I plucked a golden flower from your garden
and tucked it behind my ear.
But the room was the full of people that night
and no one heard me laughing.
Sadness came and nuzzled hungry at my heart.
So I let her suckle there until she was pacified.
And now she thinks I am her mother.
My sand-paper scraped soul tries to explain its state.
But the words have all come and gone with the stripping.
If you are patient, maybe the color of my new paint
will tell you what you need to know about me.
“An Invitation to My Ten-Year-Old-Self”
I’m so sorry, precious.
I never meant to leave you when I left.
It came slowly and I didn’t realize it was happening.
This vague sense we weren’t home any more.
Like you, I too thought we’d always be
sticky snow ball lips and summer cabbage ball leagues.
And closed schools on hurricane days.
I thought it would be Uptown
and the streetcar line to the Quarter
where boys asked if I knew where I got my shoes.
Oh, how home did shine, didn’t it, love?
Like a Mardi Gras doubloon twirling
on the street to a slow stop.
But someone stomped his foot on it
before me and snatched it away.
Home got cloudy with years and loves
and ashes in urns and a baby in a casket.
Life moved on with me in tow
while death stayed behind to shroud
home in a frightening darkness.
I made an island beach home for a bit,
babies in strollers and the littlest strapped
across my milk-heavy chest,
but that place burned my eyes with its sun
and my babies cry and my heart ache.
And it ached for you, sweet one.
Bare feet on black tar streets that
blistered in summer but ran anyway.
I settled close by but not near enough
in a place called Acadiana where if
arms could stretch over Baton Rouge,
we could have laced fingers.
That place almost felt like home
except with potato salad in its gumbo
and cane fields lining the roads
and utterances of “chere” instead of “where y’at”.
I wished for the short cut home back
around Bayou St. John and the oaks of City Park
and past the pain of Lake Lawn Cemetery.
But a bitch named Katrina blew the top off
the best memories I had carefully stored in the attic
and you become shadowy in her aftermath.
Transparent, almost, and your voice
obscured by my babies’ cries.
When I headed off for this green land
of mountains and volcanoes and pure life,
I looked for you to pack up in my suit cases
but your wild imagination weighed more
than I was allowed and you missed the flight.
I eased my sadness thinking I left you where
I remembered you were happiest.
Now home is emerging anew from the blue skies
and winding roads and smell of rain always on the air
in this haven of a valley.
And there are few things I miss
except maybe grits and the sting of Tabasco on my lips.
And you, baby girl. I miss you.
You are somewhere I once called home
and I am here where I now call home
and the smudges on the map are
now becoming clear.
So if you could just reach up high high
and grab hold of that Crescent City moon
and hitch a ride to me,
I promise I’ll be waiting under the big sky
to catch you when you fall.
And we’ll tumble into the thick green grass
and laugh and dance in the darkness
and we’ll both be home again,
with a stardust on our cheeks
and eyelids heavy with dreams
that we’ll dream with you tucked into me
and me wrapped around you
at home in one another.