Wind Storm

Wind Storm

the light glorious warms the hours,
asking forgiveness for the gale
bullying trees and knocking them flat,
tearing at ropes, stopping the buzz.
the sharp silence inside.
the gentle roar outside.
ticklish trees and leaves at play
swooping and swirling,
sashaying and sliding,
dipping to descend in a blink,
blanketing all beneath.
yellow and red:
shining then dark,
taking turns, and
letters lined up
inside the diamond,
directing drivers and
distancing directors.
each page tells a story.
a little girl and a maple tree
there in the corner,
offering shelter and shade—
a steadfast sentinel
going nowhere.
like mom—
until the parasitic
organisms and cells
killed their hosts and
left nothing behind
but a stump
and yearly games of  guessing
when the guilt would show
and how merciless it would be.
it’s always October:
life and death playing together,
swooping and swirling,
sashaying and sliding,
until all is a blur.
the grey houses,
the railroad tracks
too young to be there alone,
too innocent to feel afraid.
just the cold gnawing
at nose and cheeks.
darkness crouching
behind rocks and trees.
a snowmobile in a yard
and trucks up on blocks,
woodsmoke dancing
with the mist in the air.

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Places, Please

Places, Please

Do you remember the day
you decided to teach?
Silly question.
Of course you remember it.
Even then, as young as we were,
we both understood
that it was your personal Rubicon.

What made you do it?
Was it that skirt?
What would you even call that color?
Cerulean? No, it was deeper than that.
Prussian? Nah, not enough green.
Turquoise? Way too bright.
Teal. Maybe we should leave it at that.
OK, so your skirt was teal,
your blouse was white,
and those fabulous chestnut boots
your mom had ordered from Speigel
carried you up to the podium.
I sometimes think that
if I had been wearing that outfit,
I, too, would have done what you did.

So many images from those years
have fled my mind.
Sometimes, with a nudge
from that old journal I still have
—you know, the one he made us keep for class—
a picture begins to crystalize in my mind.
I still remember what I wore to that dance
—diamond-shaped, mirrored earrings;
the fuchsia vest rimmed with green;
the skinny black tie pecked with pink—
and which song was playing
when Aaron kissed me.

Where are you now?
I wish I could find you
and tell you that
Debby and her disciples
—those mindless minions
who cared about little more than
safety and acceptance
and surviving long enough
to get their gold stars and get out—
were the ones who were wrong,
the ones with nothing to live for,
the ones who wouldn’t know meaning
if it rose up in front of them
and knocked them on their backs.

It was always about them,
but, at least once,
it shouldn’t have been.
If I hadn’t been caught in the headlights,
watching from my desk as it
all played out in slow motion,
I swear I would have stood up for you.
If those mirrored earrings could have
shown me the future,
even given me a hint
that the world would never be the same
for you
after that day,
I would have stood up,
I would have advanced to Debby’s desk,
I would have bloodied her nose, and then
I would have clutched your hand
to lead you from that classroom
and into a life
where your worth was recognized.

I would have pulled the trigger
for you, Thelma, but
I could do nothing more than
perceive the rush of air
as it came over the windshield
and wonder if I’d feel anything
when we hit bottom.

Maybe She was Only Waiting for Me to Look

Mom in Braids

Her braids take me by surprise.
Is this really my mother
standing in the lake
with her pants rolled
above the surface?
Who was this woman
who chronicled life with
her camera, her pen,
her scissors, and those
newspaper clippings?
I’ve seen that
smiling face framed
by those ebony plaits
sitting on my sister’s shoulders
more times than I can count.
That need to fix the past, though,
in words, images, glue, and paper
does not reside in my sister’s soul.
It lodges in my breast
and ties me to a past
that stuns with connections
I had no idea existed.