They are still shooting us in the streets. Not just this year. Or even last. All of my 73 years and my father’s years and his father’s years. My grandfather's father, my great grandfather, was born into slavery. You know how that went. Both of my grandfather’s moved north. Looking to breathe that fresh air of freedom. That was before the red summer of 1919, when white folks killed black folks north, south, east and west. And it never stopped. Let up a bit from time to time. Went unreported even more often. These days passing people catch it on their cellphones. We’ve moved north. We’ve moved south. We bought land. We voted.We got educated. We marched and protested. We sang,rioted and rebelled. And even while we are marching, they are still shooting us down in the streets. Talking about new days,tearing down statues, retiring Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben, feeding exploited workers fried chicken and waffles. Back in the day, I would have ended this poem with a call for REVOLUTION! Now I just wait to see if they will again diffuse this anger with drugs. Or if it will explode.
Trees over my head, their green canopy hides the gray sky.
She points to the stairs,he won’t budge. He stands in the pouring rain, ignoring her signal to exit up. Families mill about, confused. Should they go up or wait for further direction? The children sob, rain dripping from their chins. A large woman in purple wants to help … The rain blows in through open windows. He gives the thumbs up, standing in a widening puddle of water. Giving him the side eye, she pours a glass of water, unaware of the boil water warning in effect. Three beats. The rain continues to pour. A cool wind blows. The trees bend. Two beats. Too stubborn to obey, he remains right there, dripping, while she drinks the dirty water. A tree crashes beside him.
Last night I thought about you. Remembering that night he was with you, wondering what you thought was coming next. We were so young and none of it turned out like we thought. Not even for me, who got everything I wished for. None of us could look down the years and know you would be the first gone.
The year came in innocently enough. We got some work done on the house. New roof. Updated cupboards. New furnace. Our son came to visit from Seattle with his small children. Then, there was news of a virus spreading rapidly in China and Italy. A friend in Ecuador suggested we buy some masks, just in case, because Atlanta, being an international air hub, you never know. We bought two boxes of masks at the corner drugstore. We began to hear the corona virus was here and spreading. Should I go to the dentist? How about those other appointments that seemed to be coming up fast. Canceled those just as it was advised to stay home if closed for the duration. We got used to the virus. We were all okay. Working from home, or retired or hopeful. Our street was quiet and as usual, except for a few masked walkers. We learned to order and pickup our food. We found sources of fresh food and we were doing well. Except for those disturbing reports from Detroit and the nursing home down the street where people were dying en masse. But things had sort of settled into a groove. Some people got angry about wearing masks and heavily armed began to appear at government offices to protest, to intimidate. When the police kneeled on George Floyd’s neck for nine minutes, someone caught it on cellphone. Protests, demonstrations bigger than anything since the 60s. All the pent up rage exploding. More shootings, old shootings, new shootings. More demonstrations, burnings, tear gas, rubber and real bullets. The killer bees or wasps turned out to be a red herring. But right now sand from the Sahara Desert is coming ashore along the coast. More than in living memory, crossing the Atlantic to come to Puerto Rico and the Sea Islands. To make breathing hard and sunsets beautiful from Florida to New Orleans and beyond. The pandemic continues. Police brutality continues. How long before the plume of sand comes ashore, I don’t know. What’s next? Meteorites? A roving black hole? Wild Fires? Hurricanes? Invasion from outer space?
Rocked gently by the lake, sun warm on my face. Beneath, a silvery fish swims. Cloudless blue above. Children splash, laughing.
Tomorrow from 9 AM to 9 PM I will be writing a poem an hour as part of the 1/2 Poetry Marathon. I enjoyed it so much last year and I am looking forward to this year. This year I will not be able to get together with my daughter and granddaughter due to corona. Since there has been so much confusion this year, I have not been writing poetry much.
When I was growing up, we went to bed early. Eight o'clock, in the bed. We missed the night sky and the stars overhead. Later living in the country, lying in the yard watching the sky, floating in the water, I became part of the sky. I wanted to lie under the stars when I was dying, to disappear into the sky. Here in the city, my yard is full of trees. The streets are full of lights. I can't disappear into the sky here.
Last night I dreamed a glass table down at the end of the driveway, a table large enough for all of us to sit down and eat one of our family potlucks together. This morning, it's gone.
We are walled in by green. Ivy, oak, maple, red bud dog wood. across the street, waving bamboo. Light, dark, chartreuse, pale, dripping green.