I marvel at these old cottonwoods
Some with gold and brown leaves
Few still with green
Age has only made this Bosque
More engrossed, tangled, wise
Small shoots regrow, becoming
Reaching for bird and sun
I cannot filter the trees into perfection
I can only wonder at their time in history
The chipmunks and squirrels who have
Made their home in the hollows
Of these old tree bones
Worn with time
My feet walk the path unseen
Comforted by this space in nature
This Bosque along the timeless Rio Grande
I stop to feel the grooves of a downed tree
I too am as worn
An age spot on my right cheek
Gray hairs have rooted
I am fortunate to have reached this age
Reaching for bird and sun
Photo by my daughter, M.J.M. | “Becoming” | Taken in the Bosque
My tendrils reach to sun even in twilight, the voice of each one comes to life, like a collective hum, a soprano praise to sky and to light even on the shortest day, when everywhere the darkness opens wide, like the mouth of a cave. In my stillness, I wade in, slowly, hide the sound darkness struggles to let out. Even as I find myself between the teeth, in the swallow-throat of cavern into belly, the fluidity of darkness hung around my neck like jewelry, but more necessary, more imminent, like this cycle we are a part of without ever having signed up for it. As soon as I have come to terms with the bitter taste of this song of darkness in my mouth, light begins to emerge. I see it in the colors I become, hear my song at a higher pitch as I see the lips of the cave, exit through them again. Tomorrow, I will remember and forget this and the next day too, when the sun comes. I will stand tall before it, and I will reach for it, reach.
This poem was for a prompt our group wrote to in honor of the late Julie Brokken and as an ekphrastic piece to one of her photos “Twilight Apache Blume.”
Julie Brokken’s website is beautiful with her art. You can see this photo: “Twilight Apache Plume” at this link at the bottom of the page. It is the next to last photo. Here is the link:
what hate really is you must feel it in your bones; hand-shaking anger that skips up collarbones; hate plays on your chest like a xylophone and lodges itself in your throat, crushes the song from your vocal chords.
Hate is a knee on your trachea.
Did hate feel that suffocating to you? That you had to choke the air out of another human? Did hate send you out the door, gun in hand, to bring home a dead body heavy on your shoulders?
Or was it fear?
Before you are acquainted with fear, you must return to childhood, when every shadow of a tree is a monster; before the tree was the monster, with the dead body of a black boy who ran away, left hanging as a symbol for all the world to see.
All the world saw and held their breath;
When George Floyd died in the span of seven minutes, on international news, I held my breath, too, and wondered what, or how, I would tell my daughter. My summer girl, who has already contemplated the meaning of her black skin, when a boy at seven years old told her “I don’t like you because you’re black.”
The magic left her.
You don’t know what loss really is, until you’re at a loss for words, and have to talk the magic back into your girl and remind her how much magic she truly has and tell her: black is not ugly.
Leah, your black is so beautiful.
An uprising ignites when my daughter asks about another black death on the news, and tells me, at age nine, “I don’t want to die because of the colour of my skin.” Hate is the lump in my throat that I swallow back, while anger curls in my fingertips and splits my knuckles from the inside out.
Hate was the knee on George Floyd’s trachea.
Hate was women at church looking at my daughter’s ultrasound picture and whispering about her “black lips” and “black nose.”
Hate is more names than I bear to list, more names than I could possibly list; Hate is a list of names that could be a poem on their own.
Hate stopped and frisked. Hate put a racist president in the White House. Hate pulled my daughter out of an airport line and searched through her hair.
Hate told my daughter she wasn’t beautiful, but Leah, your black is so so beautiful.
Before you know what hate really is, you need to stop, look in the mirror, and stare it in the face. And when you see it, put your hands up, Don’t. Shoot.
When you finally know the hate in you, eradicate it. Abolish it. Emancipate it. Carve it out of your bones, Dislodge it from your throat, keep screaming until there’s nothing left.
With all the hate I am acquainted with, I will keep screaming until there’s nothing left; and when there’s nothing else left, I will say again: Leah, your black is so beautiful.
Maxine L. Peseke is a writer, mother, and sometimes freelance editor; she also works closely with Swimming with Elephants Publications, LLC, as an organizational assistant. She is currently living in a small Northern Ontario town, transplanted from New Mexico respectively (and most recently) where she originally met each of Saturday’s Sirens as part of the Albuquerque poetry community.
Since the pandemic, she has rejoined the group for regular virtual meetings.
Maxine L. Peseke is a writer, mother, and sometimes freelance editor. She is currently living in a small Northern Ontario town, transplanted from New Mexico respectively (and most recently) where she originally met each of Saturday’s Sirens as part of the Albuquerque poetry community.