The Upside’s Downsides

Pensacola mural.jpg

For a few seasons after that dark, tans-free summer
after the British Petroleum oil spill,
Pensacolians still found purple-black shells & tar balls
washed ashore like some Biblical plague.
They pumped gas like some people pumped iron,
pulled mullets out of their gullets
like some people pulled muscles & tendons.
Browned while smoking hash,
they luxuriated in the erupting boil
that was the sun,
pickling their organs
while drinking in
the bay’s briny scent,
puckering up,
wrinkling like worried grapes,
fermenting,
preserving,
& dehydrating their bodies
with mixers & elixirs.
Even a BLT sandwich seemed too hot to eat.

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).

Sweet Little Nothings

Buy something frivolous

Bubbles turned the backyard
into a summer wonderland.
Sidewalk chalk turned the untreated fence
into a graffiti canvas
where games of Hangman & Tic-Tac-Toe
were left to wash away in the rain.
There were balloon water bombs,
whipped cream,
& silly string out of a can.
A kite was for paper doll rides,
a bucket,
for suds piled high on the air conditioner–
only to be blown away like snow flurries
when it kicked back on.
Plastic eggs were for wee poems
& scavenger hunt clues;
beans & pasta were for making mosaics.
The world on the screen became smaller–
almost as insignificant as a distant star–
while the world outside
became as big as the sun.

Sweet Little Nothings

Ride with the top down

Bikini tops & flip flops
replace bras & high heels.
It is the season for hair up
& windows down,
of ice cream melting
& crawfish steaming,
of long, lemonade days
& slow, twilight walks,
of eating chilled watermelon on back patios
& drinking iced tea on front porches,
of gardenias releasing their perfume,
of honey suckling
& strawberry picking,
of running barefoot in the backyard,
of small, plump hands stained with finger paint,
& laying below a ceiling fan,
cutting through summer’s rhapsody.

Summer in Spring: Love in the Afternoon

summer fun.JPG

Though I love the holiday season with all its glitz and glam, it is the warm season I long for, with its relaxing vibes.  I like to say eighty-two degrees with a breeze is my ideal.  I spend at least three hours a day outside during the summer.  If I could, I would live in a bikini, cover-up, and flip-flops year round, with my hair thrown up into a messy bun (the other kind makes me look bald).  I like not having to warm up the car, or bundle up before going outside, or having to worry about blow-drying my hair after a shower.  Summer is low-maintenance.

I guess you could say I have spring break fever.  I spent the late afternoon sunbathing on a sand-colored fleece blanket on our weedy grass, my neighbor playing “I Hope You Dance” by Lee Ann Womack on the radio.  The late afternoon sun waned as I waxed philosophical, thinking about life’s unanswered questions (like “What exactly is a peanut-butter haircut?” and “If the whole world was naked, would we be skinnier?”), while my  three-year-old daughter fed sticks and leaves to the A/C fan unit.  It was the ultimate relaxation, saturated with sunshine that turned my creamy skin into brown butter.

So often, I’m doing, and I forget to just be.  I didn’t even bring a book to the blanket.  I don’t need constant stimulation.  I was letting myself have some quiet time and my daughter, some unstructured play.  I delight in the way she loves the outdoors, though she still turns into a glassy-eyed zombie with a hearing problem when she plays with our old cell phones.

I suppose that’s why I love the warm so much, because when it’s cold, I don’t spend any more time outside than I have to.  Even bundled up, it’s not comfortable to be wearing so many layers, and fun in the water is out of the question.  I love the season of chocolate bars melting before you get to the car, of ceiling fans cutting through our thick, humid air, and stroller walks at twilight, the smell of meat grilling on the back porch.  As I walk through our neighborhood and pass each house with a lighted window, I think of them as their own separate universes–our neighborhood a solar system.  It’s like walking in space.

While I walk (today, it was while I sprawled), I thought about a butterscotch milkshake I had once.  It was at Spencer’s Drive-In in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, but the place is just a memory now.

 

When my daughter and I went back inside, I take a cooler shower than usual.  When I dry off, the smell of bleach from my white towel makes my nostrils smart.  (Bleaching whites are part of my spring cleaning routine.) My face feels deliciously tight, and I am ready to make my kitchen cabinet casserole (what I call spring cleaning the fridge) while my daughter, freshly-bathed and smelling of lavender and innocence, jumps on my grandmother’s love seat with the cushions out.

All is calm, all is right, until she sneezes, and I am running from the next room, scrambling around to find a wipe while begging her not to touch “it.”

 

Poem-a-Day Writer’s Digest Challenge #23. Theme: When (Blank)

When in Pensacola…

…do as the Pensacolians do—
wearing trunks with flip-flops;
bikini tops under tank tops.
Getting drunk off the humid air,
sober off the salt air.
Eating fried chicken sound side,
sun browning surf side,
drowning,
drenched in the languor of
terracotta-tinged Indian summer.

2016 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 23

When Winter Became a Memory

Two magnolias.jpg

Sometime in the latter half of the Third Millennium,
the atmosphere warmed so that snow no longer fell,
and ice formed only in man-made freezers.

There was no more skiing,
or blizzards,
or ice skating on a pond.
Trips to tropical paradises
were no longer game show prizes,
for Scandinavia enjoyed endless summers.

Sweaters and socks had been replaced with
swimsuits and sandals,
and outdoor activity ceased
between the hours of ten till four.

Some would sleep then,
for the night would be cooler—
lit up like that particle of time
when a lightning bolt strikes,
illuminating the moon-dark.

Timeless was the ice cream cone,
now enjoyed indoors;
endless, the dawn of night chores.

The earth did not become a desert,
for as slowly as it had evolved
through human intervention,
it stopped via the same route.

The air did not so much stir as hovered,
like a hummingbird over hollyhocks.
The waters of the ocean were warm,
and stepping into the pulsing foam,
was like stepping into a lukewarm bubble bath.

The raw, masculine energy of the sun
fueled the livelihood of the planet’s inhabitants,
so that life did not cease,
for what was life without work?

Stables became comfortable places
for humans without homes to stay;
fireplaces had become hiding places.
Athletic stadiums had become like
The Colosseum,
for even the night was too warm for
such strenuous activity.

Mother Earth, like a woman in menopause,
was going through The Change,
but The Change would not last forever.
Solar energy was like the hormones,
regulating Her body—
a temple not of doom,
but a temple of hope for the future
of the nature
of humankind.

Originally written as part of the Writer’s Digest Wednesday poetry challenge, using the theme:  When Everything Goes