In eighty-two when I was puckered pink and pushing free into the world, 53 others were leaving. While my mother and father cried tears of amazement and joy and cradled my face in their palms, the mothers and fathers in France placed their hands together in prayer and grieved the abrupt departure of their children killed on a bus.
A year later as my lumbering legs were strengthening and my curiosity carried me, I walked from splendor to splendor testing my new-found freedom in the form of one awkward foot in front of the other. I walked towards the opened arms of my parents and for the first time in years, an American hostage was able to exercise his right to walk to arms of safety after being held hostage in Lebanon.
At three, my fragile heart crumbled and split as my father went one way, and my mother, the other. A dam in Fiemme Valley, Italy burst and killed 2-300. An anger unleashed in me with the unstoppable force of strong waters.
1986 my heart was recovering and legs steadying once again. I waltz into Kindergarten at 4, wearing pink biker shorts, shirts with oversized buttons, and began my school career of good grades and red marks for loose lips.
In 1991 when the world was aghast at the confession of Jeffrey Dahmer, I was molested by my step-brother. For so many, the world would never be the same.
At 11, the second hand was added to the clock, making time that much slower as my step-dad began visiting my room in the night.
At 12 there was a worldwide day for peace in Bosnia-Hercegovina as the monster in my own home quit making advances for a little while. I told, he was on good behavior and misdiagnosed with an unsubstantiated sleep disorder. There was hope for peace, for a future, for forgiveness and restitution, but the conflict lay like unsteady fault lines ready to collapse. There would be more suffering.
The year 2000 was liberation day for my 17-year-old existence. Mono stricken, I grabbed my diploma and ran. Lebanon was experiencing an emancipation of its own. Israel withdrew its army after 22 years of its first invasion.
Two years later, at 19, Alicia keys won a Grammy for her song "Walk On." This was the time I had to leave college to stand trial against the man whose hands were to protect me. The anxiety, panic attacks, and terror overtook me. I was a tomb for several years. The justice I sought and was granted, did little to make me feel better.
2003 I was gifted a small boy. Bone and breath, he was mine. Almost losing him at 5 months gestation, I prayed for a miracle, and got it in the form of my full-term, firstborn. This same year Dr. David Page announced the completed sequence for the Y-chromosome, and better understood the essence of a man. DNA is an abstract magic to my mind, but the magic of a boy-child was unfolding before me. As I understood his essence, I began to heal of old scars.
The same year the U.S. celebrated its first African-American President, I married a man with stars in his eyes. He was hopeful, gentle, compassionate, and hated injustice. The earth went around the sun for 8 years as Justin and I held hands, pushing through the darkness of the world, of our own hearts. Birthing 4 more children, we were all trying to make our world a better place.
Suicide attacks, car bombs, famine, protests, chemical weapons, displaced migrants, refugees, calming our 5 children's worries of this scary world they are inheriting. Fear creeping in, hope becoming stronger. I've survived. I've persisted. I'm qualified by my scars to teach my children to be relentless in love and reconciliation. In a time of self-centeredness, I find gratitude lining my wounds. I can teach my children to stand up for the hurting, the desolate, the homeless, hopeless, the abused. I was a little of all of them stitched together forming the ragged and beautiful skin that makes my bones groan for justice and my voice so very strong. My kids will have a voice, and they will use it.
the black and white alternation of tile
stiff, red vinyl seats
enough to make this crappy diner loathsome.
the food was cheap
and always so warm.
"more coffee" he barked -
more of a command than a question
as he overflowed the awkwardly small-handled mug
without my concession.
my "thank yous" fell to the floor
he rushed to check the grill -
flip, turn, prod, push.
he was a broken man
one who didn't smile,
whose elusive mind was elsewhere.
this unpleasant diner was his
the smoke-stained walls and offensive air
solidified ownership like a deed.
sun up or down, it was always his face behind that heavy door.
he seemed so empty
like the fragile shell of a used egg.
I would say funny things
drip with gratitude
compliment his cooking.
he never said thank you
or seemed to know I was even speaking.
his agony and mystery
what moments empty a man to bone?
the homeless man in the corner booth was there every night
like the hand of a clock
he was predictable and always moving.
I saw the repetitions of his dirt-stained hands.
pinching thumb and pointer finger
up and down, repeat.
sliding from my gaudy booth
the vinyl squeaked a little as I moved.
I carried my plate to a table closer to him.
he was filling coffee filters
pinching the crimped sides with gritty fingers
gently placed on the table
premeasured scoop dug into the heaping grounds
dumped methodically in the middle
new filter stacked on top of the last
stacks of 8, new pile.
Empty walked over to him
asking genially if he'd like a refill
the old man nodded.
this broken man -
primitive and boorish
gruff and withdrawn
had a heart after all.
he employed the hands of a man who had nowhere to lay his head -
to keep him warm
and to serve his dignity back to him
on a silver platter.
For our shortcomings and weakness.
For perverted thinking and mental regress.
Blaming miniskirts and cleavage,
Her innuendo for my carnage.
Sure I bit the apple, but didn't' Eve bite it first?
She made me.
Ripe bosom spilling from ironed denim.
My mind in tantra, her form feminine.
My fingers, her curves.
She flirted, denied me...the nerve.
To take back a subtle promise,
Made not with rouge lips,
but the promiscuity in her hips.
Her error, not mine.
She bit, I was blind.
Incapable of controlling impulse
So she should pay the recourse.
Cover up, don't look to sexy.
Wear less makeup, don't be bitchy.
I brag about my muscle,
But how strong are you really if you take without asking?
Because you couldn't help it?
It was right because you felt it?
Being strong's not making fists and having scars.
It's showing tenderness.
Looking onward with compassion,
Covering others and owning your actions.
Heeding the "no's" and fashioning safety.
Admitting you bit the apple from your own hunger,
and the allure of it looking tasty.