Featured Poem: Oakland Giraffes

Patricia Doyne
Diablo-Alameda Branch, California

 

 

(Based on Giraphics by muralist Dan Fontes)

 

Whoosh!

The freeway overpass

pulses with cars, pick-ups, buses, big-rigs, motorcycles.

All day they speed up, change lanes,

weave in, out, and on.

 

 

Underneath the overpass,

drivers pass the huge support pillars emblazoned with—

giraffes?

A giraffe stretching to feed,

a giraffe bending to drink,

two giraffes angling their necks to check out the neighborhood.

Comic surrealism peeks out

amid the apartments, small stores and ever-moving traffic.

 

 

“When the freeway fell down in ’89,”

says the artist, “these pillars

had to be enlarged. An old giraffe is still inside.

Can you hear him?”

The child puts her ear to the pillar.

Her face brightens.

“Yes,” she burbles, “He’s saying,

‘Mmm, mmuh-uh-uh, mmmuh.”

 

 

So now there’s a new spirit

haunting the Oakland street scene.

Not political. Not gang-related. Not religious.

This spirit makes you smile as you pass by,

shaking your head.

A giraffe poses photo-realistically on the pillar,

leaving homeland camouflage behind.

But his very presence echoes the Serengeti

in this unlikely cement place:

Mmm, mmuh-uh-uh, mmmuh.”

Or perhaps,

We came, unwilling, from Africa.

Now Africa leaves a keepsake in our midst.

 

Featured Poem: One Moment

Mary Joan Meagher
Minnesota Branch

 

The present tense is tricky

When the one you love

No longer is

But has become a was.

Existence is measured in moments.

Moments are long when

Is no longer describes

The one who was immediacy,

The one who was forever.

Now a moment shocks,

Now a moment stretches,

Now a moment is eternity.

An eternity without,

An eternity bereft,

An eternity of empty.

One’s sight is blurred,

One’s hearing is gone,

One’s touch is numbed,

One’s moment is bloated

With grief.

Existence depends on the gyroscope

Of time and space

Returning to is,

Not was.

One’s moment becomes a merry-go-round of

Never.

 

 

Featured Poem: After the Fruit

Christina Laurie
Cape Cod Branch, Massachusetts 

 

When the serpent beckoned Eve
and she tasted the ripe softness
of the pink fruit from the forbidden tree,
she felt the energy of earth
pour into her bones,
teasing the marrow with cool sweetness
and the memory of being.

 

Then she knew of knowledge,
and adventure begged at her back door.
She galloped into the new world
with insight and understanding
that her husband only sensed
as he watched her frolic in the fields of gold,
free, beautiful and sensual.

 

She knew that, up until that moment,
all she had known was isolation
of green and blue, of earth and sky
and gentle walks with God.
His voice called her to His evening stroll,
but after the fruit, all she knew
that what had touched her tongue
was only partial truth.

 

  

Featured Poem: Something’s Missing, Something’s Gone

 

Dr. Carmen Meadows
Atlanta Branch

 

 

Carefree days outside I played 

Come cloud or sun I’d laugh and run

 

To see bugs crawl or scale a wall

I’d pick a flower build a tower

 

Something’s missing, something’s gone

 

We fell in love and made a promise 

My heart’s desire to be your wife, 

Bear your children, share my life

 

Our babies came and grew so fast 

I thought it should forever last

 

Something’s missing, something’s gone

 

We built a business, watched it grow

Had to see it crumble though

Together we could bear it strong

 

Something’s missing, something’s gone

 

Time doesn’t seem to want to brake

I watch our parents bend and shake

 

They aren’t too sure they know our face

How sad to think they’ve left the race

 

Something’s missing, something’s gone

 

Today we have the moment sure

I look into your eyes and smile 

Thankful for the time at hand

 

In love and loss we spend our days

Grateful we have passed this way

 

As I look back it’s plain to see

 

Something’s missing, something’s gone

 

If Grace is granted now as then

There’s still a bloom and call to hear

“Come play and run and laugh again”

 

All isn’t as it seems

 

The thing that’s missing’s yet to come

What seems a loss is part of all

A stone once hewn and set in place

 

All understood when face to face

 

 

 

Featured Poem: Stay for Awhile

Patricia J. Dennis
Santa Clara County Branch, California

 

A mansion set back
White pillars standing tall

 

Framed by trees guarding all
Luscious greens so alive
Glistening clean after the rain
Sweet aroma of flowers fill the air

 

There is a swing
Do we dare
Sit and stay for awhile

 

Remembering when as a child 
We could swing forever 
And get lost in the
Sky

 

Head thrown back

 

Air blowing through our hair
Letting go of the worries 
Soaring through the air

 

Hearts full of promise
On our way to tomorrow

 

Featured Poem: A Music

Lois Batchelor Howard
Palm Springs Branch

 

 

I have longed for the quiet of this time

soft muted sounds to fill these once loud rooms

a fresh hushed air to feed the waiting blooms

silence enough to hear the old clock chime

 

bold energy to blossom forth in rhyme

pianissimo to inspire new tunes

so dare I now say I like a noisy loom?

can solitude be what I really held most prime?

 

and why did I not know this in the din?

Family, friends, loves cannot be replaced

this found truth now marks my inner pace

and unwritten songs I still will sing

 

ensemble, forte, rests:

not too late blessed

 

 

Featured Poem: A New Beginning

Nancy Haskett
Modesto Branch, California

 

On our way to shop at the sutlers’ tents,

we pass through the artillery camp,

horses lined up on our left,

each one almost identical to the next,

dark brown glossy coats,

long black manes and tails.

Not so long ago,

these Standardbred horses

trotted and paced in harness races,

pulled carts in front of grandstands, noisy crowds,

until their stride and winnings slowed,

their futures expendable.

 

Today,

they pull limbers, caissons, cannons

in teams of four and six

at this historical reenactment;

like synchronized dancers

they move as one,

joined in harnesses that clang and rattle

as they respond to reins and commands,

rush supply wagons, Civil War ambulances,

then stand calmly when artillery concussions

shake the ground.

 

 

Some wait their turn

as we walk by,

watch with alert brown eyes

focused on the wagon and four-horse team

circling the field without them;

others stand with knees locked,

sleeping in the sun,

and now, they dream

of brave gallops into battle chaos,

smoke that fills the field,

shouts of men in blue uniforms

who have rescued them,

provided a second chance,

a new beginning

in the Union “Army.”

 

 

Featured Poem: Among My Mother’s Many Gifts

Janet Fagal
Central New York Branch

One summer she painted
in Maine, by the sea.
Shared poems she’d learned in school:
Sea Fever, The House with Nobody in It.
At home she coaxed beauty from the heart:
a Revlon doll, my special gift, with ball dresses handmade,
a tiered organdy skirt for the mirrored vanity in my new room.
Christmas angels sculpted for her sisters,
one foot high, clothed in vibrant
velvet and gold braid: the blue of royalty,
purple rich and regal, winter white.
She painted cards one year.
Scenes of forests clothed in frosty gowns,
a Santa and his pack, baby Jesus in the manger.
Gifts from the heart.
I saved the little poinsettia dress she made for me,
kept all these years for another child.
Her great granddaughter, dressed for the holidays
dances in it. My mother, I know, celebrates.
I feel it in my heart.

Featured Poem: The Spell of the Union

 

Joy A. Burki-Watson
Member-at-large

 

I wanted release so I sought it, I worked in the South as a slave,
Freedom took plenty of forethought and more than a fair share of brave.
I’d not be deprived of a free life, all because of my color at birth
And surely, I’d find that my past strife would urge me to work for my worth.

 

My mother, a servant in Beaufort — my father, the slave owner’s son,
All hushed by their need for concealment, where the white of my black was homespun;
I was named Robert Smalls for that reason and slaved in their fields as a youth
Then shipped off to Charleston, unseasoned, to slave on their docks — Gospel truth!

 

Sail maker would soon become rigger and then onward I’d pilot their ships,
Always the slave and the ‘nigger’ [sic] and always kept under their grips.
’twas Charleston, South Carolina that faced the first shots of that war
And I at wheel of a steamer, saw freedom like never before!

 

In the early hours of May13th, the white crew aboard took shore leave
And left me in charge of my own life as well as that ship I’d now thieve.
The C.S.S. Planter was loaded with all of my kinfolk and peers
It served us as liberty’s motive and way to escape our past years.

 

I then donned the captain’s attire and steered out through mine-laden bay,
I’d signal the guards at Fort Sumter and head out the ocean’s seaway
Once out of Confederate gun range, I made a fast dash to be free
Knowing full well that we’d look strange to the blockade and Union navy.

 

With white flag a’waving surrender, I offered up guns and the ship
And all of us joined with those forces to challenge the South’s leadership —
How civil is war of derision when folks are not treated with fair?
It certainly made “split-decision” a term for this nation’s warfare.

 

Ev’ry good war has its heroes and I wanted to fill those big shoes
After the war I returned to the place where now I could alter old views.
I served five terms as a Congressman and constituent’s rep for what’s right
Offering reasons to take a stand when life presented foresight!

 

I also would purchase the mansion where Mother and I were enslaved;
It stands for new eras of fashion and all of the things we once craved.
I wanted release so I sought it, I worked in the South as a slave
Freedom took plenty of forethought and more than a fair share of brave.

 

Special Notes:
Robert Smalls (1839-1916) was a black American statesman who was born a slave and made a daring escape at the beginning of the Civil War. After the war he went on to have a successful political career; first serving in the South Carolina House of Representatives and the South Carolina Senate before being elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1874. Later in his life he was appointed U.S. Collector of Customs in Beaufort South Carolina serving from 1889 through 1911.

An interesting fact is that he bought and lived in the house in which he had been a slave. He actually allowed his former slave-master’s wife to move back into the house shortly before her death.

Robert Smalls died on February 23rd of 1915, the cause of death was unspecified.

Featured Poem: My Monet

Barb Whitmarsh
Bayou City II, Texas

 

(To Dad)

 

He will always be my Monet
My tired-eyed yet dutiful father
All of his paintings
Are emblazoned on my mind
Hanging on the walls of my heart
-I claim them all-
By virtue of my memories
Of every brushstroke
And resistant signature
That defined his uniqueness
Perhaps he thought I
Didn’t take his painting seriously enough
-But I did –
I admired every application of his sable brushes
That transformed paint into life
And if and when we meet again one day
I’ll reassure him with the words
“Dad, you always were and will be
My Monet.”