Batman next door
The old woman in her pink long johns
and red flannel
put trembling hand on the bed,
pushed herself upright,
swung her pink-clad, stick-like
legs over the edge and looked
The sturdy caped figure,
hair in damp spikes from his bath,
Want your light off, Gram?
Fragile, barely there, she
with a fully vigorous astonishment.
I knew then she would be
all through the night,
with Batman in the next room.
-- Marjorie Kowalski Cole
Our house was not condemned.
But the one behind us
where Betty Carlson lived
was, and not only she but Mary Ramsey,
Kinnear, Rita and Donnie Strom, their children
and Eunice as well lived
six units three on a side
overflowing with children so much so that
Carlson fell out of a second-floor window.
One of a pair of red drapes hung
over the sill
marking the fall, on the ground below
the blood redder than
the faded drape above.
The yellow sign nailed to the wall of that
read: This building CONDEMNED by the
Department of Public Health. I
and well, knew what those heavy black capitals
stigma attached to anyone living there.
Nobody moved. The city did not
But living under that interdict was the shame
of Hester Prynne
multiplied but mollified by being shared.
Shared yes, but nevertheless,
unlike the oblivious Pearl,
the children involved knew they were
forced to breathe in classroom air, polluted with
from recess: Betty Carlsons house is condemned.
She was my neighbor. I kept my distance
from her contagion. Her leprosy,
her social AIDS, her stigmata could soon be mine.
We moved from that
house when I was twelve
thereby escaping a visible wound of black
yellow on the front door, reminiscent of the woven
Star of David worn by
on their jackets in the Second World War.
On a recent visit to
I found buildings razed, gone -- trees
all that was left
of a war zone lost in
Engaged now in another war --
waged by the wealthy on the urban
a racist elitist war of deception --
the victims turn guns on each
other and everyone dies.
-- Judith Robbins
I am a nonconforming Catholic,
A dogma free
A would-be Buddhist,
A latent Hindu,
An admirer of the
A curious observer of the Shinto and Celtic,
A student of the
And a brother to all sorts of indigenous tribal religions.
have kissed the God of many faces
And, as for you, my friend,
you have kissed one,
You have kissed them all.
-- Michael Reitz
I walk straight ahead, choose
not to see an old lady
to her wheelchair, crumpled
like empty clothes,
choose not to
as an old mans arm flails
the table before him,
choose not to hear others mutter
I go to my fathers
remnants of people scattered
like empty shells, leaning on
footed canes, using start-and-stop
walkers. They slide snail
inching wheelchair houses
around the square, to nowhere.
father sits, twice tied
at shoulders and hips, staring
at a blank
I wheel him to the dining room
where smoking is
After two cigarettes
and three thin cigars are
without pause, he signs himself
absently, but perfectly,
forehead to chest,
left shoulder to right.
-- Mary Willette Hughes
Waite Park, Minn.
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