Double Dog Dare: Be Like Albi

This morning I changed my route to work, instead of taking Walnut I opted for Chestnut Street.  I was walking with purpose feeling especially light as I was only carrying a small backpack with no extra baggage.  My earbuds were in listening to Kip Moore on Pandora the country twang directing my focus to life’s small joys. When I crossed over 24th street I got tapped from behind by a gentleman who was panting.  Wide-eyed, I turned removing my headphones.

“You walk really fast,” He said, catching his breath.  “I’ve been running for two blocks trying to catch you.”  I smiled ascertaining that he was neither mad, nor in trouble.  To my surprise, he also looked respectable – a tall, European man with a bright face and twinkling eyes smartly dressed.  “You’re adorable, do you know that?  This cute little outfit with the backpack on and smiling to yourself while you’re walking.  It’s really good energy and good to see.”

I laughed, loudly, I couldn’t help myself as color rose to my cheeks.  “Thank you.”

He raised his open palm and I matched mine to it.  Giving a squeeze, he said, “I just wanted you to know that.  Keep it up.”

He started walking away.  “What’s your name?” I called after him.

“Albi” He said.  “My name is Albi. What’s yours?”

“Julia,” I replied twice until he heard me.  His smile widened as he tested it out on his lips until turning back around in the direction of which he came.  I watched him run for a whole block before I continued on my way.  This feeling of genuine warmth and gratitude grew inside of me as I discovered three things about this encounter that pleasantly surprised me:

1.       In general, nobody is ever running after me

2.       He called me “adorable” a word not often used when describing me

3.       This was a shared compliment with no strings attached, no hidden agendas

 

And thus, today’s Double Dog Dare: Be like Albi.  Share an unsolicited, genuine compliment with a stranger of your choosing.

 

Give it a Whirl,

A Warrior Princess

Slice of Life: Death, Dying, and Grams

This past Sunday, I spent the day with Grams.  I didn’t tell her I was coming I just showed up the way I used to when she lived in her house on 5th Street, where dropping by unannounced was a welcomed thing many made a habit of doing.  Most likely, this is because Grams made sure to offer her visitors – fresh coffee, a soft drink, or beer – accompanied by a snack she’d quickly whip together before any protests could be made.  When Pop-Pop was still alive their house was an active one with people always coming or going, never a dull moment.

Those days of entertaining are long gone for Grams who now resides in a nursing home.  I arrive there to meet a teeny, tiny woman hunched over a walker who politely steps aside to let me pass, “Go ahead dear, it takes me half a day to make it to the end of that hallway.”  After which she smiles as the whole side of her face twitches together in the attempt of a wink.  I thank her and continue on to find Grams’ door wide open with no lights on inside.  “Grams?” I call out walking reluctantly into the room.  She is lying on the bed on top of the covers curled to the side. She stares blankly back at me completely emotionless.  I step closer.  “Grams, it’s Julia,” I announce.  I crouch next to the bed extending my arm towards her but the expression on her face remains unchanged.  I swallow not prepared for this.  Then, in a moment of recognition, her eyes well with water and she sits up cooing.  “Ooooh honey, it’s you, it’s really you.  What are you doing here?”

“I came to spend the day with you.”  I have to repeat this several times before it sinks in.  I search for her hearing aids, the ones my father called about the previous night to give instructions on how to properly insert.  The trick, he said, was making sure the little probe at the end goes into the ear canal.  Despite this, I must call my mom to help me troubleshoot why the right ear isn’t working – “too much wax, you got to remove the little circular bit and clean out that wax.” – I listen despite my doubts.  Sure enough, Mom is right.  “I told you, I do this all the time,” she reminds me before we hang up.

“I’m never getting of here.” Grams says matter-of-factly.  I remain silent as I know the statement to be true, and then offer, “Today you are.  Let’s get out of here and leave these old farts in our dust.”  Slowly, we walk back down the hallway until we’re in front of my Jeep trying to negotiate how to get Grams into the passenger side.  I take a knee and act as a human fork lift feeling the brittleness of her bones in my hands.  Once Grams is inside I have her walker to deal with.  “Good luck,” one of the residents shouts at me from his chair.  “I’m going to need it,” I reply struggling to make it fit without poking Grams with the wheels.

As we drive, I start filling her in on all of my siblings’ lives searching for tidbits that will cause some sort of reaction.  This is the hardest part, Grams fights a mental fog that makes conversation challenging.  I stop trying so hard and settle into a comfortable silence selfishly happy she’s still here by my side.

 

Growing Old,

A Warrior Princess

 

 

Poetry In Motion: The Veteran

 

Picture Credit: My Old Same

The Veteran

He goes by many aliases
but answers best to sir, as in:


 Yes, sir.
 No, sir.
 Will do, sir.


Standing attention. Saluting the 
American Flag with his government 
issued name - one I've accidentally 
come to know - stitched in camouflage
shining in the morning light of dawn.

When people refer to him as “the man”
he shakes his head no – "You are 
confusing me with my father" – 
paying homage to the junior behind 
his title and the long linage of 
Taino warriors he’s descended from.


The first time I lay naked next to him
I know I’m wrapped snugly in the arms
of a trained killer – trying not to wonder
after the things these hands were commanded 
to do on my civilian behalf.


In his eyes, I see the enemy 
they sent him to handle;
the hatred of 1,000 men, 
bloody, defeated, on their 
way to the grave.


On his lips, I taste the skin 
of burning flesh, charred, 
beyond repair.


I don’t hesitate.


I pull him near – inviting him in – 
naively thinking my waters 
can cleanse a nation’s sins,
the dirty remnants of war.

 Yes, sir.
 No, sir.
 Will do, sir.

I Salute,
A Warrior Princess


Postscript: When poetry comes to me it wakes me up at night 
in full sweat, causes me to cry in the middle of the street 
for no apparent reason. It is wild and I appreciate the wildness
of its nature but its greedy for my attention. Hence, I drop 
everything and submit to the muses knocking at my door because to 
me they are VIP guests of honor. I tell you all of this only to 
explain the surplus of poetry as of late.  

Poetry In Motion: Mandinguerio & Novice

Offering Hand Credit: M. Jones
Picture taken on a broken cell phone in Kansas

Mandinguerio

Mandinguerio they never see you coming

cloaked in all that folklore and myth.

Staggering  forward, rags dragging

through a drift of things left behind –

a rubble of bones, spit, blood,

and griddle to arrive here

at the foot of the Berimbau.

 

Head bowed to Mestre a

wounded, but proud warrior.

 

Voices rise in praise,

rhythms switch, and tambourines ring out

announcing your presence

this song – your birthright – Mandinguerio

and the only forewarning

I receive of the

mastery you possess.

 

I Surrender,

A Warrior Princess

Poetry In Motion: Mestre & Novice

Photo taken by Adrian Mathurin of AHD Photography

Mestre & Novice

I don’t understand the language

of this game called Capoeira

but I’m invited to play all the same.

 

Hesitant, I arrive at the circle, the roda.

Teacher explains music is the guide –

tempo determines style of play,

fast or slow, methodical or wild –

learn to trust the rhythms.

 

The mestre holds an instrument

shaped like a bow

made taut by a metal wire

with a gourd resonator attached.

He strikes three times

calling everyone to attention.

 

Timbre-like vibrations fill the air

accompanied by a voice full of reverence and song.

Teacher taps my thigh

cueing me to clap along.

Quietly, I try to keep time with the rest of them.

 

In the center two bodies unfold

in dialogue with a relaxed Berimbau.

One male, one female – the ying and yang of life –

conversing through an unscripted series of movements

played close to the ground.

Bodies bend and contort

with playful flirtation and disciplined design.

 

All the while mestre moves the gourd

back and forth against his stomach

controlling the sound’s resonance

amplified by the surrounding instruments.

The drum beat switches.

Faster now and the crowd responds,

“Hey, Mestre Bimba!”

 

Two muscular men flip into the middle

buying the game with fiery energy –

kicks thrown in sequência with such speed and variety

I  hold my breathe – what if they slip?

Around me spontaneous shouts of appreciation

sound off and the players

respond in aerials and smiles.

 

Meanwhile, Mestre passes off his instrument

motioning for me to join him

at the foot of the Berimbau.

Wide-eyed, I look to Teacher, who nudges me.

“Just Flow” she instructs.

 

I crouch to meet mestre with timid eyes.

His hands reach for mine – the touch of a master –

and together we enter this mysterious

thing called a roda.

 

Trying to Flow,

A Warrior Princess