Pensacola, 2016

Pensacola Amtrak

A family drops by the Apple Market for some fried chicken
and cold salads on the way to the beach.
The sound of ice being poured into coolers,
of flip-flops flapping on the pavement,
the smell of charcoal and char,
are harbingers of fun times to come.

Families frolic on the sugar white sand,
glassy and silver in the right light—
the water like a mood ring,
hovering between blue and green.

The congregation at Olive Baptist Church
sings “Our God is an Awesome God.”
When one seeking salvation opens the door,
a heavenly blast of cold air banishes the hellish heat.

At the corner, a group of students from Pensacola Christian College—
with their white shirts and black Bibles—
call out the wages of sin, one by one,
whilst on the opposite corner,
a homeless man holds up a cardboard sign: Cracker Needs Help.

At Palafox Market, Miss Lizzy Loo sells her raw goat’s milk soap and
Miss Patty Jones, her nanner puddin’ fudge,
while Kirk Fontaine strums his dulcimer, singing sunny blues.
Wind chimes made of stained glass create patterns on the sidewalks,
the concrete cool from the tents and trees.
The subtle aroma of fresh oranges carry like music notes—
singing a song of Floridian bounty.

At the Naval Aviation Museum,
a group of enlisted wander the halls,
feeling red, white, and blue all over,
from learning of those who served before them.

Hilda Hoggshead makes it up the 177 steps
in the Pensacola Lighthouse Museum—
the sound of the Blue Angels flying overhead.
The guide talks about ghosts,
which Hilda thinks is hogwash.

Children climb the forts at Ft. Pickens,
parents admonishing them to be careful
while photographers collect shots for their newest calendar.
A hipster lays on a cannon.

The WriteOn! Pensacola group meets at Josie Norris’s house
over raspberry iced tea and corn muffins,
trying to solve the problems of the world with prose,
chatting over Rick Bragg witticisms,
and mourning Pat Conroy, who lies in repose.

At the Bodacious Olive,
a couple of girlfriends since college meet
to whip up some eggs as they think about their empty nests.
Here, they trade family night fare for budget-busting gourmet,
finding their new rhythm through the clicking of cutlery
and mounds of butter—a la Paula Deen.

At the Miracle Faith Center,
Pastor is giving an inspirational talk
on Pop Culture Jesus,
asking for “an Amen, Praise the Lord, and Hallelujah.”
From either heat or sensual, religious rapture,
women fan themselves with programs,
caught up in the charisma and magnetism
of a man after any goddess’s own heart.

A group of Bernie Sanders supporters
create graphic art on Graffiti Bridge,
while a group of “Anybody But Trump” supporters
hold up handmade signs,
the smell of Sharpie still high-inducing under their nostrils.

Poets meet for vegan cuisine at “The End of the Line Café,”
the smell of coffee and a warm invite
enticing others to listen to an alternative speech form—
truth tellers in narrative.

Friends hang out at Scenic 90 Café
for homemade pie or a black-and-white—
the taste taking one back to a place in time
to a place one has never been.

There is Joe Patti’s, where one goes for the freshest seafood in town,
like red snapper and crawfish for boils on the back patio.
A couple of drunk chickens and a few beers—
the cold bottle as wet as the humid air—
relax the flow of conversation.

Baseball fans and lovers of anything local,
file in to the Blue Wahoos stadium,
the pounding of feet rapping a tinny melody.
The breeze from the Gulf
caress the faces like the ghosts of dandelion seeds.
The stadium lights come on with the periwinkle twilight—
a wrinkle in time that separates day from night—
the sudden brightness creating an interplanetary, otherworldly effect.
An air of lassitude and happy times pervades.

Even the ghosts that haunt St. Michael’s cemetery
are shadowed by the overpass.
All are a part of the Pensacola community—
a melting pot simmering in the Emerald Coast.

When you hear some laughter and nobody near,
that is the ring of Southern belles from summers past.
I am home.

This was published in The Emerald Coast Review’s “Life in Your Time” edition (2017).

The Annexation of Angela

Chimerism

You knew me before I was born,
and the other me,
before we became one.

At the basic level,
I was two,
becoming the stronger of them,
absorbing the other like a sponge.

I’ve two fathers,
much like Christ,
though I know neither of them,
and they know not of me.

I look in the glass that looks back at me,
wondering who the other one was,
but I’m just a chimera,
a breathing being like few others—
an oddity.

I’m neither a myth nor a monster
with the head of a lion.
I have not the body of a goat,
nor have I a serpent’s tail.
I am not the devil;
the devil is one,
even as I am two.

I am not a horror of the imagination,
but am the product of two separate nights
shared by three.
An unholy triad, some say,
rather than a holy trinity.

Did we hold hands,
and I,
wanting to survive,
draw you into me,
having not yet taken my first breath?

Did I not let you go,
but held tight so that I might live?

Forgive me,
for I knew not what I was doing.
I did not steal your identity,
I simply split mine.

And then I was born.

Published in The Kilgore Review (2016), having placed second in the poetry category of Pensacola State College’s annual Walter F. Spara Writing Contest.

Seven Wonders in Every Wonder

Me and Kel.jpg

Through my child eyes,
the ordinary was made extraordinary—
the ivory delicacy of snow in a Florida winter,
the heat that made roads shimmer like infinity pools,
the chocolate milk that came from “How Now Brown Cow,”
the kaleidoscopic rainbow of a pepper mélange under a microscope;

stargazing in the backseat on the way to
Poplar Bluff, Missouri, counting the diamonds,
collecting seashells that washed up like
mermaid Christmas ornaments,
blowing the dandelion seeds
to twirl like tiny pinwheels,
the fascination of lying under a Christmas tree,
the candy lights sprinkling me like a cupcake;

spinning in a chair ‘til I got dizzy,
sliding down the hall in fuzzy winter socks,
swinging in the air, head back, flying with eyes closed,
jumping up and down on the bed
‘till the box springs broke,
falling back on a pile of pillows,
taking the breath from me;

singing songs through the fan on the floor,
my words rippling like music notes on a page,
the feel of bubbles, like glassy mother-of-pearls,
popping like a raindrop rainbow on my sunburned face,
blowing on the window and drawing swirls and smileys
and hearts with names inside them;

the feel of the wheels rumbling up my legs during a hayride,
standing on a stepladder and seeing things as my father did,
running through the sprinklers in bare feet on freshly mown grass,
sitting on the screened-in porch swing with Grandma and Grandpa,
watching the lightning merge day and night in 30 microseconds,
feeling like I was inside-out and outside-in all at once;

watching a helium balloon float to the moon while I imagined it
landing on Mars with my name on it for an astronaut to find,
the underwater ballets at Weeki Wachee Springs,
butterflies, hummingbirds, and things that glowed in the dark.

As a child, there were Seven Wonders in every wonder,
and through my child’s eyes, I live the magic all over again.

as published in the Dec/Jan/Feb 2017 issue of Bella Grace Magazine.

Mormons on the Beach

Mish tag

Two by two,
in black-and-white
they stand at the edge of the water—
the one area which God allows Satan to control.

For the ocean swallows immodest women in bikinis,
Sunday beachgoers,
imbibers,
for it was new wine Jesus drank,
never old.
One-pieces cover the sacred womb,
the nourishing globes.
Sundays are worship days,
holy days,
not holidays or fun days.

Water—
the weight of which is incredible—
is a dynamic character,
a purifier,
used in place of wine
to remember the blood spilt on our behalf.

Water—
clearer than plasma,
without cells,
without form,
but not without the power
to kill or heal.

Water—
used to baptize by immersion,
even as it is abused,
used to make coffee,
tea,
and other strong drink.

These two young men now bicycle
down the boardwalk through the sauna
that is Deep South Pensacola,
their calm auras
a stark juxtaposition
to the Bible wavers and screamers
with their handmade signs.

The bicycles keep them humble,
and they endure the long pants
as a form of self-flagellation.
Their soulful windows shine,
for they smoke not,
neither do they sex
or swear.
Clean living is their Windex.
They come complete with a
12-step to Heaven program—
for which copulation resulting in quiverfuls
of legitimates conceived in the covenant
is required.

Door to door,
they sell their Aryan Jesus to the self-proclaimed saved,
looking like the salt of the earth,
though their language is sweet.
They are His mouthpieces,
for God will not speak for Himself.

These handsome lures are groomed
to the perfection expected of the women
who must exemplify modesty and beauty.

Their God is a Being of flesh and bones,
His presence confined by space and time,
a Deity who once was,
as we are now;
these Saints of Latter Days are deified,
even as their Deity
is humanized.

Driving Through the South on Christmas Eve

Pine and holly.jpg

Through the snow-sprayed window I see,
a Christmas tree—white, blue, and beachy;
seashells, starfish and sand dollars adorn,
shiny packages atop a white shag skirt well-worn.

The porch light is on and carolers come in shorts,
standing on the stoop in flip-flops—a casual sort;
holiday movies are playing in the living room,
Christmas lights twinkling to dispel the twilight gloom.

A lady in a sundress and sandals opens the door,
calling her husband and children away from the décor.
Candles rather than logs glow in the fireplace,
while stockings with names does the mantle grace.

Marshmallows swirling in hot chocolate bliss,
bring warmth to the silvery winter solstice;
the hydrangeas and azalea blooms will be here soon,
but in the meantime, the festivities brighten the dark afternoon.

The bells of St. Luke’s toll in the steeple bower,
as do the bells from the college clock tower;
at the Mount of Olives church, a wonderland of white lights,
shine like ten thousand halos—a billion stars burning bright.

Choirs of young schoolchildren sing in rows,
paper snowflakes completing the wintry tableau,
whilst older children perform A Christmas Carol,
donning their turn of the last century apparel.

The streets glisten with neither sleet nor snow,
but with the reflection of lights and candle glow;
a mist has imbued the balmy, breezy air,
silhouetting the trees, their branches bare.

The beauty of the beach is pristine and clear,
for ‘tis deserted this Yuletide time of year;
standing on a dune is a snowman with eyes of charcoal,
made of white sugar sand, and a conch for a nose.

Families fill polished, wooden pews for Midnight Mass,
moonlight shining through windows of stained glass,
their faces patterned like a fragmented kaleidoscope—
with the colors of awe, wonder, peace, love, joy and hope.

Strains of “Silent Night” sung in German,
followed by a Christmas sermon,
swell the hallowed, high-ceilinged space,
for surely, His presence is in this place.

Punch cups of eggnog, laced with cherry brandy,
complement a plate of pecan divinity candy.
Santa will be sated and the kids will vigil keep,
with miles of sheep to count before they sleep.

There are no sleds, or snow that blankets the ground,
nor heavy coats or scarves or boots, or days snowbound;
but Christmas here in this little town in southern parts,
is every bit as real and wonderful as those in Yankee hearts.

 

For Her

In Spain, surrounded by toys.jpg

For the child whose mother served her country
& whose dad served her burnt meals,
winning the genetic lottery
meant being born to parents who loved her.
For the young woman who retired early,
sleep was neither a waste of time nor a pastime—
it was what made wake time better.
For the gainfully unemployed,
work was not just about doing what she loved,
but about what she had to give to it.
For the artiste & poetess,
education wasn’t just STEM,
but about the humanities that humanized society—
the creativity & imagination that enhanced the earthly existence.
For the wife who was still in love with her husband,
a soul-mate wasn’t someone who always understood her,
but was someone who loved her
despite not always understanding her.
For the college mom who turned down the chance to study abroad,
children were blessings that did not come
without sacrificing a selfish part of themselves—
sacrifice that was without regret.
For the middle-aged widow staring at a stack of bills,
being rich meant having everything she needed,
& a little bit more.
For the elderly lady who was healed,
health was the most precious wealth,
for with vibrant health,
she had the wherewithal to do all things.

Yessir and No Ma’am: Livin’ the Dream in Lower Alabama

Pensacola may not be in the heart of Dixie,
but it is in the aorta (if the aorta was upside down).

Our cuisine is macaroni and cheese any way we can get it
and grits 5-ways to Saturday & 6-ways to Sunday.
If you put sugar in your grits, You ain’t right.
We love us some Cajun boiled peanuts in brown paper bags
and nanner puddin’ in sheet pans at every potluck.
Everything else, we fry and wash down with sweet iced tea.

Gardenias sway like flouncy-skirted temptresses,
releasing their fragrance like a pheromone;
the azaleas pop out without care,
for water is in the air;
privet clusters and crepe myrtles take flight like dandelion seeds.

The iconic Graffiti Bridge on 17th Avenue
is our landmark for free expression.
Facebook pages are dedicated to it.
Everything from breasts to Bush for President
has been painted on there for a day.

There’s the 1000-plus member Baptist church,
pastored by the fire-headed preacher with the big teeth
an Elmer Gantry-type personality who’s found his Zenith, Missouri.
If you’re in need,
they will give you expired food for free.

“Bless your hearts, you’re going to hell,”
one of the lady parishioners tells a pair of Mormon missionaries
the ones that ride around town on bicycles,
marked as Elder This and Elder That,
even though they are young.
They don’t know what to think;
they don’t talk about Jesus this much in Utah,
and church here for many is just a Sunday thing,
’cause they already be saved.

Everyone is either saved or damned;
there’s always somebody praying for you,
passing the buck to God.
If you say you’re spiritual but not religious,
well, you’re just trying to have your red velvet cake and eat it, too.

Jesus was a Socialist, I hear from the liberals
who don’t believe in Him anyway
at least the One with all the rules
while those wearing Confederate flag tees say,
“God only helps those who help themselves.”

At one street corner, a well-dressed group is waving their Bibles and yelling;
at the other, a homeless man is holding up a cardboard sign that says,
Anything helps, God bless.
The homeless are like the trees that sway in the gulf breeze;
they have become part of the landscape
that’s made up of shuttered businesses and brand-spankin’ new homes
built next door to shitholes.

Cars wallpapered in Bible quotes drive by churches with signs that say,
“Do Jesus a favor by putting yourself in His,”
“God’s will can be your way,”
and “An apple one day turned God away.”

Everyone is pro-choice here
it’s just a matter of whom they want to save:
the unborn or the incarcerated?
Which does Jesus save?
The sinful or sinless?
Don’t you have to be born to be in sin?

There is no separation of Church and State here;
politics and religion are one and the same.

Here, God is omnipresent.

Hot spells compete with cold snaps;
it’s usually boiling hot or freezing cold,
with just a few days of spring scattered
like parsley on a plate of glorified scrambled eggs.

When a hurricane knocks the power out,
we can be found taking several cool showers a day,
the damp towels hardly drying in the humidity,
leaving them smelling mildewy
as if they’d been left in the washer too long.
During those times, our family would be fine dining
in the Sacred Heart Hospital cafeteria.
We want hot food in a cold room
not the other way around.
There were no squirrels for a long time after Ivan
they got blown away.

Every week, there’s a hit-and-run;
cyclists and pedestrians:
be green and poor at your own risk.
Every day, there’s roadkill baking on the asphalt
probably enough critters to fill all the potholes in town.

In the T.T. Wentworth Museum,
a petrified cat is on display.

Beach-themed crap is everywhere;
the weather reports are endless.

Its called the Deep South because its like a pit
that you fall in and can’t scrabble your way out of
not because you’re broken,
but rather, because you’re broken in
and baked into the bread pudding that is the Redneck Riviera.
The South is still proud of its Southerness
even for using don’t when it should be doesn’t.

For grammarians,
it frustrates,
but for storytellers,
it captivates.