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BETTY HARRIS-GREEN

POETRY - FIRST EDITION


BELIEF From the time I was very young, I just knew that if I would jump high enough I would fly, and I have the scars to prove it. And when roller skating near my Grandma Strauss’ home I didn’t try, but at dusk I hit a rise on the pavement and I flew through the air, landing on my chin, teeth biting through lower lip and lots of blood. That did not stop my belief! Another time I jumped from the steps of the wood shed into a pile of rusty tin cans. After many years the scars on my chin are quite visible and remain a topic of conversation with great emotion. There were many years of flight take-off’s and landings much to the dismay of my mother. That did not deter me because I knew if I would just jump really high, I would fly! During those “growing up” years one of my favorite things to do was climbing up on the slanting roof of my Grandpa Strauss’s smoke house under the old pear tree to read. Long summer afternoons, sound of bees, sweet aroma of pear blossoms usually lulled me to sleep and flying dreams. When I left, reluctantly, I jumped down higher than I had ever jumped, on my feet stinging into the earth. There were many years of take-off’s and crash landings. That did not deter me. In my dreams thru the years I really do fly, usually in a large room, near the ceiling, with crowds of people below, full of awe and admiration. I fly down and instruct, “It’s easy,” I say, “just jump up high! See?” And I take off flying around the room, feeling so good, light, twisting and turning. “See?” I am older now, almost 90, and I have never given up. I know that some day, if I didn’t give up on my dream, I really would fly. At my age I know now that soon I shall shut my eyes and jump high enough. I will fly! Really fly – into soft, feathery clouds and distant stars. So don’t worry about me. I’ll be flying, flying, flying! Love, Mother


Weaver of Life

Brown and strong

The sky and sea

Navajo woman

Creatures and forests.

Sitting there

Slowly

You are like the coarse gray

You weave about your tribe

cloth

being a part of that

you weave.

interwoven plan.

Forming deep, dark colored

Teach us, Oh Navajo woman,

designs.

So that we may weave

Into cloth you speak about

together

ancient tales of your proud race.

Care together

Slowly

Live together

You weave the story of your

in your land.

people.

So that our children

Patiently

will be able

Expertly

to weave the story

You tell with your weaving

of our people

about your rich culture.

in our land

Your kinship with your land.

some day.

Your caring about your earth.


Caress Outside my window the early morning fog Swirls by Like waves of silent smoke Soft and silken and gentle as the touch of a dove’s downy feathers. It curls around the home of my tall pine trees Huddles over the moist earth and quietly pats the mound of our Laddy dog’s grave. (25 Sept. 1983)


Thoughts of You (In Memoriam) I told my sons today “I really loved your father.” I had never told them before. Perhaps they knew and I did not feel the need. Writing about my feelings now warm thoughts flowing that love shines through each word that I write. The warmth of the memories heals some of my hurt. I wanted to share it with them somehow. “You were born out of love, my sons.” “How lucky you were mother,” they told me and I said “I know that now.” (13 May 1984)


Heritage My mother would say,.

She would say,

“Listen to the wind

“Look, the fresh crop of

in the tall pine trees.”

dry lima beans

This is what she would say

just now at the store.”

and I loved the sound.

A brown paper bag full

I still do.

of a grand feast.

She would say,

She would say,

“We’re having baked sweet

“Here’s fresh orange juice”

potatoes for lunch”

and my illness went away.

and I could scarcely wait.

It still does.

I still can’t wait.

She would say,

She would say,

“Did you read

“Smell the freshly ground

‘A Lantern in Her Hand’?

pepper”

I found my old copy”

and we shared the aroma

and it became one of

of all the spices

my favorites too.

of the Orient.

It still is.

I still do.

I have her copy

She would say,

and I gave one to the library

“I bought the new

remembering her

Cosmopolitan today”

and the things she said.

and I could not wait to read

These things my mother said

between the covers. I still like new magazines.

and I remember. (8 May 1983)


Thoughts Of You The seagulls cried

No words were spoken

and leaned into the mighty

Huddled into our warm jackets

forceful wind

Braced into one entity

Looking for refuge

Silent with respect

The sea tore at the shore

Marvelous wonder

In jagged loud invasions

Sea gulls crying

Foam lingering on the wet

round our heads

beaches

One perfect complete moment

Water receding furiously

Then we turned as one

back into the fold of the

Seeking warmth

storm

and large bowls

Wet sand waiting

of hearty Portugese soup

The next assault.

Not able to speak

We stood together Our bodies angled toward the earth We leaned together Thought together

Just enjoying. Thomas Jackson Category First Prize (22 January 1984)


Invitation To Fall Fantasy Sisters and brothers

If you let them

Children of the sun and

The flying children

moon

will show you

Come fly with me

Leaves brushed by an Autumn elf

Into the frosty October

White birds

wind.

Painted scarves Untold treasure

Over the gossamer webs

Birth, wine

of wondrous tree-

and October music

splendored

A circle of birds

woods.

Singing

Into the fire shadows of

Echoes of triumph

waters

Through the universe.

and beaches Feel your heart shudder

Sisters and brothers

Drained dry at the sights

Children of the sun and snow

Blood pounding

Come fly with me

Lips muted.

Into the frosty October wind.

.

(30 Oct. 1983)


Lasting Gift

Honor

My arm curves around the

Today we honor our dead

potters bowl You bought me for my birthday Because I liked it and so did you. Coarse brown texture Colors pulled from the earth.

I plant pink geraniums begonias in between over your grave near the new head stone I water them as you taught me to do I sit silently and pull green grass blades

I have piled it high with

between my fingers

big red

slowly

apples

memories swirling

Heaping into a mound.

needing your strength

The fingers of my hand

reaching out for comfort

curve

Planting pink geraniums

lovingly

begonias too

Around that bowl

is not enough

A beautiful feeling

to honor our love.

Warm, encircling around

(27 May 1984))

me Making it mine. Gently, I cradle my arm Lovingly, easily I carry your last gift. (12 Feb. 1984)


Do I Need To Be Born Again and Die Again? I saw Christ today

I saw him search for scraps

Perhaps we can build

Standing knee-deep in guns

in the garbage cans

bombs that will only kill the people

and bombs

of filthy ghettos

not destroy our buildings.”

always bigger, deadlier, costlier

and he screamed aloud,

His body anchored with the

“What have you done –

Talks of “limited nuclear war!

weight

even to the least of these?

I heard him sob,

Tears streamed down his

“Have they all gone mad?”

saddened face

I saw Christ today

Rained out on all humanity

walking the halls of government

I saw Christ crucified again today

Salty rivulets of pain and anguish.

Listening to affluent

His body hanging limp and still

representatives

but before he died again

I saw Christ today

in long endless debates

I heard his voice

Holding mounds of dying children

“How much for nuclear

strong with agony and despair

starved, hungry,

destruction

“My God, my God,

guaunt-eyed, swollen-bellied

to kill all of his children

Why have they forsaken me?”

children

and his beauteous planet –

(22 April 1984)

Also helpless mothers and fathers

Ten times over – twelve

Dying too for want of food and

times over?

shelter


Final Homage I left one live yellow spring daffodil on the dead grass of your grave. I wove the long green stem slowly through the strands of dried brittle straw I wanted it to stay and not blow away in the soft gentle breeze after I had walked away from you and left my yellow daffodil twisted in the dead grass. (27 May 1984)


I Hear Music of the Universe I hear music of the universe and I am connected Through an opened window the fresh sweet fragrance of a summer day comes stealing into me and I am connected – to the greenness of leaves brown twisted trunk of my maple tree the birds I feed softly singing twilight melodies over the old feeder Twisting twining ivy inching over the uncovered tree roots and climbing the trunk reaching towards the evening sky orange and purple sunset blotting the peaked hilltops muted colors, swirling and diffused stealing back to me connecting me into my earth I hear music of the universe and I am connected. (1 July 1984)

Shared Moment Ah, my friend with shared reverence I watch you touch with sensitive finger tips the top of a potter’s bowl reflecting appreciating the craft of fine glaze. Through your fingers I feel too. Kindred souls we are in tune with the earth and simple beauty. (1 July 1984)


Builder Hands To Give Me Strength Suddenly I know I am aware although I live surrounded by things stuff I have kept through the years The sturdy piece of furniture made out of your beloved wood crafted by your strong hands Give me more strength and meaning and security than all of the other collections. Your benches and footstools. rocking chairs and tables are hard solid stable enduring like your carpenter hands O my beloved father. (17 June 1984)


Broken Cup I drink from your cup now.

Shields me in comfort

I broke the mug

When I go to feed the birds.

You brought me When we were first wed,

The feeder you built

From the box factory

Is falling down

Where you worked.

Where you placed it,

The Depression, you know.

Just so high, So I could see the birds

It shattered all over the kitchen

From my kitchen window.

sink

You knew how I loved birds.

Like pieces of my life.

So I drink from your cup now

Memories!

And cradle myself in your clothes,

All scattering! Profound loss!

But I surely do look funny In your old straw garden hat.

I wear your old brown sweater And feel secure in its softness And warmth. The old corduroy coat With the missing buttons

(14 Feb. 1982)


Forgive Them Sin is a rod made of reed, a tough raw cross, the sound of nails, the final whispered words;

Crosses Row On Row

love is the echo. (11 April 1982)

Go away and let us rest in peace

Knowing A child asks, “What is a snail?” How do you tell a child about a snail? She doesn’t know what a shell is Or an ocean or a beach or sand Or waves or whales. I shall bring her a snail shell To hold and feel And see and wonder about. Then, perhaps, She will know about snails – A little. (20 June 1982)

Real Love

Between the crosses row on row.

Hold me forever Don’t let me go I don’t mean

There is no war here anymore.

With your arms

We fought to end war,

Around me

don’t you know? That’s what they told us, don’t you remember? Go away and let us rest

But loving and caring For me – No matter where I go Or what I do.

in peace Between the crosses row on row.

Give me the freedom To stretch and grow

There is no war here anymore.

In your love.

(29 May 1982)

(14 Feb. 1982)


Gentle Spring Late March has come wildly, but sunny. Pussy willows bursting out of their winter cradles.

Enough For All I washed the sheets

Mourning Doves

From my bed today.

Are calling and loving –

I hung them

Now that it‘s spring.

On the line outside

Soft gray little bodies,

In the hot July summer sun.

stretching and growing

Peace hung lightly over all

like little gray kittens,

Touched the blue sky

with their tails and paws

And my soul. When dry I took them down.

Wherever we lived you planted

and you planted another. You knew I liked soft gray pussy willows

Awakens me now. Calling to each other, Gently, ever so gently

And you have gone Far from me

They smell so sweet and fresh.

a pussy willow tree. Only one died

Low, soft, sweet cooing

“Don’t go very far.”

tucked in and whiskers.

Stay By My Side

I shall sleep with them tonight Content to fold them Around my mind And I shall dream

gently growing

Of a better world

in the warmth

With sweet, clean sheets

of a March sun.

And peace for everyone.

(28 MJarch 1982)

(28 Aug. 1982)

And the Mourning Dove Calls sweetly, “Don’t go very far.” (24 Feb. 1985)


Certainty All around me From the depths of the forest

Dove Love Song I know I shall welcome their certain return

The constant droning sound

In the spring.

Of the locusts

Rhythm and naturalness

Permeates my world.

Remain constant in my world.

I am surrounded

Giving me a sense of security

With the permanent

In a world gone mad with insane

Rhythm and certainty. I remember Walks on glistening washed beaches

insecurity. The cycle shall remain long after I am gone To become a part of that circle.

I saw two doves sitting easily, side by side On the limb of the old maple tree Unashamed she kissed him with her beak and unashamed he kissed her back again, again gently pecking

Constant loud crashing

The natural world,

wind moving quietly

Of waves and the tugging surf.

The interlocked plan shall remain

rosy-beige feathers ruffling

The inevitability of the tides.

constant

I watch the strong brightness

Even though man may try to alter

Of the sunrise.

Its never-changing path.

Knowing that in the evening

It we only realize we are such a

I shall see the lovely glow

small part

Of the sunset.

Of that miracle.

The birds who leave my sight

(26 June 1982)

In the fall

Blowing soft upon their love.


Eternal Autumn

Warm Circle

October makes me come alive

The glorious array of colors

Round circle,

encircling the light

I could live with October for-

On the beautiful gowns of all the

patches of sunlight,

holding us in

bright,

intertwined,

warm,

together

filtering through

as one thought.

ever. The brisk crispness Of bright autumn days

trees One hill more breathtaking than the last

My sweater comforts me.

I catch my breath at the sight

onto the old worn

Dark eyes

The sighs, sounds, tastes,

Country fairs and festivals of crafts

soft carpet.

deep and wise

And smells of fall;

The savor of the late harvest from

Gray Girl cat

cat mind

huddled within,

patient and kind

Fat orange pumpkins, squash,

the garden

Warm spicy gingerbread

The late corn tastes so sweet

seeking,

deep swirling comfort

And pumpkin pie.

Dried pods and weeds and

moving,

for a moment in time.

stretching

(25 July 1982)

A drink of cold cider,

goldenrod

Halloween,

Orange bittersweet berries

for even more warmth

Children pretending to be

Bright harvest moon

dark gray tail

All kinds of fantasy dreams.

October makes me come alive

curled around,

The pungent smell of burning

I could live with October forever.

just so,

leaves Drifts over the Indian summer days

(31 Oct. 1982)


Shared Freedom My mother left long before her death. Withdrawn into some inner life Cradled in silence and dark night Never knowing or caring when I stood beside her bed and I resented that. Felt black guilt about that. For pushed down deep within her too was the freeing gift of creativity. I was speechless and no help. So sad to see – all that warmth and love and potential slowly fade away and I resented that. Felt black guilt about that. Because I knew about unused talents too, Pushed down deep within my soul Longing to be free. My pain and hurt all gone now Wondrous freedom Thawed creativity Resentment and black guilt all gon e and her gentle love I know again I write about that and feel so good about that. I am free for both of us, you see. (9 May 1982)


Gift In Winter

I Come For All

‘Tis a gift

The straw in the stable the place of my birth is soft and smells sweet and clean.

in the night of winter – Paper-white Narcissus in full bloom. (22 Feb. 1987)

The animals in the stable the place of my birth are beasts of burden and do not smell so sweet their bodies are unwashed. The stench in the stable the place of my birth curls around my body permeates the dirt and dust.

Lilacs Each spring I

Drink deeply from the cup of

bury my face

another new May.

in your sweet

It is always the first time.

scented

It is as though I had never

blooms

known springtime before.

Inhale your

(22 March 1987)

fragrance

I am placed in this cradle the place of my birth to care for those who rest upon sweet straw but also for souls who dwell in hurt and despair. I dwell among the comfortable and the uncomforted. All shall find rest in my stable the place of my birth. (23 Dec. 1984)7)

Touching James With Music You are so young, only two but I can reach the other you with soft quiet song. I sing to you gently with love Your face becomes soft, relaxed Eyes move to another place A very special place.

You come and climb up on my lap. “Sing again,” you say and we enter that lovely other world together A very special place With only soft songs of love and shared thoughts and you are only two. (10 Feb. 1985)


Thoughts of You Tomorrow is Mother’s Day Warm thoughts of you crowd together in my memory I could never have been a mother without your love. Our sons were here today and remember me but I remember you. They are such tall strong men Our strengths together I suppose. It is good to have them near but they can never fill your place beside me. I think of you Feel again the peace

between us sitting side by side on the back porch so many times shelling beans and peas husking corn No words were needed. The silence and the labor and the bond between us was enough.

I dare to risk thinking about you remembering our young love tonight on the eve of Mother’s Day tomorrow. (12 May 1985)


Unburied Shadow

Small Blessing

Life

My epitath only a shadow indelibly imprinted stamped on the broken marble steps of my tomb my jagged monument. I stare back at those who stare day by day Honor exploding in their eyes

Are there any words to tell how soft summer rain drops smell when they splash easily into a dusky July night?

“Tis but another

No one speaks my name No matter Minds refuse belief voices whisper, “vaporization – impossible.”

The moist earth smells newly born fresh and damp ready to become pregnant again.

I creep over the peace of the park the tomb and the roses here in Hiroshima and reach out to the living world. (28 May 1985)

broken thread,” I say to ease my troubled heart The thread so beautiful I cling, aching to that lovely bond So fragile So vulnerable “Cut it now” I say Hide the ravelled ends Pick up another thread another color “Change directions,” I say

Rain drops sing melodies over pungent sweet scent a single drop caresses a leaf and slides slowly down to the eager earth. I am at peace My blessings are often so very small! (21 July 1985)

and even the stitch. Plunge the needle in and out Weave the hurt into a new tapestry until I say again, “Tis but another broken thread.” 2nd Honorable Mention (17 Nov. 1985)


Resurrection In bits and pieces

Child with a New Word Delicious

The Boy Who Waves There he is again today

I see summer drifting away

new word!

by the side of the road.

One leaf

She lets it melt

See, he is always there,

slowly,

upon her tongue

washed, clean, neat,

surely

Pushes it hard

greeting each passing car

Falling onto the earth

against her white teeth

with friendly waves of his hand,

Becoming more brittle

Rolls it

reaching out to us who are normal.

Crackling under my footsteps

around

We are reminded

Bone dry

her eager mouth

to wave back to him.

and huddling with

Savors

We try too hard

the whole family of leaves

the flavor

to be cheerful,

Some bright and brilliant

the echoing sound

riding along

with unbelievable beauty

Permits

sometimes unfriendly

Some handicapped

her pleasure

until he reminds us

With disease and age

Tastes again

of simple joys.

Piling together

enjoying

(26 Jan. 1986)

Into a community of comfort

Sings it

One with the other

out to me

Holding each other

with delight

Enfolding each other

Delicious

Before vanishing into the earth.

new word!

To become nourishing food

(6 Oct. 1985)

For more trees and leaves to grow. (27 Oct. 1985)


Comfort In the middle of the night

Renaissance Soft winds blowing

Refusal of Obscene Truth Behind the cloudy lens

I awaken

Through pine trees so tall

of my spread fingertips

the haunting refrain

Gentle song sounds

I watch the cameras image

from the Rachmaninoff piece I

Tender sweet melodies

filtered gaze

love

Lifting.

like the gauzy wings

singing out to me each note so clean I listen hum aloud keeping it mine. The music I make a lullaby in the

Swaying. Deep cradles of warmth Coaxing Enriching

of struggling butterflies. I cannot pull my hand away No!

New birth

My soul will never see

Seeds falling

the naked scene

easily to earth

of children

silence of my room.

Tiny new leaves

being slaughtered

(23 Feb. 1986)

So many blossoms

on the desert battlefield!

Falling

(29 June 1986)

Swirling Colors blending Splashes of fresh clean smelling rain The world in the spring has a chance to start over again. (30 March 1986)


Rebirth I stand, naked Hunched over

I stand now, naked, Hunched over

Reaching out

almost as if I were

Clutching,

in my mother’s womb.

Pulling into me

Reaching out

the warmth from the fire

Clutching

embracing my chilled being

As when I was born

and I remember

Pulling into me

as a child

all the warmth my body

Standing in my nightgown,

can absorb

Hunched over

from the fire.

Clutching my pillow Cradling into it

I am a loved babe

the warmth from the fire

Born again into warmth

on the hearth.

I am a child again

Running fast to my bed so not to lose the heat. My warm pillow and I tumbling into a cold bed. Snug and safe and comforted.

with a warm pillow. (11 May 1986)


Hurting

Hiroshima Remembered

Healing Hurt

Torn wings of a dove

Today the wind blows from the east. From over the river sounds drift.

Vibrant strings

Bronze clappers ring bells in the summer stillness Soft sounds. My mind listening remembers.

heals my soul.

Beige feathers Crimson dripped Never to lift in flight again Mate calls softly No answer comes. West wind Rock me Fold me gentle Tears caress bare flesh Pain rushes in rivulets Seeking sanctuary The throat of the dove aches. East wind Set me free I am tired of the earth.

The thickness of rope in my hands Arms pulling back ringing the Peace bell sending muted tolling over the Park, the Eternal Flame, Sadaka’s monument, strings of paper cranes, and the roses. Gentle reverence touching the tomb of Hiroshima and you, my dear Shisa-san allowing me to weep in your arms.

(1 June 1986) 2nd Honorable Mention Modern Verse (4 November 1986)

Low sweet sounds Playing within me and music Mends the hurting of my heart Flows in and around through the vibrant chords Allowing me to cry to almost enjoy the hurting within the sureness and that I am living and am not dead. (25 Oct. 1987)


Preparing a Picnic Lunch To Take to the Horu-Ji Temple Park in Nara After breakfast in the House of Hasebe rooted in the heart of Nagoyacity Damp air easing through sliding panel door hints of fishing boats at sea Tiny Kazako, in her small kitchen Shapes sticky rice-balls, umebashi plums in the center white flag and rising sun. Wraps them in a blanket of black sea weed, Eggs folded into omelettes, oranges sliced thin, fresh salmon broiled in sticky soy sauce hard-boiled eggs peeled, bits of lettuce and cucumber. We pack it all in small white boxes adding a sprig of fern. I am looking forward to eating in the park at Nara under the persimmon tee and the sound of Horu-ji temple bells. 1st Honorable Mention (1 Nov. 1987)

Preparing For Winter

Silent Weeping The Starving Children of Bati

Pulling on old warm slacks,

The dry winds howl over Bati

corduroy worn and soft against

but the starving children

my legs.

make no sound.

Cold rain starting to fall.

You will never hear them crying

The dampness penetrates the

the children of Bati

house.

Only piles of dirty rags

I shut my bedroom window

Weeping would drain the cloth

Closing out the cold.

and they are busy feeding

I cannot remember the oppressive

on their souls.

heat of August.

Bellies no longer swell

Will I be brave enough to climb

Pain weeps silently.

the ladder and remove the screens?

The grave diggers never stop

(27 Sept. 1987)

Earth so dry Their eyes fill with dust and sad resignation. Swatting vulture flies, they dig forever. The children of Bati They do not cry. 1st Place (1 Nov. 1987)


Satisfaction (Sitting) in the Libretto Café eating lunch warm bagel with ham and cream cheese,

We Bombed Libya Today And I walk the old familiar path to class. Inside I am weeping, denying the sound of

Ring Out Christmas Bells Deft hands lovingly ring bells around the world From old and new

a tad of hot mustard.

crying children in the night.

cathedrals

I drink a tall cold glass

A funeral procession slows my

the peals of peace

of fresh cider pressed in Maryland.

pace, the auto lights beam brightly

Ring out with joy Melodies for the people

There is the smell of books, the

‘tho

No matter what country

sound of classical guitar,

‘tis day

clime or persuasion

the lulling whirl of overhead fan

and a thunderstorm brews faintly

The deep real meaning

rotating slowly.

from the east.

of the ringing bells

The bagel is good and

(30 Aug. 1987)

Music to all ears

I eat each crumb.

Loud and clear

(1 Nov. 1987)

Sound and resound Peace, we want peace! Ring out Christmas Bells! (20 Dec. 1987)


What Am I The fragrance of lilacs comes to me through the still warmth of May and I think each flower fragrance is so different and unique as we human beings. I wonder Am I a rose or a clutch of skunk cabbage? (24 April 1988)

Seed Planting Have you planted flowers yet? You said you would once you moved from concrete and steel You said you missed the planting in the spring. The sweet smell of earth. Have you planted flowers yet? (27 March 1988)

First Born

Envy of Love

You were hurrying someplace else

From my hospital bed across the

But hurrying to my side When our first son was born. I saw you drowsily, dreamily, Happily through a haze. Face white, lines of anxiety,

room I hear her crying in the night with pain so hard. I try to reach her ache with gentle, clutching words.

Anticipation in your gaze.

She smokes a lot and curses, too.

Your body moving toward me.

Almost turns me off sometimes. But when her son and husband

“It’s a boy and I’m okay

come,

And I’ve never loved you so.”

I never saw such love

My whole being

Shining round that hospital bed.

Rushes toward your embrace.

I watch and marvel

The joy of our two bodies Together floods my soul.

and sometimes envy, too. Such love will heal all her sorrows.

We never captured

Now and forever.

That sweet moment ever again.

(30 Aug. 1981)

Just kept it safe, Cherished it forever and forever. I never loved you Any more than I did at that sweet moment. (June 1981)


Keeping You

Praise

Regret

After you were gone,

It is easy, O God

I ate alone today in the place

I found the flowers

for me to sing praises!

where once we lunched.

you planted to surprise me.

I can walk –

It is raining and the buttons

Nestled under coxcomb.

My sister cannot.

on my raincoat unfasten easily

Lovely, crinkly pink and green

I can see –

It is older now and I remember

leaves.

My neighbor is blind.

another rainy day

I kept them in a pot

I can eat –

when they were stiff and new

on my windowsill.

Many of my brothers and

and my fingers fumbled causing

I nourished and protected them,

sisters are hungry.

me to apologize while you

keeping you near me

I have a home –

for as long as I could.

People live in the streets.

I was not young but felt sixteen

(30 Aug. 1981)

I have friends –

as insecure as a girl on her first

Souls are lonely.

date, wanting to impress

I am well-dressed –

and doing it all wrong,

There are those who are covered

fumbling with the buttons

with rags.

stiff and new.

I am free –

It keeps raining and I lunch

Captives sit in isolation.

alone.

My harvest is bountiful, O God

(27 Aug. 1989)

It is easy to sing praises! (20 Nov. 1988)

waited.


The Gift of My Mother’s Love I sat there almost all day, it seems moment by moment picking great, long-stemmed blue violets and pointed leaves of green. My body seemed to mold into the stretch of violets all around me, going on forever, deep sea of blue and green going on forever. My senses lulled with the strong, sweet smell of locust blossoms overhead. I have never seen or heard so many bees. They were a part of me, the movement and the sounds bees make. My mother had told me about all growing things and bees and animals and birds being a part of me and to be gentle in their presence. “Don’t strike out – they won’t hurt you unless you hurt them.”

So I picked violets slowly, one by one until I had the biggest bunch I have ever seen anywhere held within my two hands. I had come to the violet patch to pick them for my mother. She was busy preparing the house for her Sunday school class and I carried them to her – I was so proud! And she took them from me, gently, almost with reverence, holding them as if I had given her a string of pearls, a great and wonderful gift! And she never scolded me for staying away picking violets for her almost all day, one by one, bees and leaves and locust blossoms. She put them in her finest cut-glass bowl so that all her friends could share my gift of love to her. What a gift to me.

My mother did not mind if I played the piano all day, for hours and hours it seemed sometimes. She didn’t mind if I didn’t practice the scales and all the boring exercises and loved it when I made up tunes. Such joy! She must have loved the music! She never minded if, when I dusted, I was caught a prisoner at the magazine rack, trapped with the temptation to stay and read all day it seemed, and she never minded. Such privilege! She read and read too, you see and she knew about my need. (10 May 1981)


Need My father needs me. He needs me For the very first time. I can’t remember When he ever needed me. He watched me Play basketball But never came To my piano recitals. He is a helpless invalid With tubes running here and there. What if they should come undone? Almost panic! I can’t do this. Where is my real father? The calm, deliberate, modest Man I’ve always known? I’ve never even seen him without a shirt. Can you imagine?

I push my feelings down Into my very depth – Lest I should collapse – Run from the room. He looks at me. I see his need. I look at him, “It’ll be okay, Dad, We’ll do this together, We’ll know each other A lot better When this is over. I’ll surely know How you look without a shirt.” Give me the courage, God, Not to help him too much. Let him reach For his cigarettes, Feel for his slippers, and we’ll do this together. (21 June 1981)


Lost Carols Suddenly the music has stopped Majestic carols fade into the dim mist of next Christmas This empty place in the corner of my heart once held a wondrous tree earth-scented fresh and fragrant green branches full of love and brotherhood. Tarnished Star of Bethlehem now wrapped in cold white tissue a forgotten shroud Molded crèche figures Mother, Father, Babe animals, shepherds, wise men once again hidden in the attic gathering dust to be remembered another year. Such a pleasant nice thing the dreams of Christmas to be remembered in the cold of December. I shall place in the heart of the emptiness and the dust a blazing agonizing Cross Lest I forget. (25 Dec. 1988)

I Want To Learn Seated as old women do, legs sprawled Resting on the top step of her front porch The warm sun reaches into aching joints Her mind drifts She does not hear the passing cars Wind chimes away in the gentle breeze and the sound eases her into another world There in this place where bare feet step noiselessly over moss-covered temple grounds there is the scent of burning incense and plum blossoms “ume” – the flower of winter and old age

She hears koto music the muted chanting of the temple priests Small tame deer nuzzle her hands begging for rice cakes The temple bell rings as her feet move slowly over the singing paths of ancient boards. There is the sound of waiting children. Her eyes open as the yellow and black motor coach stops at her corner and she shouts “Wait, I want to get on that school bus.” (15 Oct. 1989)


She Sleeps She sleeps Thank God, my sister sleeps. Quietly lifting off her glasses I look at her face. I search for some peace there now that she sleeps, her mouth drawn down at the corners does not look the way it did when, as a baby I stuffed her in my doll carriage pushing fast as she squealed with delight her mouth turned upward. As she sleeps I hope she drifts into the gentle past when her legs were straight and strong, her body alive, not paralyzed. Her tongue not twisted, trying to mouth words I cannot understand. She sleeps now. Thank God my sister sleeps. (15 Oct. 1989)


Dedicated to my mother, whose heart and soul sing out for a better world CHRISTMAS 2007


Poetry: Betty Harris-Green