I Suppose It Is Time

I suppose that it is time for such a thing to happen. The world has not completely stopped, just taken a sabbatical during the pandemic and virus recovery attempts. Along the way a lot of people have perished. Many of them from the virus and many others in the normal course of life’s medical tragedies that seem suddenly less than immediate, but just as certain as, well, taxes.

Photography with wood window and curtains--night lit view--Copyright JasMardis

I am in the vein of reality where mortality is upon me in a way that brings it all truly home. My spirit demands a sudden accounting of things as I read of the death of a former lover. Approaching my sixtieth birthday in July, an age that my Father did not reach successfully, I am pondering the absence of a woman with whom I once lay generously and passionately for hours and days without beginning or end. Her smile and warmth and coming alongside me in general conversations of daily being and faith explorations gave me a toe hold on the person that I am today. We once turned the morning into awakening with ravenous hungers and physical bonding before surrendering to the start of day. Even now, her body long gone from me; married and surrendering to a spouse; she gives me pleasure and expectation, as I page thru the mornings with others.

Gone. Dead. Passed. Deceased. Succumbed.

She called me not long before her death and asked if I still wanted a particular thing that we once found in a resale shop. It was right there; in her hand; rusted and seized up, as useless as the one we found over fifteen years ago on a lunch side trip. Next to the BBQ place, across a slanted parking lot with a slow-cranking, red and white sign and $30 box springs out front, the wide store windows burped with metal shelves and promise. We left the foil-wrapped food on the car seat and browsed for what she called, “another man’s trash”. Two aisles into our browsing she yelled out to me, “Got IT!” and ran to me with a Smith-Corona manual typewriter. “Fix it up and write me poetry. All for the low-low price of $10 …and rust dust on both our clothes and the back seat of my car.

Later that day, with the office abuzz with some manner of team building, maybe a baby or wedding shower that overtook the conference room, she called me with a request. “Can you come to my office? Well, actually. Can you meet me in the stairwell while this party is going on?” I headed straight over and rode the elevator up to the floor below her office and entered the stairwell for the meet up. She asked if I had written anything yet on the seized up device from lunch. “Nope”. She lifted her navy and white polka-dotted dress and I read, MUSE, written in White-Out on her thighs.

That’s where we found ourselves frequently for much of the next year. Getting caught by stair runners and pretending to share a quick smoke, before the days of twenty-five feet from the building entrance smoking areas. Soon enough the novelty of sneaking off ran its course and our lives succumbed to other relationships and marriages and our growing kids from previous relationships. But, still, she called, all those years later with a familiar tone across the phone lines. “I found another one. You want it? I can send it to you…or you can come get it (laugh). She wasn’t close. Our kids were making kids. That office building has long since started securing the stairwell with digital codes. I couldn’t take off in the middle of the day. I held onto the MUSE through numerous relationships. There were years to add to that story.

Social Media came around and phones changed into cameras and messages could be secreted to anyone at anytime. In the middle of the night I received her breasts and a recording about how much they would be missed. “But, you can remember them like this”. A little while later, months later, she asked for my body’s picture. Later still, she asked if I remembered the White Out; unlit cigarettes and the guy who watched from the next floor up.

In the mail one weekend was a manilla envelope. Inside a sandwich bag was littered with slivers and squares of nylon, silk and cotton fabric that had been sprayed with perfume and had a Victoria’s Secret tag taped to the outside. No return address needed. There were twenty-two pieces: it had been twenty-two years since we last touched. I did not reach back to confirm or celebrate or figure out a flight to nowhere. I put the whole thing in my side table and waited out the unavoidable.

I really do hate Social Media and the insensitive nature of calling out the dead. Memorials of life started populating my timeline within the next few weeks. I guess nobody knows that you are leaving behind lovers when laying hold of your image and videos of your voice…laughter…wedding…graying into a sexy grandma. There is no reason to consider who kissed the dead or found them in delight…read their thighs…felt their breath and bite and exhale.

The ways of the World do not consider your becoming years or fathom a guess at the worth and waning melody of finding yourself suddenly mortal. Unlike a parent or relative; elderly or neighborhood or College roommate’s passing, the first time you lose a lover is a sobering affair. Your bodies are forever linked with shared muscle and fluid exchanges. There is grace and homecoming ending forevermore. And, there is an upturned calendar, hourglass and ticking…ticking…and time running toward you, now. Suddenly, it is possible that you, too, could breathe no more into the memory of someone special.

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.Jas Mardis is a 2014 Texas Literary Hall of Fame inductee and a Fabric and Pyrography Artist .

Stealing Sweet Apple Pears

Audio–Stealing Sweet Apple-Pears

We could not walk away from the wet mouthed joy
of the palm-sized apple-pears
stolen at a speed of one hundred steps an hour
from the tree in Mr. Willie’s backyard

       each bite to come

  worth the bare-foot procession over spurned alley trash
and fallen branches petrified against the barren, rootless earth

each of our shirt-baskets
full to the wide-eyed brim with yellow-green and crimson delight

our mouths already full of last summer’s remembrance:
zest and tang and pith and running

we could not

not even when he stood watching
his ratty bathrobe tied into a knot
the same patterned knot that tied his Viet-damned soul
tied it so tightly that this battle for pears
was his only connection to the world still outside of him

tied and ragged
ragged and red and yellowed and bruised
as much like his wounds on the battleground
torn into strips and shreds and being pulled away from him

like the skin of his plump, backyard fruit
between our teeth

gathered between the supple lips of our youth

pulled and suckled away from the meat and the seed

each bite
each crimson and yellow-green oddest oval globe
taking our teeth like first and last
lovers

each fruit
licking back against our tongues
lapping back into the canyon of our bite
claiming that moment of fulfillment
cajoling our senses toward the next summer’s delight
creating the answers to the questions of pleasure

each of those fruits
come so graciously year after year to that tree
come so tauntingly aromatic on the first day winds
come so wickedly olive-to-sanguine
and finally to wasted, fallen,  saffron fodder for the night creature’s to taste

We
We could not walk away from the wet mouthed joy
of the palm-sized apple-pears
dangling so much like desire
swaying in the lilting southern summer siroccos
like radio music from air-condition less cars
and the sweet, sweet flask of bay rum spilled onto the barber’s smock
and the yelping night hounds trapped, swollen in mid-hump out back of the fence
and
the from heaven falling
out of Mr. Willie’s apple-pear tree
having never landed and bounced against the earth

rather,
dangling
flying
circling and spinning and pendulant from a branch
my face turned crimson
my pants ripped into a knotted gash
and Mr. Willie
coming finally through the screen door
knife
in hand

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.

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Copyright 1996 Jas. C. Mardis  All Rights Reserved

Final Natl-Poetry-Month Poem: How Sweet It Is… (audio and text)

Audio: How Sweet It Is

How Sweet It Is…

I want to sing
not just that hand moving vocalizing from American Idol tryouts
but sing in a way that makes men    wait to go pee

when the alarm has gone off   and it’s me on the radio
and the morning is still cold on the other side of his woman
and she is barely making a sound
but her mouth is a smile
and her hips are exposed from beneath and around her gown

and I’m chiming something from The Originals

and I don’t even care that it’s four-part harmony
’cause damn    he’s looking over across her curves and sweetness
and remembering a few nights ago   that should have been last night, too

and she’s curling her shoulders into the full light of day  breaking across into the room

and her leg straightens   and the gown   just gives up

and there is something rising in the air on the sun’s rays and in the mist of dust
and there are all kinds of “yes” in the way that she opens her eyes to him

and the covers and pillows    fall into line

and there is nothing to be said with words
not even that line about “gonna be late for work”
because I’m on the radio

and what they HEAR when I sing: “DO YOU HEAR WHAT I HEAR”
is “I’ve been missing you since yesterday night”

and what they FEEL when I sing: “WHEN YOUR LIPS ARE KISSING MINE”
is, “Yeah”

and what they KNOW when I sing: “DO YOU HEAR THE BELLS, DARLING”
is, “All I need is five minutes to show you”

and what they DO when I sing: “DO YOU HEAR THE BELLS RINGING IN YOUR EARS, BABY”
is ask, “Can we turn that up a little bit, then?”

…”OH, I’LL NEVER HEAR THE BELLS….OH, I’LL NEVER HEAR THE BELLS…
NO, I’LL NEVER HER THE BELLS WITHOUT….YOU, BABY”

How sweet it must be    to sing

Jas. Mardis (04/2015)
National Poetry Month 2015

**Click here to see The Originals sing their hit song properly

Jas. Mardis is a 2014 Inductee to The Texas Literary Hall of Fame, Multiple National Association of Black Journalist GRIOT Awards for Radio Commentary and  a Pushcart Prize Winner for Poetry. He is Editor of KenteCloth: Southwest Voices of the African Diaspora (UNT Press). For booking information of poetry or The Family Story Project workshops–j.mardis@verizon.net or just send a reply from this page.

What He Say, Daddy?, What He Say?!

When we were boys, my brother and I had the run of Cypress Street in North Little Rock, Arkansas on oursl porchia Summer visits down home. We ate like kings and fished almost daily between stints of wrestling and throwing rocks at wasps nests and some, mean-as-hell, blue jays.

Early mornings broke thru a small window above the kitchen sink. It was always lined with the hard-skinned, green tomatoes from Madear’s garden below. Every morning, sipping cooled black coffee from Daddy S.L.’s saucer and crunching bites of beautifully browned toast, coated with runny egg and grits, there was little else to satisfy our boyhood needs.

I am certain that the early morning dew of Arkansas is medicinal. We never remembered our shoes and wore threadbare pajamas when walking Daddy S.L. to his blue and silver station wagon, but we were sorely protected from the 5:45a.m. chill. I think now that his smooth, baritone chuckle was our warmth as we skittered back into the kitchen to argue over the last sip of cold coffee and bites of breakfast left on his plate.  We would be curled asleep beneath the small, press board and vinyl table within minutes of his leaving…every morning.

He returned home at 3:30pm and walked in giant steps thru the curled up grandkids watching the black and white half hour of Lone Ranger and a local BOZO The Clown Show. We made it a good luck charm to touch the dirt dusted leg of his work pants as he swiped by. In the kitchen MaDear hard fried them palm-sized perch and boiled hot dogs and beans for the kid’s dinner. We heard them kiss.

Other afternoons he stuck his head thru the door and called for us to “come run with me”.  On those afternoons we headed down to the ballpark at Whitmore Circle to watch men play baseball. The best part of those “runs” were the Mexican tamale cart vendors who surely over delivered on those one dollar, corn husk wrapped bundles. But, the best thing  ever about those “runs” was a singing ball player, they called, “Big Cole”.

From the dugout Big Cole ran thru, what I imagined were, old songs; rifts of blues and names of women and men who had done him wrong. He was older than the players and rarely made it to the plate. I recall him swatting a slow lobbed ball over the Pitcher’s outstretched glove just once. He couldn’t “run slow”, the men teased Big Cole, and he slung the bat and settled back into the dugout. After awhile he began to hum, then riff on the idea of  finding a woman who could “wait til the bottle run dry”. “What He say, Daddy?” my bug-eyed query brought chuckles from the grown ups.

Again, Big Cole riffed on about Birmingham not being a ham at all! We oughta see the one up dat gals draws! And me, “What He say, Daddy? What HE SAY?” Soon, recounting stories of thunderous home runs were overshadowed by the salty tongue of Big Cole and a few others trying to jump into the rowdy workman’s calling.

Driving home, Daddy S.L. said that Big Cole was a “Caller” for the Gandy men who worked to straighten the tracks. The heavy loads of trees being harvested  from deep in the woods would damage the rail lines and could warp the creosoled drenched ties. He said the “Gandy Dancers” and work crews from the Penitentiary “throwed” them back in line. Big Cole sang to the men and got everybody on the same rhythm to make the job easier.

Daddy S.L. said that Big Cole hung around places and picked up stories to use in his songs. Later, in July, he drove me to the Little Rock Stock Yards and we parked near the junction where myriad train tracks snaked and fingered alongside the warehouses for delivery. We left the car windows down and a warm breeze had me nodding.

I awoke to a shadowy clanking of iron rods and deep laughter. A White man suddenly shouted, “Gwine up to de quarter head”, and men moved in unison toward a curved section of tracks. I sat up and leaned out the station wagon’s window just as the White man made a jerking arm motion and yelled out to the men.

On the hot breeze a long moan built quickly to a wailing, then nasally passage in Big Cole’s, familiar cadence.

Aahhh! Aaa-Ooohhh-Oh-Ohh-Oh

Aahh—Two lil’ gals was court’n Me

One was blind & One caint see

My Grandma put a switch to me

When I come home wit a kiss on me

Ol boys pull t’gether

Ol boys pull t’hether—HUH!

At “HUH!” the men shuttered, stomped, whipped their iron rods in a hard, short burst and I saw the track jut to the left.

He did it twice more before the White man gestured with his hand and the men halted. On the wind, that carried dry and hot back to the station wagon window, was laughter. Behind the guffaws came a question. “You couldn’t hide dem gal’s kisses, Cole?!”

Daddy S.L. shook his head, chuckled and started up the family car.

This story first appeared in the blog, Three Days In The City. All copyrights reserved.

Jas. Mardis is an awarded Poet, Radio Commentator, Editor and Fabric Artist. He is a 2014 Inductee to The Texas Literary Hall of Fame.

South of Eden

 

South of Eden

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.
Sometimes

I have to be reminded

So, the rain comes flashing through

pouring life from on high

where the clouds have grown gray and fat

with what someone once said were

“The tears of the devil’s wife”

who was being spanked

 

and I’m reminded

when all is done

by how glorious and green the world turns

after being drenched and drained of its’ dullness

by the rain

 

and I’m reminded

by the copious pages of grasses turned again

toward the verdant sheets of green

stretching ever so fully

‘cross the fields and vacant lots

forever sprouting skyward into the heads of trees

sliding with elegance into the valleys and

over the hills

then climbing the ivy against the walls of lattice work and brick

and window trim

 

and I’m reminded

by how clear and blue and calm

the rain turns the sky

of how sacredly calm the earth’s beauty

can pulse the human blood

and excite the body toward passions long forgotten

of how one simple gaze of

grasses and tree tops turned back to green

and leaves reclaiming their reds and yellows

and the beige and white of buildings pulling up from the ground

the ground churning the brown dust and dirt and earth

into a thing of beauty

like the wide eyes of a woman  ready to love

and I’m reminded

by the early morning/late evening smells of that dirt

that   earth     sectioned off by garden fences

 

that earth

peeled back against itself into the frenzy of a mound

that earth

and the smell of it all

streaking through the air and finding the nostrils

sparking the heart and the memory

reminding

me to never forget the early mornings of my youth

when the open window brought me this same

fresh-earth aroma

 

and awoke me to it

so that I’d stumble to that window and look out

into my Mother’s garden

 

with the tall, green stems bending under the tomato’s growth

while swollen stalks of okra and peas watered the mouth

and branches of pecans and plums and persimmons

rallied their growth against our crunch of apple-pears

in their shade

 

and watermelons burst under the force of their juices

 

and sometimes I need to be reminded

that I am south of Eden

with her garden growing dense with promise and remembrances

 

and I open my mind’s eye to the beauty of it all

and make a wish on never forgetting to know

something this wonderful

is just   a   rain   away

 .

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Jas. Mardis

KenteCloth: Southwest Voices of the African Diaspora

Page 62     University of North Texas Press  1997

I Don’t Want It All Back

“What I Miss?”

I don’t want it all back
   just that one morning 
      when I put my phone on the bumper
    and you wore that orange shirt dress
       and shook your head 
     at the idea that everything was going to 
                        work out
          that the angle was right 
     not to cut off our heads
          not to slip off the bumper 
       when the ten second timer hit
     not to have a hundred shots of sky
       on nights like this
         in the middle of the moon
      when the phone has six thousand pics
    and only one 
 of big hair   an ebony hue  an orange blur
       and endless
            endless 
                blue sky
        .

.

.

. (Oh, well…)

Jas. Mardis