Aprons mingle

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When the aprons mingle, women clucking like hens

discussing ancestral wisdom from way back when

The ancestors live in gestured words

the matriarchal echoes of blood’s songbirds

Strum the butter pat to the rhythm of snipped beans

lower the babies down from the hips of Queens

biscuits on the table, floured dough, cut rounds

the mother’s mother’s hands knead risen dough down

No family recipes laid writ in tattered tomes

each muscle memory “how to” made the house a home.

Where the aprons mingle clucking women like the hens

granting the ancestral wisdom from times long spent

Mem’ries

monopolytennessee

The crescent moon tilts slightly

against the indigo sky

through the shadows, I move spritely

with unbidden tears I cry

I trudge the road less traveled

My warmest sweater unraveled

So I shiver in the gath’ring storm,

grief overwhelming, I MUST mourn

As daylight breaks the night

I allow my feet quick purchase in the light

A haven ahead affords me rest

I am given respite at my behest

Home is where I’m going to be

If only my mem’ries weren’t in Tennessee.

Ronnie Bill

I was told that I’m not allowed to offer family advice.

Twenty years gone but I made it out alive.

Let me tell you why you’re wrong, because you are.

I KNOW

what it’s like to hold bitterness

what it feels like to reject those who love me

what holidays, loneliness, and anger tastes like

what Christmas morning looks like without oranges

what Thanksgiving is like without mincemeat pie

what birthdays feel like without shared history seeping

what anguish unsupported loss endures

I KNOW

what it took to wake me up (although I’m sure you think it was you)

what I had to realize before I could bolster my courage

what it is to ask forgiveness for being a fool

to walk into the unknown with hat in hand

to step cautiously to the edge of the cliff and

JUMP

I KNOW

how much damage I’ve done but not to the extent

what rebuilding a bridge with still smoldering lumber is like

that sometimes bitterness takes the form of pride

that abuses of history, privilege, and birthright exist

that time goes faster than a blink

that it’s far later than you’d think

I KNOW

right now, (not that you’ll read this) you’re lost

you blame me for not having money, not loving him, but

most of all for loving you and not choking on your pride.

You are so far in the darkness that the light feels like an insult

I love you despite yourself.

I’ll still be here when you’re ready.

I made my six year old vow to always be there for you,

I KNOW

you didn’t and couldn’t understand why I couldn’t and didn’t for him

you won’t believe me.

I’m okay with that.

you need to return home before you’re too afraid to come back

you’re a better man than you’ve become

I believe in you even if I don’t understand why you chose this way.

I KNOW. I see. I LOVE you anyway.

Polka Dot Salmon (Fish Ladder Blues)

Fishing the Grand River

I was born in your arms

cradled but not protected

shunned, rejected, refused

a starving babe to river’s teat.

I cried colic at your shores;

survived despite your abuse.

Like a battered lover, I, escaped

ONLY

to believe your honeyed promises

to desire your rushing waters

to climb above my station against odds

to find my true love begetting fruition

to linger too long where love dies

I avoided your calls

I dodged your temptations

I surpassed any lack you created

I became, am becoming; power

Infuse me at my request

with the Grand Rapids river’s ravishing rush

pour your shores to return my blood

reunite my spirit with yours

Let’s embrace intimately

passionate with endearing lust

so we may fall in love, again

on my terms.

Home slice

Many closed doors

Many closed doors

I arrived empty handed near my old stomping grounds

where I learned to hate myself due to disapproving frowns

It’s where I learned that to survive is to run freedom unbound

Yet here I am a-haunting my past which I’ve long since outgrown.

I have been with rings on my fingers and bells on my toes

I have been ground into dirt and from the grave rose

I’ve stepped through the portal, forsaking the spirit world

For now, I must reinvent this stronger, stranger home-town girl.

Stardust and Oceans

I held your hand while stroking your cheek

Whispering to you the depth of my hearts belief

You stared blank at the ceiling but I knew you still there

When the winds stirred the curtains to brush at my hair

With rattled breath you returned to the ocean

Waving goodbye with the power of rawest emotion

Your sweet and gentle passing has erased your pain

But in doing so has increased mine, bring on the rains

Silent your breast, cooling of skin, I sat next to you so very alone.

It was a sacred privilege, an honor, to walk your stardust spirit home.

The Banquet

Old friends are the ones who holds your secrets tightly.

Old friends are the ones who holds your secrets tightly.

You have come knocking at my door with your basket empty of fruit.

You ask to break bread with me once again, I welcome you with a banquet.

Forgiveness is not necessary when there is a parting of ways with no faults

Things just happened to work out where time apart was required to isolate

Not for feeling alone, but for the seeds to take root, grow, and bloom fully

I offer the platters laden with history, telling each yarn with great verbosity

laughing together, we drink deeply, offer consolation, counsel, connection

We cut cheese (grow up!), melt it onto the bread of reminiscing

our peppered words burning our faces with our shocking youthful antics

I sit lounged in my chair, grateful that the air we share is no longer pungent

It no longer stinks of half-truths, unspoken words, and lost opportunity.

We rip shreds of the layer cake we build with our conversation,

skipping layers of icing, jumping slyly from one inside joke to the next.

We burp satisfaction, of time well spent, appreciated, and honored.

As we rise into the light of a new morning, I escort you out with welcome

for warm and happy returns at your leisure when the need is happenstance.

As I bid you adieu at my doorstep, you turn towards me, arms full of bounty.

We smile the smile of 1,000 lifetimes ago, promising 1,000 more.