Saturday, July 20, 2013

I-95 to Baltimore

We must have been
The very image of
White trash that night
Battered truck
Holes in the knees of
My tattered jeans
I was barefoot

We had an upright piano
A toilet
construction tools
And two hound dogs
In the bed
My feet hung
out the window
to catch the breeze

We were headed
all the way to Vermont
in one long shot
That trip has become family
Legend: the first time we
traveled together

I-95 North was, then,
a wasteland between
DC and Baltimore
where drug smugglers baited
state troopers
in nondescript cars

Which might be why
a thousand cars
had passed the Toyota
sedan on the side of the road

But it was probably
because they were
Six young Black men.

The man who became
my husband pulled over
white knight to the rescue
without thought
to race or peril
I fell a little more in love
watching him cheerfully
offer a lift to the nearest
filling station.

Their astonishment speared
my heart as I squeezed over
to fit four into a
three-person bench seat.
Two for safety:
we could have been
crackers on a joyride
in rural America

We managed.
Me shifting the gear knob
between my knees
while he steered.
They prattled on
about their schooling
and their jobs
as if we needed proof
that they were harmless.

We left them under
sizzling fluorescents
two miles down the road
with a gas can and an
assurance that they’d
be okay from there.

It was just
a kindness between strangers.
The moment sticks in my mind
because I’m still waiting
For that to be true.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Spirit of Words

Poetry is
The essence
Of language
Oceans of words
To a few lines
Not one word
Out of place
Not one extra

Grapes must pass
Beyond juice
Beyond wine
To become brandy
So must writing
Be tended
To achieve poetry

Write a novel
   Cut it to novella
      Slice it to short story
         Pare it to flash fiction

Only then
Can you remove
The chaff
And call it
A poem


Grit-clad glass tunnels
delicate hollows branch
downward through sand
jagged shards that
capture the sky
lightning reflected
in white green black brown glass
just as love
leaves its mark
on our hearts

A fulgurite and a human heart

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Theme Park

I'm at the amusement park on the 4th of July. We came late, The Boy and I, because we are staying for the fireworks. He can handle any ride; I am more selective. My time waiting on benches affords me an unusual opportunity for people watching.

The Boy sits alone in a car on a spinny ride. I once delighted in them as well, but my inner ear has aged to the point of extreme nausea. I see him chattering to himself before the ride begins. A giant grin builds across his face, soaring and whirling above me. This. This is why we came here. He sprints toward me afterward, shouting his joy before racing off to the roller coaster. I overcome my fear and ride with him, eating my stomach as it rises to my throat, breathing deeply afterward. We ride two, then three, and finally I point him to another spinner so I can sit and calm myself. My eyes--and my ears--turn again to the people around me.

The air swirls with the scents of chlorine from the water park, beer, and sunscreen. I hear surges of screams from the thrill rides, mostly drowned by top-forty hits on the piped music. The wave pool surprised me with twenty minutes of lively classical tunes. I may have been the only person to appreciate it; the cheerful gasps and splutters of swimmers were more noticeable.

I remember that it's the 4th of July. Once, when I worked in a grocery store, a woman asked me "I know it's Independence Day, but independence from what?" I like to think I answered kindly, explaining simply the roots of the celebration, but I was young and cruel then. I don't remember what I said. Now I see that same cruelness ripple across the internet, slicing and mocking those who think differently and I strive to set a better example. I often fail.

Right now, though, my heart swells with a universal love of my country and my compatriots. My fellow Americans. The phrase has more meaning here in a small typical theme park. Mixed with the scents of popcorn and corn dogs is the sound of Spanish and African languages I don't recognize. I catch the cadence of Arabic, Korean, Chinese. I watch and see an idealized cross-section of the United States. Women in burkas shepherd their children past white teeny boppers in minute bikinis. Latinos chat with the black families waiting next to them in line. A mulleted white man in a sleeveless tank top, a flag and cross tattooed on his bicep, ushers a lesbian couple and their children into a line ahead of him. It's a tiny courtesy, but the sweetness of it causes a hitch in my breathing.

We are here, all of us, together. There's a harmony of purpose and pleasure. We share the exasperation of parents with over tired children. Adults smile knowingly at the charged flirting of teenagers, who glance sidelong at each other from the safety of their packs. We cross our usual boundaries to comment on the weather, the day, querying each other on where best to see the show. Here, today, we are all the same. We are enjoying a holiday with our families and friends. We all holler with delight at the fireworks shattering the sky above. Whatever our differences, right now, here, we all are Americans.

Monday, July 1, 2013


Dust devils lifted debris and spattered it against the white curvature of the old airplane, scouring fresh glistening scars deep into the aluminum skin. The plane trembled in the gust, remembering trundling across sun-melted tarmac at IQT, wheels clinging to stickyhot macadam, air painfully thin, racing faster and faster, grasping for lift. It remembered sliding sideways toward DCA, buffeted by swirling winds over the Potomac, racing caustic gulls to the runway. It remembered the triumph of thrust overcoming gravity, climbing skyward into deepening cerulean, clouds streaming from the tips of its wings in delicate evaporating vortices.

Elsewhere in the boneyard, carcasses of stripped aircraft shuddered, open fuselages groaning and warping. Moans were pulled from desecrated machines as wind whipped through torn skin, giving voice to the remainders.

The plane remembered flying over a kite festival not far from PEK, sneering at the pitiful “aircraft” bobbing without power in the slightest breeze, tethered to people even further below. With thundering screaming engines it had conquered the sky, chasing the sun and watching the Earth fall away in an endless shining curve.

Thunderheads gathered, sweeping air before them in bursts that swirled into a gale that beat against the old craft. It remembered the kites, dancing on the slightest breeze. It remembered lift. It remembered flying. It quivered, balancing delicately on time-softened tires, and then, ever so slightly, the nose rose. The wind gusted again, harder, pushing. Lifting. The nose rose again, higher. The plane tilted upward, wind caressing its wings, sliding past the scars of amputated engines, flowing over ailerons and stabilizers, elevators and flaps and gifting them with renewed purpose. The plane lifted, reaching. It twisted into the storm, holding steady, waiting, waiting for a cyclone to tear it free again from gravity.

Days later the plane sat, still balanced on rear wheels and tail, nose pointed skyward. It waited. It remembered.

prompted by this video: skyward