Something Different,
(Poems and Short Stories)

July 24, 2017
Poetry Reading
Read my poetry? Share it?
I don't know if I could.
A piece of me goes into everything I write....
Especially every poem;
(Although the good Lord knows I have many pieces to spare.)
Going out on that limb is chancey;
What if someone has a mind to lop it off?

Salley Hennings, Slave/Mistress of Thomas Jefferson
Mr. Tom, he say this Paris is beautiful as me.
I see Paris as a place to be free.
Silks and lace and frills on my back,
Fine furniture he give to fill my shck don't mean nothing.

He acts like he don't know what freedom means;
He wrote that be everbody's dream.
I'm part of that 'everybody' he talks about.
"Dusky Salley".
Like the name excuses
to use me as he wants.

"I'm staying here where talk is strange", I say.
He say, "You come back I set Jacob free."
I agree.
My brother will have his freedom 'stead of me.

Slavery fits too tighter after freedom.
Mister Tom slips to my cabin each night.
In the dark I think of Jacob in the light,
Owning himself and doing as he will.

I close my eyes and remember.

March, 2017
Veteran Poet
His dreams are full of hot gunfire.
Spatters on the ground
join in rivulets and dye green and brown to red.
He dreams of twisted bodies and parts scattered
like a jigsaw puzzle flung during a tantrum.
He gathers up the pieces.
Hands red with life-juice,
he tries to put them together without the box cover and
before more pieces are thrown in.

He tries a roll call,
but mouths are full of blood and words cannot escape.

He dreams of demons who throw out nets,
Of tumbling children with death faces.
The net entangles him.
His bullets slice an escape.
Smoke and the smell/taste of death
Fill his mouth.
He sees the ground littered with more pieces.

The jungle comes alive.
disguised as women and children decorated with grenades
And carrying nets,
Come for him.
The net tightens.

He chokes awake, grabs his pen
And carves his mind-demons onto paper.

I walk from the creek.
The village is over the hill.

Mother waits for me to bring water for our meal.
My dress whispers too loud for a deerskin.

Rifle fire shatters the air.

I want to be a lodgepole
But my feet fly over the path
Hiding dead leaves.
I touch down only to bounce off.
I run to the top instead of away.

Grandfather falls.
A stream from his chest colors his shirt to sunset.
Grandmother falls.
A stream of her own comes.

Little ones run on legs too short to flee bullets.
Cries and burning deerskin
Twist with the smell of deer meat over the fire.

I want to find Mother, but my feet stay planted.
No one from my village moves.
Blue coats touch fire sticks to my home.
Their yells are celebration after the hunt.

I run back to the creek.
I wish the woods were older.

Sioux Warrior at Little Big Horn
Sky and earth colors woven together make my motherís blanket.
I watched her fingers, stained by plants and clay
Lift wool from boiling pots.
She bent toward her loom like the strands forming the cloth.
Later she freed it from the wooden frame and
settled it over my shoulders.

She cried when I became a warrior.
When I folded the blanket and joined the others in the hunt
her tears darkened the earth like the colors did her yarn.
Still, I went to get food for the people who could not.

When I returned, death and smoke hovered over our village.
I smelled it before I saw it.
I heard cries from a little one who had no words.
I knew my mother by the blanket tight in her hands.

I gathered her blanket and tucked it around her.
Her loom helped form her burial stand.
The Great Spirit will come for her spirit.

When the sun came,
We followed the trail that He-Who-Cannot-See could follow.
It brought us here to the Blue Coats with skin the color of bones.
Today our voices will celebrate.

February 18, 2017
Next Time
Next time you walk past
the bundle of rags on the corner,
your hair in place like grass on a golf course,
your black shoes shining the sky.
Next time you side-step
and complain about the hand
held out
dirty as your flower bed in November.
Next time you hold your nose against
the stench like last week's garbage,
look within the blanket,
look at the face
hidden in the hair.
Look in the eyes
and see

I wish I could pray like the old folks pray....
Not just from the heart,
But from the inner core of the soul.
They talk to the Lord as to their closest friend.
They reach down deep and give thanks for blessings
with words beautiful in simplicity, sincerity, humbleness.
They are aware of everything that has been bestowed
and give thanks for it.
They voice what might have been....
but for the grace of God.
They ignore their own needs and wants
and ask for fulfillment for others.
I wish I could pray like the old folks pray.

The memory is as ellusive as
the god of happiness.
I try to be patient
and wait so it will come.
I know the mind is not slowing down;
it just has more files in more drawers in more cabinets
to search
before it finds
the elusive memory.

November 2016
When will race be only a sporting event?
When will color decribe only clothes and other objects?
When will what I do matter more than what I look like?
When will hair be just hair; neither good or bad?
When will stereotypes be forgotten?
When will my abilities be judged on their own?
When will hate be replaced by love and fear by acceptance?
When will differences be accepted rather than feared?
When? Ever? Never?

New Day
Dawn overtakes night.
New day is near.
People emerge from locked boxes;
Same people. Same boxes.
All alike.
New day, new rules, new rulers.
No colors, no differences, sameness, all sameness.
Form a panel, a committee; a commission
a delegation; a conglomeration.
Who's next to be down?
No volunteers? Have a draft.
Top of the line means somebody is bottom.
Can't feel better unless someone is worse.

November 11, 2013
Fell Down the Stairs
(Short Story)
"Isn't recycling wonderful?" I said to Lyle. Recycling and stairs: both wonderful developments, I thought.

I went up from the basement and into the hall where I looked in the gilt-edged mirror hanging over the matching table.

Last week's angry bruise on my left cheek was almost gone. I watched what seemed like a lifetime of bruises fade just as this last one was doing. How had I been so wrong about Lyle? I thought of how we met.

"Hi, you look like you could use this." I looked at the man offering me a cup of punch. I had just joined church in my new hometown and a friendly voice was welcome.

Lyleís smile as I took the cup from him at the reception after church service that morning put me at ease.

When he introduced himself his eyes sparkled above his crooked grin and his dimples deepened even more. I fell in love with him right then.

"Are you new in town?" His smile grew wider. I smiled back. When I told him my job had relocated me here, he held out his hand. "My gain," he said still holding my hand.

Maybe the move wasn't so bad, after all, I thought as we sat and talked.

He told me about himself. I told him about me. Everything and everyone else faded and there were just the two of us. After what seemed like a few minutes, Lyle stood.

"I think maybe we should leave," he said quietly as he held out his hand. I looked around. Almost everyone was gone but us.

Lyle, a true gentleman, insisted on walking me the three blocks to my apartment building.

"What kind of church officer would I be if I didn't see to the safety of a parishioner?" He asked.

Within two months we were married. Lyle promised to protect me and see to my safety for the rest of my life, but he didn't protect me from my greatest danger: himself.

The first time he hit me I was too shocked to move out of his way. How could someone I loved; someone who said he loved me hurt me?

I hadn't put the papers at the curb, he said. Now they would clutter his house for another week, he said. He reminded me that I knew he hated clutter. I didnít expect the fist that came next.

My shoulder hit the corner of the hall table. I heard his words through shards of pain. Deep pain. Pain that went deeper each time after that when he punished me for some infraction.

The next time I hadn't ironed his shirt properly. Maybe if I tried harder, I could please him.

I took twice as long the next time I ironed his shirts. After close inspection, he rewarded me with a grunt. I breathed a little easier. I could do things right. It wasn't much to ask: smoothly ironed shirts; was it? He had a business image to project and the least I could do was do my part to help him.

The time after that it had been towels in the wrong place in the linen closet.

After that I lost track of all of the things I did wrong. Nothing I did was good enough. I wasn't good enough. I'd have to try harder.

"Why can't you do things right," Lyle asked me the time his soup was too spicy. I rubbed my wrist where he had twisted it.

Soup from the bowl he had thrown at me dripped down my skirt onto my freshly mopped floor. "Why do you make me do this to you?" It was always my fault.

Last Sunday I couldn't go to church service with him. No amount of make-up could cover the blue-black spot on my cheek.

I looked in the mirror after he left. Things were getting worse. I'd never be able to satisfy him.

I lay awake for a long time last night; next to the man who had promised to love and cherish me. How had it come to this? I was so competent on my job. How had I failed at marriage?

This morning I suggested to Lyle that maybe we weren't meant for each other. Maybe I should leave.

"Over my dead body," he had roared at me. "I'll never let you shame me before my friends and my church. You'll stay here and learn to do your duties properly."

I flinched when he took a step toward me, but he turned and slammed out of the house.

All day at work I thought of what he said. I examined the spot on my cheek each time I went to the ladies room.

When I got home I looked at the spot again. It had faded to a pale green.

"Why are these papers still in here?" Lyle roared when he finally came home. The front slammed. "You know I want them put out tonight." I heard papers sliding across the marble hall floor. "Where are you?" He sounded like he was in the kitchen.

"Down here." My voice shook as I answered from the basement.

I backed against the wall as his footsteps stomped closer to the stairs. I moved further back into the corner as Lyle came crashing down head first.

It was a long time before I dared move. I stayed in the corner and stared at Lyle's still body. He never moved. Not even to breathe. Finally I stepped over him and ran up the stairs.

Newspapers were scattered over the hall floor. He must have kicked them. I gathered them into a neat pile. He would be proud.

I untied the old pantyhose from the base of the top step and used it on the papers. I tied the last knot; the third one; just as Lyle taught me.

With shaking hands I dropped the neat package at the curb. Then I went back inside.

I took one last look down at Lyle. He still hadn't moved. His face looked soft. He looked more like the Lyle I had married than he had in a long time.

I stood just looking for a while. I wanted to turn off the light but I thought I should leave it on.

I almost stumbled as I turned to go into the kitchen to dial "911". My fingers hit a wrong number at first. I had to try again. Couldn't I even do this right?

I shook my head and took a deep breath. Mistakes must be normal in a case like this.

I went back to the hall. As I passed the mirror I glanced at my bruise. My last bruise, I thought. I looked away and took another deep breath. Then I moved to the door in the clutter-free hall to wait.