Patricia Davis-Muffett, journeywoman poet from Maryland, writes of protest and the loss of an old friend
AFTER THE MURDER OF GEORGE FLOYD
Joan, the peasant girl
hears the news of war, distressed.
She is 13. It’s a tough age.
Good advice from her parents:
“Maybe you should get outside.
The fresh air will do you good.”
Two days ago, my husband wakes with the puppy,
5:30 am, bleary eyed, he finds our 14 year-old wide awake.
“What world is this where people watch
as a man accused of passing a fake bill
is suffocated in the street?”
It’s a tough age.
one that can make you hear voices
or make you the vessel of angels.
One that can end with
a girl ensuring a King’s victory,
but also your own death by flames.
In Nashville, six teenagers
organize tens of thousands
to march in peace, mile after mile,
shouting, praying, kneeling in the street.
What did Isabelle and Johan say
when Joan came in from the garden
with tales of archangels’ voices?
Did they help her build a plan?
Worry for her sanity?
Forbid her from joining the army?
We watch the Twin Cities burn,
spark fires around the world,
and we are at a loss.
We have no words, no plan,
Maybe it is in the hands of teenagers now.
I find myself summoning voices
to meet them in the park.
WHAT WE ARE GIVEN
Today serves up
pleas and complications,
stories of those who labored long years,
resorted to shoplifting,
were sequestered in sanatoria,
before Zoom, before email, before cell phones.
Today, also gives me this swatch of color
like the blanket on my lap–
the purple I would choose,
the brown I would not.
I have turned my back before,
judging these colors and stories unworthy.
But this is what we are given:
The rain. The weeds.
The rough dismissal.
The restless dog.
My youngest child, the one who has lived the least,
been handed the greatest suffering,
fights sleep like it will take his soul.
Last night, he wandered the house at 3 am,
switching on lights, waking the dog,
building me a house in his virtual world.
He asks me to choose–
what wood, what stone, what trees?
He makes houses for everyone,
but others are granted fewer options.
For me, he reserves the largest lot,
fills it with the flowers I love–
lilacs and daisies and poppies
bursting from the virtual lawn.
I met his love with exhaustion.
Today, I vow to offer
my disappointing self,
wrapped in this blanket,
watching this rain,
tending this garden.
Waking, we were all uneasy,
each thinking we were alone,
tiring of this sulphur-smelling town
its fabled healing waters left over from another time,
the cool lake clogged with algae, the lonely playground.
Not bad for a two-hour drive
from the heat of the city,
the endless chores of home.
It was only once you broached
cutting the trip short
leaving that A-frame in the woods,
the loft bedroom where we’d slept–
relief rushed through me,
surging to action,
We waited until children slept
to share our terrifying dreams,
the sleepless night we spent
motionless, side by side.
The oldest child,
slyly wakeful in the backseat,
waits, then whispers, “yes, me too.”
Suddenly, we’re alive again,
speeding farther from receding terror,
sure in our sanity–
the three of us, all witnesses.
I never wanted to do the search,
find out what happened there.
What if there’s no news?
What if it was us?
We half expected
the dreams to follow us
but they stayed sealed
behind pandora’s door
for someone else to find.