Vibrant-hot nail polish on poetic, long fingers,
a matching red-outlined smile lights her face.
Chanel No. 5 implicit in her familiar garments,
Hazel must have been a beauty in another time.
Unabashed Sara, a toothless 100-something Southern belle,
carries her baby doll and blanket in one-shoe wonderment.
Like royalty, she walks erectly without cane or wheelchair,
greeting anyone in the halls like subjects in her court.
Jack, a 104-year-old New York Jew, sharp as a hungry merchant,
wins bingo, talks politics, eats pureed foods, sips herbal tea.
Positive each day, making mud pies into sweet turnovers,
never forgetting how to survive, he is still a young immigrant.
A 90-year-old curious toddler, Wilbur stubbornly explores,
bouncing into unlocked cupboards, drawers, and others’ rooms.
Throwing pea soup and fighting diapers to assert his manhood,
he bites and kicks and scratches, to make sure he is not forgotten.
Leo, a world-war veteran, proudly wears his tattered VFW ball cap,
a badge of courage, a reminder of youthful manhood and significance.
Hair-salon youth and manicured nails mask his 95-year-old health,
marathon smiles and barrel-chested will – his real badges of honor.
Without invitation, poor memory and infirmity have moved in,
like unwelcome relatives who stayed too long but are tolerated.
The children wander the home searching for family and friends,
forgotten like dusty souvenirs, replaced by events of the day.
Love Conquers All
asleep, my whole
body smiles broadly
but aware he rests near
an unspoken comfort
with a partner
my extant fingerprint
old bones confronting time
my foggy vision
guided by his headlight sight
his fumbling feet
supported by my steady pace
his dulled hearing
enlightened by my good ear
yet ageless hearts thrive
in common ground
we dance to music
most don’t remember
walk on familiar clay
from kindred childhoods
laugh in one breath
without words exchanged
our love cannot be stolen
by mere facts
fallible limbs unfaithful memory
nor by blunt events
Black-White bias hungry heirs
our hearts cannot be emptied
The Truth About the Fact,
an international journal,
featured Patsy Asuncion
at the LA launch.
Different skin tones scatter us,
dandelion seeds toss
in the wind.
Primary colors live
in less segregation,
isolation is softened to muted truce.
challenge old truths.
The cronies of barbed
new jobs arise to mixed multitudes.
Increasing range of flesh tones
levels field for all shades of children.
The color-blind eye of
frames a portrait of
one world family.
our old Harvest Gold GE housed
invisible villains lurking in the litter
gummy peanut butter
disguised as faceless mold between shelves
open white bread
transformed into furry pet rocks
half-eaten slice of pizza
abandoned in an extra-large delivery box
a single slimy black banana
left for dead under putrid fruit
half-consumed mega-sized colas
lying helter skelter like wasted partiers
hardened twisted like a career criminal
my empty-nester Whirlpool features
politically-correct labeled cuisine
condiments pure as unsullied soldiers
in recyclable bottles at attention in the doors
happy-heart meats and cheeses
triathletes of salt sugar fat
breads buns with no make-up tricks
doing roll-ups on the middle rack
local all-American produce
squeaky clean aligned in drawers
bikini-dream-driven drinks water
without weight or unreadable chemicals
organic spreads touting
virgin purity like a presidential hopeful
I prefer our old fridge grumbling like
a rude teenager
brimming with the leavings of life
oh, I much prefer it to mine now
filled with its lineup of tidy emptiness
Arrow of Time
in her shadowy sketches
few details linger
mowed feelings stained ages faded signs
a singular voice
let her cry haunts
but the trace too thin
to bring to light
she was told dad came
for her not him
the baby boy too pale
not mahogany like daddy
the arrow pierces five years
she’s shakin’ the hokey-pokey in kindergarten
and cuts to another frame crossing busy LaSalle Street
all by herself big girl step-mother home drunk
then rockets through her remaining childhood
she’s pretending sleep during boozed battles
next pauses at the edge of womanhood
she greets her birth mother and brother strangers
the arrow flies faster and faster past weddings and kids
to years caring for dad never her mothers
her past remains her backbone
her present filters and forgives
Red heart, yellow mind
Green thumb, purple soul, blue light
Flow from pot of gold
It takes all to make white light,
To complete and make us whole.
Math for Girls Counts
Before they were great-great-grandmothers, they stood
in lines for singular equality, for one scale blind
to gender, creed or color. But, their right
to vote was delayed until 1920 – 144 years after
propertied White men, 51 years after Black men,
as if women were mere household amenities
used as conveniences.
The vote hoped to move the line closer
to a public voice in fiscal and sexual values,
but it took sixteen more years to change
birth control methods from obscene
to legal mail (hidden in plain brown envelopes)
to head-of-the-household husbands,
a married man the only
Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.
Connecticut’s 1965 defeat freed the pill
only for the sanctified wedded. I remember
unmarried, pregnant girls,
shamed and blamed for bad choices,
while boys were just being boys.
The 1982 ERA defeat subtracted sixty years
of female rights. One hundred years since suffrage,
fifteen states still have not ratified ERA,
now a dusty museum piece.
Defeat meant I had no credit, no bank account,
no property without my husband’s name, addressed as
Mrs. John Doe, my first name unimportant,
a nondescript dustpan beneath spousal steps.
The recent Hobby Lobby Act fractionalized
1973’s Roe vs. Wade by granting corporations
religious rights to reduce reproductive choice,
lost winnings to poker cheats.
Despite the centuries-old male monopoly,
women have done the math –
equal means equal, not less than.
Reprinted in Nasty Women, from Cut on the Bias
BEST SELLER LIST
MICHIGAN APR 2018
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