Friday, February 8, 2008

Pretty


t.o. crow

They never called her pretty so how was she to know?
They teased her as a "fatty." She couldn't fit small clothes.

She could wrestle with the best of boys and pin them to the ground
until her "nubs" began to sprout when 'tween time rolled around.
There was always something wrong with her - nothing ever right -
The only comfort that she found was on her blue, Schwinn bike.
There, she channeled big, tough "Jim" who followed every dream.
She could fly a plane or fight in war or any skill you named.

She was strong and kind and loving but that seemed to matter not
for they focused on her "tummy" her other traits forgotten.
Each day she waked she had to face her Mama's consternation
and Granny often chimed right in comparing her to cousins:
"So tiny, feminine - petite," she said. Their clothes are not size dozen!"

So, what was she to do but slouch? To stoop her shoulders low?
And from that purchase see the world and not be noticed so.
Her vanishing tactics failed to work, added misery to her pain.
She ate cake each day to compensate and lost more self esteem.
More scorn for that she did attract, which hurt her deeper still,
and the girl who once was pretty inside herself withdrew.

She gave up trying to please them all and into depression sank.
No one noticed the sponge she'd become or the negative she drank.
They never acknowledged her intrinsic worth so she internalized
all the "bad" they labeled her with and carried it through her life.

That little girl that I once knew so very long ago
was really very pretty but how was she to know?


Feb. 05/2008

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Revelations

by Trudy Osteen Crow

It is his third attempt at a four-in-hand
on his red power tie. “It's silk,”
he explains offhandedly. “It got wet.”
Mute, She nods knowingly.

(Though, in truth, she knows nothing of wet silk)

One more effort and the knot is satisfactory.
The red noose is tightened, tugged twice,
then patted into position
against his pale, starched shirt.

He gazes into the mirror - toward the future -
while she gazes into his white-shirted back
and remembers her baptism in the murky waters
of a now nameless Alabama river.

The muddy current snatches
at the white innocence
of her 10-year-old's dress as
the minister admonishes “Trust in Jeeesus!”
then covers her face with a folded white handkerchief
and tilts her back into the silty water -

"I now baptise you in the name of
The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost!"

She hears as she struggles for air
and is suddenly righted.
The congregation's solemn “Amens" greet her
as she rises and sludges toward them -
her soiled dress clinging fiercely
to the goosey flesh of her developing body.

She shivers, seeking cover from their scrutiny-
the first fires of passion quelled by the chill reality
of the river's water.

“. . . after a brief goodbye,” He says
drawing her back to the present.
He turns to face her and the white of his shirt
is muddied by the red silk of his tie.

She shivers, as he tucks with finality,
a folded square of white handkerchief
into his pocket.

Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Award Winner

Original: 1985
Revision: Nov, 2009
TOC

First Day of Spring 1973

t.o. crow

I have stumbled onto the backwater of the River of Life.
No light glimmers on its dark surface.
No quickening stirs the fetid water.
Though its stillness appalls me,
I am compelled to stand vigilant on the shore.

“You must wake up!”
An insistent voice
beckons me back from the Valley of Shadows.
Yet, I resist the brightness that shrouds the voice in light.

Leaden,
I wander through a wilderness of sorrow
Crying: “My son! My son!”

My keening wail echoes through the valley.
Ricochets in the hollows against tall peaks of despair.
Flows back to me in great waves of lamentation.

I call once more but he does not answer.
The only sound
Is the bright, distant voice
Luring me from the valley.

“My son is gone!”
I cry in agony.

A puzzled voice asking,
“Who told you it was a boy?”
Breaks through my crest of mourning.

He told me!”
I cry
as I flutter toward the light,
then turn abruptly,
plunging headlong back into the brackish water.

There,
I wept alone.

In the valley where there was no sun.

Original: 9/29/1986
Revised: 11 /29/2009
TOC


"First Day of Spring 1973" tells of the birth of my only son. It was one of the most traumatic events of my life - made worse by the fact that mothers were not allowed to see their stillborn babies at that time. I was kept in the hospital and not even allowed to attend his funeral.

The only comfort I received was from the nurse who was with me throughout his delivery and through most of the night when I refused to wake up. What she could not understand was how I so adamantly knew that it was my "son" when I had never been told plus, I was so deeply sedated at his birth. (At the time, we had no ultrasound or other tests to identify the sex of babies).

What I was trying to explain to her was that my son had "told" me in a vivid dream around 3:00 am on Saturday morning to "get off your stomach, you're smothering me." In the dream, I could see him curled in the birthing position in my uterus. I jolted awake but I was not on my stomach and he never moved again.
It was St. Patrick's Day, March 17, 1973.

At a friend's insistence, I saw my doctor on Monday. The doctor couldn't find a heartbeat and told me that he was "gone" and sent me back home. I was devastated. He induced labor on Tuesday, March 20, 1973, since I was already scheduled for that day. When my son was born, there was a knot tied in his umbilical cord which my doctor described as being: "Tighter than a knot in a plow line." My son had, indeed, "smothered to death" just as he had "told" me in the dream.

When I returned home, my well-meaning mother and husband had removed all traces of my son's being from our house. All of his things down to his crib were gone. My grief was so deep that for months after his birth, I could not sleep without dreaming of a tiny baby in a long, white christening gown. I could see tiny hands with fingers folded laying across its stomach and tiny feet with toes but under the cap where his face should be was just a blur.

That image haunted my dreams off and on for many years to come. My only guess is that it came from the nurse assuring me that there was: "Nothing wrong with him. He had all his fingers and toes and lots of black hair."

According to her, the only marks on him were where he had rested at the bottom of my womb in the amniotic fluid until he was born. Because of that, the left side of his face and his left arm were puckered like he had sat in the bathtub too long.

We did not name him.
His grave is at the foot of his paternal grandfather's who died before he was ever conceived.

Lady in Black

by t.o. crow

The lady 's dressed in black
from her boots up to her neck.
Would it surprise you to discover
that she's looking for her lover?

Her face is lined in symmetry
like the winter landscape's trees
whose barren limbs
hold back spring leaves.

Would it please you to discover
She's pining for her lover?

Reflections of her face in glass
stare mutely at me as she passes.
Her crystal eyes grow colder
as she casually glances over.

She's wrapped in her mythology
of frozen hope and empty dreams.
Her life's devoid of bright-hued things.
Of passion, joy and angel's wings.
Does it surprise you to discover
that she's never found her lover?

The lady's dressed in black
from her boots
up to her neck.

.

The Masterpiece

by t.o. crow

Deftly, you stroked the soft clay of me
into fine art.
You pressed and shaped and molded me
until my being was defined by your hands,
your lips,
your body.

My essence disappeared.

I could not breathe
without you present.
I felt priceless
until you shattered me
against the stone cold
of mourning.

Dogwoods


by t.0. crow

For over 25 years, I have watched them leaf,
flower, and fruit through the frame of my
living room windows.
Some years the flowering is breathtaking,
making the heart ache
with the beauty of their whiteness.
Other years, the fall color is the spectacle:
The leaves bleeding red.
The berries full and ripe causing limbs to droop
from the weight of them.
This year, I watch as the squirrels
go about the business of winterizing
knowing they are happy for a good year.
For the berries are thick and bright and
wild lives will be changed by them.
Both fur and feather will be fed
and tiny seeds dropped to make new beginnings
in some fertile place.
It is almost two years since you've gone.
The berries hang fat and ripe on the dogwoods
but my heart is heavy with a yearning -
a longing - that I cannot name.
If I were a young seedling,
I could be transplanted to new ground.
But my limbs are no longer supple and
I fear they might break from the weight of my solitude
as they creak and moan at the coming of winter.

October 2001
Revised Dec. 2008
TOC

High Voltage

by t.o. crow

I brushed
against the Wool
of you
And
Sparks flew.

Fantasy Man


by t.o. crow

Fantasy man, fantasy man,
take me away to a fantasy land
where we'll run barefooted
in warm sand by the sea
- and dance -
naked in the rain.

You my dark hero,
slayer of giants,
will pivot the sun at noon
and turn time back an eternity
- until reality becomes -
an extension of the dream.

TOC

Kindlings


by t.o. crow

In the kindling,
you were the stranger
who torched my passion.
In the fire,
I forged you whitely
against a backdrop
of red-dawned skies.
In the embers,
reason engulfed me
and cooled the image
I had fashioned.
In the ashes,
you are the smoke
which irritates my eyes.