Heirlooms in a Broken Family

Dripping poison,

Those little words,

Snarled,

Under the breath,

Then pushed out

With the stomach.

You passed on your mother’s china

To me, the first grandson to marry,

But you wanted to keep a teapot.

My wife wanted the entire set,

So, I said no.

That’s when you got nasty.

I don’t care what you do, you said.

Just sell it!

I had no intention of selling it.

Now that we’ve had it for a while,

We think we’ll pass it on

To your grandchildren.

Isn’t that what you would want?

Walmart Pariah

A woman stands at the entrance

With a shopping cart full

Of her cherished belongings,

Waiting patiently on the generosity,

Or, rather, pity, or worse, guilt,

Of the passerby, to convict,

To shame, or maybe, on the rare instance,

To inspire, to give a gift.

Aren’t we all like her,

Dragging our materials

From house to house,

Packing them away

For that rainy or cold day,

That is sure to come?

Aren’t we petitioners

To passing angels or demons,

Or a god that plays favorites,

To have mercy or just indulge us,

One more time,

So we can get our fix,

Spoiled children of a wealthy parent,

Taken a few wrong turns on the streets,

The pariah or prodigal reduced to

Yearning after the feed of pigs,

Coming out of Walmart with

Their baskets full?

A Reflection on Juneteenth

Crimes unimaginable

Sins unfathomable

Wrongs not righted

With an apology,

A soft word,

Or the stroke of a pen.

Pain to the deepest parts

Of the heart and soul,

The very fiber of one’s being,

A wound that doesn’t heal,

But rather cuts deeper

With every smile,

Every handshake,

On every pay day,

Every trip to the grocery store,

Every night at mealtime,

When they look at their children,

When they look at ours.

Privilege continues

Despite the lip service,

Despite the promises,

Amidst the meager gifts,

The dregs of easy charity

From the tatters of a bursting purse,

The guilt trip laid on thick

To the middle class and even

The working poor.

Those that lack for food,

Clothing or shelter,

Living barely day to day,

Not knowing where one’s next

Meal will come from.

And at the church the preacher

Says try harder, pray more,

Save your dollars

So you can send your little ones

To a good college,

Make them study,

Keep them out of trouble,

Tell them you love them,

That you’re proud of them

For that report card.

What do you say

When the white kid

Calls them the n-word?

What do you say

When you don’t have a job

Because you refused

To kiss your supervisor’s butt

When he would talk to you

Like you were nothin’,

Just a cog in his machine,

A disposable, replaceable,

Optional, neglectable,

Insultable, disrespected,

Used, abused, tossed out

To the street

Like so much garbage,

Black man?

Power

Wrong meets right.

The fight is strong.

Laugh, they will.

Cry out, they must.

Shout, at the top of their lungs—

Justice must prevail.

So many innocent lives

Have been crushed by the fist

Of the oppressor!

So many suffer

Because of the greed

And the arrogance

Of the powerful.

The powerful?

Who is powerful?

What is power?

Don’t you know that

The wind has changed course

On this hot, dry day.

The wind! The water!

The earth! The animals!

The birds! The insects!

The trees! Yes, even the trees!

Look at an old oak tree,

And tell me about power!

Look at a rushing stream,

And tell me about power!

Watch a lion kill its prey,

And tell me about power!

Is a gun, power?

In the hands of a six year old, a gun is just as powerful as in the hands of a grown man!

A gun is just a tool.

It’s what you do with a tool

That makes it useful.

It’s what you do with a tool

That makes it powerful.

And when a thousand voices scream,

That’s power!

When the people speak as one,

That’s power!

Don’t be afraid.

Be excited!

Be joyful!

Be glad!

For power has come to the people,

And they will not be denied this moment.

They have prayed,

And they have worked,

And they have suffered

For this moment.

Listen to the wind blow

Through the trees!

Justice has come like a mighty rush of wind,

And anything that’s old, anything that’s weak,

Anything that’s not tied down tight,

Is gonna blow away!

Those old tricks, old ways,

Cowardly words, weak attitudes,

Straw men beware!

The wind of justice has come to blow you…

Away!

Getting Older

Growing up is a fateful journey,

Full of both joy and despair,

With yearning for a sense of completeness

And sometimes a wish for escape.

I wish I could spend more time

With my family and friends, but

Somehow life seems to get in the way.

Everything from irritable bowels to

A toilet overflowing and flooding several rooms—

From a new job as an administrative assistant

To my wife taking classes at the local community college—

It’s always something.

But as time passes,

I will grab that opportunity to touch base,

Even if just with a note or a phone call.

As I get older, and especially,

As my nieces and nephews get older,

Time seems to fly by and becomes

Much more precious.

Decisions become a challenge, sometimes,

And dates and times seem to crowd in

From every angle.

Oh, if I could only go back!

What I would do differently.

Mercy

Alone, but not alone.

God waits behind the curtain–

Or is it I that wait on God?

We wait on each other, then,

In a sort of waltz together,

Taking one step forward,

And one step back,

Rotating in circles,

Never completely meeting.

Oh, how my heart yearns

To connect to the holy one!

Like a child yearns

To be held by its mother,

So I crave the loving arms

Of my Creator.

My prayers of desperation

Fall down into the abyss.

My prostrate body

Aches with loneliness and pain

Of rejection and betrayal.

I must continue

To remain faithful,

But my soul is so weary.

How my enemies mock me,

Lord of All, please,

Be merciful.

A Boy and His Boat, Ch. 2

The little boy, whose name is Jack, went back to his house and went into the kitchen to see if his mother was there. She was, and Jack asked her, “Mommy, when will Daddy be home?” His mother smiled, answering, “Your father will be home in just a few minutes. He should be on his way home from work right now. Do you need something?” “I need help to build a boat,” Jack said. “Well, I’m sure your Daddy will help you, but you might have to wait until Saturday.” “Okay,” Jack said. “I can wait.” When his father drove his car into the driveway, Jack ran out to him. “Daddy,” he said. “Can you help me build a boat?” “Sure, Jack,” he said. “We’ll do that on Saturday. How big a boat do you want?” “Just big enough for me to sit down in,” said Jack. “Okay, son. We’ll do it, I promise.” Jack was excited! He couldn’t wait for Saturday to come. “What day is today, Daddy?” he asked. “Today is Tuesday,” his Daddy said. “You’ll have to wait four days.” “Okay, thanks, Daddy,” Jack said. “We’ll go to the hardware store together on Saturday morning to buy supplies,” said his Daddy. “Sounds great, Daddy!” Jack said. Jack would count the days until Saturday.

A Boy and His Boat, Ch. 1

There was once a little boy. He lived by a lake. He had learned how to swim, and he was quite good at it. One day, during summer vacation, he was out by the lake, watching the fish swim around in the water, and the frogs jumping and croaking, and the minnows scattering each time he touched the water with the end of a stick. He thought to himself that it would be great fun to have a boat. He considered for a while what he might need to make one. He thought of wood, and a hammer and nails. He knew that would make a nice box, but he wasn’t sure if it would float. He was afraid it might sink to the bottom. He decided he would ask his father if he would help him build a boat. He knew his father had worked on a boat when he was younger, and the boy hoped he would know some of the tricks to make it float.

In the Presence of Everything

Are you the hand

That I shake in the pew,

Or on my way out the door,

To the parking lot?

Are you the presence,

In the plate and cup,

Upon the altar,

That is given for me to consume?

Are you the dirty, scarred face,

Of an abused, homeless woman,

Begging on the street,

Around the corner from the grocery store?

Are you the gentle face and eager voice

Of the elderly man

Who comes to my front door,

Struggling to use an iPad to show a video?

Are you the pastor at the soup kitchen,

Who tells me the administrative position

I’m interviewing for requires someone

Who can shmooze with the volunteers?

Are you the book with all the stories

Spoken a long, long time ago,

Written a long time ago,

For people who lived a long time ago?

If so, I’m wondering:

What is your name? Who am I

In relation to you?

Why do you appear differently to all?

I’d like to pin you down,

Put your number and your address

In my contact list.

I’d like to feel you.

I know that’s not how you operate,

If you did, you wouldn’t be God,

Or would you?

Sometimes I wonder.

Happy

Happy knowledge spins a carriage.

Pumpkin cheeks smile upon you.

Loving words and soothing touches

Caress the soft skin and feed if hungry.

Watch him grow he’s getting so big!

Nothing but a joy to live.

Rocking chair gets lots of use.

Writing poems for your new muse.

Happy, yes, happy, yes, happy.