I wonder if the longstanding tradition of morning cleansing of marble steps at the front door in many inner city neighborhoods of Baltimore has survived the stresses of two-income families or single-parent households? Who knows when it started or in how many other locales it’s also practiced. This has been a custom of row houses, connected to each other – blue-collar communities, in fact – and not of detached suburban housing. And that makes the foremost difference.
These poems consider what women do and preserve – though not always exclusively. Yes, I’ve known women who bale hay or decipher monastic manuscripts, and I’ll also admit men can know nothing of bearing children or nursing. Yet, somehow, many women seem most at home around the kitchen, even if it’s nothing more than a teacup or a picnic. Even her garden, should she be so inclined, seems to extend from that table or the alchemy of her oven. And that goes for flowers, as well as vegetables and berries. (Remember, though: not all mothers and daughters can stand to be in the same kitchen at the same time, though they both be masterful cooks.)
Looking back on Baltimore, I remember my next-door neighbor, each morning in season watering the black locusts between our houses and the street. Maybe she did her stoop, as well. But the trees, which seemed to have always been there, were beautiful and timeless, as if spreading their own table.
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I could imagine myself an orchestral conductor, but there are many things that must be trusted to the players themselves. Something like Rubato, within a musical phrase, comes to mind. And then, in a flash, it’s passed. Reflect on that with these poems.
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As I would have said at the time: Note to folks living below the Mason-Dixon Line: It’s time to remove the Confederate monuments. They look too much like a sore loser.
Let’s remember, those shafts (at least the ones I’ve seen) have to be offensive to every descendant of every slave in America.
Think of all the German-Americans who never erected Kaiser monuments in honor of their dead kin. Japanese-Americans who could have placed Hiroshima/Nagasaki reminders. Italian-Americans, with Mussolini railroad efficiency. Vietnamese, Native-Americans, French?
It’s one thing to respect the dead, but this has felt defiant. From my view of history, it was a rich man’s war fought by the poor who continued to suffer poverty long after. Including many of my ancestors.
Now, what do I make of the statues of Civil War soldiers found on every town green in New England?
The wounds linger, don’t they.
did I hear thunder? coffee in the treetops just a pony cart of vegetables street vendor’s cry (O! the Arabs of Baltimore!) on his daily round somehow getting by yet clouds slipped in with a long cord, the phone this old apartment, all light and draught the floor sinking, new cracks in the plaster was […]
Yeah, there were brats. You couldn’t avoid them.
And broken glass. And sirens at midnight.
It’s what we could afford where we were.
Oh, what a neighborhood!
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How can you not appreciate the way the word flows on the teeth and tongue and along the lips?
Given its name, Oyster River, in the Lenape tongue for the profusion at its mouth in Chesapeake Bay, the word ripples and sings.
Upstream, where I lived, a different name would have been fitting but, I’ll presume, no more beautiful.
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The prose-poem presents a subtle challenge. In theory, it should be a natural fit for the English language. In practice, however, what I see all too often is simply wordy prose. Somewhere, the poetry gets trapped or tangled or loses its spin.
Coming across a guideline to keep a prose-poem under a hundred words spurred my thinking. As I considered revising a clutch of drafted poems, a sensed an opportunity. Recast without line breaks, they flew – especially when I removed the punctuation that pushed them toward prose.
I’m satisfied with the results, which I feel are more powerful and vibrant and authentic than either a straight-prose or straight-verse version would present.
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