Mattie

I was on the final stretch of my morning walk to the office, rushing along the last two blocks, dodging strollers and cyclists, and I caught a glimpse of the legs and feet of a woman just in front of me that left me thinking long after I’d passed her. She was wearing black orthopedic shoes and white fishnet stockings. Dissonance? Bravery? Self-esteem?

Before I entered the office door, this line was rolling around in my head “Her shoes were black and sturdy and her stockings, made of lace…”.  I put that on hold for a couple of days, let it develop, and it took me to a place I did not expect.  Fragments of my long-ago life in the US, mixed with the Joan Colom photos of the Barrio Chino (red-light district) of Barcelona. Bravery and self-esteem? Definitely!


Mattie

Her shoes were black and sturdy
in agreement with her face.
Her dress was “go-to-meetin’ ”
and her stockings, made of lace.

She had a voice could split the heavens,
bring down glory on us all,
but that don’t earn a livin’
so she’s workin’ at the mall.

She couldn’t get a day shift.
They said she didn’t have the look.
So they told her ’bout the night shift,
and she learned how to hook.

She takes her lonely strangers,
and gives them so much more
than they could ever ask for.
(But they still call her a whore.)

She asks for no one’s pity.
Knows the Lord loves her the same.
She sings in church on Sunday,
and at night, she’s on the game.

one of these is mattie

Fiction

When the first line of this poem came to me, I thought it would be a great title for a short story. (Maybe it will be?). By the way, isn’t there a Harry’s Bar in every city in the world?

Fiction

He was a fiction character.
I knew him long before
I met him down at Harry’s
(third table, by the door).

I knew that he’d wear glasses,
have an earring, and be tall,
and as I approached the table
he wouldn’t speak at all.

But the eyes behind his glasses
would unnerve me, and I’d fall
head over heels.

We’d share a coffee,
a few kisses, promise to call…

The good thing about fiction is,
it hardly hurts at all.

Kinship

This qualifies obliquely as a Sidewalk Poem because I composed it while walking. The content was prompted by people-watching, and reflecting on the fact that although I’ve lived in Barcelona for almost half my life, about 20 minutes into any conversation I still get asked where I’m from. And the answer started this poem…


Kinship

My family came from Europe,
passed through Texas on the way.
Greatgrandpa married an Indian.
She was beautiful, they say.

I’ve never seen a photo,
but her cheekbones must be mine.
I share them with my brothers —
an interracial sign
too subtle to be noticed
if you are not inclined
to look for family secrets.

My children can’t be Indians,
with freckles and blond hair.
It’s just a story for Thanksgiving
when all the family’s there.
It brings to life the history
they read about in books
and teaches them that kinship
is more complex than it looks.

 bloodlines.1

*Note – liberties taken: wasn’t greatgrandfather, but great-great. And my apologies – Native American didn’t fit the meter.

Pink Glass in the Gutter

This is the 2nd Sidewalk Poem. I was walking to work on the morning after one of the recent mass protests that are being provoked by our current economic and political instability. As I passed an area that had been filled with protestors the morning before, I saw a pink plastic tumbler lying in the gutter, and this is what came out.

Pink Glass in the Gutter

A pink glass in the gutter
is all that’s left of you.
The party’s long been over
and you and I are through.

A pink glass in the gutter…
you could have been much more.
Somebody should have told you
I don’t drink cheap liquor anymore.

That glass? A car just smashed it
to lovely smithereens.
You took my love and trashed it.
At least that’s how it seems.

I’m having champagne breakfast
on a terrace in the square.
Your best friend’s about to join me.
Sorry babe, what’s fair is fair.

The first Sidewalk Poem

This poem came to me in the 30 minutes between leaving my flat and arriving at the office. I realized that as soon as I’d noticed some detail, some sight that caught my eye, I began to chain together words to describe what I’d seen.

I string a new necklace

I string a new necklace each day as I walk on my way to the office or just down the block.

The beads and the jewels are the things that I see. From those of this morning I'll just give you three:

Water pooled on the flagstones, a mother of three, (she was starved with their breeding; it was easy to see),

young man in a pink shirt -- long-sleeved, nicely pressed -- (I wish that I'd been there to watch as he dressed!)

The images grip me; They drive me to verse. Not much of a rhyme scheme, But it could have been worse.