The New Suit

24 Jul 2014

1/21/14

The New Suit

A rich ruby suit,
With matching red shoes.
Expensive. Grownup.
Cut down. Made over
To fit my ten-year-
Old frame. New to me.

Church. Looking so fine.
For once I was not
Plain, poor, pathetic.
Head held high proudly.
Didn’t matter that
They were hand-me-downs.

The previous owner.
I wanted her to see
How well my mother
Had tailored for me.
Grateful for her gift.
Wanting to share joy.

Cut to my core when
She exhibited
Me to visiting
Friends. Her gift so grand.
My life so shabby.

Made the suit shameful,
And I pitiful.
My pleasure stolen.
My place in her world
Sealed into my soul.

BAMorris

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Morning Rain

24 Jul 2014

7/24/14

Morning Rain

Gentle misty rain.
Quenching thirsty earth.
Demure leaves bathing.
Washing off week’s dust.
Grass stretching each blade
To capture droplets,
Funnel them to roots.
The very air seems
To open arms wide
To absorb as much
Moisture as it can.
Humans sigh relief.
Much needed rain’s come.

BAMorris

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Battle of the Weeds

24 Jul 2014

7/22/14

Battle of the Weeds

The weeds come back.
They lay low for
A few days, then
When they think I’m
Not watching them,
They grow again.

I pull and pull.
I rip and tear.
I fool myself
Thinking I’m done.
Until I look
Back where I’ve been.

Then, there grinning
At me are weeds.
Healthy, pesky,
Persistent weeds!
Looking like I
Never touched them.

We do battle.
I never win, though
I like to think
Someday I will.
Pulling weeds from
My flower beds.

BAMorris

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4/26/14

The Answer to a Prayer

I attended the writer’s conference in Philadelphia with trepidation. Mom’s condition seemed to be getting worse and I really wanted to be home taking care of her. But I had paid for the conference months before, and my husband assured me he would take care of her every need. In addition, my neighbors were checking in on her during the day while he was at work. So I found myself in Philly with my mind back in Maryland.
As I did every year, on Sunday I attended Quaker Friends Meeting across the street from the hotel where I was staying. I always found a special peace in that assembly. That day I sat and prayed for all the parts of her life that Mom seemed to be losing little by little. I prayed for decisions I was afraid I would have to make sooner than I wanted to.
Suddenly in the prayerful silence of Meeting, there was a stir. A senior member of the Meeting slumped forward and then slowly drifted to the floor. To my astonishment, no one spoke, no one panicked. Slowly, calmly, lovingly, people moved to stretch his body out to make him comfortable. Someone went to call an ambulance. Still others moved to comfort his wife and to open the side door and go wait for the ambulance. Everyone acted as if they did this drill every day. Every action was performed calmly and precisely.
By now I was crying openly. To me this event was a window into both what I feared for my mother, and what I hoped to find for her when the time came that I could no longer care for her at my home. I prayed for the Meeting member who had fallen ill. I prayed for blessings for all the congregation and family who were showing their love for this man with their actions. I prayed for my mother and myself, and what I knew was coming for us.
Within three months my mother fell and broke her hip. Then I had to begin searching for a facility where she could live as she recovered. I remembered the peace and love I’d seen at that Meeting and I prayed to find a place that would give those things to my mother. I visited three facilities in our area. The first two were so sterile and hospital like that I was sick by the time I left each one. In neither of them was there any sign of peace or love. But the third place I visited felt like I had found home. It was bright with sunshine, covered with colorful furnishings and pictures, and full of life. There were residents all over doing varied activities, both in groups and on their own. When the director stopped to speak to men and women, she called them all by name and there was a sense of caring and respect in their interactions. I left there feeling like Mom would be okay after all.
I had no way of knowing, at that time, the journey we were embarking on. For three and a half years Mom lived at Sunrise. I could not have guessed the love she would experience from the staff in those years. I had no way of knowing the hell her coming illness would put her, and me, through. Her caregivers became like family to my family. For they nurtured not only my mother but me. Every painful step of Mom’s journey, they were with us, in prayer, in service, and in love.
The June after Mom’s death, I returned to Philadelphia Friends Meeting to thank them for providing the template for what I wanted for my mother in a nursing home. I thanked them for their loving, caring environment which nurtured my soul. I met, briefly, the senior who had fallen ill that day four years before. I know God was present that day to show me what I needed in order to prepare for my journey ahead. I was thankful that he had held us all in his loving hands, that day and the days that followed.

BAMorris

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Give a Man a Fish

18 Jul 2014

3/8/14

Give a Man a Fish

I have always sought to give back, to help others less fortunate than myself. That idea has been passed on from generation to generation in my family, and was woven into my upbringing. My great-grandfather raised not only his four children, but the children of his brother-in-law and several of his grandchildren at various times in their lives. His door was always open and a place at his table always available for whoever needed a meal. My mother was more a child of my great-grandfather’s heart and soul than any of his real children, for she followed in his footsteps of opening her door to those without, and caring for children who needed a home. I grew up observing her sharing whatever she had. She raised my cousin for years as if he was my brother. At different times she took in the children of friends and family. So it is natural that I should be a giver.
Undoubtably, there are thousands of worthy organizations vying for our attention. Everyone seems to have their hand out. I contribute to organizations where my heart lies: nature preservation; abused children’s groups; health issues that have touched someone I love. But there are two groups that are especially near and dear to my heart because of the way they work. Instead of giving things to needy people, they teach and help them improve their lives.
Heifer International teaches people to be self-sufficient by giving them an animal(s) to care for. The animal in return gives the recipient things like eggs, milk, wool, or honey, which allows the owners to feed their family as well as sell surplus, thus generating income. Children involved in Heifer gifts have more food, a sense of pride, and often more education.
Plan International targets needy areas and reaches out to do things like dig wells and latrines, build schools and sturdier houses. Plan provides education about health issues and empowers women. While I sponsor a specific child, Plan looks at the entire village, and by improving the life for all people in the village, it improves the life of my child.

BAMorris

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Walter Dean Myers

16 Jul 2014

7/13/14

Walter Dean Myers
August 12, 1937 – July 1, 2014

I first met Walter Dean Myers’ books when I was teaching in Prince George’s County, Maryland in the 80’s. Many of my students had been born and/or lived in Washington, D.C., so PG County was in many ways like a satellite of the inner city of Washington.
I went searching in the school’s library for books that might speak to my African American population: something that echoed their experiences. That’s when I met Walter Dean Myers. I can’t remember the name of the first of his books that I read, but I do remember that it told of a life that I had no experience with. So I referred my students to him as a writer to read. Some of them discovered a place inside his books that echoed their feelings and footsteps.
The beauty of Walter Dean Myers’ writing was it spoke to young African American men of someone else knowing the experiences they had, but it also spoke to people like me, a young white woman who had never lived in the inner city but could still feel the isolation and lostness of his characters. As recently as four years ago Myers was still touching my students. In Sunrise over Fallujah another of my students stepped into that soldier’s skin and felt what he felt when at war. However, this particular young man was a redheaded boy of Polish descent. Walter Dean Myers hooked another one!
I am saddened that his pen is stilled. I do not know who will fill the void his going has left: who will speak to our young African American men of despair, lostness, and a glimpse of hope somewhere in the future. I bow my head in honor of a visionary, a brave man, and a fellow writer’s passing beyond. Well done, Mr. Myers. Well done.

BAMorris

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7/3/14

The Morning After the Storm

The air is heavy with the moisture of a New Orleans’ morning. A sticky sweet smell fills the air, like the voice of a former boyfriend as he tries to convince you he’s never loved anyone else, that what you two had was extra special, and that he’ll never do anything to hurt you again, if you take him back.
The storm did nothing to erase the languor of summer. The ground still feels rock hard, even with the heavy rains that fell last night. The heat still wraps around you within seconds of walking outside. But now it engulfs you with clammy fingers that make your skin crawl. The ex-lover’s stinky- voice-smell, the groping wet fingers of the humidity, and the heavy, breezeless air portend a thoroughly miserable day to come.

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7/3/14

The House on Moss Street

She stood like a proud but aged and fading dowager on the tiny street of 8 houses. Her blue paint had faded to a soft periwinkle. Once Moss Street had been a vibrant community. The houses had echoed with the sounds of children playing stick ball and hide-and seek; with wives calling to other wives from second story porches at the day’s end as they sat searching for a breeze after the dinner dishes were done; with the deep rumbling sounds of men’s voices as they gathered over the last cigarette of the day to talk of wars in distant places and the Boston Red Socks’ record. Windows lit like fireflies as one by one the family members filtered in and prepared for bed. Then slowly one by one again, the lights blinked out to leave the street bathed in inky darkness.
The house was but a shell now, empty of the family that had defined her. Her face was still lovely, but her heart had stopped beating when the last family member left. Singlely and in pairs, the now grown children walk through her, remembering those happy years of their childhood.
“I shared this bedroom with my two sisters.” “This use to be the bathroom. Remember how the wall slanted down and you had to crouch to get in the tub?” “Remember when Dad added the third storey? I got my own bedroom for the first time then!” “My sister drew huge Disney characters on the walls in here. My mother almost killed her when she saw it!”
One last walk up the stairs. One last look out across the neighborhood, naming houses once filled with friends. A touch of a wall. A moment of silence. Blinking back tears. It all seems so dear in this moment , like it was just yesterday. The children are adults now: most with children of their own. One last glance back, then shut and lock the door. Good-by complete, they walk away for the last time. The house stands silently like a soldier; waiting for a new family to give her life.

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Electric Hair

04 Jul 2014

6/24/14
Electric Hair

She sits in front of me on the plane, so I never see her face. What I do see is her long brown hair with faint reddish highlights.
The sun is off the left of the plane, shinning in the portal window. As the plane shifts direction, the sun hits her hair, and it comes ablaze. It looks like there are thin wires of burnished copper woven tightly throughout the falling of hair. And each copper wire is alive with electricity pulsing through it. In a section of hair that is pushed into a fold, it looks like a wave of copper in motion, flowing and glowing. I want to reach out and touch it to see if sparks will fly from my touch. Of course I don’t.
I think to myself, some day a man will see that hair and want to spend the rest of his life looking at it in the firelight.

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