Memories of beauties past
Are buried deep
Down twisting tunnels
In some dripping limestone caves
Where they seep
Through still clear waters
Till, from the darkness
Coy, as if in playful hiding
A hidden edge will glitter
As if asking to be found
Friendships forged and then forgotten
Fields of light on golden trees,
Floating seeds like snow of cotton
A dance, a whirl,
An eye that shoots
a flame of love
through all those flying winds of time
To burn again a pathway
Through my rhyme.
We lie together in the dark
While thoughts rise up
like feeding fish
In warm waves
left from making love
that lap along our shores
When all things flow with ease
In the softness of the night.
These bits of beauty reappear
Attached by threads
Pulled up to taste the water
By some softness of the light.
Yet memories of sad mistakes wait
In easy reach
savage tigers ever
at the edges of our sight
Any moment they will growl
and snarl with terror
and with might.
As we walk along
our well-lit paths
they lash out and they bite
Their horrid teeth
Can leave us maimed and raw and scraped
Writhing on the ground.
And then from there
Pursue us even
in the moonless desert
Of the night
Which has carried children
In some hidden place
Where the warmth that grew within my heart
Swelled them into form
And that first child now has carried two
In the womb that came from womb.
This body made of meat and bones and air
Is still tall and straight and warm
My heart still pumps blood in steady beats
And sends cells in steady swarm
Through legs that still will move below
As far as I will dare to go.
When I was young and held
That first child
in my womb
There was a concert in a room
In the city where I lived
A city full of gleaming white
And twice as much of black.
In a great hall with people packed in tight
Women drummed on big clay drums
They’d brought back
from someplace on that continent
from which we all have come.
They brought deep inside themselves
Alll that they had learned
From th women of a tribe
who kept the knowing of those times
that are older than the old
Who knew the emanations
From vibrations in the stillness of each cell
From that space that lies within.
Here, lying in this room
I still feel the echoes of those drums
In my now long- empty womb.
I may not climb steep mountains
Or run the miles
that once have passed beneath my feet
I may be too far away to hug my daughter’s daughters tight
Yet my hands still pull the weeds from earth that does not wish
To let them go.
My feet can push a shovel deep enough
To plant a tree
I carry logs and could split them if I would
I ride a bike for miles, perhaps in pouring rain.
If needed, I could sleep in tents out on the ground.
I do not care so much if there are pains
As long as I can sleep and dream.
My grandmother was not of my blood
But of my heart
When I see her first, deep in grottos
Of my mind
Her soft form
Draped in shapeless floral cloth,
Yellowed apron tied high above the waist
She waits up high
at the top of some steep stairs
Whose wooden boards
I still can feel beneath my feet
and whose air was made
Of wafts of smoke from burning slag.
I climb to her,
my parents climb behind
She gathers me in folds of flowers
Smelling not of summer fields
But of the meat of cooking stew.
Which drifts also through that rusty screen
Nailed years before
on that front door
Whose peeling wooden frame
waits for my small hand
To reach the wooden knob
and pull so hard
That eagerness will propel me
Almost backwards in this game
to tumble, laughing
in those warm and flowered skirts.
And then through into that one big room
Where all is shared in this rough home,
the oval table covered with a cloth
A monster of an iron stove
that burned the dirty coal
From the mines beneath the town
And a wooden rocking chair
Where I could sit in that big soft lap
And hear the strange words travel back and forth
Across some enormous space
from mother to grown son, my father,
in some language with a music
so nearly understood.
While lunch bubbled softly in big pots
On the stove that clicked with heat.
And soon, she will take me by my hand
And lead me up more stairs
to two small bedrooms on the floor above.
In the first, her dresses trapped on wire,
hang along a wall.
No closet here, just fabric drawn across.
And a high wide bed with stool to climb
and plop myself on feather beds
where she and I will sleep.
And there, on the pillow to the left
I’m sure to find the fabric horse with mane and tail of yarn
Always of a different cloth. Eye bright with yellow thread.
She will neigh to me. And as I have done before,
I’ll grab this new fine mare
and hold her close.
Already, in my mind, she has become
A member of the small herd
That waits for her back home.
There was only once
I ever saw my father cry
It was the day she died,
When I saw him, in the small dim kitchen
Of our familiar home,
lean suddenly back
As if too weak to stand
And brace against
The cold white metal fridge
The tears flowed and he could not
Even think to cover up his face
with hands I knew so well.
Yet, he could not but show
His face so raw, so open,
That I dared hardly look.
They traveled to see her buried
Leaving me behind
But I got my natter in
With my daring scheme
Of climbing through a basement window
WIth a willing friend
And making such a mess
The two of us, just eight,
Dared each other to such brave acts of gluttony
in that quiet kitchen, out of bounds.
Called to dinner,
We left dishes smeared with chocolate cake,
And ice cream melting on the ground.
So it was when they returned,
TIred out and worn
with all that drinking
Of vodka toasts, the tears, the tales
The uncles and the aunts
that take and take
They could not just sit in peace at last
But must feel instead the anger blast
The disappointment surge
And I the shame
Of that mistake.
Where am I in all this shifting imagery
of human minds
Grandmothers of all kinds
We move about as if on some huge and
Checkered board where chess is being played
The queen that travels every way
And also time.
Grandmother now, I lie awake
Floating on these tides of love
Wending my way along the paths
My spirit chose to take
While the tigers, for these moments,
Slumber tamely as the dove
And the rhythm of my lover’s breath
Lifts me in its wake.