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Posts Tagged ‘childhood innocence’

 

Man is the only animal for whom his own existence is a problem which he has to solve.
(Erich Fromm)

Human animals think too much—without questioning the truth of their source. Unfortunately, we upright-moving creatures are born with ego and an overdose of certainty, based on experience in a tiny section of the world.

I wrote this poem more years ago than I recall. My granddaughter was a toddler. She is now in fifth grade. A ballerina. Grade-A student, She also happens to be significantly taller than I am.

These verses are based on an incident that occurred at the Museum Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. My beautiful girl may have grown up, but she chooses her friends based upon inner qualities, not incidental skin tone. I am proud of who she has grown to be.

Naked Baby Dolls

 

Child-proof dolls

with painted black hair

and eyes forever open

 

lie on the floor

of the toddler room.

Figures identical, except for

 

brown or peach plastic bodies,

the dolls are naked.

The children don’t care.

 

Bare babies and honesty

fit the simple ambience

of parallel play.

 

I watch as each doll

passes from child to floor,

and back again. The brown babies

 

get picked first.

My toddler granddaughter pouts

as another child grabs

 

the dark doll she had been cuddling.

I try to hand her the paler version.

Her frown deepens. On the rug

 

the dolls that wait

look anemic, pale.

I think about human skin shades

 

from ivory to licorice, and mentally

list a larger number of darker tones.

Nutmeg, cinnamon, chestnut, bronze

 

chocolate, mahogany, coffee, umber.

Strange that at this age

the little people choose the toy

 

with the richer complexion.

Yet only a few of the children

resemble darker hues. The toddlers’ choices

 

contradict the prejudiced

adult majority. Someday I pray

these children see beyond the exterior.

 

The dolls wear a paint layer

thin enough to be chipped off.

Their differences can be altered with a brush stroke.

 

People share diverse histories

and cultures, but living hearts beat

a common rhythm.

 

May we grow

together

as one human race.

 

(This poem has been published in the anthology, FOR A BETTER WORLD and in the online magazine PIKER PRESS.)

 

 

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Between what is said and not meant, and what is meant and not said, most of love is lost. (Kahlil Gibran)

My grandmother died when she was almost

a decade younger than I am now,

old enough for us to trade places across the centuries…

If time could allow a trespasser to

break its borders. I recall how she spoke of hurts

while I remained mute. In those days

generations separated more than years,

free-speaking limited. Peers only.

 

My aunt put Grandma in her wheel chair.

She took her to the kitchen to wash her hair.

I crawled over the bed rails,

and lay next to the smells

of my grandmother’s presence.

 

The parts of her a stroke couldn’t steal.

 

 

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We none of us expect to be in smooth water all our days. (Jane Austen)

Sure, anyone who has stepped beyond kindergarten knows the kiddie pool closes when summer ends. I suspect most of us cherish the daydream about an escape route, a charmed life—long after planned recesses end. Bullies, putdowns, and early traumas. They unsettle the water early and intensify a longing for a smoother ride ahead.

When I grow up…

I’ll tell the kids who called me Ziggy the niggy

they need a good eye doctor and some listening ears as well.

Ziegler, my family name, is German and means tile mason.

Hardly aristocracy. As if that mattered.

And my skin is pale to match

eyelashes and hair color common in Ireland.

A connection unknown if connected at all.

The insult you intended is learned ignorance.

You see, human refers to a wholeness.

Of body and spirit.

Dark and pale outsides can hold spirits made of sun.

And I revel in the possible housing color of spirits:

Chestnut, cinnamon, charcoal, peach, olive.

Perhaps I speak only to my own written word.

To a long-gone past.

You are busy with your own agenda.

Yet, I speak to you with respect.

Only love can make churning water

a place possible to maneuver.

Peace.

 

 

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Do not measure your loss by itself; if you do, it will seem intolerable; but if you will take all human affairs into account you will find that some comfort is to be derived from them.  (Saint Basil)

This poem has been in my file since my oldest granddaughter has been small. Yes, I choose the positive. However, it is a choice, not a feeling. An uphill climb is a sweaty uphill climb. Lately, I notice a lot of jagged rocks. Peace to all. Eventually.

EXPERIENCE

It contains puzzle parts made of fear, pain,

celebration, growth, loss, gain. The parts leak

inside, swell the pores and form leathery ripples

as time passes. They are never fully decoded.

 

I recall the last warmth of a friend’s embrace.

Buried now, she can no longer speak in earth terms.

I read the notice too late and never said goodbye.

Experience can’t fit inside a single life time.

 

Over generations, it mingles, swells. I watch

my granddaughter play. And pray she sees

more joy than sorrow.

Time embraces all, teaches few, keeps no one.

 

Love makes experience worthwhile.

I kneel, bless my next generation, and join

my first grandchild as she discovers the world,

one bright colored block at a time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are. (J.K. Rowling)

My grandson and I color together. He notices how difficult it is for me to maneuver my fingers. Arthritis and a fractured-metacarpal-that-healed-crooked make smaller crayons a challenge.

“Here, try this big fat one he says… And Minions are yellow.” He is certain about that fact. My lucky guess.

I thank him since my adult world rarely mentions animated characters. Grownups talk about world concerns, family problems, sports, the rising cost of gasoline.

Dakota notices both my gifts and deficits. Neither changes his love for me.

If only every relationship could be this simple.

Perhaps simple and easy are not the same reality.

Loving my young friend is easy. Any opening into the heart makes the spirit capable of growing—into accepting the light, into discovering who I really am.

 

 

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Every great mistake has a halfway moment, a split second when it can be recalled and perhaps remedied. (Pearl Buck)

More than a half-century ago I remember walking home from a day of bullying in fourth grade. I silently prayed to become a saint, the only survival-answer possible to a child born in an ultra-Catholic environment.

Saints fit so ego-free into pages of old books. Little dialogue necessary. No smiles or frowns. They wore halos without alterations. I remembered a story about St. Lawrence, burned on something like a barbecue grill. “Turn me over. I’m done on this side.”

Darn. I wondered what I was going to have to do. With my red-hair, sunburn had caused enough suffering.

Perfection never arrived. Yet, somehow on those book-laden, ego-smashed walks I found beauty in the clouds, the shapes of rocks. Words to describe nature appeared, stories, a rich imagination, a gift given instead of some lofty grownup concept.

The next day always appeared in full ugliness. My parents expected me to combat the world with the ten commandments; the advice remained in sterile print with no feedback. I was on my own.

One day a neighbor on a parallel street smiled at me. She knew who I was. “You have a long way to walk,” she told me. “You can cut through my yard.”

A small gift. The neighbor across the street from my house saw me crossing his yard and called out a hello. “Hello,” I called back, my grin causing his to grow larger.

Two syllables. They beat burning on a barbecue grill any day. I could do that. Maybe not at school. But, I could in my own neighborhood. A beginning…

 

 

 

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I shut my eyes in order to see. (Paul Gauguin)

Umbrellas and I don’t get along well. I either leave them in the car or under the table at a restaurant. Several years ago, I published a poem on a For a Better World site, AEQAI, maintained by Saad Ghosn. I remembered some of those narrative poetry lines while I was driving today, rain falling, my umbrella in the trunk, my thoughts recalling the many broken people I know. Peace upon all. Without judgment.

THE BROKEN UMBRELLA

I find an old, bent umbrella

in the back of a closet,

and remember a story

about my great aunt,

the one who lived

with my grandmother.

I heard she refused to go to school,

rain or shine, without her umbrella.

Grandma laughed when she told me,

one of those tired adult laughs

I didn’t understand.

She never knew why

her little sister feared rain.

And I wouldn’t dare ask.

 

My great aunt talked about men

as if they were born as sooty coal

covered with flesh.

Genetically messy, crude, loud.

Sports without a soul.

Since I was her only niece,

my aunt sought my ear.

I tolerated her out of pity.

I pictured her as a child

at the turn of the twentieth century.

paired with her umbrella,

two closed slender shapes

surrounded by bullies

who gave fuel to her opinions.

She learned bitterness somewhere,

wore it as a badge of a holy crusade.

 

In the fifties Grandma took in a boarder,

a quiet man who ate corn flakes

doused with warm water.

My aunt latched her door at night,

and moved a bookcase

in front of it.

 

Then one night after Grandma died

I stayed overnight with my aunt,

gave her some company.

I recall her bony frame in dull, plain pajamas,

all femininity pressed out,

as she told me about an uncle,

or was it a cousin?

You won’t believe what he did to me?

By then I was old enough to guess.

But, not old enough to know

the burden of that knowledge wasn’t mine.

I remained silent.

Her secret stayed bound

within flannel and hate.

She died in a nursing home.

Alone.

 

I imagine a new scene as I discard

the useless umbrella from my closet.

What would have happened if

I could have borrowed a few years

of experience from my future,

risked touching the pain in her eyes,

and asked, what happened?

 

My old umbrella’s hollow spiked bones stick out

through torn, split fabric.

I can’t fix it. Yet, strange,

I feel an odd sadness for all things

that no longer have a chance to recover.

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