“The themes of wonder, love, and acceptance run through your poems in Living Diversity. You have created a kind of alchemy by discovering beauty within sadness, love within all experiences and always grounding us in the steady rhythms of the natural world. Thanks for bringing such a positive thought form to us at a time when we truly need it.” — Cynthia

Poems from Living Diversity

Toni

I dream a world
you get it all down such a hard world
me in it learning
what it is to be black
in the usa what it is to be white
in the usa both or nothing
makes sense you are not left out
you went all the way up to the bottom
can it possibly be true

You said there is no America
without sula nell macon judas
they are all here forever
have always been here
I know you didn’t write them
for me but a world in a book
is everyone’s and once read
becomes my world and so
I want to run out and let
a hundred balloons loose
race through the town shouting
way to go Toni
oh girl girl girl

The way it is

Think of the hair on their sweet heads.
One black as the eye of midnight,
soft to the touch, without curl.
Another blond, scruffy with impossible demands.
The youngest tightly wound and bristling.
Two boys and a girl. An American mix.

And think of the points of arrival.
Bucks County with acres of rich farms
as far from the Philippines as anyone can imagine,
and yet, here is my first born transferred from
Pearl Buck’s arms to my own.
Second son is pushed out from my own body,
surprised by the brother already in residence.
Their sister, years later, football shouldered,
African songed: a family.

While nations divide one race from another,
three children call each other brother, sister.
Their questing eyes do not ask the rightness
of this. Children learn what they see.

I hear their laughter as they discover
the pond down the road, the mystery
of apple trees whose limbs invite like ladders,
hay stacked for hiding and finding. Years
later I ask second son if he would have preferred
to be an only child. He doesn’t deign to answer,
only searches out his older brother who is teasing
his sister, and inserts himself between them.
His hand reaches out to them,
seeking comfort in the known.

Come down Isaiah

Twined round a branch like an airborne root,
          the boy looks down from three branches up.
He is not about to descend.
         Certainly not to this white woman’s command.
She thinks he will fall.
          He looks down on her with disdain,
continues to climb & climb & climb.
          Isaiah is five years old and already he knows

the only way is up.

Born in Africa

Yes, there he is.
Singing! On stage !

Can you believe it?

Born in Africa, he sings.
He who will die
in a few months time.

Look at his face
honed to the bone at thirty-eight,

his feet ulcerated and washed
by a lone Samaritan
while others turn away.

Where does he get his strength
to ride the length and breadth of
Uganda?

Yes, there he is.
Singing alone and frightened
of living with AIDS.

Shining forth in remote villages.
Walking the streets of Kampala in
pain.

Rising into the hot wind of Africa.
This son of heaven,
this Philly Laataya,

this man who sings for us all.

Blood ties

One

At ten, they pricked my finger.
I wasn’t, like Sleeping Beauty
lulled to sleep.

It hurt. A rose, so tiny
they whisked it away, exploded.

Anemic, said the doctor.

I was afraid this brightness from within
was forever lost.

At fourteen, I bled again,
from a different place.

There was no doctor,
and, so, I was safe.
Do you remember growing up?

Two

The chart is flat.
A human outline is a black line.
All the veins are red,
traveling from the heart
to the fingertips, the toes, the brain.

So simple,
the heart pumps,

oxygen reaches my furthermost cell
I am alive!

In fifth grade, I know enough
not to leap up, search behind the figure.

What tells a heart to begin?
What is love and its absence?

Why does it stop?

Three

I was positive I would
continue to love the woods
behind the playground.

In a city, not far from Newark,
stretched taut along the Hudson River,

separated from New York City by muskrats,
feral cats, an infinity of water,

I was positive I would find love.
So, I did.

The beat of my heart stopped my ears,
even though our body’s fluid
flowed behind latex dams.
You are positive in a different way.

I love you. You, with your hand in mine,
me, with my hand in yours.

How many miracles can we ask for?

Four

Blood bank, blood brother, blood cell, blood count,
blood group, blood-line, blood pressure, blood-red.

a plant of the poppy family
having a red root and sap and bearing
a solitary lobed leaf and a white flower
in early spring

blood-stock, blood-stone, blood-stream,
a mainstream of power or vitality.

Blood ties. I tell you, in this life all we have is each other.

Yes, Wendell, I am on my way

I will secede
from the government of money and war
from the government of division
from a fear of oneself translating into a fear of the other
I ask everyone to hold with Mr. Berry
in the open farmland, the deepest woods
the highest mountains, the quietest lakes
Yes, yes, I will hold fast against a river of money
designed to benefit only the rich
I will call everyone neighbor, call and call all people
to stand beneath the stars that belong to everyone.

 

All poems copyright © 2018 by Lynn Martin. All rights reserved.