In the Songs of Birds

When I was three,
My mother taught me to read,
And words
Became playthings and playmates
As I sat in the back of the restaurant
Watching her work her dream to death.

Later, as I grew,
Family losses piled, heaped
Weighty upon the shoulders of a nine-year-old.
Words became
Escape, shelter, survival,
A path out of destruction.

And so, words stayed
For more years than I’d care to say.

But now here,
Waking mornings,
Hearing birdsong,
Or in early evening,
The warm sun blanketing
My skin as I fill the birdfeeders,
I hear words in the songs of birds.
Silly though it may seem,
The cardinals have much to say,
“It’s cheaper here. It’s cheaper here.”
To “Pretty, pretty, pretty.”
The mockingbirds chatter away
Announcements of “She’s here, she’s here, she’s here.”
And I’m not sure which bird continually asks,
“Wanna see, wanna see, wanna see a receipt?”
All the while, the Blue Jays squawk away,
Warning all the others,
“Stay away! Stay away!”
Then in the chittering of the squirrels,
I hear the demand,
“Where’s the food? Where’s the food?
You let the food run out! How dare you?”
As they scurry away,
Pretending, at least, to be afraid of me.

Among all the noise and chatter
All the words of birds and squirrels
One word, never felt before now,
I feel move within my chest,
Peace.

The Mixed

Too dark
Too light
Too in between
Too bright
Too rosy
Too peach–

Just too much
Or not enough at all.
This has always been my plight.

I am African-American
But not black enough .
I am Native American
But not red enough.
I am Latina
But not brown enough.

Just mixed enough for most
To assume whiteness of me,
Sparking comments about a whitey master
in the woodpile of my ancestors.

In this ocean of the mixed
There’s affinity
But no belonging
As I reach for a new shade of blush
That is just close enough.

The Prodigal

Motherhood erased
The caesarean scar, the only trace,
A testament to what once was,
It holds a degree of lingering numbness
After these twenty years:
Nerves that cannot reconnect
To a self without motherhood.
Yes, a touch of numbness
As the child with her mother’s face
Turns away, rejecting the truth teller,
Rejecting the baptism of love, of name, of tears.

Let the child walk away.
Perhaps in losing her way,
She will find the path back,
A way to recognize being found
In the reflection of her own face.

Golden Sky

My lost child
Time runs away from us.
Wandering in darkness,
Stumbling over hidden things,
We cannot find our way.

So it will be
That we stand,
Grieving each other
In this darkness.

Sunshine and hope
Filled us
When I pushed your
Swing in the park.
Laughing we touched
A golden sky.

Then, I thought we’d
Never know this darkness.
But it crept around the edges,
Blotting out the golden sky,
Fading to a distant memory
Until you, my child, doubt it ever real.

The Brave Ones

(A Tribute to Christine Blasey Ford)

We reject the mother
Born to subservience
of ripped rib bone.
No longer will we accept
Bloody beatings and brutality,
Rape and rage,
Silent,
Powerless,
Fearful.
No longer do we accept this pain
As payment for the sin
Of seeking knowledge.

For millennia, we were lucky to live unbruised
As long as we were your possessions:
Your mothers, your daughters,
Your sisters, your wives.
As long as you owned us
And we did as we were told.

But through the ages,
The brave ones have shown us another way:
To seek the spirit of our true mother,
The one born in the same earth of equality.

So we find her voice and our own.
We speak.
Though you would silence us
With vitriol and mockery,
The brave ones have taught us well;
We will never be silent again.

Orchestra of Children

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An orchestra of children
Provides a symphony.

The violin of a two-year-old
Sings the plaintive cries,
“Daddy, Daddy!”

The lone flute of a three-year-old
Soars above the din,
A painful wail,
“Mommy, Mommy.”

Then the scratchy oboe
Of perhaps a four-year-old,
Keening for an aunt to be allowed to come
And take him to her home to stay.

Next all the whimpers,
Sobbing, moans
Squalls, and laments
Of trumpets, tubas,
Violas, bass and all the rest
Join the cacophonous clamor
Of such a discordant melody,
Harmonious to the hardened of heart
Who give ear to this orchestra,
Deserving of nothing but the pain
Contained within the symphony
The progeny play,
As less than they.