Sunday, August 17, 2014

 Looking out onto the Grand River from the home I share with my husband John Worst.

Monday Morning Bus Stop

She was 10, plain face, matted hair, crooked
teeth, soiled dress, tar-paper shack, father
out of work, our nearby neighbors, next
stop for school bus.

We too scraped by, hand-me-down coats, darned socks, farmers the
town kids scoffed, though ourselves looking down on that pecking
order of low-down dirt-poor
poverty beneath us.

Monday morning, 3 kids running, a long rutted driveway, 2 brothers
in the lead. Books in arms, shoes untied, panties falling
down. I laughed. We all laughed, so funny, fatso right in front of us
pulling up underwear.

O, to take it back, to somehow take it back, to suck up that decades-old
sneer, to travel back in time to that very bus, to do it over, to relive my
12-year old shameful self, to beckon that sad sniffling girl to come
sit by me.

Soapbox Street Preacher

In my mind, not a soapbox, rather standing on low stone wall,
downtown summer festival, Bible in hand, crowds passing,
crowds broken into anonymous iphoning individuals, talking,
tripping, pushing, listening, band making loud music, toddler
screaming, sisters sniping, my throat sore, voice strained.

Some stop, curious, confused by woman with strange discourse,
text taken from first chapter of Job: One day the angels come
to present themselves before God. Satan comes along. God,
gracious, friendly as always, asking Satan where he’s been. Satan
shrugs, where else, roaming back and forth around the earth.

So God goads him: Have you contemplated Intelligent Design?
(knowing full well Satan never had Big Bang capabilities). No. The
actual question: Have you considered my servant Job? As everyone
knows, an all-around good guy. But Satan insists Job is blameless only
because he’s loaded. Dumb deduction. Assumes rich guys are righteous.

Long story short, they bet on innocent man’s goodness. Job writhing,
retching on that awful race track, losing livelihood, lands, everything,
including ten kids, yet remains righteous, despite bitchy, beaten-down, 
bedraggled wife who bore all those babies. Race over, Job gets new cows,
new camels, new kids. (No new trophy wife.) Is he happy? Who knows?

My soapbox sermon: All you theologians, you pompous preachers,
you seminary teachers, you Bible bloggers, you brood of vipers,
hypocrites, every one of you. Forget about explicating trinity, divinity,
godhead, creation, predestination, substitutionary atonement, original
sin. Go figure out God’s taunting of Satan and who really won that bet.

Sodden Soil of Poetry

Words stitched into literary
satin as no one,
not even Shakespeare,
ever sewed so seamlessly,
a sonnet for
centuries of remembrance.

Composed in sleep, a dream
annihilated as certain as
dear ones never resurrected,
entering neither heaven
nor hell, buried evermore
in earth’s sodden soil.

Melodious Sonnet

My expectations for answered prayer are not high.
When I was seven I prayed earnestly with younger
brother Jonnie that Dad, off to town selling our day’s
picking of strawberries, would bring home an early-season,
store-bought muskmelon. He didn’t.

If God doesn’t deliver ordinary muskmelons, why expect
spectacular miracles? Yet for one I plead: Teach me some
melodious sonnet as I scribble it down before flaming tongues 
above stop singing. One melodious sonnet is all I ask,
raising my Ebenezer, to you, O, Lord, in a toast.

No Price-Tag

Members of that most awful exclusive club, joined
only by ultimate sorrow, the loss of a child. They stop
by the shop, today for yard bike d├ęcor, holds 2 potted
plants, memories of Sher, a biker, brain cancer.

Yesterday, a Route 66 sign in memory of Melissa,
grad student, heading home for holidays eight years
ago, always dreamed of one day driving that celebrated
road. Never did. Killed instantly by drunk driver.

Small retailers have rewards of which no corporate
CEO knows, that privilege that bears no price-tag.
To simply listen, to hear the name, no fear of tears,
no hurried rush, yes a bottom line but time waits.


The Children’s Book of Bible Stories still sits on my
shelf, the fly-leaf in my mother’s familiar cursive:
presented to Ruth Ann, December 1951 by Grandpa (who
apparently funded the purchase). I was six and innocent.

Grandpa and a book of Bible stories. Perhaps fitting.
A lecherous old patriarch who fathered secret children
on the Iron Range, back home, rape, incest, child abuse,
malevolent gentleness. I escaped by sheer doggedness.

I see him in old snap shots, in my mind’s eye, his evil alter-
ego sanitized for family record much like patriarch Lot in
Children’s Book of Bible Stories. Paragraphs devoted to pillar-
of-salt wife, while drunken incest with daughters deep-sixed.

Books and Places

I was Violet, a boxcar child, Jessie, Henry older, Benny, younger,
as in real life, David, Jeannine older, Jonnie younger. My first
real novel, read four times in third grade, their struggles my own.
Penned by Gertrude Warner, the tale of The Boxcar Children told
first to keep primary Sunday school kids in line, competing, some
thought wrongly, with baby Moses and Daniel in the lions den.

Leaving my boxcar long ago, I moved to The Glass Castle and
one time skulked around Walsh, West Virginia, no sign of Janette
Walls, though imagining we drove right by that castle. Also lived
for a time in Port William, traveling back roads and hills of Henry
County, Kentucky, checking in on Hannah Coulter and Jayber
Crow. Drove by Wendell Berry’s place, resisted stopping in.

I later lived on Gurnsey, joining the Potato Peel Pie and Literary
Society, spent some time at the Quarr Abbey, Isle of Wight with
Father Joe, before that working at a pants factory and setting up my
own hot-dog stand in New Orleans, Ignatius Riley no competition
at all. Always sad John Kennedy Toole died so young.

These poems have all been written in 1914 while I have been living on the Grand River in Comstock Park, Michigan. By this very publication, these poems have been copyrighted.