In The Soft Darkness




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

of tenderness

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

My body

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 government

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

That unfold

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

He sobbed.

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

Through space

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.


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