By Dr. Linda Sonna
As a young woman wandering through Mexico,
I marveled at the viejitas wilting on stony sidewalks.
Watering the faces lined with furrows decades deep
with tears from my eyes,
I nourished them with pesos from my pockets.
I wondered at women,
plump as oranges in their child-bearing years,
fallen from the sheltering arms of family,
tumbled onto shadowed curbs,
stretching withered palms toward strangers
from the barren nooks of nowhere.
But not from nowhere; the viejitas are here,
still or again, these many decades later.
Looking into the bruised eyes,
sharp and pleading, or soft and vague,
I glimpse my fearsome fate:
Me, bereft, clutching a rebozo,
begging a bolillo, a bite of bread,
warning plump female passersby
with my whispered pleas for pity, for a peso
from those still ripening in the sunny smiles of their men,
pretending not to see that I have fallen,
pretending they could never, ever fall.
a shake of moussed mane
and the bright blue baubles
dangling from her ears
dip bob jingle.
"aren't they cute? cute?"
her orange lips grin the answer
as far off humans gouge the earth
digging melting smelting
weighing mixing pressing
to earn make ship sell buy
burying blue of sky
shimmer of sea
twinkle of light
for baubles that dangle briefly
that dangle like -
there! in the meadow!
- Published May, 2004
Uncle Jesse's Giggles
Each time you entered my toddler’s world,
we giggled at the rattle of coins
inside your piggy bank shaped like a moo-cow,
giggled at cartoons.
"That Bugs! Ain’t he somethin'?” you exclaimed.
"Yes!" I agreed. "He somethin'!"
In first grade
I felt a bit afraid:
a man five times my size
should draw me into his world,
not follow me into mine,
shake a toy bank at my ear,
giggle at cartoons.
"That Bugs! Ain’t he somethin'?” you exclaimed,
your hazel eyes brimming with delight,
I tried to smile when I nodded.
In third grade
I was tired of rattling coins,
of watching you watch cartoons,
“Yes, Uncle Jesse," I sighed. "Bugs Bunny is something else,”
while wishing another, better friend
would paint sparkles in your lonely eyes.
draw out your giggles.
so I could play with my better friends
free of guilt.
In fourth grade,
to celebrate your birthday,
I giggled at your bank rattles and cartoons.
"That Bugs," I exclaimed!
"That Bugs! Ain't he somethin'?" you echoed with delight.
You loved my wind-up bunny present, but...
“Not for a full-grown man,” Gram said,
snatching the toy from your clumsy hands
and stealing your smile.
In fifth grade
I determined to free your mind
held hostage, I knew, by a dearth of words.
As you rattled your bank, I explained:
“Cows eat grass, Uncle Jesse. Beef comes from cows.
Can you say ‘beef’? Say 'beef'!”
I held my breath, your hand,
awaiting the miracle of thoughts unleashed.
“Moo cow!” you exclaimed,
giggles falling like tears
from your broken mind.
As a teen
I cringed as you held your silly bank to my ear
annoyed by your eyes that sagged with longing
for a space in my grown-up world,
for me to take a place in your endless childhood.
I couldn't pretend that a cartoon bunny was something,
or anything at all.
In my twenties,
while floundering in great currents of confusion,
I sometimes envied your simplified mind,
wondered at your delight in a toy bank's rattle,
at giggles triggered by a cartoon rabbit.
I wished that I thought that anything
While struggling through my thirties,
I defied Gram’s rule on your birthday,
and placed a toy bank and stuffed bunny
in your outstretched hands.
While we watched cartoons
I tried but failed to see them through your eyes.
I nevertheless exclaimed over good old Bugs,
And as you blessed me with your joyful smile,
I found my own.
In my forties,
I had yet to unravel
the appeal of banks and Bugs Bunny
when you died.
I only knew that you, Uncle Jesse,
you were something!
- Published May, 2005