Sunday, February 2, 2014

Morning Noon & Night

Their voices are a steady hum downstairs
I don't pay them much attention anymore
They've become regular noises of the house
Like the air conditioner's dry rattle
Or the soft plip and roll of the aquarium filter
And I don't find it strange anymore
The hysteric notes 
nestled always under their conversation
How strained "good morning" can sound or "let's go" 
Most of the time I'm disconnected
An un-speaking presence upstairs
Safely behind the barrier
of a closed door, headphones, running water
And if someone is crying when I step out into the hall
I know it will go away in a few minutes' time
Perhaps the fuzzy grey imprint 
of the gentle hiccuping 
Will hang around the family-room for the rest of the day
But I will never put a name
 to the tear-streaked cheeks
I've learned not to connect
the frustrated sighs with anything relevant
They live between these four walls
And once--if--we get out the door
A checkpoint 
The chaos of the morning
                                                     Stemming from an unknown force
Will be sucked into the rest of the day
and muddled and mixed
Until the ache in her spine
 could have just been from her book bag
A long day on her feet
And if she is still in bed 
after the school buses have made their rounds
I've learned not to question that
Or even ask if she's okay
It's just another day with her head above water
If only just
These nighttime hours are mine
She's crying on the inside all the time 

Saturday, February 1, 2014


Tiny snappy specks. Float through the nostrils, zinging, tingling, making us sneeze. Mixing with the muggy steam that hovers about the kitchen, mother places checkered table mats in a soft pile, waiting to be set out. We do not turn three times in a circle when we spill the pepper, instead we curse, mutter and sweep it into our hands, the brown flakes mixed with dots of white and tan, like a cup of earth settled into the lines in our palms.What fortunes lie in pepper scattered across the countertop? We pinch it and toss it in the pot, where it sinks through hissing bubbles, boiling. And when we ladle soup into our earthenware bowls as the dinner bell sounds, “too hot, too spicy,” we ask for salt. The zing and zest of cracked black pepper, properly fulfilling its title “seasoning” floats atop a slick puddle of oil where men with prominent noses and tight curly hair place a tray of bread with a flourish. From warmer shores, from sunnier times, it comes to reside inside metallic sides, lives in little shaker houses, graces the starched collars of dinner time. Always set out in a pair, pepper is never alone. Dark woman wrapped in brightly brazen colors glide about, white white teeth shine out of the darkness as they stretch their lips wide to cry “gumbo, gumbo, hot n’ ready.” Later they will clasp hands, boas wrapped around their supple shoulders, and dance for Ms. Lou. There’s always a Lou. A wintertime friend, bringing heat and life to dishes while the snow flakes down, white white, against the skeleton trees. Frozen rivers and sheets of ice, no match for our gumbo hot and ready tonight and though a haze hangs over our kitchen table, we have checkered table cloths, we have boas in our basements, we have salt and pepper, pepper and salt.