Saturday, June 30, 2007

Parental Pardon

In my head, I’m constantly writing poems that

my eventually grown children are meant to write.

They are clever, profound, widely read.

They are poems of genuine appreciation.

No hint of resentment taints them.

Bitterness does not inhabit them.

These poems are sophisticated and wise,

demonstrating a balanced perspective

regarding the inherent flaws of raising children.

They are not accompanied by outrageous future therapy bills,

neither do they reflect countless hours at workshops on

primal scream re-parenting your neglected child within.

There is, in fact, a steady progression toward clemency.

It begins in the adorable toddler years

with endless decrees of “No!” and “Mine!”

while moving to complete absolution

as the authors confront their progeny’s own

murky, moody, mean adolescence.

With a grace I have not yet found myself,

they pardon every last parental lapse,

including mine.

(cc) Karen G. Johnston

A Second Ode to Africa

There she is again.

I think you know her:

Ailing dark-skinned

African child,

edemic belly bulge

or skeletal ribs,

take your choice.

Nearly always

the requisite fly feeds

at a corner

of her dry mouth,

doom resides

in her eyes.

She has become

literary device,

media poster child,

noble poet’s metaphor.

She is Africa.

She is lost potential,

cruel dictator’s refuse,

racist imperialism’s bastard.

Object of charity,

endless pit,

nameless victim.

Yet what of Monique Dembele?

Malian midwife with leathery hands, barely 33 years on this earth.

Little formal training, she earned more money than men in her village,

ushering new life, banishing health risks for the women of her village.

Undeterred in both curiosity and generosity,

until the irony of her death in childbirth.

What about this Africa?

What about Mustafa Kudrati, lover of both Logic and Spirit?

Born and raised in Tanzania, yet Pakistani family tree signifies

somewhere else to our narrowed minds.

What about his efforts: Kuleana, a center for street children,

where there is shelter, health care, education?

What about this Africa?

What about Mukuli, five year old Akamba girl?

Persistent, clever & blessed with apple cheeks.

Mango juice dripped so steadily from her chin,

I could take her skin color for orange.

Like she took mine for red, dust kicked up

on my ankles from long walks on dry dirt roads.

She never did believe me, that my skin was white.

When she threw water on my dusty legs, the color trickled down.

She was convinced even more I could not be trusted

regarding facts of skin color, in particular, my own.

What about these Africas? What about these ones?

(cc) Karen G. Johnston

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Self Love

In this actual garden, lush with verdant seedlings

centered in fecund peat, moist ritual spring mounds

swelling with late summer portent,

my knees are encrusted with disgorged weeds.

Abandoned work gloves mean dirty hands, gritty nails.

Truly something I can sink into: my whole body, my whole earthy self.

Dusk descends, coerces me out of the garden, to the kitchen sink.

With cleansing tenderness, soap swirls sensually in my hands,

disrobing dirt and sweat with a stream of rushing abandon.

It is time: too long in coming, that is true.

First, I dry these rough hands with the lustiest of cotton.

Then cradle the phone with the long lingering message of your hunger for me.

Next, this latest act of self love: with budding pleasure,

I press the erase button.

(cc) Karen G. Johnston