You sit and cry at her polished porcelain feet
with moss and gravel for a bed
and grieve the un-lived life.
Her frozen stare outstaring yours,
knowing somehow the pain
of secret-silence – crucifixion.
You wonder why Clotho bothers
to spin the loom, Lachesis
with no span to measure
stands as idle as the blessed idol,
and Atropos ready with the shears
to cut the threads that never were.
Sorrow is kept for the elegies,
the remembrance mass,
the church collection,
the prayers for the faithful,
the hell-bent journos,
the outraged singers.
Her faith is a sentence,
standing back as you swell,
spin an eight-month-lie.
while the blinds are pulled
she keeps her silent vigil.
You call her mother.
Romani Woman in Willow Park
Door to door Shelta saunters
accompanied by ghosts
of relatives who carried before her,
door-mats, cracked bowls,
Saint Christopher medals;
shamrock mugs and crucifix’s
nomad of the two-car houses,
“No Junk Mail Please” letter boxes,
Her sari skirt is heavy
with morning drizzle,
drags the puddles with her.
Wrapped in maramă, she hides
obsidian secrets, fierce
chestnut eyes, exotic skin.
Rapping doors with battered knuckles.
Luri, Sinti, Domarai, mutters
a defiant gili, she keeps going,
her tired feet know the way.
These concrete prairies, skyscraper canyons;
totem-statues dedicated to comic-book gods,
hold no cure for his disease, his rash –
the curse of cracked ridges, reddened skin,
of long black stringy ropes of hair. The tongue
of jackrabbit burrows and coyote tracks
he surrendered along the Trail of Tears
that brought him from Dakota to Chicago,
to pretend among the masses.
But the brand of Pine Ridge Reservation
where the Nations of Sioux, Lakota, Navajo,
choke in overgrown junkyards of ash and dust;
still smoulders, incinerates the cinders
of ancestor, language, Ghost Dance,
the unwritten pages of history books.
He’ll find no employment in fish markets
or steel works. His fate lies
on Clark Street Bridge with a Styrofoam cup,
rattling for dimes, cents, quarters
to crowds that shuffle past.
I have seen that leper-stare from my father
when he shooed ‘tinkers’ from our door,
with their pillowcases, kitchen knives, holy medals,
sent them packing to God knows where.
Growling, the thick grey mud
dripping from the mouth
as it turns, angrily churning
gravel and fine blue powder
into a wet-clot resolution.
Motor groans fill the outer yard,
swallow everything their proximity.
The aging man with failing hair,
whitening beard, cracked hands,
goes mechanically with the shovel
counting in rhythm his song
of six to one, adds a drop of water.
He rests, dips the mixer,
pours out years of labour,
filling the barrow, and then
the stacks of plastic casings,
wipes July’s sweat from his brow,
stoops again, whistles the tune
of Mcalpine’s Fusiliers,
goes on crafting
sculpted ornaments, gnomes,
mushroom stools, boots
with hollowed out holes for flowers.
The sand pile lessening,
the years mounting.
The Saxophone Man
He pays his dues, bargains
with Jah on Parnell Street.
The saxophone man with Caribbean skin;
jamming to the rhythm
of sinking drops; toes tap
in puddle splashes;
the grey giving way
to the blues before the black.
Between high-street boutiques
and Fair Trade Coffee shops, I listen
as he confesses sins, pleads
forgiveness, bids farewell
to yesterday’s lovers.
His long dreads trashing
against the drip, bursting
from a crochet Rasta tam
heavy and soaked.
Eyes tight, lips pressed,
fingers caress brass, forges codes,
a secret language to Haile Selassie.