My Professor and Me
An exchange of cards would have made it a Hallmark moment. Instead, we had poetry between us and it came to mean more than all the shelves of Hallmark cards.
I visited an old professor friend who moved from Hawaii to a care facility in Healdsburg, CA. I took a linguistic course from him at U of Hawaii eons ago and we’ve managed to stay in touch all these years. He’ll be moving to the dementia unit next week. I was surprised to see the changes in him since I last saw him in Hawaii this past June. He remembers me only as a Poet.
I read a few poems that I had written and read at our recent 10,.000 Poets for Change event in Sacramento. Ted looked at me intensely, kept his eyes on my mouth as I recited each word. I saw tears in his eyes.
“You are brilliant,” he said. “You must send these to the White House. You should be our Poet Laureate. How do you write these poems? They are wonderful.”
I wasn’t going to argue with an 88 year old professor. I had done enough of that in his class.
His niece told me later how he brushes off our past Poet Laureate Billy Collins poems by saying, “Frances writes better. She would be our Poet Laureate.”
Before I left, I kissed him and said, “When was the last time a beautiful woman kissed you?”
He retorted, ” I’m still waiting. IF you see one, send her to me.” He held both my hands and said, “You are brilliant and I am so proud of you.” I had to listen carefully because he was beginning to slur but I heard him all right.
I don’t think these poems will reach the White House, but here are a few of them.
When Will I Know Peace?
When will I know Peace?
“She is at Peace,” you told me
When my mother died.
Is that the only way I will know Peace?
When I die? and you will say,
She is at Peace?
NO! I want Peace now.
I want to see it on children’s faces
All over the world.
I want to taste it, lick it, swallow it
Like chocolate ice-cream in August.
I want to hear it, I want to hear it.,.what is the sound of Peace?
I want to bathe in it, feel it wrap around me
Wet silk against skin.
I don’t want it after I’m stiff and dead.
I want Peace now.
Voice from the Unborn
You promised me, eons ago,
A world, free of battlefields, soldiers, children
Abandoned in fear and hunger.
You offered me Hope, again and again.
A world, you said, where we will stand
Hand in hand, beyond color, religion, gender, age,
One race. One humanity.
You promised me a world
Free of poison in oceans, earth and air.
“You are the future”, you told me,
Every election year.
“Come and be born in this world I will
Create for you.”
My brothers and sisters who believed you
Are now old men and women, and still they wait.
Listen to my voice, your unborn child.
Turn Hope into Reality,
Future into Today.
Stop using me, your unborn child
For promises and meaningless rhetoric.
The future is now. I can’t wait any longer.
The future is now. I want to be born.
Absence of Peace
Dept of Education
Dept of Veteran Affairs
Dept of Commerce
Dept of Energy.
Dept of Homeland Security.
Dept of Justice.
Dept of Transportation
Dept of Labor
Dept of Interior
Dept of Defense.
Dept of Defense.
( Peace! Peace!)
Dept of Defense.
Sonny and Me
This is lifted from one of my short stories that will be published this Fall.
In this scene, Sonny and I, both 12, are on our backs, looking up at the sky.
“Eh Sonny,” I said, lying on my back, looking up into the sky, “Did you see Charlie Chaplin last night?”
“No, I’m goin’ this Saturday to see The Lone Ranger.”
“Charlie Chaplin was funny. He was so hungry, he boiled his shoes to make soup. He ate his shoe lace like spaghetti. They keep showing the same war news.”
I watched the clouds, white chiffon gowns of the wind, swaying against the clear blue sky, wedding gowns, lacy veils and silk trains, flowing and moving like brides down the aisles. An ache of unknown source filled me to the brim. Sonny saw faces of fat Churchill and the Lone Ranger.
“Eh Sonny, I bet if Truman and Stalin got on their backs like this and looked at the clouds and the skies, they would think of peace, not war.”
“Yeah, this is better than sitting around a table, that’s for sure. Hard to make war when you look up to the sky.”
“Yeah, a Peace Conference outside in the fields or out at the beach. All the leaders on their backs like this, looking up at the clouds and feeling the wind on their faces. For sure, they wouldn’t make war.”
“And they shouldn’t wear shoes.”
“Yeah, and they better not have toe jam.” We lay there, laughing, wriggling our toes in the air, far removed from the war news .
It became obvious as the years went by, that no one heard Sonny’s and my idea of the “Open Air Peace Conference.” War clouds with different names continued to float past us throughout the years.
from: Kapoho: Memoirs from Modern Pompeii
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