Thursday, August 28, 2014

Going Home: Are you willing to be killed?

In looking at the anthology (African American Alphabet) we edited with our friend Kelvin Rodriques, we ran across a street poem that was recited by a poet sitting in a convertible on a hot Florida night in the summer of 1995. What the poet rapped under a Miami moon is a series of purely spontaneous lines. He told me later that he was making it up as he went along. But the interesting thing is that in the1990s his fear was mostly that he wouldn't get home, not that he'd be shot dead trying. I have never heard or read anything quite like this -- and oh, how things have changed! For the worse.


They stop you
and search you
you want to

go home

They tell you to stand by
while they get inside
their car

You wait as they watch
because you want to

go home

They hold you in the hope
you will run
so you wait
because you want to

go home

They have you thinking
that to

go home

is a crime
for which
sooner or later
you will do time
so you wait
on those who

go home

whenever they
want to
and who
because you are you
and they are they
make you wait
and wonder
if you will ever

go home again

Monday, August 25, 2014

Hemingway in Cuba

Hemingway at the Finca in Cuba
invited friends to pick up storm-tossed leaves
from the bottom of his pool.
Afterwards they swam, swapped stories, drank rum.
I did the same this morning minus the rum,
it was bright and beautiful
diving for the little scattered leaves
of the scotch bonnet pepper --
hot money on the bottom of a cool pool.

Open book: Hemingway In Cuba by Hilary Hemingway and Carlene Brennan

Monday, August 18, 2014

love letters lost in time

In the 1930s my parents met in Veracruz, Mexico, fell in love and later married.

Some seventy six years later their love letters turned up -- first in an old barn and second in a town dump.  Given the miracle that such letters might resurface after so much time, I was surprised at my reluctance to read them. It has taken more than a year to get to them.

I am now reading them with awe. Here are two people I knew intimately for much of my life. They are gone now but their voices remain, clear and strong in these handwritten love letters, which go up and down with their moods. But my point is this -- I thought I knew them.  At almost 70 myself, I should have long ago figured out who the two beings whom I called my parents were. But here I am stumped because what I have discovered is that I did not know them. Not the way I thought I did.

The letters are proof that we only know what we think we see. The senses are tricksters and my two parents are as much shrouded in mystery as ever, but I know them better now. Their innermost thoughts are revealed in their passionate outpourings. And I feel blessed reading these love letters, though I sometimes feel like an interloper, or perhaps even a stalker, reading them. Yet I am given a window into the personalities of two human beings who made me what I am. The evidence is all here on these rat-chewed, time-worn documents. My mother's calligraphic letters are still fragrant with thirties perfume. My father's are almost hierglyphic -- his handwriting is described by her as a bunch of "pollywogs moving across a piece of paper."

Maybe the thing I'm seeing most clearly is the passion these two illumined beings shared. How deeply they loved life, loved one another. This reminds me that, in truth, their love never diminished over the years but grew. I think, sometimes, my brother and I felt on the outside of it. Truly, I have never met two people who stayed so much in love as my parents. I always knew this to be true, but the evidence here, the hundreds of letters from 1937-1941, is very convincing. They were who they were, always. We, my brother and I, lost in our own reveries, could not always see it that way. But now I do.

Yes, something of a literary event is happening. The letters, once put in order, will come out as a book. And it will sort of be like reality TV in a time of trouble -- the 1930s. I, for one, really look forward to reading this love story when it is organized and put between covers. The story of the barn and dump will be in there ... things like this don't happen very often, and when they do such curious miracles ought to be celebrated. So there is a love story, and there is also the story of the love story: how it came to be found.

More to come ....

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Two Poems

 Reunion in the Meadows of Sapello Canyon

Your red hair is now sun gold
stirred with white.
Mine is brown
when the gray is cut away.
Fire and water,
sun and snow ...
almost 50 years ago.


Navajos say
winter thunder
breaks us down,
bone by bone

We go as we know
we live as we die
we have these songs
when we say goodbye