Poetry Month – April 15, 2024 – On The Altar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE COUPON BOOK

They emerge fully formed
Bone, skin, heart, lungs
But really, they are sponges
Multicellular channels floating inside
Then pushed outside
To learn new currents
Eruptions of laughter
Angry growls
Noise. Light. Dark.
All of it circulates through their
Million billion cells
Some call it genius
This ability to adapt and know
How to survive.
I call her daughter.

I can’t remember how old she was when my daughter gave me this coupon book. Did it surprise me that she knew what would lift the burdens of being a single mom or how to make me smile? I don’t think so. We know. We’ve (sons and daughters) marinated inside our mothers’ joys and sorrows. We know. I gave my mother a very similar coupon book.

Poetry Month – April 14 – On The Altar

FOR THE HEALING

That’s what she wrote on the back of the little prayer house.
Neither of us believed in a god but we knew something
Some BIG thing
knit us together.
When you‘ve left parents’ home,
When you’re renting your own home
When you’re ending one part of your life
And you haven’t quite started the next part
You have to believe that the big bang of you
Sliding into life means something.
Or that it will.
We had to believe that we weren’t random
That we weren’t simply phlegmy appendages
Wafting about the cosmos.
We had to believe it but
Sometimes
It was hard.
Sometimes a note is the only tether.

When I look back at my 20’s and 30’s, I kind of think it’s a miracle we survived and thrived. The freedom of being on my own was exquisite but also terrifying because I really did feel so untethered. I have to say that the people I floated with then and now have kept me woven in to this BIG thing called life and I am very, very grateful.

 

Poetry Month – April 13, 2024 – On the Altar

NOT A RIB

What do you do with
a strangely shaped rock? Create
A  Gorgeous Woman

A dear friend and I used to have a running contest. I picked up heart-shaped rocks. She picked up womanly anatomical shapes. I won in quantity. She won for creativity. Ways to see our world.

Poetry Month – April 12, 2024 – On The Altar

OUR MOTHER OF PERPETUAL HELP

What she didn’t know when
she gave me the portable altar filled with
Seven little babies
Thirteen paper cherub cut-outs
Two roses (one dried, one silk)
Four floral twist-ties
Two lightweight red and white wires
One trident gum wrapper (her only residue)
One tiny broken sand dollar
One strand of green tinsel and
A prayer card
Was
I would become a mother
I would know perpetual help
I would count toes and fingers over and over
I would fall on my knees
I would understand holy

 

 

 

 

So much of my twenties was an experiment. I tried on relationships, living situations, ideas. I called myself lost. I called myself free. I didn’t know what to call myself. I wandered. I was exploring and mapping my own topography. I was charting where I stood. I was looking looking for an edge so I could land on my own two feet. Sometimes we don’t know what we are praying for. Sometimes we don’t know what will change our lives. Sometimes we don’t know what is holy.

Poetry Month – April 11, 2024 – On the Altar

San Lazaro times two

SAN LAZARO

They come to the humble saint
They come to the beggar saint
They come to the saint of lepers, robbers and immigrants
They love his wounded body
They love his flea-bitten dogs
They love his crutches which are just like theirs.
They drag their wounds for miles
They drag their legs behind them
They drag their bodies to his altar
They hope for healing
They hope for love
They hope for nothing
Because he is broken and bleeding and wounded
Because he is the saint in them
Because he is them

If you hadn’t guessed by now, I am not a religious person. Spiritual, yes. I believe in forces greater than myself. And I believe in the power of story. When I went to Cuba the very first time, I did not seek out the Sanctuary of San Lazaro in El Rincon. I sort of stumbled into it and paid for my first San Lazaro plastic statue on the steps outside the church. Years later, I returned to Cuba, sought out the Sanctuary and purchased my second plastic statue, only this time I was with my Cuban daughter born on December 17, the day of San Lazaro. A strange twist of destiny.