Poem(?): Dos Mundos…Two Worlds

IMG_0253

 

Dos Mundos…Two Worlds

By Michelle Garren Flye

 

Mama ties back my hair.

Tu eres muy linda, Mija, she says.

You are very pretty, my daughter.

I hear it both ways, bilingual.

Best of both worlds, Abuela might say.

But we left Abuela in Mexico long ago.

 

Mama leaves me at the school gate.

She tugs my ponytail, smiling.

No tengas miedo, she says.

Do not be afraid…and I will try.

My mother speaks three languages.

Love is a language, too.

 

How do you say school in Spanish?

The girl asks me with a friendly smile.

Escuela, I tell the girl, not afraid.

Cool, she says. Want to play?

We play tag and I am happy.

Mama was right—there is nothing to fear.

 

I am brave all day. I am not afraid

I win the spelling bee, all in English.

My teachers are all American.

I can speak to them and I’m not afraid.

I want to tell Mama about my day.

I wait after school, but she doesn’t come.

 

My neighbor comes and kneels beside me.

She’s American, she has two teenage sons.

She doesn’t speak Spanish, but she speaks love.

Her voice breaks when she tells me they took Mama.

I know what she’s saying, even when I stop hearing.

I’m not me anymore. They took me, too.

 

She makes space for me in her home.

They are kind, but I know I have no place.

I used to have two worlds, now I have none.

No country, no place for me, no mama.

One of the lost generation without a home.

Y ahora, tengo miedo. And now I am afraid.

Poem: Shards of Lost Justice

united states of america flag

Photo by Gerritt Tisdale on Pexels.com

Shards of Lost Justice

By Michelle Garren Flye

 

She trembles before the white man, a tiny dark hand clutched in hers.

“This is my child,” she says, defiant before him. “I’m keeping her.”

But the white man tears the child away and glares at the black woman.

“Send her back,” he says, and white hands pull mother away from child.

 

The brown woman struggles in the clutch of the ICE men.

Her daughter weeps as she watches them take her away.

“Let her stay,” pleads her husband. “It was only a traffic ticket.”

But the man with the badge shakes his head. “Send her back,” he says.

 

The little girl stands alone before the judge, no idea where her parents are.

“They brought me here,” she whispers. “I don’t know where my home is.”

“She was separated from her parents,” her lawyer says. “This is not the American way.”

The judge shakes his head. “The law is clear. Send her back.”

 

The brown woman is different. She is slight but strong, not easily vanquished.

An American citizen, a Congresswoman, a representative, she speaks out.

He doesn’t like what she says, her differences frighten him, so he bullies and brags.

“She doesn’t love America like me,” he tells the mob. “Send her back,” they chant.

Poem: What Good is a Girl?

Today my heart aches for children, but especially girls. Girls whose childhood is stripped away too early. I remember when men started taking notice of me. When I wore shorts on a summer day and walked down the street in my hometown and a man wolf-whistled at me.

I was thirteen. I had no idea what the thoughts of those men were when they ogled me. If I’d known, I probably would never have left the house again. As it was, I blushed and felt like I’d done something wrong.

That was my first introduction to what some men think girls are good for. Today, in a courtroom, a powerful man is calling 14-year-olds “underaged women”. Which indicates that once a female begins menstruating, she’s only good for one thing. I mean, hey, what else are girls good for?

Well, I wrote this for the mothers of “underage women” and for the “underage women” themselves. We are good for so much more.

 

What Good is a Girl?

By Michelle Garren Flye

 

She can sing like a lark and make you feel like you’re flying.

She can paint pictures with words that leave you sighing.

She can build the best sand castles, run fleetly to the sea—

And leave you wondering, what else can she be?

 

She can spend hours in a tree just reading a book.

She might even share if  you climb up to take a look.

She can tell jokes that make you belly laugh out loud—

Or lay back on the grass and point out a castle in a cloud.

 

She’ll defend you against enemies, always come to your aid.

She’ll build the best science project, make the best grade.

She can net the winning basket or hit the last goal—

One thing is sure, life with her never gets old.

 

What good is a girl? you dare to ask.

Better than you deserve, you stupid ass.

IMG_8714

Mo Willems might be my hero.

38B7A857-CCC8-4372-A538-2543DC064778

A children’s book can give you a glimpse into your deepest soul. Photo by Michelle Garren Flye.

I remember the first time my son brought home Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems from the school library. I loved reading to my kids, but I really never connected with Pigeon. Why he was so popular with my kids, I never really knew. I loved the Frances books, anything by Rosemary Wells, and when they started bringing home little beginning readers like Henry and Mudge, I was in seventh heaven!

But the Pigeon? Every time one of my kids brought one of those home, I just rolled my eyes.

Turns out I missed the point. Pigeon is much deeper and much more shallow at the same time. He’s a philosopher and a spoiled child wrapped into one, which is kind of how I see myself. Maybe I just didn’t like seeing myself on the pages of a children’s book?

How do I know all this about Pigeon? I read an interview with his creator. Check it out here: Mo Willems Interview. (My thanks to my friend Liz for referring me to this article!)

Mo Willems’s admittedly incredible ability to look into my soul and pull a pigeon out of it notwithstanding, he says some very insightful things about the nature of art and creativity and writing. “Books are sculptures” is indeed one of them. What took me most by surprise, though, was the revelation that he’s not just writing to inspire kids. He’s writing to inspire the parents to do and say and live the way they want their kids to do and say and live.

Consider this: “[W}e constantly hear, ‘Our children are the future,’ but we seldom say, ‘Hey we’re the present and it’s incumbent on us to be present.’ So there’s this silliness, but there’s also a, ‘You can do it, too.'”

Thank you, Mo Willems!

I’m 49 years old. I’ve just published my first children’s book (Jessica Entirely by Shelley Gee). I also privately published my first collection of poetry Times and Ties. I’m taking singing lessons and auditioning for plays. I’m inspired by my kids, and my only regret right now is that I’ve never done any of these things before. I didn’t model my life by living my dreams. If anything, they’ve modeled for me by bringing home books for me to read that I wouldn’t normally have read, and introducing me to movies and television and a slew of pets I never would have chosen to bring into my life.

So I’ll presume to add a little to Mr. Willems’s statements. Be inspiring to your children, but don’t be afraid to be inspired by them, too. A family circle is beneficial to all.

Something I wrote:

Jessica smiled in spite of her worries about her friends. They all had friends in town and friends who evacuated and friends who might have lost their homes in the storm. But she had her family right there with her and the idea of helping made her feel much better about things in general. She took a deep breath and followed her family to the kitchen, happier than she ever had been at the prospect of spending an hour or two with them at the table.

Poem: Teetering

IMG_8049

There’s no guardrail here.

A few days ago, I visited the Grand Canyon. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to go, even if it was on my bucket list. The Grand Canyon is a bit of a challenge for someone with even a mild fear of heights, and I definitely have at least that. But I found once I got there that the paths were wide and I could walk on the side away from the canyon and enjoy the view.

My kids were another story entirely. It seemed they were intent on walking as close to the edge as I would allow. I was constantly calling or motioning them back from what seemed like a precipitous edge down which they were sure to fall. My oldest finally looked at me with exasperation and said, “You bring me to a big hole in the ground and tell me to stay away from the big hole in the ground!”

I laughed, but it’s true. I told him to stay away from the hole in the ground because I want to protect him. I don’t want him to fall.

Of course, while we were looking at the big hole in the ground, the United States teetered on the brink of far worse. We put our toes over the very edge of a very dark, deep hole waiting to drown us in war (and don’t fool yourself that it won’t be nuclear). We’re still balancing on the edge of that black pit, but it’s full of our sins just waiting to pull us in. Sins like helpless children held prisoner without decent beds or meals. Environmental regulations rolled back every day in favor of money. A clueless leader who has lost the respect of every nation on earth except those hoping to profit from his ignorance. And our blind eyes turned to all of it.

Remember the feeling of standing on the edge of a pool waiting to plunge in but not quite ready for the cold water to envelop your steaming skin? Remember the feel of the rough concrete beneath your feet as you leaned forward just a little more, spreading your arms for balance so you didn’t fall too soon but you might fall any minute?

Remember the moment your toes finally lost their grip and you plunged in before you were ready and the hopelessness of knowing the icy water would shock your skin and pull you down?

We’re teetering on the edge of something far worse now.

 

Teetering

By Michelle Garren Flye

 

Toe slides…

Over the edge…

Arms spread…

Balanced,

But mindful.

 

Lean a little more—how far can we go?

How far before…

The balance

Slips?

And we

Fall?

 

Wobbling,

Swaying,

Sliding,

It may be

Fate,

But—

 

Who will see the plunge and watch us flatten the world?

Can anyone stop it?

Please?

A poem for a friend

For Pam

By Michelle

Oh my brain just couldn’t comprehend

But my treacherous heart heard the news

And held it close and took it in

Oh today is gray because you’re gone

Taking your light and helpful spirit

And you won’t be coming around

And oh my heart keeps reminding me

You’re gone.

Oh my friend what you’ve left behind

Has more value than words can say

More than most with twice the time

Oh the legacy of a loving life

The warm work of hands that care

Reminds us soon we’ll see the sun shine

But oh my heart keeps telling me

You’re gone.

Poem: In Her Prime

I have a particular affinity for daffodils. I’ve taken dozens of pictures of them this spring alone. They’re almost done here, but I found this lovely this morning, and it seemed like a special gift to me. So I wrote a poem about her.

In Her Prime

By Michelle Garren Flye

A little wrinkled,

She holds up her bobbing head.

Not done yet, she says.

Author’s Note: Happy shared birthday, RBG. Sometimes wrinkles make you stronger.