Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Graduation Day

I am graduating from Queens College next month. My bachelor's degree is 44 years in the making. I finished high school in June of 1973, and since then, my life has taken me on a roller coaster ride of twists, turns and unexpected bumps.

Yet, here I stand. Next month, I will don that black robe and mortarboard, a red stole and various honors ropes and tassels as I march with hundreds of my (way younger) peers onto Queens College's grassy quad. This journey, from 1973 until now has taken me on a safari. I started and stopped college. I joined a religious cult and spent the better part of 30 years adhering to its strictures, including a marriage to a fine man who became father to our five amazing children. My sexual identity, always in the back of my mind, came to the fore, and I finally came out. While this was surely a rough part of the safari, I emerged with no regrets and a renewed sense of self, of motherhood and of professional potential.

So, here now, I stand. This particular achievement (my graduation) will be attended and celebrated by those who matter, and I am totally stoked! On that day I will don black robe, mortarboard, red stole and various honor ropes and tassels. I will not only reflect on my own journey, but the varied path of my young cohorts who have striven to stand with me on this day. We have striven, we have searched and we have emerged unto this day victorious.

I may possibly be the oldest graduate to stand on the quad on that day. But we all stand together. Amen.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Hair of the Dog



In all the corners
she remains
tumbleweeds of tangled fur
black, mingled with grey and dust

I find her dancing across the tile floor
even as I jump to scoop her up
spending a moment before
placing her in the bin.

Sixteen years of such furballs
of tail chasing and doing
the "crazy dog"
sixteen winter snowy romps
summer sprinkler leaps and flips
autumn walks on wooded trails

I see her next to each growing child
our sentry at the window
our pillow, our timekeeper
our puppy.

Sammy just now left us.
Yet, in all my
corners

she remains.



Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Nocturne

When I can’t sleep, I remember it.

Nights long past remain in mind refreshed

So that I can feel the setting summer sun slanted on my

pajamaed shoulders,

Permission granted after bath and brush to return to play

Outside

In the cool of the day.

It was a delicious feeling, to be out

After the sky’s plum had tempered to silvery grey,

The only witnesses to our clandestine romp were

the Big Dipper, “Look there!”

the North Star, yellow Venus, and Orion’s tri-notched belt

Monkey-in-the-Middle, Hide-and-Seek

Finally answering the whistle meant for me and my brother

To come inside.

Such a small remembering, really.

But one of those granted me to keep for

perhaps all my nights awake, whether inside

or out.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Life's Kiss

The first kiss. That pulsing puckering push out of a warm womb, followed by the cold kiss of light and air and sound, once soft and muted, now so sharp and loud.

Yet familiar is one voice, teased out of many, one smell, one touch and, rooting around, this tiny babe offers her first kiss upon her mother’s breast.

Kisses abound in this round world, up and down, in, out, around. The kiss of first winter’s ice, warm bath, old dog’s tongue, soft words, and then hard ones as time and life tick on. Kisses come with friends, cousins, Nana’s slobbery ones and Aunt Ruth’s puckery red lipstick, Papa’s prickly moustache and brother’s feigned affection.

Kisses continue -- hot ones of fright and shame, but also passion, pleasure and accompanying pain. These kisses are her wild ride and she relishes each, tucking them away for whenever they are wanted and needed.

Passion tempers to peace, clash to comfort. Kisses renew in turn as tumbling wombs kiss out new bundles who learn the tactile ropes of life.


* * *


I have a friend who is in her final days. Surrounded by her three daughters, the circle of kisses returns ‘round, her pale, hairless head covered, no, smothered in kisses as she is pulsed and pushed out of this worldly womb, into a bright warm place -- where Nanas, Papas, Aunt Ruths, and old dogs come kissing . . . once again.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

El Aumento y Disminución de la Vida

I watched my breath heave and billow. Hot stinging tears welled, making it hard to drive. Cold air whooshed in as I opened the car door on First Avenue, a frigid two blocks from the Ortega Funeral Home. As I rounded the corner, I saw people spilling out, some smoking, others just breathing and, in the cold, it was hard to tell the difference.


I went inside. The black sign with removable white letters spelling out her name pointed me left into a room thick with Spanish and cologne. I wrote my name in the book, ending with, “your favorite student,” as if she was ever to read who came and who didn’t. She was lying up front, her normally unruly curls tamed and her burgeoning belly gone. Dionisio, her husband sat to the right, alternately crying and laughing into his hands as the minister spoke, and spoke. “Thank you Professor,” I thought as my semester’s Spanish was put to work listening to the eulogy. Her name, “Ruth,” was spoken over and over. I also heard her husband’s name and “Octavio” more than a few times.


Octavio. Her baby was born only five days ago. She sent us an e-mail canceling class and we all looked forward to hearing the happy news, news which came and left so fast, it whipped us with disbelief. She had even sent us review notes for the final, which we sat for eight days after she died. “Easy as a pie,” she joked in her Dominican accented English, when we fretted about the test. “Piece of a cake.”


Why is it that when one who is loved, is lost, we turn inward to examine ourselves so rigorously? Who am I, really? Who will come to my funeral? What will they say? How many names will be written in my book?


I made my way to the front of the room and knelt beside her still form. I touched her forehead - cold like a refrigerator. Just a moment ago, you were alive, talking, teaching, laboring, giving birth and celebrating your son. Like Mary and Joseph, you and your husband welcomed your Christmas child. But you could not keep a fingerhold on this earth and left them - and us. For them, for us, it was too soon. For you? No sé.

Ciao, mi profesora. Sueños con los ángelitos. Hasta mañana.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Still Time (working title -- “Not Dead Yet”)

Run through youth and colored rings
On the wild ride
Check the clock for the next best thing
Impatient for the tide


Still time
Still time.

Tread the ivy halls a little slower than the crowd
Sweat bullets, study more that I should
Speak up and out and loud
Trade hoodie for cap and gown and hood

Untangled heart’s elusive way 
Her hair golden in the setting of the sun
I waited life’s whole day
to find this hoped-for, unexpected one

There’s
Still time
Still time.

Walking down the aisle
Mother of the bride
Bequeathing all to this bright child
My love, my joy, my pride

Sweet scent of newborn baby
Circle swings around
My daughter’s child, not mine, but maybe
What was lost can now be found

Days and months and years spin madly
A few more turns around the block
Walking slower, running badly
Oh, that I could reset this clock

Wish that I could
Still time,

Still time


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Agida

I have a slot
A daily slot
Labeled "Agida."

The slot contains
Whatever angst 
I have that day

This kid or that
Tuition, alimony, rent
health, home repair
The "Service Engine" light
That lump on the dog's back leg
That seems to grow bigger

Agida.

I am up early
With the summer sun
Coffee and blanket
And dogs on a cool and lovely deck

Sparrows, finches flit
about the feeder
Fussing merrily.
While mourning doves coo
in the calm below, happy to glean
From the sparrow's boisterous breakfast

They live life on the edge
Yet they celebrate the moment

I am reminded of the passage from Matthew -- 
Consider the lilies . . . the birds of the air . . .
Not even Solomon in all his glory . . .

Agida.  
I cast you off as I would any annoying cloak
Like I cast off this blanket as the sun warms my shoulders

Yet you cling like a wet garment, fighting me as I peel you away.