IT'S YOUR MUG ANNIVERSARY ISSUE
CHILDREN AND OLD MEN
the rocks sing in a round
each line cued by the shadow of a foot
melody crushed into the earth
rising in a scattered chorus of dust
"this loneliness won't leave me alone"
stitches orange meridians across blue denim
"NEXT!!!" marches across the yard
in a coarse uniform and hand me down boots
a cloud passes over the sun
the crack of ball to bat
the labored drag on a cigarette
spins silken lies across wrinkled lips
small talk is a big fish in this tiny pond
collecting in the corners like spiderwebs
clock strikes 3. school bell rings.
innocence is deaf today
long enough for recess.
his face is a fort
built of brick and chalk mortar
the ribs—posts marking a midnight dock
waiting in red silence
for an excuse to defend itself
no entry beyond this point
upon pain of death
day breaks, a shock of cobalt
smoke stacks choke out black intentions
disguised as transparent
her memories are always pastel
wary of primary shades and harsh lighting
she hides her most vivid thoughts in the folds of her skirts
warmed like a nest of eggs beneath the baby in her lap
through its hungry cry
What is said in conversation
When all of the women leave the room?
Satin glove slipped from the fist
An uncut deck of cards
The men show their teeth
Marking opinions like territory
As they laugh upside down
Between stone, wood & flesh
This cut & paste debate
Sits in the shade of cigar smoke
Sips dark liquors neat, no chaser
Spans home fronts and auction blocks
Laughter & shit talk
Roll like distant thunder
Making bridges of fragments
Ending in guarded embraces
As quick as they are firm.
Burn sage across the joints
that creak like stairs
fingers of smoke polishing memory
Drape linen the shade of candlelight
over this mirrored heart
with iridescent webs clinging
like doves to its limbs
Sweep the corners of crow’s feet
Scrub bleach into the spine’s grout
Re-tile the smile
Pull the secrets from their hangers
Neatly fold them for Goodwill
Take out the trash
Cloudy windows, rusted shut with promises
Each an embrace oiled with lavender
One last time
Flung wide open
A parade of casseroles
carried carefully across the threshold
blushing under a veil of sentiment
Kiss the woolen curls
Clustered at the nape of neck and temples
like women huddled silently
dressed in white
Haram—a muted shroud of tears
Dishes, left in the sink
and a faucet dripping.
Mr. S bends down to pick up a pencil
and whisper Lolita under her pleated skirt as she solves equations at
She don’t know what it means
but it makes her hide behind her tangled curtain of hair
and lick her lips.
Her name is Lola
Only Abuelito calls her Lolita
when he has candy or money in his pocket
when he wants her to sit on his lap
to hear the story of the day he broke a wild pony.
Mr. S drives an old Impala
like the one in her only memory of Papi.
She remembers him underneath the car with only his calves exposed
An obsidian birthmark crowns his work boot
She inherited the same one
It is her only proof of family resemblance.
The memory sealed in a frame by her bed.
One brisk morning
Lola tucks Mami’s jungle red lipstick into her lunch sack
between the plastic baggie of sliced mango
and 2 pastelitos, 1 de carne y 1 de pollo
sweating oil thru a napkin printed with forget me nots.
Today, she will fail a test on purpose
even though she stayed up all night studying.
Under a tree just off campus
Student teacher conference
He missed lunch to grade her paper first.
She saved the pastelito de pollo for him
because they taste better cold
and are her favorite for the bits of boiled egg
that he now spits into the greasy napkin.
Dappled leaves blaze shadows across her cheek
She looks like the only photo he has left of the one who got away.
In it, she is 14. Like Lola.
Balanced on a crooked branch in a great tree
The future tangled in her hair.
Stealing gazes, neither of them says a word
He chews. She waits.
Like good grades, they will pace themselves
It is only first semester.
Lisa Pegram is a poet, songwriter and
arts educator. A DC native, she has over twelve years' experience in
custom designing innovative and successful arts programming for such
organizations as the Smithsonian Institution, Studio Theater, National
Geographic, and the Corcoran Gallery of Art. She has served DC WritersCorps
since 1998, beginning as a teaching artist and becoming Director of
Programs. Pegram was three-time Head Coach of the DC team for the Brave
New Voices National Youth Poetry Festival and coached the 2005, 2006
and 2008 teams. She has led youth development programs for the Latin
American Youth Center, Asian American LEAD and Multicultural Community
Services. Pegram was awarded a Mayor's Arts Award for Outstanding Emerging
Artist in 1999. Her poetry and essays have been published in Bum
Rush the Page (Random House, 2001), Beyond the Frontier
(Black Classic Press, 2002), and Beats Rhymes and Life (Random
House, 2007). Onstage she is frontwoman of “Lady Pcoq and The
Plumes.” Her music has been performed at The Kennedy Center, Fete
de la Musique at the French Embassy, the DC Hip Hop Theater Festival
and the London International Festival of Theater. She currently works
as a songwriter and youth development consultant, leading writing workshops,
arts-integration teacher trainings and directing the CentroNia Saturday
Arts Leadership Program for Girls.
Published in Volume
10:2, Spring 2009.