Exploring the poetry of everyday life

Pomp and Circumstance

Memory is an inexplicable thing
Grandson’s high school graduation the scene
Present tense gave way when the music began
Magnet of past time
Drew me back through the years
Feelings surged from an abyss
Formerly unknown.

In grade school I was taught
The Pledge of Allegiance and Star Spangled Banner
Instilling within me love of my country
Now bursting like stars while we sang
And we pledged hand over heart
At the high school graduation
A deep sadness welled up.

Once taken for granted
Could we possibly lose
Old glories, good virtues
Respect and forbearance
Kindness, equality, justice and love?
I pray for a future beyond present tense
Safe for all the world’s children.


Haiku: Pulse of the Times

News is disturbing
Hate and meanness unrivaled
Vile anger spreading

Fearful yeast rising
Malicious lies ore’ taking
Strained arc of justice


Haiku: The Morning News

Dull gold and pewter
Sun and mounds of clouds reflect
Present hope downcast


Police Matter

There is always a police officer standing near the entrance to the grocery store where I shop. I’ve shopped at this store for years and this was not always the case. I know from reading the “Police Blotter” in our weekly regional newspaper that shoplifting is a regular concern of merchants in our area. Other crimes reported are stealing cell phones. breaking into homes to steal electronics and jewelry, and people’s wallets and laptops being stolen from unlocked cars in their driveways. After watching countless episodes of Law and Order I think things seem pretty tame here. This is a good thing but I often wonder what the police officer in the grocery store thinks while he watches us collect a cart and push off toward the produce section.

I found out. After the recent horrendous killings of people being arrested and policemen being attacked and killed in retaliation, which has resulted in a tinder box of fear and anger ready to explode, a woman in the apartment building where I live asked herself what she could do. She is an extraordinary ninety-seven year old social justice activist who isn’t “going gently into the good night”. She called the Mayor and invited him to arrange for a meeting of police officers and the inhabitants of our apartment building to talk about the current situation. A date was set for us to gather in the Party Room of our apartment.

The residents here are diverse. We are a congenial mix of age, race and religion. The night of the meeting we filled the Party Room. Five police officers, most of whom have been on the job twenty to thirty years, told us about their roles on the force. The Director gave us a history of the changing culture of police work from “warrior” to “guardian”. Our police force were preparing for changing times long before things caught fire this summer. Our police force has moved to think of us as the people they work for and to listen to our needs. Some of the older members of the force call the new environment social work, which is not what they signed on for. When questioned, the Director said the biggest part of their job involved traffic and keeping the roads safe. They also go into the neighborhoods to check out garage doors left open and even cars left unlocked. The goal here is for officers to know and to be recognized by us before they are called for an emergency. The officer in the grocery store is being a recognizable face inviting us to approach him with questions and feel comfortable. I think this is like the beat cop of years gone by who was a regular feature of the neighborhood.

We were invited to share our past experiences with the police, good or bad. I told my story. The summer my  oldest son finished high school he was out partying and drinking beer one night. Coming home he was pulled over by a policeman and charged with a DUI. He was taken to jail to spend the night. Next morning he figured out how to call a bail bondsman to get him out of jail. When he made it back home his first words were “Mom, I’ve done something terrible.” He said he now realized the law had teeth and he was scared. The next weekend while he and his two brothers were away camping with their dad, a police officer came to my front door with a warrant for my son’s arrest. I couldn’t believe this was happening. I was really upset. I had met the officer a few weeks before at a large Boy Scout outing where he was acting as a security guard. It helped when he let me know he was sorry to be the one to bring the warrant.

When I finished telling my story one of the police officers said that is exactly what they hoped to accomplish in developing their Guardian culture. The experience my son had being arrested taught him to be aware that his actions have consequences. I have always been grateful for that. And I understand the significance of having a police officer at the grocery store. He’s one of the building blocks of developing a police culture hand in hand with the people whose well-being they guard.


Discomforting Sanctuary

Like a cathedral’s soaring vault
Outside my window tree branches arch
Forming my sanctuary roof
Green as summer.

Here inside my writing room
Quiet and cool invites my muse
Leaving world and strife behind
Perhaps I can escape.

But not today.
I cannot rest in solitude
When cries of anger, pain and fear
Pierce my self-centered peace.

I have no healing words to write
Only love wrung out of me
To fling into communal scream
What will become of us?


Amazing Grace On the STC

No longer a driver I now rely on Senior Transportation Connection to get me to doctor’s appointments. A small white van picks me up and I enter a world shared with others who also have learned to do without a car. The drivers are interesting in their own right. Altogether I enjoy being differently-abled.

This morning I used the STC service to get to my dentist’s office. When my appointment was over another van picked me up for the trip home. I was the single passenger. As we waited at a red light a school bus drove by. The STC driver remarked that she wanted to drive school buses. We agreed how important and rewarding it would be to be part of children’s lives in these dangerous and uncertain times. A black woman raised in the South, she wanted to pass on the sound teachings and community values of her family. She believed children nowadays need direction. And she told me the story of her daughter who has ADHD.

Her story revealed her as a mother who sought help for her child and accepted the difficult diagnosis. A woman who educated herself about ADHD. After a long search she found a school who asked what they could do for her daughter and for her. She replied “Believe in me.” I marveled at her wisdom and humility, and her faith and prayers.

I told her about my son who recently didn’t get the teaching job he applied for in a prosperous suburb. Instead he interviewed with an inner-city Charter School and got what he calls the job of a lifetime. He is grateful to be able to give his gifts as an experienced teacher and help shape children’s lives in this time of upheaval.

We two women, one black and one white, both mothers and one also a grandmother, were bound in our love for children everywhere. It is amazing but not exactly unexpected that we came together as kindred spirits in these weeks of unspeakable carnage and grief. These tragedies also give birth to moments of hope, testimony that love still abides.

When we arrived at my home the driver gave me a hand getting out of the van. We spoke of blessings and promised prayers for each other. She reached out and we hugged goodbye. I asked her name. She said Angela. I think I had been speaking with an angel unaware.


Starbucks Sees Things Differently : A Haiku

Caffeinated minds
Backwards read the alphabet.
Out jumps MLK.


My Dawn Wall

Climbers standing on pedestals of microscopic toe-holds
Inched upward toward the summit.
Finger’s skin scraped and torn bloody,
Spirits strong they reached their goal.
Drank sparkling wine, hugged loved ones.

Still standing on the heights
Climbers spoke to us who watched.
Hoped their assent inspires, prompts us to recall their feat
So that when we meet our own Dawn Wall one day
We’ll draw on strengths unknown within and persevere.

I think I’ve been acquainted long with my Dawn Wall.
It seems to never end. I pull and tug with obstacles
Small and insignificant. A victory is nothing to proclaim.
And yet I climb again. I solve my task and add the gain to my accumulated wisdom and rejoice.
Dawn Walls can be measurements of how we manage day by day.