This is a poem my sweet mother, the greatest writer I know, wrote in 2003. It deserves to be shared.
Maybe there were too many green-soldier
men stacked in closets, then rustled down
from shoe-boxes – green soldiers from
the Buster Brown shoebox versus
green soldiers deployed from the Ked’s shoebox.
Maybe there were too many “choose sides”
backyard football games where
boys sized each other up, salivated
for the win, gripped that pigskin
like it was a leather god.
Bullies were born in school halls or
afternoon playgrounds where push and shove
became tug-of-war for childhood warlords
establishing mini-territories they would carry in their back pockets along with the
tattered baseball card of Mickey Mantle,
or the tiny gray frog they thought could live
in the dark of their jeans’ pocket, at least
until they were called to supper and wandered
home to roast beef, carrots, potatoes,
biscuits warm from the oven and, of course,
These are the leaders of our country – boys
with frogs in their pockets and
rockets’ red glare in their eyes.
And these boys have issued an ultimatum to Tommy Bilbrey in Fourth Period English
he stares straight ahead at chalkboard words.
Meet us out back after school – or else.
I learned haiku and limerick and rhyme.
And I learned of beats and rhythm and time.
I learned how to make a sonnet sing.
And how to give a ballad wings.
I learned the grammar don’ts and do’s.
I dreamt in Blake and Angelou.
Hughes made me shake. Poe made me shriek.
Shakespeare made my knees feel weak.
Silverstein and Seuss were pure.
Dickinson was so unsure.
Donne was brilliant. Whitman, sharp.
Eliot’s Prufrock broke my heart.
Tennyson called me to seize my fate.
“Come my friends, ‘tis not too late.”
And Frost kept me from counting sheep
With “Miles to go before I sleep.”
But my little voice, she tries to hide.
Hoping to stay trapped inside.
And go unnoticed, silently.
So to not compete with poetry.
‘Till the day I’m taken by a hearse.
I dare not utter a single verse.
And in my epitaph please say,
“This girl took poems to her grave.
So she couldn’t fail, she wouldn’t write
Completely paralyzed by fright.
So now we mourn for we’ll never hear,
The voice that loved poems so dear.
We’ll always wonder. We’ll wish we knew.
Perhaps she was a poet too.”
Yes, perhaps she was a poet too.
She looked out her window and said “Speak from the heart.”
So I read her my lines. I told her my part.
I said “I’m not broken.” I said “I’m not lost.
I’ve not yet been trampled. But believe me, I’ve fought.”
And her eyes didn’t blink as she started to speak.
“I hear your voice quiver. Your smile is so weak.
You pull at your hair. You tug at your ears.
You sit on your hands and you laugh through the tears.”
“What do you feel when the silence gets loud?
What do you fear? What rains from your cloud?”
And I repeated those words. Without making a sound.
Caught up somewhere between stoic and proud.
How do you explain what it feels like to break?
When your body is hollow from a pain you can’t shake.
When you wake from your nightmare to find that it’s real.
How do you begin to explain how that feels?
And so she repeated, “Speak from the heart.”
And I nodded and chuckled. “So where do I start?”
I told her our story. It was love. It was right.
I told her our troubles. Every treacherous fight.
I told her you broke me. I thought I was gone.
And day-by-day passed and I could not move on.
And years have gone by and you follow me still.
Haunting my dreams and my thoughts and my will.
How do you go from love to regret?
I wanted you so; now I’d die to forget.
Your love was a curse. A sore. A disease.
I’m infected with you. How I long to be free.
And what she said next, caught me off guard.
“Do you not see just how lucky you are?
We all spend our lives in search of a spark.
A moment to light up a lifetime of dark.”
“Your love was a firework. Your love was a flare –
Bursting with fury and heat through the air.
And of course in a moment, all that remained
Was the echoes of passion and smoke, but no flame.”
“And now you feel hollow. And now you’re alone.
But the beauty is that you went to the show.
You saw your world light up. You felt your heart fly.
You heard the explosion as you lit up the sky.”
“Your love, it was beautiful. Your love, it was true.
And the pain that it caused even time can’t undo.
But don’t wish for a moment to leave it behind.
Because that love that has cursed you, I can’t wait to find.”