I sit by the roadside
sandal in one hand
and in the other a shard
of some granite boulder
ground away countless years ago
by unfathomable ice
smoothed by time
a marker of change.
Across the road a scarlet tanager
appears for a moment
on a branch of fragrant black-berries.
I have not seen a tanager for years in these woods.
Were it not for the tiny object
that halted my haste to town
I would have missed the momentary flash
of a songbird above ripening sweetness.
Memory pulls at time and unravels
the careful tapestry of illusion
woven to cover the soul’s tender bones
the psyche’s sinew
and flesh, never perfect.
We deny that fancy wears emperor-clothes
pretend all is well, until some untimely tear
reveals the scars we would hide
more from ourselves than others.
Time’s harsh steel begins at the cutting edge
of events, scrapes until the hone is dulled
then spins tangled strands that catch
the recurring knife as it rounds upon itself.
Finally years take up the sand and emery
so that if a wound remains, it cannot kill.
Memory, mother lode of life mixed ore and slag
ordinary dross with shining nuggets, a few gems
and the occasional fossil perfect in outline
an intaglio of reality that tricks the mind
into forgetting the real is gone forever.
Mother showed me
how to fold undergarments
into small rectangles and triangles
so that they would stack neatly in a drawer.
I ignored her.
Mine were a tangle of silky fabric and lace
a cloud of colors from quiet beige to scarlet.
Panties, bras, half slips and full ones
teddies when they were in style
the odd thong belonging to a daughter
I refused to tutor in the art of laundry.
On Monday the daughter was sharing tea
with me in the kitchen.
She pushed aside a basket of clean clothes
to make room for cups, said
“Jeez, Mom, isn’t that the way
Grandma used to fold underwear?”
Through the crack
the eager white
coaxes a reluctant
yolk to follow her
into the bowl
as though she knew
that only through
can she form
in the rut
of the short
in the rut
of the “I”
to get out
and at least try to go somewhere on a longer road that leads to a new place
with a better view and some semblance of fresh air on old ideas.
There are worlds to be explored
other than your head to be examined
There are things to fight over and things to fight for
other than domestic battles
So grab your pen, sweetie, and let’s find some paper.
In the marriage
we shed secrets for years
in some game
of strip poker
we both were losing
until we were naked
each left with only
a red scar,
the one thing
we were never going
to tell anyone.
I took his,
wound it into a scarf
to bind my hair
for all to see.
He took mine
made a bolo tie
of it, then
took my heart
for a slide.
I knew he was black
before I saw him at the IHop
with his white buddy.
I knew, not from some jargon
or accent formed in the heat of the Delta
but from his deep, resonant, soul laugh
survivor of water, manacles and whips.
They sat assessing teams, statistics
and the possibility of season championships
the way their grandfathers once discussed
rain, tillage and the future price of cotton in the bale.
Somewhere in between,
they stopped saying “Suh” and “Boy”
and call each other