Ladies who write

The phrases that start these walking poems sometimes well up from unexpected sources. I was buttoning my coat as I crossed a plaza and recalled my mother teaching me to count the buttons on my shirt with the verse “Tinker, taylor, soldier, sailor….” and somehow that segued into the image of a Victorian parent planning her children’s future. I guess I was having a Jane Austen moment.

Women’s lives were restricted but their minds were not.


Unlaced

One son to the army
and one son to the church.
Three daughters to be married off,
or else left in the lurch
of spinsterhood
where they will turn
a ghostly shade of gray.

Caring for the elderly,
looking forward to the day
the Vicar comes to bide awhile,
for then, … they’ll have a drink!
It’s only sherry, but it will serve
to turn their gray cheeks pink.

Because their corsets are so tight
convention’s laws will not be torn,
but in the attic, late at night,
what novels may be born!

novel

Breakfast

Barcelona has an active and abundant bird population. Birds are important in an urban environment. They add to the soundtrack of the city. And as often happens, a moment on my walk to work brought me to a standstill. Magpies are so loud!


Breakfast

The birds dispute their breakfast
in the bare December trees.
One worm between the two of them,
and both of them are thieves.

The magpie is a foulmouthed sort,
be glad you don’t speak Bird!
For I hesitate to translate
the things I overheard.

Poor Mr. Worm, in politics,
leans neither left nor right.
Unfortunately, the magpies do.
It was a gruesome sight.

Starry night

On a trip this summer, I had the chance to admire a collection of quilts. The technique of quilting actually requires a lot of pre-planning, design and calculation – very rational stuff. But the visual result can be wild and dizzying, as the colors play off each other and invariably the whole is somehow greater than its parts, something that the quilter must see before the quilt exists. Back home, I began a series of quilt designs on my iPad, and walking to work one morning, the first two lines of this poem came to me.

vincent quilt_shape

Starry, starry night

We love the works of madmen
for saying what we don’t dare:
that Life’s a swollen yellow room,
with a pair of crooked chairs,
a narrow bed where restless dreams
have led our hearts astray.

How brave! The man who looked outside
before the break of day
and saw the quilted sky of stars
turned into ferris wheels!
He gave such beauty through his pain.
The art of madmen heals.

Walk the Baby

You could call this one “the mom rap”. On the way to work this morning I saw a woman pushing a baby carriage while walking her little dog on a leash. Efficient, I thought. A happy image. The little dog was certainly happy anyway. The mom? You don’t really know. Her pace looked a little mechanical. One person’s happy excursion is another person’s nullifying obligation. Maybe she’d rather be running. Maybe she’d rather be designing spacecraft, or coding software, or doing whatever it was she used to do that required more than 20 minutes of uninterrupted concentration. Don’t let the books with pink and blue covers and curly writing and gauzy madonna photos in the background fool you. Motherhood is not the same for everyone. 


Walk the Baby

Walk the baby
Walk the dog
This routine
Can be the flog
That gets you through
The dismal fog
Of your depression.

Have a baby
Lose your life
Just because
You are the wife.

He doesn’t care.

He’s never there.

He says his money
Gives him right
He’d rather work
all day, all night

(and so would I,

and so would I,

at something else.)

But all my time
Is taken up
With endless tasks
That interrupt
all train of thought.

No flow of words
to fill a page
while the baby
cries with rage.

No time to write,

no end in sight.

You tell the doctor
You are ill
The simple truth
Is that you feel
You’d rather die.

Why should you lie?

Walk the baby
Walk the dog
And disappear
Into the fog.

It may be best.
You need some rest.

Same old story

Another morning. I’m on the bus, and through the window I see a couple gesticulating on the sidewalk. His back is turned to me and I can’t see his face, but she is beautiful and exotic, a long mane of wavy black hair. And although i can’t hear her, I can see the anger and pain in her words. 


              Same old story

Her hair is wild, her brow is furled,
she wields her words like knives.
He stands immobile and remote,
the strategy of guys
who could care less.

She’s just another bitch, he thinks,
I was only having fun.
And I will win this argument
because I’ve got the gun.

What if I kept on walking?

The PSL has been silent for quite a while. Circumstances regarding the day job eliminated the necessary contact with the sidewalk. If I wanted to walk, my choices were to make circles around a parking lot, or pace back and forth along a stretch of industrial park road which dead ends in a vacant lot scattered with construction debris. Then one day, as the end of my sojourn there was drawing to a close, a line came to me in the middle of my pacing: What if i kept on walking? The thing about a void is that it eventually sucks you in.

road
What if I kept on walking?

What if I kept on walking,
and never turned around?
What if I kept on walking,
and I was never found?

"What if I kept on walking?"
I kind of like the sound.

No need for an objective,
no dream, no special cause.
My journey simple evidence
of one of Nature's laws:
an object once in motion;
no obstacle, no pause.

Looking for a job

This post draws from two inspirations: one, the Poolside Laureate is between jobs and looking for work; and two, the Barcelona street sweepers are a peculiar feature of our cityscape. They always seem to work in pairs (in case one of them is attacked?), and they use charming brooms that could be farm implements straight out of the middle ages. Ah! there is a third inspiration… public sector jobs here require level of language proficiency in Catalan.

O, Sister! Can you spare a broom?

O, Sister! Can you spare a broom?
I'll help you sweep the street.
I just need a little money
so the kids and I can eat.

Every job I ask for,
they say I’m overqualified!
I sure don’t understand it.
I’m frankly mystified.

I’m not too good to push a broom;
I’d like to work outdoors.
There's no shame in honest work,
and all of us do chores.

Slim chance they’ll hire me I guess,
I can't conjugate the verbs 
required on the language test
that lets you sweep the curbs.