Sunday, July 8, 2012


another poem from the "trauma series"

“stay and fight”
says krishna to arjuna
startling me out of dream into cool june morning

what kind of bloodless revolutionary am I?
I’m not a fighter I tell friends
but they just laugh

they recognize my karmic burden a mile away
even if I do not

how does the pacifist
confront the madman?
how does the satyagrahi resist spray painted toxic fumes
that twist her words into bludgeons?

we repaint the kitchen red over the slanderous yellow
put some resistance into the plaster
a circle of protection primed and sealed tight

pack your toothbrush
3 pairs underwear
2 tshirts
and go

this flimsy summer dress
now always to hold the story
of the white man’s revenge

develop an allergic reaction to trauma
feel your chest tighten
sneeze four times in a row
as the whole body inflames into heightened immune response

choose the car not the bike
avoid street festivals
heart races when spotting a shaved head
or a black ford focus

come back a week later
chiming your way in to clear a path into the house
collect mail and phone messages
but leave quickly
forgetting what you came for

even now you can’t remember
the color of his deranged eyes

like the baby rabbit trying to cross locust street
the impala before the cheetah’s teeth plunge in
isaac on the stone slab before abraham
I prostrate myself
rounding my back to expose my kidneys

my polite neighbors are shocked
into impotent complicity
watching the drama unfold on a second floor balcony
starring three brown women and one screaming white man

I fall asleep at random moments
packing myself in ice
mid-sentence while teaching
I encase myself in a cool blue silence

i startle awake
to the sound of traffic or a pre-dawn robin
ready to fight or flee
where is the toothbrush my shoes my keys?

this time I give myself permission
to weep
no children or husband to put first
salty baptism in showers
in cars
between classes I teach
at dinner tables
and breakfast tables
I weep my way through songs
through prayers
I cry before strangers
I cry before civil servants behind glass shields
I cry naked like a newborn
or swaddled in bedclothes
I cry for omma and feel her presence near my right ovary
appa I call out and he appears under my shoulder blade
I cry in the presence of angels
the flutter of their wings creating an indoor draft
I cry in the arms of women who hold me as I held my slippery daughter at birth
or my deathbed mother in intensive care
I cry in the arms of my son
whose shoulders were so broad it took two extra pushes to urge them out
I cry as if my wealth is measured in tears
lavishly generously I weep
I cry as if I deserve to cry
for what woman does not?


twilightme said...

painfully, clear and astounding. Not sure, but oh so sure this was the best way to start this day.
Patricia Harrelson

peggy hong said...

wonderful to hear from you, patricia. thanks for your warm reception. blessings, p