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.

Raise a Glass

This Sidewalk Poem started off with the glimpse of a large bowl of (artificial) apples adorning a table in a designer furniture store. They looked very comfortable and self-satisfied. I imagined this dialogue between a down-in-the-dumps housewife (stereotype alert!) and a bowl of apples in her kitchen.

Raise a Glass

The bowl of fat red apples
sitting happy on the sink
says, “Why not call your girlfriends?
Go out for a drink?”

The truth is, I can’t do that.
They’re all too far away.
Jane moved across the country.
Sue went another way
and though I sometimes visit her,
her house is cold and grey.
I lost Christine to an argument,
and still regret that day.

And so, my happy apples,
I guess I’ll drink this way!

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.

Nothing to Lose

This past Chistmas I got a pair of red Converse high-tops (just what I’d asked for). They feel great, support my feet and ankles and weigh almost nothing. And then come those moments of doubt when I look down and see them standing out at the end of my jeans… should I be wearing these at my age??? What do people think?

So the only way to find out is to wear them. I have a red leather jacket (Santa lets me choose),  and one fine spring morning I marched off to work wearing them both.

Red Jacket

My jacket is red
and so are my shoes.
I’m over the hill,
I’ve got nothing to lose.

Who cares if they laugh?
To play is the thing.
Fashion’s my servant,
but never my king.

I feel taller and faster,
and stronger this way,
than constrained by high heels
or a tight skirt sashay.

I’m not a trend-setter,
don’t get me wrong.
I’m just not like the others,
I don’t wear a thong.
They don’t suit my figure,
they’re a pain in the ass.
My lingerie’s hand-sewn.
(This lady’s got class!)

I dash past coolhunters
at each traffic light,
and leave them to wonder
what I wear at night.

What is it in a ruined face?

Technically this is not a Sidewalk Poem because it began before I ever left the house. It was that awful moment of the first encounter with a mirror in the morning – and the words “ruined face” came to me. The rest came together as I walked to work.

What is it in a ruined face?

What is it in a ruined face
that makes us want to know
the history that has taken place
to line and shape it so?

‘Tis no young man steals my heart,
although that be the norm.
I like the ripened, wrinkled sort
whose hands are wise and worn,

The road of life is paved somewhat
unevenly you see,
and as I walk the latter half
I’d like to have with me
a traveler who has been abroad,
faced hardship, and is still game
for taking roads less traveled by
while others take the main.

So turn your head towards me sir,
and look me in the eyes.
For I am lonely, and I hunger for
your hands so worn and wise.