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

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.

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.

Boywatching

A moment of joy captured through a bus window.


To the boys!

Tie me to your torso
and take me for a dance!
I just want to feel your body,
I’m not looking for romance.

Let the sun sculpt every muscle,
let the shadow draw the line.
We won’t cross it, we’ll just think it.
I know you can’t be mine.

But life is meant for living.
In this moment, let me dream
that years do not divide us
and I am still sixteen!


The words he sang to me

I saw a banner on the street advertising a concert by a well-know Valencian singer-songwriter, Raimon. Every time I see his face or hear his name, I remember the first time I heard a beautiful song that he wrote using the words of the poet Ausiàs March. It’s called “Veles e Vents” (sails and winds). There is also a beautiful folk song in English “Four Strong Winds“. In Catalan, they divide the wind into 8, each direction with its own resonant name. I recommend listening to both these songs.

So on the day I saw this banner hanging above me, the first line for this poem began to roll through my head. Eventually, this is where it led…

The Words He Sang to Me

"Veles e vents", the words he sang to me. Words of a man long-married to the sea.

He tried to love me, but no chance of that. His foreign heart could not speak anything but praise of Her. Her scent, her taste, the way she caught the light.

He loved the rasp of coarse rope nets. "Her braids," he said, and smiled. "Some days she's angry, others calm, and someday I will lie so deep within her arms I'll not come back."

And that's the way it's always been with men who work the sea. They'll love you for a little while, but she gets Eternity.

His song had names for all the winds that blow across her face, and I have learned them all by heart. That much she can't erase.

Maintenance

This one came to me one morning as I was flat on my back doing my just-out-of-the-shower daily stretch routine. So it started before I even made it to the sidewalk!

Maintenance

Right knee to breast, feel the strain.
Now, the left. The pain, again.
Right leg up, to point and flex.
Once, a dancer. Now, an ex- .

Lift both legs and circle feet,
first outside, and then in.
Clench your buttocks fifty times,
then do it all again.

Work against the gravity.
Envision strength and grace.
Not Hercules, but Sisyphus,
knows the task I face!

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