Although poetry is not a competitive sport, and I am at heart a pacifist, I was nevertheless quite tickled recently when in our local “Battle of the Bards,” annual poetry contest, sponsored by our local library, both of my entries were selected as “finalists.” Even more gratifying, one of them– “Undocumented, Left in the Desert“– was awarded First Place (with a $75.00 prize!) It’s nice to have one’s secret sentiments publicly appreciated. Here are the two poems. Hope you enjoy:
In the Nursing Home
My old momma, this learned woman,
is in this moment a child again—
her dust bowl eight year old farm girl self–
innocent, open, wide eyed, calm,
trusting me, her silver haired son
to bring her lessons from the wider world,
most especially where she’ll sleep tonight.
“Right here, mom. This is your bed. Your name’s
on the door, and on the list of who gets meals.”
She nods her head while learning, the way she once nodded
when her brother showed her how a horse needs brushed,
her mother how the eggs need whipping,
and, last year, the doctor decoding MRI anomalies.
My heart breaks, or at least goes soft.
“Here mom, drink your milk. I’ll hold the straw
it’s good for your bones.”
She smiles, nods, sips.
Undocumented, Left in the Desert
I’ve come looking for my bones
I dropped them south of Nogales.
I could not carry them further, my thirst…
and then your truck came, men piled
my bones in on others where they — my bones–
were numbered, chipped, tested.
My brothers, my sisters, gave up on my ghost.
I’ve came now for my bones
This graveyard of John Does,
Jane Does, Hernandez, Gonzales, Hermillo,
I’ve come for my ankle, your elbow
My thigh, your skull, my jawbone
we are one skeleton, one family structure:
some in the desert, some in the truck,
some with guns in a tower guarding that fence,
some home weeping with hearts broke.
I’ve come for my bones.
I will not rest
until we are again one body,
whole, back together again.