Friday, May 20, 2005

Grandpa Tony

My grandfather’s car was massive
or so it seemed to my child eyes
Army green, a little rust, four heavy doors
(The way car doors used to be)
The kind of car that felt like you were
riding in a tank or a cushy, wide boat
Dipping along on spongy shocks and gliding over bumps
in the road, barely noticed
Back when seatbelts were things
crammed down between the seat cushions
or played with by kids (a pageant sash or a rope
your brother would pretend to hang you with)
because we didn’t know what they were used for
The extra huge front seat that stretched
across the width of the car
(the way front seats used to be)
Always a special feeling to sit up front
next to him while he drove

The carpeted black floor mats
a little sandy with dirt from the cleatted shoes
he wore on the golf course
Polyester upholstery (with it’s slightly raised texture design)
scorching hot on summer days
felt like it would melt
the skin on the backs of my
shorts clad little girl legs
Shimmering heat waves (like you might find on a desolate
deserted highway in midsummer)
rising up from the solid black dash board
threatening to turn the vinyl to tar-like ooze
Windows that rolled down by using
silver cranks with black knobs
(the way windows used to be)
The shiny, metallic radio knobs starring at me
adjusted carefully by thick grandpa fingers
to pick up sounds of
swinging big bands

Every stop light was a “hello”, or “hi Tón”
from guys grandpa’s age that looked
like well tanned gangsters, politicians,
or postmen
Weathered faces, probably handsome in their day
poking their heads out of car windows and giving a wave
Guys with names like “Babe”, “Jim”,
“Marty” or “Frank”
(the way names used to be)
Usually combined with some Italian-ish
last name that ended in a vowel and
always sounded similar to “Coolidge”
Everyone knew grandpa and he knew everyone else
One of the side effects from tending bar
in this small, East of Chicago,
gritty steel mill town

I was a child star, waving back at them
With my chipped, dress-up nail polished fingers
and smiling with my sticky Popsicle smile
On our way to play miniature golf
where grandpa would keep the tiny pencil
used for keeping score, tucked behind his ear
And he’d make every hole in two strokes
or less, even if it had to pass through
the windmill first

Back in the car
off to our next stop
The grocery store, not the corner store
where grandpa could flawlessly pick out
the ripest nectarines and cantaloupes,
but the bigger one across town
The one where the butcher paper painted
signs in the front windows advertised
the sale items of the week
The place where I spent more than
my fair share of hot summer vacation days
(for what seemed like hours)
waiting in the car with him and my brother
while my grandma shopped

The emblem on the back of the car would slid
open to reveal the hiding place where
he’d unlock the trunk from
Load up the groceries
Big enough for someone to lay down in
if it weren’t for the spare tire and golf clubs
Always the slight smell of gasoline
men’s hairspray, and Gary air

My grandfather
A quiet man, a gentle man
with a heart as big as his car
(the way hearts used to be)

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

I am

I am you
I am the woman behind the black veil in the mud hut
Or the white veil that ran away
I am the person who wonders what it’s like to live in your box
I am the mother of those dead children
I am the rich and famous
I am the one who wonders what will happen if the details aren’t right
I am both the bride on the beach and the man in
The cowboy hat kissing her hand
I am the mother of the disappeared (just as the song says)
I am the person that says hello to you in the elevator
Because I realize you’ve been though a lot more than me
And I might be the only person that’s said hello to you today
I am the person that says nothing because I’m horrible at
Small talk and will wonder how you are days later when I’m alone
I am the person that won the lottery
I am the person that remembers your face from the photo your
Daughter carried in front of the cameras that horrible day
I am the nurse, the gas station attendant
I am the people swept off by the water
The welfare worker and recipient, the woman in the power suit, jumpsuit
Overalls, and maternity dress
I am the woman in prison far away
I am the person that gets stuck in the memories, thoughts, and feelings, unbearable
Emotions and hurt that you feel standing in your shoes
I experience it
And I live it when I see it or hear about it
The curse and gift of unbridled empathy


The chain of depression at the bottom of the pool
Grips my ankle and keeps me
From reaching the surface for that
Mighty bursting breath of relief

Cheated from the feeling of emerging from the theater
Glad that all is well compared to what I saw on the screen
No, it’s not just a movie, it’s your life

I dreamt that I saw mark and we were 16 again
And he smiled and I asked why he never called
Me back

Everyone is so far away
Anne is suffocating under the weight of
Her infinite prison
T is out west and would be even further
If the land hadn’t run out, probably
Not far enough in her mind and refuses to return
He is in florida soaking up the sun and hash fumes
Floundering to take in even his next breath

I’m here
as always
If I don’t leave this state
Despite my family's objections
Then I will have the last life yanked from my soul
And shrivel into plain, gray dust that will blend
In with the surroundings in oblivion perfectly
In fact, I think that is why the days are so dreary here
The sun is blocked out by the dust of those that
Have gone before
Sucked dry of all hope, killed by the boredom, hum drum
And small mindedness

Friday, May 13, 2005


Nothing sends my heart into a knot
like the thought of creating art
So many ideas and ideals to deal with
Clashing in my brain like knights on the quest for that tin cup
I think of words and poems that I might write or right (depending on the topic)
But all I can do is sigh
And hold it all in because I fear letting some out
Might open the floodgates and what will I do when it all comes crashing out
Hopelessly in some maniacal manner
That I wouldn’t be able to explain
Much less bear to look at
What would be left but questions and curious expressions
From the ones who see it

I feel that I have a thousand occupations, projects, innovations and inventions
All offering the possibility and probability of success
But maybe that’s what really scares me

And on the inside I have so much creativity
So many swirling colors, concepts and thoughts
That I keep a tight lid on
From the outside I appear bleak and quiet
From the outside I appear acceptably normal
And probably even lacking in expression

Inside the crazy, bluesy musicians sing me a tune that sometimes
Makes me want to sing along
Hum a few bars