share in the tears
which makes more sense than secrets.

What about financial worries?
Some disagree in this matter
are you robbing children of their childhood,
or engaging them in real life issues?

As a youngster I loved adult conversations
I stood in the hallway just out of sight
and heard the lady from church whisper
about the priest’s indiscretion
removed from the parish without a goodbye.

Another time my uncle told my parents
about a near kidnap of one of my cousins.
He said he expected it
she was asking for trouble
she wore too much make-up
and her skirts were too high.

My niece loved the drama of family fights
she walked across a department store
to stand near the people arguing
and peruse items close to the conflict
so she could hear the juicy details
with a chance to choose sides.

Children can’t keep secrets any better than adults
and will repeat what they’ve heard
without adequate filters. So when you talk
to another make sure the kids aren’t
around because without a doubt they’ll
retell the tales to anyone who’ll listen.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Hoops and Petticoats
















I was the oldest girl in my family
the first one to make an impression
so my parents dressed me up like a princess
or was it Shirley Temple who created the fashion?

A dress made of taffeta with lace
and ruffles and a long, full skirt
that needed lots of petticoats
or a slip with a hoop to fill it out.

It was difficult to walk and I couldn’t
play and when it was time to sit
I had to be at the edge of the seat
or the hoop would flip up
and my modesty lost.

I’m glad the fashion has changed
maybe now it’s too casual for some
but I’d rather be in rags
then on a pedestal.

Standing upright and oh so still,
an adornment to be admired
too imprisoned to move,
caged in hoops and petticoats

with layers and layers before
anyone could touch me
unless the hoop flew up
and then it was a free for all.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Tin Church
















My aunt Josie attended church
in a Quonset hut, a tin structure
where the semicircular roof formed the walls -
an inexpensive shelter for the faithful.

The inside looked like any other church
with the crucified Christ on an altar,
beeswax candles, statues of saints,
stations of the cross, and confessionals

but when it rained the rat, tat, tat,
like bullets in a war zone,
created such a noise
I wondered if God could hear her prayers.

There were only Latin masses
so it didn’t matter what the priest said
she couldn’t understand him anyway
“Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.”

I’ve come to realize my aunt
lived in the bad part of town
where the pachucos ruled and her
only son the ultimate sacrifice.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Rocking Chair
















The large chair was
covered in green leather,
secured with upholstery tacks
of antique brass,

a dark mahogany
with large arm rests
and a decorative crest
appropriate for a royal family.

There were two large rockers
perfectly curved
so it couldn’t fall over
when mother was rocking.

It was a gift from dad
after their first born.

They left it when they moved to Oregon
then took it back again upon their return.

It was her throne
where she nursed each child,
from birth to a year -

No one could sit in the chair
when there was a new baby in the house

but after each infant was weaned
it was open season for the rest
of us to be the first one in the chair

to rock back and forth uninterrupted.

The lucky one

got to sit all alone
and if she felt generous
could share it with another

to read stories,
chant rhymes,
sing songs,
or to day dream.

One day I rocked on my brother’s leg
and caused him to howl
another time he sat with me
we rocked so hard we toppled over

and made a crack in the wall.

When we moved to California
we left it again, this time
with an aunt on my mother's side.

I’ve never seen another chair
quite like that rocker

but when I touch upholster tacks
or see the forest color
I am taken back

to my mother’s favorite chair
that beautiful leather rocker.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Barking Dog

Tootsie, my first dog
wasn’t a liar.
If he barked there was an intruder,
or kids in trouble, or something
else that needed my attention.

- i will find a picture of Tootsie to insert -

My second dog, Monty, was a lover
and didn’t bark but licked vistors
and sang a melody in his loud baritone.
Fortunately I was never in danger
and didn't need him to be a watch dog.


















My most recent dog, Humphrey is a baby,
too big for my lap, yet everything
that bumps or thumps - he jumps -
and barks until I tell him everything is okay.






















Each of these dogs
shared my home and brought their own
personality perhaps reflecting a time in my life
where they were the right barking dog.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Lady, You Want To Buy?

Little children with dark brown skin

dark eyes and white teeth

line up along the roadway

offering their wares in out stretched hands

“Hey lady, you want to buy?”

She looks away from their tattered clothes

and the dirt beneath their fingernails

then offers ten dollars for a box of Chiclets

Friday, November 13, 2009

Baking For The Holidays

















There are bags of flour,

lined up along the counter

also an arrangement of sugars;

brown, powder and granulated.

Nuts, eggs, butter and oil

sit with cinnamon, nutmeg and of course

every kind of chocolate.


Each item selected according to a recipe,

a few have been handed down,

like gingerbread and sugar cookies

others are new, found online or in magazines.


The key is to start a week before the holidays

with enough time to replace ingredients

if anything burns or doesn’t turn out.


Rituals of dusted rolling pins

and greased baking dishes

a scoop, a pinch, a sprinkle

fill the kitchen with an aroma

and family laughter, easy conversation

and sampling… so much sampling.


Resolve to diet with the New Year

but until then savor

each crumb with someone you love.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Hair Stylist

every woman who enters
wants to meet a stylist
to get her hair cut
swept up
and highlighted

She stares in the mirror
while the master works
with expert fingers
and scissors
a clip here, a snip there

a style starts to emerge,
one that accents her
facial features
a flip, a curl, some bangs

and after an hour or three
each woman, one by one,
pays her hair dresser
and walks out the door
with confidence
to face the world
once more.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

FREEDOM’S CALL
















While waiting in the terminal at O’Hare’s International Airport I noticed a two year old boy running away from his dad and then struggling to free himself while his father tried to hold on to him. As a parent I recognized the down turned lip, those crocodile tears and the ear splitting scream as he pushed away from his dad and reached for an older woman, probably his grandmother. I caught his eye from across the room and whispered, “Hey baby”. It worked. He quieted down and looked away.

I was startled to hear the young Marine sitting nearby say, “Hello.”

“Oh,” I laughed, embarrassed that he thought I was flirting with him, thrilled that a young, good-looking Marine was talking to me. Then I reminded myself I was over sixty. I realized he was just being friendly so I said; “I was talking to that little guy over there,” pointing to the young boy now hiding his face in his grandmother’s neck.

“I thought it was weird that you called me baby,” he said, “but it didn’t bother me because you remind me of my grandmother.” He smiled and looked down at his hands. “She passed away last year.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” I said, surprised by his openness.

“I miss her, especially now,” he said.

“What’s going on now?” I asked looking at his fatigues, military haircut, and clean-shaven face.

“I’m heading out to Iraq.” His mouth twitched as he said the words.

“Are you okay?” I asked, trying to find out what he was thinking, not to burden him with my opinion.

“I want to serve my country. I feel proud to wear this uniform and all but to tell you the truth I’m scared,” he said looking at me with his hazel green eyes. “I guess I’d be stupid if I wasn’t.”

“War is scary. My brother served in Vietnam,” I had strong thoughts about Vietnam but I didn’t think he needed to hear them and tried to think of questions to keep him talking about his feelings. “What scares you the most?”

“Not coming back,” he said hunching his shoulders forward and staring at the floor. “I joined the Marines because I didn’t want to end up like the guys I hung out with,” he continued. “They had no plans for their life. They were drinking too much and some were starting to get into drugs. My oldest brother got into it real bad.”

“It seems most families have at least one who struggles with addiction,” I said remembering how my brother returned from his tour of duty so strung out he couldn’t complete simple sentences. I didn’t mention that detail.

He continued, “I didn’t want to be one of them. The first time I tried to sign up they didn’t take me because I was too fat. I was over 345 pounds. I use to spend my time watching T.V. and sitting at the computer,” he rubbed his rock hard stomach. “I lost forty pounds on my own.”

“What did you do?” I asked looking at his muscular forearms.

“I got off the couch and started moving,” he laughed out loud.
“The more I moved the less I ate,” he said.
“They finally let me enlist and I lost another sixty pounds.
No one recognizes me anymore,” he said patting his flat stomach again.

“You look very athletic and strong. I would never guess you had a weight problem.” I was amazed at how animated and excited he was now contrasted to a few minutes ago. I could see that he was just a kid… maybe nineteen.

“When I go home I can’t sit around anymore. I have to get outside. I look for a game of basketball, or go for a run. My dad says he liked me better when I was fat,” he smiled. “He says I move around too much now.”

“Your family must be proud of you.” I said.

“My dad was a Marine and he said I’ve got to hang tough… My brother was too
stoned to say much… My mom died of breast cancer when I was eight...My grandma is the one who would be proud… She took care of my brother and me… She always said to make something of myself. I didn’t have money for school and I wanted to do something worthwhile so I joined the Marines.”

“What are your feelings about the war?”

“Someone’s got to do it. It might as well be me,” he said shrugging his shoulders.

“I think going to war takes a lot of courage. Thank you for being willing to make the sacrifice,” I said wondering if he knew the scope of his selflessness.

“Flight 163 to Atlanta, boarding at Gate 36,” the announcer called out over the loud speaker. I felt a panic. I wanted to hold on to him. To protect him from the certain danger he faced.

“That’s my flight, I better go,” he said gathering up his luggage.

“What’s your name?” I asked.

“David,” he replied, extending his hand.

“I’m Dolores,” I said standing up to give him a hug. He held me tighter than I
expected and we both let out a deep sigh. “My prayers go with you David.”

“Thanks. I liked talking with you,” he said.

“I like talking with you too David,” I choked on my words and tears ran down my cheeks. “Make sure you come back” I said.

He smiled and waved one last time. “I’ll try to.”

I saw him get in line and walk down the gangplank, by then my husband had
returned with some coffee. When he saw my tears he asked, “Is something wrong?”

“See that tall marine over there?” I asked pointing to David just as he bent his head down to walk through the gateway leading to his plane.

“Yeah. What about him?”

“He is leaving for Iraq.”

“How do you know?”

We sat down and I told him about our conversation. “I wish I could have done more. I was taken by surprise with his openness. The problem is I was so busy trying to think of what to say to keep him talking that I didn’t even ask for a way to stay in touch with him.”

“Too bad,” my husband said.

“Yeah, no kidding,” I sighed and then rubbed my temples as I thought about the thousands of homes affected with this war and how many young men and women were responding to the call to serve in the armed forces. Glancing around the airport I noticed the two-year-old boy now peacefully asleep in his grandmother’s arms I sighed and said another prayer for all the families affected with the ravages of war. Then I buried my head in my hands and wept.

Balancing Act






















Several smooth flat stones
piled high to form towers
touching clear blue skies

Perilous structures
positioned haphazardly
stand a little while

Wind blows, earth shudders
unstable sculptures tumble
crashing to the ground

Boulders and pebbles
rumble to the river's bed
ruins turned to sand

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Suburbia America
















This is American living,
at its most diversified.

Glance one way and that family comes from Canada,
look another, you’ll see faces from Korea, Middle East,
Spain, Germany. Across the street, Vietnam, and Armenia,with
a mix of Japanese and East Texan, also a Native American
married to one of British descent.

A collection of Atheists, Catholics, Protestants,
Buddhists and Muslims living in close proximity.
The houses are large single story homes
with medium sized yards. The neighborhood
streets are named after flowers;
Primrose, Poinsettia, Larkspur,

The Lutheran church at the north entry,
shares space with a Korean church.
An award winning elementary
school sits at the south entry.

The air is pungent with the aroma
of onion, garlic and different
breads from every culture.

With changes in the economy there are more cars
parked at each house; boomerang children,
displaced relatives, renters. Some wave
but most keep to themselves.

Several original owners, now retirees,
tend to their grandchildren,
a few walk their dogs.
Traffic is busiest before and after work.
Children rarely walk or play
on the sidewalk or street.
Parents keep them under constant watch.
Cats don’t prowl and dogs don’t bark.

It is close to freeways, Disneyland,
and beaches, no hustle of the city,
no centralized transportation
no crowds of pedestrians,
or central meeting areas.

Teenagers don’t run away
to this place.
Instead they
leave their
families for
the city
to escape
the safety
of suburbia.