I. Dear Woody Guthrie
I ran into you tonight
While wandering through a grocery store
In Upper Manhattan, on 125th Street.
My cart was piled high with the oranges you’d picked
In dusty fields of knee-high California weeds
A can of strawberries you’d mashed into jam
Circa 1937, circa poetry and banjoes.
And you were whistling a tune, jostled by the crowds
And you were pushed and shoved and bruised and
Black and blue
And you were breathing in the air infused with
“How much for this loaf of sourdough bread? Coming through!”
And you sat to speak with a homeless man
Sprawled by the revolving front entrance door
And you intertwined your fingers with his
Wrapped around the fibers of a cup calling,
And you reached into your grocery bag
To hand him an orange
That had been scaled and weighed and counted
That had been one dollar
Two quarters, one dimes, and three nickels
An orange you that had picked in a field of tumbleweeds and lilacs.
And an orange that you laid on the cement ground
Because your whistles and your prose explained
That it belonged to me, to you
To the gravel of 125th Street.
II. Dear Motherhood
What time was it, when you tucked Mother’s Day in to bed last night?
Did you remember her patchwork quilt
Her Mickey Mouse night-light?
What did you say to her, Mother’s Day, when the clock struck twelve?
Did you build an apology
From the box of popsicle sticks, shut and shelved?
Did you sketch your sighs with crayons and with Crayola chalk?
Did you wish for words unspoken
Playing with the hands of a clock?
Did you hear me, ten at night, pull out twelve years of gifts?
Handmade cards, pencil jars
Match ages to castles of popsicle sticks?
Did you spot a yellow pincushion, messily sewn and riddled with holes?
Did you notice the thousand little poems and rhymes
And ribbons filling pottery bowls?
Were you reminded of dishes, washed and dried?
Were you reminded of clothing, freshly laundered, tossed aside?
Did you flip through the dictionary to define mom?
And in the whiteness between lines of text
Did you feel the pulse of the answer
On your downward pressed palm?
Age 17, Grade 12