Street Theater

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there were voices

she stood on the sidewalk
brown-eyed, haired, skinned, clothed, shoed
answering them

animated

lighting a stub of a cigarette
she’d picked off the ground
her mouth rounded
inhaling
yelling

thin as rolling paper
she wavered in the Light Rail’s breeze
nearly toppled
but righted
raised her fist
and howled

she cursed the train
commuters
the pathetic nub of nicotine
a world long gone to mud
with its muck of formless voices
dogging her unsteady step
her own Sophocratic chorus
for a Greek tragedy of a life

awake, asleep, sober, stoned, adrift
a cacophony only she can hear

all these words
enough to drown in

her rounded mouth
inhaling
yelling
as we watched
and wished the curtain would fall

 

August 2016
Julie Ayers

How A Mother Makes Her Morning Cup Of Tea

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As the sun rises orange fire
she walks barefoot to the kitchen
in a simple, summer nightgown
washed by years to softness
a faded brown
spotted with small dots
that for some reason make her smile

She sees the dishes
left in the sink by small hands and large
a cereal bag, half full
resting against the empty box
glasses on the counter
next to an empty milk jug

Their curly-mammoth of dog
trailing her
she opens the porch door
to let him out in the lushness of dewy grass
fills his bowl with food
and opens the window overlooking the garden

She moves about the kitchen
rinses, repackages, tidies, seals, recycles
loads everyone’s dishes in the dishwasher
wipes the counter
and goes to the basement
to the extra fridge to get a carton of skim
notes it is the last one
and writes “Milk” on the grocery list
when she returns to the kitchen
before pouring some into the steamer

As she puts the milk away
she realizes her daughter has used the last of the chai
goes back to the basement in search of more
remembers the laundry is in the dryer from last night
beach towels from the pool
she pulls them from the machine
folds them
and places them in the waiting beach bag on the floor
scoops the rest of the clothes into the laundry basket
and heads upstairs with the tea
“CHAI” is written emphatically on the list

As she sets down the pen
her mind engages in an unbidden inventory
spotting a gap in open-fridge-image in her head
she picks the pen up again
“Cider,” for her son
she smiles

The box of tea finally in hand
finally open
twenty minutes after her insouciant entrance
into the morning light of the kitchen
she pours the dark liquid
into an ordinary cup and puts it in the microwave
adds a splash of heavy cream to the skim in the steamer
pushes the button until it glows red
the white mass begins its swirl

Chai box placed into the fridge
she stands on tiptoes and reaches
pulls her favorite cup down
from where she’s hidden it
placed high on a shelf
tucked inside of a stack of deep bowls
out of her diminutive daughter’s reach

Something she’s set aside
just for herself
an item that holds
adorned with rich, soft color
tiny, raised dots like Braille

Once filled by tea and milk
the feel of the warmed surface against her palm
like a long-awaited caress

An oasis
sometimes as ethereal as a mirage
her moment to sit
and sip alone
with thoughts of nothing less
than sunrise and birdsong

She can’t bear to think of it dropped
one more piece potentially lost
to the demands and confusing chaos of family

In her mothering world of limitless care
and constant nurture
which she embraces and willfully chooses daily
she holds this
unbroken

 

July 3, 2016
Julie Ayers

finalization

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her foot bounced in time
to the music
as she laid in her stroller
earlier that day
we’d finalized her adoption
a judge in black robe
telling us our family was legal
and final
Baltimore ArtScape 1996
Robert Cray sang and played
and she was happy
as were we
now she dances
on the steps of the courthouse
where our family
first became a family
my musical child
now a woman
and I wonder
how two decades have passed
since I first held her
and knew what it was like
to love someone
so hard
that you forget
you need to breathe

 

Julie Ayers
NaPoWriMo Day 30

Found Poem: One Text Today From My Daughter

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The. You. I love.

Sierra.
You are the best of all the Mom.

The new one
and only a small group in

The. You.
I love it

and I have no clue who they really are
the same thing over and over
a month or two
and three of us who we are

the only one of my friends to play the game is on my iPhone
is so much better now than ever before

I go back in time and money to get my money

on the way you can do
go home.

Sierra the best thing about it

but it doesn’t work on my iPhone

to be able
too many people have to be

 

Julie Ayers (& Sierra)
NaPoWriMo Day 29

When Social Workers Weep

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She’d dream of Crock-Pot pepper steak when the going got tough
Angel food cake propped upside down to cool on a Coke bottle
She’d read reports that stress morphed your cells
Slowed your metabolism and thickened arteries
Decades in, her fingers remained pink
And her body tumor free

What she dreaded most
Was the look of dumbfounded horror
In the eyes of professionals
She wondered if they went home
Climbed into bed next to their partners
And spooled out her story

She should be an alcoholic
Obese or a secret cutter
Gray and sloven
Rage-fully bitter
Morose
Cold

Instead she was
Obscenely ordinary

 

Julie Ayers
NaPoWriMo Day 28

Yellowed

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Curled and quiet
She lay on her side
Watching the yellow wallpaper age
Wondering if the shadows
Playing there
Were only shifting light

Too tired to lift her arms
She lacked the will
To peel the paper back
And change her view
Instead preferring to seethe
At its daily sameness

Once she’d been a painter
Every wall a potential
Mural or statement
Bold and fearless
She’d shaped the world
To her perfect vision

Now she sighed
And shifted from side to side
The view the same from right
Or left
She suspended in the bland
changeless nowhere

Weary of hoisting paint brushes
She dreamt of a match

 

Julie Ayers
NaPoWriMo Day 27