Lady Coetzee Gads About

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Lady Coetzee Gads About

Lady Coetzee Gads About
  
At the checkpoint, Doortje Coetzee, a native geranium, 
pottered along until she reached the front of the line.   

The officer glanced through her South Africa passport, 
then managed a cordial greeting. 

“Good morning, Ms. Coetzee. Where are you off to this fine day?”

Doortje offered up a dazzling smile.
“I have an auntie living in America. A small corner called Seattle. 
Time I got round to seeing her.”

A pink blush flooded her petals.
“I’ll turn seven come spring.” She sighed. “Life is much too short.”

“Will Seattle be your final destination then?”

“No. Auntie winters in Arizona. We’ll fly there with her keeper in October.”

“I’ve heard Seattle is a bit rainy, but a lovely place,” the man said. 
“Never been.”

“Love the rain,” Doortje replied. “If I avoid the frost, I’ll be safe enough.”

The officer studied the document. “I take it you’re a perennial?”

Doortje giggled. “Depends. We’re all perennials at birth, of course. 
Crane Bill cuttings on my Mother’s side. My auntie is almost forty years old.”

“How nice,” he said. “Mine never last more than a season.
Suicidal little buggers.”

Dortje frowned. A tinge of anger crept into her voice.

“We can only live our life according to the affection we are given. 
We need to avoid frost at all costs. It murders us straightaway.
 Intense summer sun is difficult too. We crave afternoon shade.” 

He handed her document back. “Sorry. Meant no harm.”

“None taken. If you’ll love those buggers of yours, they’ll love you back. 
Fare-thee-well,” she called, “I’ve a plane to catch.”

“Next,” he said.

. . . j
from the Childhood Remedy and Other Such collection

The F Word

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The F Word

I learned my manners at Mother’s knee
until polite sounds came naturally.

She taught me to say, “Yes, please,” 
and “Thank you,” and “You’re welcome” 

until the words came naturally.

So when I fell and skinned my knee
or riled up a stinging bee,

I didn’t screech or foul the air— 
Mouthing ugly words I didn’t dare—

Nicer sounds just came naturally.

“Oh my,” I’d say to searing pain,
hoping my spot in Heaven gain.

I’ve lived my life while years have passed,
and know manners have changed so fast,

but still pleasant words come naturally. 

And so, I flinch, and cringe, and care
when the F word flies through the air.

I wonder too if Mothers have changed,
or greater forces have prevailed,

so that polite words no longer matter
in our daily human chatter,

And why cheap words come so naturally?

. . . j 
from th Childhood Remedy and Other Such collection

Covid

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Covid

It’s a long way down
when despair grips aching heart.

It’s a long way down
when life slams final door,

and rips family apart.

It’s a long way down
when nurses offer prayers,

meaning kindness to impart.

It’s a long way down
when despair grips aching heart.

. . . j 
from the Childhood Remedy and Other Such collection

Anything Helps

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Anything Helps

He stood in the deserted island formed
at the intersection of Kolb and 22nd Street. 

Sleepy-eyed commuters glanced
 at his cardboard declarations:

Poem
Free

He clutched 

sheets of white paper flapping like seagull wings 
on the stirred currents of whizzing cars.

The light turned the color of autumn leaves. 
Cars slowed and rested.

Windows slid down. Elbows protruded.
Voices sang out.

“Any of those 
old-school rhymes today?”

“Hey, man. Make me giggle. 
Need one terrible like.”

“Loved yesterday’s. 
Read it to my kids at the dinner table.”

“Touch my heart, Poet. 
It’s hurtin’ bad sore.”

“I got a feeling 
you’re gonna make me cry.”

He walked the line. Handed ‘em out.
Touched skin. Stretched his grin.

“Morning,” he said. 
“Feelin’ good today?”  

“Thinkin’ ‘bout yuh,” he said.
“Hope this helps,” he said.

The light changed color, 
golf course green.

Traffic edged away, 
a soothed tide going out.

Some waved the words out the window 
in a nice, see yuh later kinda way—

and his ribs ached 
from the banging goin’ on inside.

. . . j
from the Childhood Remedy and Other Such collection 

Deny It Not

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Deny It Not

We are of the sea
and of the caves,
though 

time 

has rinsed us clean
of these dim 
memories.

Yet we still need
to splash about, 
and explore dark 

spaces.

Yes, we have
forgotten whence 
we came,

but  

our desperate thirst 
for water— 

our voracious appetite 
for meat—

and 

our hideous capacity 
for violence—

abate not.

. . . j
from the Childhood Remedy and Other Such collection

Sound Advice

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Sound Advice

I’d been digging a trench
from our well pump to 
the house most of the morning.

My hands were eleven years old then,
and angry blisters had
ripped open the skin.

My stepfather, reeking 
of tobacco and whiskey,
stepped out to supervise.

“Deeper,” he growled, 
“The pipes will freeze where 
you’re putting them.”

An hour later he returned for
a second look. 

“You’d better get
a good education, sonny boy,” he said,

“because you’re the laziest 
sonofabitch 
I’ve ever seen.”

I learned important lessons that day about 
blisters, gloves, and laying pipes, 
but most valuable of all 
was discovering what the man really 

thought 

of Mom and me.

Never have been able to 
forget those lessons.

Shunned him, I did.

Cherished Mom, I did.

Took myself to college, I did.

. . . j
from the Childhood Remedy and Other Such collection

Fare Thee Well

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Fare Thee Well

A slight rise in the earth,
a gentle knoll near the school’s entrance,
marks the spot where we
 
teachers
 
gather on this most happy day—
the remnant hour of another school year,
to wave good-bye
 
(God be with ye, Child)
(We did our best.)
 
to our charges, their heads stuffed with us, 
 
Colts to pasture, now set free,
to cavort and buck as they please.
 
And we, stern taskmasters all, discover 
our smiles once more,  

cast off our titles, Mr. or Ms.,
 
to become again, simply,

Barb, Phil, and Marv; 
Dale, Terri, and Dean;
Mik, Rin, and Debbie; 
Carolyn, Doug, and Ted; 
Dawn, Frankie, and Alexa;  
Arlys, Joan, Roland,
and all the rest.
 
Amid the deafening roar of honking buses 
pulling away, young faces appear tight to the	windows, frantic waves, joyful smiles, tears, 

and the occasional flagpoled

middle finger.
. . . j
from the Childhood Remedy and Other Such collection

An Odd Stranger

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An Odd Stranger

In America
I can 
walkabout 

in anonymity, 
 				
person of little consequence—

not celebrated athlete,
nor spotlighted singer,
nor extra handsome movie star.

But, set me down 
in Japan
and I become

a fascinating object of interest—
a steaming meteorite fallen from the sky—

causing murmurs of surprise,

“gaijin, gaijin, gaijin,”

mothers pointing, 
whispering to their children,

turned heads—

a foreigner, 
not of us—

an unwashed soybean in a cup of rice—
a blemish never to be over-looked.

And there I stand, 
for all to see, 

stranded, 

a tentative celebrity,

without a word of Japanese

in my pocket.

. . . j 
from the Childhood Remedy and Other Such collection

A Wedding Dirge

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A Wedding Dirge

Ezekiel connected dem dry bones,

“Mr. Khashoggi? What a nice surprise.
What brings you to Istanbul?”

“What else? My love, Hatice, waits here.”
Now hear the word of the Lord.

Head bone connected to the heart bone.
Heart bone connected to the soul bone.

“I seek the required Marriage Document.”
Now hear the word of the Lord.

Soul bone connected to the courage bone,
Courage bone connected to the backbone.

“Please come with us, Mr. Khashoggi.”
Now hear the word of the Lord.

“Hatice is waiting outside. She’ll be worried.”
Now hear the word of the Lord.

Backbone connected to the shoulder bone,
Shoulder bone connected to the arm bone.

“We insist, Mr. Khashoggi! You dare to write!
You overstep the bounds! You cannot criticize!”

“I write only of the truth. Is truth a crime?
Please. My bride waits just outside. Hatice. Hatice.”

Arm bone connected to the hand bone,
Hand bone connected to the truth bone.

“Lies! There is a dear price to pay, Mr. Kashoggi!”
Now hear the word of the Lord.

“I cannot breathe! I beg of you! Have mercy!” 
Now hear the word of the Lord.

“All we need of you, Mr. Kashoggi, is silence.”
Now hear the word of the Lord.

. . . j
from the Childhood Remedy and Other Such collection