La Biblioteca is a Doula

When my saddle shoes were too big
so they might last beyond the year
I ran away from home
where yelling to be heard by the unheard
rattled in my skull; burial ground of secrets.

One foot met the other
like long lost friends
awkwardly skipping their way
into Saturdays, towards stacked
protective fortresses from
childhood’s dark labyrinths;
where underestimated
eyes of innocence
found immortal truths
understood more deeply
than the tall ones
with sour faces
who had dropped their smiles
on brutal roads of hunger,
on endless days of
earning just enough
from tightened fists
that grabbed too much.

The library door
where I found my Narnia.
Where I fell in love with Emerson.
Where I read Chinese women poets
and wrapped myself
in the silk of words,
of punctuation strung like pearls
stitching together the stops, the starts,
the questions, the breaths,
the echoes and exclamations unleashed
from a soul so new to the world,
so old to life.

Where I stood on tippy toes
to find the vast longings
of human history;
to find myself
gathering lost smiles
into dreamscapes of resilience.
Musty books perfumed my imagination.
Crisp new books fell open
in my tiny hands
like tomorrow’s gold that promised
there would always be enough
in the temple where anything
is possible.

Where now, pressing into
Winter’s whim I am consoled
by the Velveteen Rabbit.

Diary from an AIDS Ward,1984

Never knew a thing about the Saint
Vincent, hearty name
a comforting stew
in a violent December

the first ward to welcome
the men who would become
my children until mothers
chose God over religion
love over blame
woke up from the stupor of shame
that worst of all AIDS complications

Jealous mothers
returned afraid
awake that I might take their place
after one found me in bed
putting love into lesions
fields of killer berries blue
heralds of final breaths
our bodies gently threaded in tenderness

word got around
the best doctors looked away
nurses never saw a thing
as we snuggled, giggled
careful not to unplug anything
the joy of Popsicles
the birthday cakes
the friends who came
the ones who didn’t

hard conversations
thinking about the daddy
you wish you had
made you mad
so many orphans of the living
be the daddy, don’t dream the daddy
daddy’s not coming
be the daddy you wish you had
don’t get jealous
get alive and live to the bone
of all the love you have to give
send your neighbor a prayer, a chocolate, a kiss
don’t miss the daddy, be the daddy
tell the bedtime story
we can all tuck each other in
be the daddy to the boy dying
days before you
become the breath you barely have
be the orchestra section of another’s life

the days endless with machines, medications
necessary interrogations
interruptions of sleep by front line miracle dreams
I wear my Reverend Mother disguise
so I can stay through the night

You make me promise
they’ll honor the DNR
no matter how you beg
whatever look of despair
comes into your eyes

You know what you want
while you still own your mind

When mama finally arrives
you’re still alive
I kiss you every time
always the chance of good-bye

The AIDS wards
Where lifetimes were lived
in moments.
Where Death wrapped us in the mercy
of seeing life for the very first time
the immortality
of Love threading body to soul
with tenderness.
Never gone too far.