The Canyon at Three AM

Cracked sidewalks
damp from a midnight shower
accompanied only
by moonless doors
and the smell of wet pavement
line a street now free of taxis
but flanked, as in daylight
by walls of masonry and glass
boxes containing boxes
inhabited by lives, separate
and collective

Lights switch off
one by one with no pattern
random as the deaths of friends
after one is seventy.

A light
then darkness
one by one
here, there
the click unheard

Behind the dark
souls stir.

Poetry Thursday

You Can Always Remember What You Were Doing When…Or Maybe Not

December 7, 1941

The way he told the story, he stood
on the wheat colored carpet
shortly after a winter dawn
dressed in rumpled striped  pajamas
draped over a skinny eleven-year-old body
as he heard the incredible news from Dad
that someone had attacked our country
sunk most of our Navy
and that we were assuredly at war.

What I remember
is sitting in Bishop’s Restaurant
in my gray wool jumper
and red taffeta blouse
after Sunday School.

Bored with the adult’s conversation
I listened to two men from the Daily
talk about something I didn’t understand
until we came out of the movie in the winter dusk
and every young man with a uniform on
had a paper under his arm
with the word WAR
so large I could read it down the block.

Poetry Monday

Lucky

When I sit in a room of women
I want to ask every fourth one
to raise her hand.
“This,” I would say
“is the number of you who
will have breast cancer.”

“If you are as lucky as I am
you won’t have chemotherapy
just radiation and a man
who doesn’t care what you
look like afterward,
so long as you are there.

Then I want to have them
leave their hands up and say,
“and this is also the number
of you who have been raped.”

“If you are as lucky as I am
it didn’t happen until you were old
enough to put the violation
in its proper place and go on
with life.”

The last thing I would ask
is for every tenth woman
to raise her hand.
“If everyone was honest,”
I would say,
“there are probably
more of you¬¬¬¬—
the ones who can’t
not take a drink
or a pill
or a toke
or something
that makes you feel different.”

“If you are as lucky as I am
you’ve stopped listening
to your mother
husband
doctor
and discovered a group
that really knows
what you’re talking about
because they’ve been
down the same road
and along with them
you’ve found what
you were looking for all along.”

Poetry Thursday

Descartes Revisited

I am

eating strawberries
peeling garlic
planting bulbs
driving to work
counting dollar bills
calculating tax
watching my granddaughter
listening to Mozart
walking upstairs
sleeping
laughing
touching your shoulder

1
I think

When I rummage in the closet of the past
pick out things best left folded on the shelf
set them in the middle of my life
examine each tear and patch
ignore the brilliant print of remembered
moments and concentrate on those
soiled to the core.  I finger all this
with hope that this time
flaws will magically mutate
to past wishes, and forget
all gone days are set in the stone
of an Aztec Calendar.

Poetry Monday

Waiting

To grow up
for Christmas
to get your driver’s license
summer vacation
and the Fourth of July
that first legal drink
to graduate
for the mailman
the bus, train, a plane
your date to call
your wedding day
to buy a house
for the grass to grow
paint dry
husband to pick you up
the baby to be born
just the right job
a big break
until the divorce is final
to retire
Medicare
the ambulance
to die

Poetry Thursday

Story Teller

I’ve listened to her
tell lies and truth
with equal fascination.

She tells her lies
with embellishments
of humor
words joined
with the casual beauty
of a game of dominoes
laid out with end spots
perfectly matched.

But it is the truth
that holds me in thrall.

I hear it behind the sound track,
a raw and bleeding bass,
a trail to show the discerning
where next to set a foot.

Poetry Monday

Recognition for Those Who Work in an Invisible World

The first gala dinner at a Planned Parenthood Annual Conference I attended was back in the mid 1980s. At that time I was board president of the small affiliate in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

confetti in the air

This year I will be at the gala again, and for the first time in all the intervening years I have been attending, Planned Parenthood of Central Oklahoma will be recognized with one of the annual awards.
It made me stop and think about the small group of dedicated men and women who run a full time clinic that does everything from disease testing to annual physicals, from colposcopy (look it up) to vasectomies as well as the all-important family planning. The affiliate is probably the typical operation for Planned Parenthood, especially in states that have a large rural population.

The boards I worked with were just as dedicated, raising funds in a community where the mission was not a high priority, and managing, with the help of good CEOs, to hang on to serving a decidedly underserved population.

The affiliate doesn’t own a building.They rent in a shopping center that was beginning to be a bit seedy when I was in high school sixty years ago. The plate glass windows in the front have reflecting foil on them. Protesters and passers-by cannot see in, but I worried even as a new board member that the glass wasn’t bullet proof. PPCO has had its threats. It has had its run-in with state government which at one time hauled off the examining tables!

The exam rooms are Spartan but cheerfully painted. There are pictures on the walls and toys for the children to play with in the waiting area.  The executive offices are an adequate rabbit warren in half of the building. The staff has a small break space close to the lab.

It is an affiliate which does not do abortions.

Although there are lovely facilities for Planned Parenthood in many communities with attendant abortion facilities, my bet is that the ambiance of what one sees at PPCO is more typical of Planned Parenthood, especially since we operate a huge number of clinics that do nothing but family planning and exams, many located close to college campuses and satellite clinics in areas far from the main office of many affiliates.

The view between your knees of a bright wall and a cheery poster may not be the grandeur of the local hospital, but it’s salvation for thousands of grateful women. They are the ones who have kept Planned Parenthood relevant since Margaret Sanger first had a transformational idea.