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The Poetry Scroll of Beverly J Raffaele


Mary's sleepy face is brushed
by the cool morning breeze
coming from her bedrom window.
Her white hair askew,
She straightens her nightgown.
Her slippered feet
shuffle down the hall
toward the coffee pot.

Sheer white curtains sway.
A stream of light slips through
like a ghostly slide
throwing a patch of sun
upon the golden oak floor.
Tabby arches, stretching,
drops with a thump
from the wooden sill.
Mary opens the door
with a push of her foot,
scoots him out,
letting the screen door slap shut.

She sees Bill's old car,
leaving a dusty cloud
as he slowly approaches.
Rusted 54 Chevy truck sits;
stubborn, she tells him,
“ No one but Jim drove that truck! ”
His brother's outstretched hand
holds a little cash.
“And no one else will!
Move on, and don’t come back.”
Mary closes the door
a shy too hard.

Tabby leaps through the open window;
Mary sits in her chair.
Now in her lap
she strokes him gently,
a few hairs float in the sunlight.
On the stand beside her,
under the ginger jar lamp,
a framed photo.
She remembers that day,
Jim’s big hands around her waist,
lifting her to sit on the gate...

"No one but Jim drove that truck," mumbles Mary.


I step into a world of serenity sublime.
A quiet fern lined path of clover like flowers.
Rhododendrons, wild, tall, pale lilac in May
contrasting the dark brown shadows where the Sequoia thrive.

Colors of reds and greens rich and dark as a coffee bean.
The forest quiet and still as shallow roots cling,
Embracing each other, lending support.
The smells pungent.

The sky above seen through a canopy
of branches spreading, reaching, stretching up and up.
Sun rays stream their ghostly slides between
Lighting the forest floor.
The banana slug slinks from it cringing.

Majestic soldiers protecting a wind blown craggy coast.
Ancient, imposing, superior, magnificent.
A gust of wind makes another attempt
To sway the mighty Sequoia,
Yet he is unmovable,
Crying out a crack and a groan.

Your world oh Sequoia with rivers so clear
Where trout and steelhead jump.
The Smith River, un dammed, wild, rushing.
Salmon fighting against the current of life and death.

The Klamath, the Pomo, the Miwok, and the Hoopa
Cry from their native souls at what man has wrought.
Littering their vile trash. Blaspheming sanctity itself.
The Sequoia shouts no and lives on as the revilers die.
Those that love them rejoice.

Invincible to fire, the sea has tried, the mills
and the worm have tried to destroy them but to no avail.
A fallen Sequoia only births more,
Its sienna, nutritious, fertile soft wood rich and moist.

From the spring of infancy to the fall of now.
You have watched over me with your 3000 years of might.
Oh how I love you and what you know of me.
Creation smiles, I smile in glorious awe and wonder.

" Regeneration"

"Let's go to the beach," I tell him.
The day is blustery, rain sideways.
The sky, pavement, and buildings In shades of gray.
City center sign, traffic heavy,
Road grime sprays the windshield.
Four-lane freeway goes on,
Passing cities and then towns.
It narrows to a curvy high way.

Wintry northwest valleys,
White Cascade mountains loom,
Their crevices in blue.
The forest pungent and musky,
Lavished with fir, cedar, hemlock, fern,
They lend a rich, deep green, verdure.
The woodsy floor thickly carpeted.
Moss bed cushion white tailed deer.
The black bear hovers in hollow logs,
Awaiting Aries wake up call.

A white clapboard farmhouse
Stands tall on a grassy knoll.
Bare willows, linear poplars, surround it.
A spacious porch wraps around, friendly, inviting.
I envision summer wicker stored safely away.
The bench swing moves slightly in the breeze.
A white picket fence cordons off the yard,
Separating it from barren pastures.
Pershing workhorse stands statuesque.
The maple tree above his head is barren
Soaked mossy limbs drip moisture on his shiny back.
His expression morose, nostrils shooting steam.

We drive into a small berg.
A gift shop selling chain saw sculptures,
Redwood burrells, Indian baskets, salt water taffy.
The store, it’s architecture lodge-pole,
bird faced totems flank the entrance
And a lone gas pump, old, rounded at the top.
We freshen up at the Dairy Queen.
We are close to the ocean now.
I can smell it, feel it, I breathe deep then stretch.
Back on the curvy road a sign,
Seaside Oregon, 20 miles.
Our radio stations rasp static.
I switch it off, grinning, anticipating.
My husband knows I am excited.
He glances at me, brown eyes smiling.

The ocean swells are spectacular,
White caps spray, my lips taste salty.
The windy chill invigorating,
Icy rain quenches my upturned face.
My hat blows down the beach.
Sea lions bark from their black craggy rock.
Gulls squawk gliding on the wind, wings spread.
Whale pods pass working their way south.
Shiny gun- metal gray sand,
Each wave scribbling a foamy design.
Sand dollars show off their etchings.
I turn into the wind arms outstretched.
My husband with my hat in hand,
Takes my picture.

The harbor is full, tethered fishing boats rock back and forth.
Advisory flag up, whipping vigorously.
Nets and crab pots clutter the sides of the dock.
A Bearded skipper, heavily clad in rain gear and wool stocking cap,
Yell instructions to his crew on board the deck of the Gracie Anne.
Their weathered faces an epic.
I remember these brave men,
Growing up in a coastal town,
Lumber, crab, shrimp, oysters the only industry.
I played and fished off the docks.
I know their vernacular well.
I return to regenerate my soul.
I am tempted to stop a certain captain
And beg from him a seafaring story.
But I knew he would give me a growl.
We play on the beach, go to the aquarium,
Then later, go dancing.

We watch the sea from our room,
Hotel lights turn the ocean black and white.
The lighthouse perched on the horizon
Is turning its massive globe.
I know that we must leave and that is okay.
We live in where the evergreen grow.
I am most thankful for them in winter.
Spring is nearing.
We will return.
I have to.
There is no choice.
I would die.
We hold each other tight as a goodbye to the sea,
Then we sigh and reluctantly pack our bags.

Down the road, toward home,
The horse looks as if he hasn’t moved.
His expression the same.
This time we drive straight through.
I nap most of the way.
I hear the radio, seventies rock.
Late Sunday afternoon, traffic light,
Cumulus clouds tower,
Sun streaming into a perfect fan.
The sky cornflower blue.

We are in the driveway now,
I get out stiff in the knees.
That night we both slept hard
And awoke to a blaring alarm.
Ignore it I whispered,
His breath in my hair,
I feel him relax,

"On Daddy's Shoe Tops"

I first learned to dance On Daddy’s shoe tops,
Little fingers in his belt loops
As he danced the two step.
"Hang on," he would say "Here we go."
The radio played a fifties tune.
I was his shadow.
He was my hero.

Monday’s he went to the mill,
I went to school,
Ushering my younger brothers
Three little squirrels.
My little shoulders worried.
Daddy’s wide shoulders worked,
Persisted, endured.

Mama has gone.
Her greener pasture,
Was but a dry lot of broken glass.

Saturday morning…
Back on Daddy’s shoe tops.
The radio played a country tune.
"Hang on," he said All rights reserved.

"A Drop Splashed On A Mountaintop"

The drop splashed on a mountaintop.
There it lay frozen, waiting.
As the air became warmer it began to move,
And so it traveled until it reached the flow.
The river rushed and fellow droplets played.

Some only went as far as the farm.
Nourishing the crop of wheat.
Happy that it brought life.
Knowing it was needed for existence.

Then some went screaming through a dam
Pushing hard to bring light and warmth.
Joining to create great clusters of power.
Feeling proud that it made the world glow.
Then more pushed on into conduits
Then diving into the reservoir of sustenance.
Into narrow pipes and then a clear glass
To quench the thirst, knowing its importance.

Some were driven to wells to bring life
They new they were desired.
The Sun blistering the land.
The droplets creating miraculous feats.
A drop splashed on the mountaintop.
It lay frozen, smiling, anticipating.

"My Tree Top"

I swayed from the tip of a Douglas fir.
Sticky pitch in my hair, my hands blackened.
I surveyed the canyon from my perch.
The creek wide then narrow as it wound away.
A crow landed near me, then squawked loudly,
He eyed me and then flew to the next treetop.
He looked disgruntled.
I laughed out loud.

Then a man came into view,
Walking the wooded trail nearby.
I stayed still.
A golden retriever trotted along side him.
The dog stopped, sniffed the air,
Then he wet on my tree and ran off.
I giggled with my sticky hand cupped over my mouth.

I looked over toward the house.
Mom was telling Daddy something, hands on her hips.
He moseyed along in the yard, a toothpick in his mouth.
She stomped in the house, the screen door slapped shut.
I saw Daddy grinning, I grinned too.
I looked toward the wood shed.
My brother was chopping kindling.
He looked mad.
Daddy moseyed over there
Mumbled something his direction,
then moseyed back.
My brother looked angrier and chopped harder,
Throwing a piece or two.
"I am staying up here," I said.
So I sat in my treetop and wondered when I would be missed.
I sat and swayed and swayed some more.
The man with the dog returned.
My Dad and brother went in the house.
A light came on in the living room.
A breeze came up and made me shiver.
The sun was sinking below the hill,
The canyon was shaded and still.
I climbed down ripping my pant leg and skinning my shin.
I jumped from a branch too high up and fell.
It knocked the wind out of me.

I ran in the house and announced, here I am!
My matted hair sticking straight up And black pitch smudging my face.
I got a spanking and was sent to the tub.
Mom took the scissors to my hair.
That night I laid in my bed and looked at the moon.
“I wish I could go there to live,” I whispered.
“But I like my treetop better.”
I yawned and then snuggled in,
The crickets sang.

"Denim And Sweat-An American Man"

We drove through a tunnel,
High upon a craggy cliff.
The day was sunny and breezy;
The Pacific Ocean glistened,
bouncing diamonds off her surface.
Tall firs, cedars and alders clung to the eastern side of my view.

I looked at my husband,
His Italian American face sculptured.
Beautiful and strong,
I thought.
Then half way inside the tunnel,
Hewn out of solid rock I saw them.
Ruddy, tanned, black, brown, sweating.
Flannel shirts, sleeves rolled up,
Denim jeans, leather work boots;
I felt a surge of pride and threw up a thank you to them.

I smiled at every railroad track,
I noticed every pole and bridge,
and the curvy highway we traveled.
Some ancient, created from muscle.

Then I thought of the softness.
How the rough fingers of a lumber grader,
pinched my fat cheeks.
How he laughed when I whined, Daddy!
When he held his first grandson,
Walking him with a proud strut.

I thought of our soldiers,
I turned away and looked out my window.
My husband driving along, oblivious of my thoughts.
A tear was rolling down my face.
He would be alarmed.
American Man, I honor you... ...

"Omniscient Artist Of Love"

Creator God my artist of love,
Casting glittering blue on the sea.
Throwing light into the dawn of day,
Ablaze with lemon and tangerine.
How can we match it with brush or pen.
You sprinkled amethyst and emeralds
In majestic mountains and crystal lakes,
Can man think to equal it?
You smiled and tenderly brushed
Smooth brown skin and twinkling eyes,
and sunlight dancing on auburn hair.
You shaded in dimples and wrinkled face,
A wondrous motif,
Omniscient Artist of love!

"Me And Daisies In The Rain"

I awoke to the sun streaming through white sheers.
A breeze made them gently flag their hello.
It made me smile and stretch and arise.
I looked out the window.
The sky was black to the west.
The sun was shining in front.
In between me and the horizon
A neon rainbow arched.
God blew a breeze that gently kissed my sleepy face.
I looked out at the field and there they were,
Whimsical white daisies that say country to me.
Yellow centers looking up.

The rain came gently at first and then the droplets enlarged.
The rainbow ran to the opposite side of dark ominous clouds.
The daisies stretched up thirstily drinking, smiling and slurping.
I ran out in my white linen gown and plopped into the center of them.
The rain fell in my face and my back was covered with mud.
The daisies and I just lay there getting soaked and invigorated.
The rain stopped and I turned my head looking into the face of a daisy
larger than the others.
It stretched its white petals, glistening, wet with diamond like drops.
I went back in singing, “Me and Daisies in the rain.”
I pulled my muddy nightgown over my head and showered.
I sang on, “Just me and Daisies in the Rain,

"Back To Summer Days"

The date was 1958,
I go back to summer days,
When I was a skinny precocious kid,
I ran and swam and liked to play.
Our old house was weathered and worn
from a wet and wind blown coast.
My brothers and I just loved the storms,
in our galoshes and yellow rain coats.
If I close my eyes and really think back,
I can taste the salt on my lips.
I see a wave hitting the rocks and
I can feel the cool soft mist.
I breathe a deep sigh as
I turn to embrace the breeze.
I feel like I may cry,
Overcome by sweet memories.


A wisp of memory drifted by.
The man wore your fragrance, But he wasn't you.
Baby powder wafted its soft joy.
Oh how I miss my babies.
They are grown now.
Cigarettes in a Honky Tonk bar smoke curling, a squinted eye,
I am sorry you died.
The aroma of coffee drifting Filling my bedroom,
Time to start my day.
Lilacs and Hyacinths in purple and rosy pink,
The perfume of God.
Pungent cedar chest Grandmothers quilt,
I miss you Gram.
Turkey roasting And sage dressing,
Pumpkin pie with allspice.
My family gathers.
The smells of Love embracing one another.
Thank you Lord.

"Oh How I Hope You Would "

If I was looking out of your eyes,
Would the vision be of love?
What would I see that you don’t?
Would it be a sneer from an ignorant adolescent?
Would it be a look of desire?
What would I see?

If I was looking out of your eyes,
Would I see you looking at color and finding only gray?
Would you see acceptance
Or subtle rejection that hits too hard?
Oh How I hope you would not.

If I was looking out of your eyes and into mine,
Would you see a look of purity.
One that loves you so much,
that it reflects from my eyes to yours?
Would you feel reassured by a glance
Or tickled by a flirtatious wink?
Would you have confidence in us?
Would you feel sustained and secure?

Oh how I hope that you would.

"The Vision"

I was taking a walk, deep in thought,
When like a jolt I heard her cry,
An angelic voice said to me,
Take comfort, don't ask why.
God I plead, "who is it that sobs,
And why can't I question or wonder?"
He said, "it is not yours to fret about.
Give it to me and walk away,
Do not turn back or stop to ponder."
I took a deep breath in my confusion,
And ask myself was I in vision?
I continued my walk shrouded in pain,
Why do I feel empty and strange?
Then once again I heard her weep,
I was feeling faint and a little weak.
An Angel whispered,
"don't fret and worry,
This burden is not for you to carry.
The weeping is from words left unsaid,
Your faith will heal you from her death.
I know that you wanted to shake her awake,
and ask her the path that you should take."
I felt a finger lift my chin,
I gazed into a glorious light.
Then the Angel spoke to me again,
"She is free from her burdensome plight.
Take heart, for you will recover In the arms of your mother
So assuredly, gracefully, Walk on with hope,
Through the blackness of this long cold night."

Written about Ella Jean Hales-Mercer May 7,1934-November 26,2001
Beverly's Mother

"Like A Snail"

Like a snail antennae touched,
you cower away into the twists and turns of your burdensome home.
Come out said the crow,
I am proverbially hungry.
You question.
No! You shout and shrink even smaller;
crawling to the tiny white washed room in the center of the curl,
pretending it is your sanctuary.
You peek out antennae circling like a periscope.
You move on slowly down the shady forest trail.
What if I am stepped on, you whisper.
You crawl away under a thorny bramble bush
then shrink back into that tiny white washed room
in the center of the curl,
and smaller still.

"An Exercise in Thought"

The class late teens.
Happily substituting,
I love to teach!
Youth Pastor ill.
My guitar and songs, a duet among twenty.
I quit playing.
Make them think,
Toss the lesson,
Stop the yawns.
“What are these,”
“Um, your keys?”
“What are they for?”
Eyes rolled,
“Unlocking things.”
“Why so many?”
“You have a lot to unlock?”
She snickered. “Yes, I do.”
"Two car keys, a house key, a shed key…
" They started to straighten,
becoming alert.
Looking at each other,
Then at me. Wondering.
“New subject,
Tell me about doors.”
“ Now a hand was raised.
“To keep out the weather.”
“She doesn’t mean for that!”
“Okay, for what then?”
“Now you are thinking.
What else comes to mind?”
“Rock Walls,”
“Car Alarms,”
“House Alarms.”
A shout from the back,
Another shout,
“guard dogs,”
Then another,
“The Military,”
And another, “Bars!”
"Thank you class,
You are dismissed." “That’s it?” One said.
"Yes, That's it."
I reached for my purse.
They shuffled out,
some throwing glances
Others mumbling.
Some gave a knowing grin.
I sat in the pew.
The organ played,
We stood, hymn book in hand.
Three hundred voices,
"Tell me the Story of Jesus,
Write on my Heart every word."


From the cradle to the grave,
Life is all about,
Where the ocean meets the shore.
Consistent pounding that never quits,
Is either loved or abhorred.
How is it that life goes on,
Unencumbered by the rains.
To live or die has no meaning,
If we can't escape the pain.
So the ocean pounds relentless,
With persistent unchanging waves,
With a power that is endless,
From the cradle to the grave.

"Blessed with Spring"

We strode through life living each day,
With a story untold of hurt and pain.
We hope for promises carried by dawn
and the strength and will to carry on.
Can peace ever prevail?
Will we live and love without all the hell?
Our hope lies in a vision where:
Children can laugh and play as before,
Mama will sing and smile all the more.
Daddy will walk with respect and honor,
Spending his time helping his brothers.
The old will be set up above all the rest,
Young ones will give them praise and respect.
They will never speak of a story untold,
For to tell it would mean unveiling the woes.
So they tell us walk on and remember to sing,
For following a cold winter,
We are blessed with the spring.


She pushed back her soft dark hair,
and removed an earring from her ear.
She answered, “How may I help you?”
In a voice always pleasant and clear.
Her husband said, “Hi Honey,
I am sorry to bother you at work;
but something told me to call you
and tell you I wish that you were here.”
She smiled and said, “Why thank you,
but I have a pile on my desk and if I don’t get it done today,
I won’t have time for you and Tess.”
He said, “I am sure you do but I just had to say,
that Tessie and I miss you and I need you and love you Beth.”
“I love you too and I’ll be home around”
and then the phone went dead. “Beth... Beth are you there Honey?
That’s strange,” he said.
He shrugged then sat down to relax then he turned the TV on.
In stark horror he watched the plane, as it hit high on Tower One.
Beth would say to her husband,
“My death, my Love is a lesson, that apathy, hate and complacence;
allows evil to spawn its deadly poison.
We cannot forget that September day so that it will never happen again.
We must fight and pray for our Nation,
And a just means to an end. o without knowing I would,
I said goodbye to you and our baby girl,
Leaving you in grief and shock at the change in our comfortable world.
And Honey I pray that someday,
you’ll be freed from your lonely pain.
With knowledge that my faith was strong and I plead,
Allow yours to remain."

"Between Death And Destruction"

When you are near death and destruction, get up in its ugly face.
Shout and scream at corruption, your heart is a sick disgrace!
The power I have to fight you,
is so much bigger than me.
So go on to another, and plant your rotten seed.
I will smite you with Kindness,
then kill you with Faith and Love.
My armor will be infallible on loan from the Spirit above.
So evil slink away from me,
there's no way that you can win,
your destiny lies in ashes,
where you are muted from spewing sin.
I know that you'll keep trying,
to tear down every wall,
but a two edged sword of power
will cause your warranted fall.

"Black Labs and Freckles"

I stepped out on my porch,
a soft breeze on my skin.
I saw you playing and singing again,
you had a hole in your jeans,
And a black pup at your feet.
Your little nose with its freckles,
had burned from the heat.
You scampered around,
that puppy and you,
you were so funny, and mischievous too.
Little boots all untied,
shirt buttoned all wrong,
you had thought up your own little song.
I sat down in my rocker wearing a smile,
I took off my apron, and just watched for awhile.
For black Labs and freckles,
makes this world go round,
and marks sweet memories,
of my small home town.

"Closing Your Eyes"

You walk along life’s stony path,
in fear of the truth in memories past.
How many times did you fall on the sword,
turning from the wisdom of an honest word?
God sees the state that you’re in your life is like a perpetual spin.
Truth is gained by an implausible cost.
You choose to hide at a plummeting loss.
Pride and selfishness steals your soul,
an honest discourse will make you whole.
Why do you cringe at the very thought,
of admitting the grief that you have brought.
There is no lesson without searing pain.
So what is it that you hope to gain?
Is it silence or joy and faithfulness?
Or is it cleansing from the selfishness?
So you trip over stones along your way,
when you know that in time you will have to pay.
No one escapes eternity by lies, so you go on and on,
Closing your eyes.

"Please God"

I felt someone was present to force my eyes open,
Moving me toward a horror unspoken.
I watched frozen, unable to run.
Where is our safe complacent world?
Where we yawned through life with impatience unfurled.
Where dignity was spurned,
and vanity reigned,
and we recoiled from those,
Who were truly in pain?
Prostate on my face,
I cried out for wisdom.
With eye salve to see clearly,
seeking justice and freedom.
Please God

"My Spirit Called Me"

My spirit called me.
Her beauty reaching out for me to grasp.
I tried to reach her finger tips but was refused.
Held by an inescapable dangling sword,

Close above my head,
supported by a thin silk string.
Fragile, the Holy Bible ever near.
I was weighed in the balance,
I was not found wanting, but yearning.
It would fall should I step toward her.
Splitting my head with great loss.
The void greater than life,
Its name? "Compliance or Desertion.”

So the imposing sword dangled on.
Following me from age to age.
Occasionally my spirit took my hand
And we secretly danced.
But we dare not sway too long.
Her features a joyous simile of my own.
For twenty years, I pined for her.
Twenty long stolen years.

One day I grabbed her hand,
Gripping it with all my strength.
Just as the silken thread broke
She pulled me in as I clung,
Never to let go again.
As one, we wept and laughed.
We flew on the air of freedom.
Her countenance lighting my face.
The sword now in my hand,
Gleaming steel in the sunlight.
Daring oppression to move closer.
Knowing it would try

"My Great Big Little World"

The gulls squawked overhead
I lay on my stomach exploring as children do.
I brought my face close to the surface of the tide pool
A wave came to shore and its remnant soaked me underneath.
My braids floated in the water, I loved the feel.

I watched the tide pool as if it was my only world.
The anemone and the muscle were still, feeding off the stone.
I licked my salty lips and breathed deep the fishy air.
A gust of wind rippled the water's surface.
A Japanese crab walked sideways passed my peripheral view.
I reached out to touch its tiny maroon shell.
It took its warrior stance, claws raised.
I let it pinch me.
I giggled and stuck my stinging finger in the pool.

An agate glowed in the bottom between gray rocks,
I wanted it but I left it be.
I did not want my little world rearranged,
not even for treasure.
I knew the ocean would anyway, but not yet.
A tiny orange starfish moved a tentacle.

A gull squawked overhead,
a gust of wind made my wet skin cold,
My tummy growled, I wanted hot tomato soup,
"I will dip my grilled cheese sandwich in it."
Grinning I made a slurp sound.
I stood up and stretched. Sand caking my overalls.

I love my great big little world.

In My Dream I Walked on Water

In my dream I walked on water
Skipping on top of the waves.
To my left I saw the lighthouse
Painted in red and white stripes.
To my right was the pier.
White fishing boats rocked back and forth.

I walked as a weightless,
Smiling and reaching.
I passed a buoy
which blew its booming horn.
I open my mouth
and boomed right back.
Then I laughed and laughed.

A pelican sat down beside me
As I tripped toward the “Marlin Blue”
My ship that I had invented,
A secret place to play and hide.
I did a spin on the crest of a speeding wave,
Yelled goodbye at the pelican.
Then said hello to a seal.
It had surfed the wave with me.
I laughed at it’s flippers for arms.
It barked and then I barked right back.
It kissed my lips and I spit.

When I woke up, I was mad.
I wanted to go back and walk on water.
Not get up and go to my dumb school.
I grumbled and went to the kitchen.
And there was Mom at the stove.
Her apron on backwards
She gave me marbles and screws for cereal.
Her black hair was now red,
I had a red haired brother, yuk!
I thought I was awake.
Sheesh! I am going back to bed.

"Ellie’s Sweet Life"

Ellie looked at him as he drove.
The dusty road grooved
His old truck bumped slowly along.
Leather gloves lay between them on the seat.
Musty smells from wood and oil wafted her senses.
What stunk to some was a familiar comfort to her.
Her heart smiled.

He looked the same every morning
She could count on it.
Clean flannel shirt, jeans, work boots, denim jacket.
Coffee, bacon and eggs, toast.
A wink from his crinkled eyes.
His black lunch box loaded.
Bologna sandwiches with mustard and mayonnaise.
A couple banana’s, chips and thermos.

The screen door slapped shut as he left.
Heavy footsteps across the wooden floor.
His parting words, “be good.”
She got a slap on the fanny.
Unpretentious, steady, solid, stern, loving.
His rugged face and handsome to her.
Weathered hands calloused, his grip like a vice.

Pop culture, nudity, violence, war and terror
Rendered him with a tiring opinion,
So much garbage and crap.
The radio plays a country tune.
He sweeps her up for a dance.
Her apron dangling around her neck.
He steps on a bare toe
She laughs and cries at the same time.
Nine o’clock they dance to the bedroom.
White sheets fresh from the clothesline.
Her hair in Bobby Pins
His white T shirt glows in the dark.

The alarm crashes into the silence.
Dawn an hour away.
Her slippers shuffle toward the coffee pot.
She hears the shower,
Coffee, Bacon, eggs, toast.
Black lunch box packed,
A wink and a slap on the fanny.
“Be Good.”
The back screen door slaps shut.
Ellie’s Heart Smiles.

"Me And Daisies In The Rain"

I awoke to the sun streaming through white sheers.
A breeze made them gently flag their hello.
It made me smile and stretch and arise.
I looked out the window.

The sky was black to the west.
The sun was shining in front.
In between me and the horizon
A neon rainbow arched.
God blew a breeze that gently kissed my sleepy face.

I looked out at the field and there they were,
Whimsical white daisies that say country to me.
Yellow centers looking up.
The rain came gently at first and then the droplets enlarged.
The rainbow ran to the opposite side of dark ominous clouds.
The daisies stretched up thirstily drinking, smiling and slurping.

I ran out in my white linen gown and plopped into the center of them.
The rain fell in my face and my back was covered with mud.
The daisies and I just lay there getting soaked and invigorated.
The rain stopped and I turned my head looking into the face of a daisy
larger than the others.
It stretched its white petals, glistening, wet with diamond like drops.

I went back in singing, "Me and Daisies in the rain."
I pulled my muddy nightgown over my head and showered.
I sang on, "Just me and Daisies in the Rain,

I Bring Power

I gently lap the shore
Like a million sloppy kisses.
I love to leave little pools of life,
As I ebb and surge.
Whether my surface sinks deeper
Or rises to spectacular heights,
Whether in turquoise or gray,
Trimmed in the purest white,
I bring power.
In the gentleness of a still day,
or in the raging storm.
Like a song that never ends,
I voice my relentless roar.
Have much respect for me,
There lies danger in my majesty.

Short Stories By Beverly J Raffaele

"Grandma What’s Her Name"

When I think back on Grandma’s little wrinkled body, way too old for her
years, I can still smell the stale tobacco that always clung to her and that
incessant, unfiltered Pall Mall cigarette, stuck between her two yellow-
stained fingers. She lived in Eureka California, in the front apartment of an
old, weathered, two-story house. The house, built in the 19th century, had
high ceilings, tall paned windows, and heavy wood moldings.
Grandma had simple tastes as she was raised in what was dubbed "Box
Town" in Evansville, Indiana. Evansville, an industrial river town, sits on the
border of Indiana and Kentucky. My mother related this description to me of
the place she spent most of her childhood. “The poorest in “Box Town” took
up residence in the coal shacks next to the tracks. The coal trains rumbled
by and the shacks would shake, some with dirt floors and there were rats, a
lot of rats. We lived in one of those old dirt floor coal shacks for a little while
and I can still hear the sickening sounds of my dad and uncle Mac killing rats
at night with an ice pick. A rat would run across our bed and my sister
Barbara was just a baby.”
Most of the homes had clapboard siding and a front porch. Some were
shotgun houses. The depression had hit folks hard. My mother told me that
occasionally the mob would creep through in their big black cars and fancy
suits, recruiting desperate young men. From the turn of the century until
years after a devastating flood in 1939, it didn't change much. Even the
ravages of nature couldn’t clean the area up or erase the resulting mind set of
those who lived in a society where votes were bought, people stole and
starved, disease was rampant and many children were filthy and neglected.
So any dwelling that was warm and clean was all she ever wanted, nothing
Grandma’s bathroom was shared with the landlord, who was also her
boyfriend. He was a tall dark man with broken English and a big hooked
nose. Of Portuguese decent, his name was Hannibal Lima. He had a
wonderful sense of humor and that was all I could see that they both had in
common. My grandmother was lightening quick with her witty one-liners.
She made sure there were no dull moments. He was one of many men that
she took up with throughout her life. She never did divorce my alcoholic
grandfather. It wasn’t long after she was separated from him that she
abandoned her children. Whether it was because of her inability to care for
them financially, her inability to cope, or she just didn’t want to be saddled
with them is a story that to this day remains untold. The children were
broken up. My uncle Bud was fortunate enough to go into an aunt’s home
where he was raised as her own son. My aunt Charlotte and my aunt Barbara
were both drug through one foster home after another.
My mother made the comment that “no one wanted Lois’ brats.” There was
little or no thought given to the hearts of the children. They were just nine
and five years old. My mother, her oldest daughter, married a thin, nineteen
year old kid, with sky blue eyes and a winning smile. He was from Oklahoma
and had come from a large hardworking farm family. When I was born a
year later, my mother was only sixteen years old.
That lent Grandma the opportunity to live with my mom and dad when she
was in between men. She would go off on month long alcoholic benders. My
mother, after fighting with my dad, would go pick her up because the guy
grandma was with had thrown her out and then she would start the pattern
all over again. So I grew up with my grandma occasionally living with us.
Hannibal was different than the others, he didn’t drink for one thing and he
was more tolerant of her idiosyncrasies so they were off and on from around
1957 to 1978. That was the tear that Grandma passed away at only sixty
years old. Her body was disease ridden with lung and liver cancer. She
looked like a ninety-year-old woman and we literally had to convince the
doctors that sixty was her real age.
From my perspective as a child, I figured that Grandma and Hannibal argued
over her sharp foul tongue and that was why she moved out of his part of
the house and into her own. That way she could see him if and when she
wanted to, but still maintain their eccentric relationship. He owned the place
so he continued to provide for her even though he could have rented it to a
paying tenant.
I don't ever recall her saying, “I love you,” to anyone. She wasn't the tender
type. Her emotions came out in laughter and anger. I have seen tears in her
eyes just a few times. Once when her grown children would have to leave
after a visit from Indiana and when she saw me again for the first time in
many years. She was “Box Town” rough and as long as Hannibal would
provide for her, she stayed. Did he love her or feel sorry for her? When
Grandma died, I called him and he openly cried, wanting to know where to
send flowers. It wasn’t until then that I realized that he probably did love her.
I have no idea if she loved him but my guess is that in her own way, she did.

Grandma washed her clothing in the bathtub and her bedding in the laundry
room of the trailer court that Hannibal owned. He was also the manager and
the janitor. The front entry of his apartment was the office. The trailer court
had been built on the land surrounding the house. Grandma made her
spending money by occasionally babysitting a little one that lived there. Her
few dresses were in the gingham pattern and on her little size six feet she
wore leather moccasins with beads on the toe. Besides one pair of dress
shoes, one wool tweed suit and a winter coat, that was the extent of her
wardrobe. Around the house she lived in dusters and “house shoes.” You
couldn’t get her into a pair of slacks and my mother tried several times over
the years before finally giving up. The extent of her glamour was a
permanent done at the beauty school so that she could wet a comb and
swipe it through bob length curls that was a dull blonde color with some
gray around the edges of her face. She was only 5’2” tall and her figure was
a little on the plump side. The last five years of her life however, her diseased
liver changed her shape into (as she put it) a little barrel with toothpick legs.

Many years later, after I was married with six small children, we received a
call from Grandma's doctor. I lived in Portland, Oregon and my mother lived
fifteen miles away in Beaverton, Oregon where she and her husband were
managers of a large apartment complex. He informed us that Grandma had
terminal liver cancer and that the family needed to come. We called Uncle
Bud, Aunt Charlotte and Aunt Barbara right away. They arrived from
Evansville, Indiana within two days of receiving word. Together with my
mother, they drove to Eureka, California to get Grandma and bring her to
Portland where she could spend her last days around her family.

I stayed behind and rented her a small apartment near my home. We weren’t
told how long my grandmother had to live and we were unaware of how
close to death she really was, so at the time the apartment seemed like a good
idea. I also worked on getting her Medicaid transferred from California as
soon as possible. The trip in the car was grueling for her. She was weak and
tired. Her belly was very distended from her swollen liver and they had a
hard time getting her to eat. In the car they had packed pillows around her
and my mother told me that she leaned over the front seat and held onto her
mother’s shoulders as much as she could. They took turns driving the 500
miles from Portland to Eureka. Grandma was in her apartment just one day
when she became critical enough to call an ambulance. We took her into her
apartment, she lay down in her new bed and she didn’t get out of it until the
paramedics put her on a stretcher. She was in the hospital for three days
before she died. Her children saw her as often as they could. We watched
her will herself to stay alive. Now on oxygen and pain medication she sat up
in bed making jokes and throwing her family what was dubbed the “grandma
look” to make them laugh. When her children left to go back to Indiana, she
gave up the fight.
The last words my husband heard her speak were, “If I die today, I know
my children love me.”
She had asked the Lord back into her life two years prior to her diagnosis.
That was when she told me about my great grandfather baptizing her, in the
wintertime and by immersion in the icy cold Ohio River. She returned to her
Christian roots by listening to Jimmy Swaggart’s radio program. After one of
my visits to her hospital room, I kissed her good bye and walked out leaving
the door open. I heard her start to pray the Lord’s Prayer in a way that I
have not heard it since. It was powerful.
She started with, “Our Holy Father which art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy
precious Holy name.” Her raspy voice, gasping for air, was rising and falling
in such praise that with chills running through me, I began to cry. I wanted
to go back in and stay with her but I had to get home to my children. My
very patient husband was expecting me.
The day of her death, a pull on me was so strong that I felt like my car was
being sucked to the hospital by a vacuum. No one had called me from there
but somehow I just knew that Grandma was bringing me to her. In a panic, I
ran into the office where I had an appointment to turn in the voluminous
paper work I had filled out so that her expenses could be met. The lines were
long and the room was crowded. People were there for food stamps
etcetera. I must have looked like a ghost because I walked to the front of the
line and told the desk clerk that I needed to get this done now, “My
Grandmother is dying as we speak.”
She said nothing and opened the gate for me to come behind the counter and
I think I floated through. I was ushered into a small office and offered a
chair. I handed what I had to a heavy set social worker with thick dark hair.
She grabbed the phone to clarify something as I fidgeted anxiously, trying
everything in my power to be patient. Miraculously, I was in and out of there
in less than five minutes. I ran to my car and when I got in, I saw that the
gas gauge said empty. The hospital was about twenty blocks away over a
San Francisco like hill. Angry with myself for neglecting to notice before
this, I had no choice but to stop.
I said, "Just a dollar please and hurry, I have to get to the hospital."
I have no memory from there until the moment that I walked onto the
hospital floor. Grandma's door was pulled shut. I knew she had died but that
vacuum, that strange pull on me, was still there. A nurse was waiting for my
arrival on the floor. The hospital staff had called other family members to
inform them of Grandma’s death and my family told the nurse to watch out
for me because I was on route. They didn’t want me to walk into the room
and find her lying there dead. I ask the nurse, a lovely dark haired middle-
aged woman, to take me to her. When I walked into the tiny room, the first
thing I noticed was the silence. Grandma was not wheezing and struggling to
breathe. All tubes and IV drips were taken off of her. The sun was shining
through the window onto her face and she looked serene as if she were truly
resting in peace. "Thank you Jesus," was all I could say. The date was
September 28, 1978.
I arranged the funeral as my mother was in silent shock at first and then that
turned into an emotional trauma. Mom never was very strong and I went
through my adult life trying to keep her hot temper and her reason in check.
She had gone the same path as her mother and had bailed out on her four
children. I was just ten years old.
Mom wasn’t a drinker though and after she married in 1968 and had another
child, a baby boy, giving me a fourth brother, then her life became more
stable. The death of someone this close to her was something that she had
never faced before. Although my aunts and uncles had been separated from
their mother at an early age, my mother had always lived near by. Despite
everything, the bond between them was very strong.
I am the oldest and the only girl with three little brothers, hence the name
“Sister.” Southern folks are known for their use of titles for nicknames.
When I was around eight years old, I started to stay for a few weeks in the
summer with Grandma. We Lived in Crescent City, California, a small
coastal town eighty miles to the north of Eureka. Yes, she was a drunk,
sometimes foul-mouthed and she smoked herself literally to death but even
though she never said so, I knew that she loved me very much and always
looked forward to my visits.
I slept with her in a double bed on the left side. She turned her back to me as
she slept on her right side. I wondered if that was why that side of her face
was more wrinkled than the other, but I didn’t dare ask. She knew how to
throw a look that would run off a grizzly bear. Bored and unable to fall asleep
before Grandma, I would run my fingers around the outline of the big pink
roses on the back of her pajama top. She would growl something and throw
her elbow back at me but she never intended for it to make contact and it
never did. I would stop and try to go to sleep. It was hard for me because
she went to bed early and got up early.
Each morning the whistle of her little red teapot awakened me. It had always
been there on the back burner of her little apartment sized gas stove. She had
a pot of coffee on too and bacon frying in a small cast iron skillet. I can see
her standing there, poking it with a fork. Between her fingers was that
cigarette smoldering its stinky smell. Grandma was clean though and she
liked her “little bedroom” and “little kitchen” and “her little coffee table” all
tidied up. Everything was her little something or other. “Beverly come and
eat,” she would holler, “Grandma’s got your breakfast ready.” I would get
out of bed, run across the cold faded linoleum floor on my tiptoes, go into
the kitchen, sit down at her little chrome dinette set, put my feet up on the
edge of the chair and stick my knees in my pajama top. She always laughed
at my sleepy face and asked me who combed my hair.
Although it was summer, the mornings were chilly. She lived close to the
bay and she didn’t put on the heat unless I griped and then she would open
the oven door to “take the chill of the air”. “Here’s your bacon and eggs
“Thanks Grandma, but there’s plastic on them again.” I whined. She would
laugh a congested laugh and tell me it was because the grease was hot.
“They aint slimy though Sis, so eat and quit your belly achin’. Do you want
Grandma to tell you her favorite joke?”
“Yeah, I like jokes,” I would say grinning. She’d clear her throat and sit
down in her chair with her cup of coffee and her cigarette. “Okay here
goes,” she gave a cough, “there were three turtles and they decided to go on
vacation.” I quit eating and started grinning at her. “There was an old one, a
middle aged one and a young one. They got two thousand miles a way from
home and decided to stop into this little restaurant to have a cup of coffee.”
Grandma stopped and coughed phlegm into a Kleenex, took a drag off her
cigarette, took a drink of coffee and after clearing her throat, continued. I
was always patient because she hadn’t blown a punch line in her life. “Well
Sister, they were sitting there drinking their coffee when the old one piped up
and said, ‘Oh no! We left the electricity on back home!’
‘Well I am not going back,’ said the middle aged one, ‘cause I am too slow!’
‘Well I’m not going back,’ said the oldest one, ‘I am slower than you are!’
‘Well, I’m not going back,’ aid the youngest, ‘cause you will drink my
‘No! We aint’ gonna drink your coffee we promise,’ said the oldest.
Grandma was in character with a furrowed brow and looking sly. ‘You
sure?’ said, the young one.
‘We promise, now get on outta here.’ He got up and they watched as he
walked out the door.” Grandma took another time out with her Kleenex,
cigarette and coffee. I decided to take a bite of the egg, plastic and all. She
waited for me to swallow so I wouldn’t choke and then continued, “Two
years went by and he still wasn’t back.
Finally the old one said, ‘we might as well drink his coffee, he cause he aint
comin’ back.’ bout that time,” Grandma wheezed out a laugh, “he poked his
head in the door,”
more laughing and wheezing, this time with a coughing spell, “if you do,”
Grandma was in hysterics now and so was I and I hadn’t even heard the
punch line! She shouted in laughter, “if you do, I won’t go!” Both of us had
tears running down our faces. Grandma set her little white “Stanley” cup
with its permanent coffee stains down and ran to the bathroom so she could
finish laughing on the toilet. She took her little waste can with her so she
could cough and spit while she went. I ate while she was in the bathroom
laughing, coughing, spitting and laughing some more.
After a lunch of the daily standard, fried hot dogs with onions mixed with
pork ‘n beans, we noticed the wind had come up and was rattling the
windows. It had and blown the fog away making the day bright and brisk.
Even in the summer if it were really hot inland, we would be socked in at the
coast. That particular day I recall so well. Grandma said, “Sister, let’s walk
into town.” I was wearing my red cotton pedal pushers with a matching
sleeveless top, red Keds and white anklets. Grandma made me wear a
sweater. “Grandma I don’t want to wear my
sweater,” I whined.
“Well you are going to!” That was the end of it, I slipped it on then we left to
take our walk. Once out on the sidewalk I asked, “Grandma do you know
how to drive a car?”
“Yeah I do, really good.”
“You do?” I asked naive’,
“Up a telephone pole,” she chuckled. I started skipping up the sidewalk and
when I skipped, my tennis shoes squeaked. A little white fox terrier, across
the street from us would bark at me every time I would make a squeak. This
amused Grandma and she made me skip up and down the sidewalk so she
could laugh at the dog. “Grandma my legs are getting tired!”
“Well Okay Sister, let’s go.”
As we walked along, Grandma would always sing DA doo doo da doo to the
tune of “From a Jack to a King” or “Freight Train” she’d throw in a little
vibrato at the end. I was use to it, loved it and expected it. She filled in the
gaps of our conversations with her da doo doo doos. One time a little
classmate had come to play when Grandma was at our house. She heard her
singing and said to me, “Your Grandma sounds funny.” I was furious with
her, “No she don’t, go home!” I yelled. We reached the end of her block and
had to cross the street. One of the things that Grandma used to say when
she crossed the street was “Don’t you run over me and kill me and let me
find it out!” She always laughed at her own jokes. I laughed and laughed
with her.
We walked into downtown Eureka and both needing to sit down a bit,
Grandma decided to stop into a coffee shop for some “hot coffee.” I ordered
vanilla ice cream. It came in a stainless steel dessert cup and had tiny little
pieces of ice in it. Vanilla is my favorite to this day.
When I was three and four Grandma lived in the Sacramento Valley. She
would take me with her for a beer then bribe me with something a treat each
“Don’t tell Poppy Okay? Grandma will let you have anything you want for
breakfast no matter what it is.” Wow, here was my opportunity to come up
with something like never before. She had hid a six-pack in the ditch that ran
along side the peach orchard. “I’ll have pork n beans and maraschino
cherries,” I proclaimed proudly. I have no idea why I knew what a
maraschino cherry was, but I remember a little jar of them in Grandma’s
icebox. Did she ever laugh and laugh. I got them too.
They had gone to the dump and got me a little red tricycle. I was looking
around and insisted on having a doll that had half its head missing. I named
her Lucy, which I pronounced “Wucy”.
Poppy had been teasing me because he thought it was funny when I got
mad. He went back to work on his old pick-up and forgot about me.
Grandma went to look for me and there I was out on the road peddling away
with Lucy being held by the neck under one arm. She ran up to me and said,
“Where do you think you are going!”
“Well,” I told her, “I am going to take my kid and go home!” Home was 400
miles to the north.
The day when Daddy and Mom had drove me to be with Grandma and
Poppy that summer I did something that I heard about my whole life.
Grandma spoke in sarcastic terms and in the first person so as to keep me
addressing her by her title. I on the other hand, being four, heard literal
terms. So one day she said, “ Sister, Grandma has bought herself some new
Bobby pins and I want you to go in there and bite the heads off everyone of
them!” So I did. I left a neat little pile of them on her dresser. Grandma ran
out of the bedroom and pointing at me with fury in her Scotch- Irish eyes,
told mom what I had done. I immediately went on the defense, “I thought
she wanted them that way,” I said with one hand over my behind. Mom
laughed herself into hysterics and I ran out to play as fast as my legs would
take me.
One time I was sitting on the bar facing Grandma when the bar tender ask,
“Lois, you still shacking up with old Earl?”
“Yeah, we are still livin’ together.” She looked at him suspiciously. “Why do
you ask?”
He cleared his throat and said, “I was just wondering.” It wasn’t too long
after that she caught Earl, my Poppy, with a woman on his lap down at the
Grandma came to live with us in Eureka and that is where she met and took
up with Hannibal. He drove yellow and white Simca. The Simca was a small
car about the size of a Volkswagen bug. When she lived with him, he would
tease me about being so skinny. He said I didn’t have legs; I had golf clubs.
Then he would laugh when it made me mad. “Hannibal, knock it off!”
Grandma yelled. Then she told me sympathetically, “Sister, you don’t have
golf club legs Honey, Grandma thinks you look like a movie star.”
“Really Grandma, who do I look like?”
“Olive Oil,” she laughed. I frowned, making her and Hannibal laugh harder.
My brothers and I were smart enough to never refer to her by her married
name so when she wasn’t around, we called her “Grandma what’s her
name,” because we didn’t know what her last name was. We later learned
that she went by her maiden name of Gibson.
One time we all went to the store in Hannibal’s little car. We had bought
some link hot dogs. I was sitting in the back seat and Hannibal was stopped
at a light. Some young ladies were crossing the street in front of us and the
light turned green, Hannibal was so busy staring that he didn’t go. Grandma
reached down into the bag, pulled out the link hot dogs and swung them
around popping Hannibal straight in his right eye. He startled, grabbed his
eye, horns honked then he pushed the pedal down hard throwing me back in
the seat. I was laughing so hard I had to lie down. I haven’t seen a sitcom
yet that would top her everyday life. Hannibal grabbed his eye and said, “Are
you crazy? What you hit me for?” Then he sped on because Grandma had
thrown him that infamous evil look.
Why I was delayed at the gas station I don't know and I have always
questioned it. Some strange but very real energy had pulled me to her but I
have always been saddened that I wasn’t beside her when she died. Was that
providence, coincidence, her plan, or God’s plan? My guess is that it was me
who could handle it. I needed to be the one to reassure my mother that
Grandma died peacefully. The nurse said that she insisted upon getting up to
go the bathroom instead of using a bed- pan. As she was assisting her back
to bed she looked up at the nurse and said, “Why do I feel so weak?” Then
she closed her eyes and died.
I felt that same strange, but very real feeling, coming from my mother’s soul
when she died. When I walked into the room one crushing morning, the pull
was gone. I knew that all that was left in that ICU room was the shell of my
mother. I made the decision to remove life support and mother’s heart
stopped within a few minutes.
There is something about having closure that is so important. Because I hadn’
t made it to the hospital to be with Grandma at the very moment that she
passed away, I wanted to take her shoulders and yell, “Grandma wake up!
There is more that I want to say!” So when my paternal grandmother
became ill, my Dad and I flew out to Oklahoma and I made certain that I sat
beside her until there wasn’t a single thing left for me to say.
When my mother died, I used that experience and made sure that each and
everyone of our large family that could come had that opportunity before life
support was removed. And, I stayed vigil.


I walked into the shelter, my arms loaded with blankets. The atmosphere
was dank with the smell of blended body odor. Bearded men sat with yellow
teeth, greasy stocking caps and old army jackets. Some were catatonic as
the day was young. Some coughed, others mumbled. I walked toward the
giving window. Hovered below sat a child, drowsy, yawning, her little dress
too short. Her hair was dirty blonde and tangled. Her little coat too thin. I laid
the blankets on the counter. Kneeling, I said, “Hi baby girl.”
“I aint no baby,” she said shyly, “I’m five.”
“Of course you’re not,” I smiled, “What is your name?” Glancing at me and
then back at the floor, she said, “Holly.”
“Well have a Happy Thanksgiving Holly,” I smiled. “What a completely
stupid thing for me to say,” I thought. I took her little hand in mine and she
jerked it away. I rose to leave, then turned back to her, “God Bless you
“I don’t like God, he took my mom away,” Holly said solemnly. Stunned, I
returned to my knelt position. “Oh?” I inquired.
“Yep she died of the aids.” A man approached, tall, young, dirty Levis. “Step
away from my kid lady,” he said. His voice soft, his resolve firm. I gulped
and arose meeting determined green eyes, square jaw fixed. “Is there
something, anything that I can do to help you?” My question was benign, as
I knew that I was too busy to make time. He scooped the little girl up and
put her inside his coat. “Nope.”
I paced the floor that night, overwhelmed with my own responsibilities,
feeling guilty, torn, and worrying about Holly. I questioned myself, my
priorities, and my cozy house. “Who am I, that I should be so blessed?” I
said aloud. My husband, in front of the television, looked up from the
football game. “Huh?”
“Oh nothing,” I said. That night I confided in him and then I ask his opinion.
He was adamant, “You can’t save the world Honey. Listen, I know that you
have a soft heart, but…” That was where I turned over in bed and tuned him
The next day I set out to find Holly. Returning to the shelter at precisely the
same time that I was there before, I ask the director if she knew anything
about the lanky young man and little girl that had kept me awake most of the
night. She said regrettably that she wouldn’t help me if she could. “If I reveal
where these people live or sleep, I will lose their trust and I want them to be
able to feel safe when they come in here. Sorry lady,” she sniffed, putting
her hands on bony hips. Looking into tired determined eyes, I opened my
mouth to say more but thanked her instead and left.
Once out on the sidewalk, I noticed it had began to rain. The wind was
coming up off the river with a wintry chill that made my eyes sting from the
cold. I looked as men and women started backing into the doorways of
businesses along the street. I had heard the news reports of the business
owners going to city hall and begging the mayor and commissioners to make
skid row a priority. They complained that the “bums” left needles, vomited in
their doorways and urinated on the sides of their buildings. One business
owner shouted at the mayor, a liberal woman stuck in the sixties, “Why
should I let them take over and drive me out? Do something, damn it!”
“Do I dare inquire of these folks where Holly might be?” I asked myself. I
gingerly approached a man, back turned, standing in the doorway of a small
grocery. I noticed that it was well barricaded with bars on the windows and
a gated door. “Excuse me Sir,” I said, frightened. He turned and I met
bloodshot eyes and a deeply wrinkled dirty face. His beard was yellow gray
and his teeth were rotten. “Got a couple bucks,” he wheezed. Repulsed, I
turned and ran back to my car. Several men that looked very close to the one
that I had just spoken to, were leaning against it. I hit the alarm button on my
key chain and they moseyed away, snickering. I jumped behind the wheel
and sped away, trembling in tears, and feeling like a fool. I angrily chastised
myself, “How could I have been so incredibly ignorant!”
Back home I went into the kitchen and made a cup of hot tea. I looked
around at the pretty room in blue and white and wondered again, why some
are so blessed while others are so destitute. That night I slept hard and if I
dreamt there was no memory of it.
At breakfast, an old fashioned tradition that I insisted on, I told my husband
everything. He was silent for a while and then he laid down his fork. “Beth,
here me out okay?” I picked up my teacup and gave him my eyes. “I work
near skid row and I walk through the area often.”
“I know where, you work,” I retorted.
“Don’t interrupt me Beth!” I took a sip of my tea and he continued. “The
majority of those people are either alcoholics or mentally ill. After the office
relocated down there, I was giving them money because I felt sorry for them
at first, then it was to get them off my back. A representative for the city
came in and spoke to our board regarding the best way to help. It wasn’t
money. That was feeding the problem and enabling them to continue to beg.
We were told that we could buy them food by purchasing vouchers from
some of the area markets. That this would be the best way to help. So I
went down and spent fifty bucks on these vouchers. Then it just made me
mad to think that I can’t even get to my place of business without being
forced to spend my hard working money on these bums. So I quit buying
them. Now I walk past them and keep alert. If one approaches me or
persists, I yell at him to back off. It is a huge problem and I don’t have the
answers. Beth you can’t save the world. The more handouts there are, the
more bums there will be. I don’t want you going back down there and I
mean it. Give some money to the women’s shelter if you want, but do not go
where the men are. Especially alone.” His argument was logical and I had to
concede that much of it was true. I silently finished my meal and went to the
den, furious with my husband. Or was I furious with myself, the system, or
the logic?
A few weeks later, with Thanksgiving over, I decided to go to the women’s
shelter to inquire about their needs. It was in an old brick building several
blocks from the place where I had been before. The doors were heavy,
glassed and behind them was a cage. I buzzed at the entrance and was asked
to please wait. It didn’t take long for a woman to appear. She unlocked the
cage and then turned back and pushed some numbers into a keypad locking
herself in. She spoke to me through a speaker. “Do you have an
“Yes, I called earlier.” I gave her my name and she told me to press my
drivers license against the glass. She ran a pencil down a list on a clipboard.
When she came to my name she made a little check. Buzzing me in, I was
asked to stay in the lobby. I watched her go, her long curly hair and
broomstick lace skirt flying behind her. Another woman came through a
door and down a few steps into the lobby. She shook my hand. “Hello my
name is Anne.” I returned the greeting, feeling good about her warm strong
handshake. “I see that you have good security here.”
“We have no choice I am afraid. Let’s go to my office.” She led me through
the huge rotund room and then to an office on the left. “Was this a hotel?” I
commented noticing the high ornate ceilings, marble floors and tall pillars.
“Yes it was, and an expensive one at the turn of the century. It was donated
to the city by a local billionaire.
We had been leasing it and we were very close to closing the doors when the
transaction came through. We still have to operate on donations and
volunteers. The city provides the sewer, water and upkeep of the building.
Because we are a non-profit charity organization there are no property taxes.
Everything else is up to us. The heating bill, the food, the beds, medical
supplies, etcetera. Have a seat,” she gestured to a chair opposite her messy
desk. “You told me on the phone that you are interested in a volunteer
position?” She picked up a piece of paper and studied it for a moment before
she sat down. “Yes, but I have to say that I have led a fairly sheltered life
and I am ridiculously ignorant about what you do here.”
“I was touched by a little girl at the men’s shelter. I was there delivering
quilts from the lady’s club at my church. I couldn’t get the poor little thing
out of mind.” I told her the story as she rocked back and forth in her chair
smiling. My cell phone rang and I reached into my Gucci bag, took it out,
and looked at the caller I.D. I noticed her looking at my diamond earrings,
my two-carat wedding set, and my perfectly manicured nails. I apologized
for the interruption and then turned the phone off. Her hands looked dry and
her nails were short. She was dressed modestly in a tweed sweater and
jeans. Her black hair was pulled up into a thick pony-tail. She had a pretty
sculptured face, olive skin and compassionate brown eyes. I noticed some
lines had set in around them so I guessed her to be in her thirties. “Beth, if
you are serious about volunteering here, you will have to go through training
and then orientation. It is extensive,” she said seriously. “The women that
come here are victims of domestic or street violence. They arrive scared,
desperate and many of them severely beaten. Their children are terrified and
some are removed from their mothers and taken to child protective services.
It is a dose of reality Beth, and it takes someone who has the strength to
hack it. I want you to think long and hard before you consider walking into
this world. Here are some pamphlets on what we do and a booklet on what
we expect of our volunteers. There are several positions available but,” she
leaned forward and looked me in the eyes, “You have to have a lot of guts.
You can’t cry over a broken nail or red hands from the constant scrubbing
we do around here. We change diapers, wash clothes, do dishes, clean
wounds, and we wash our hands a hundred times a day. We use a lot of
bleach in the bathrooms. These women could have an “std”, aids,
tuberculosis. Most smoke or have a drug and alcohol addiction. Some are
prostitutes hiding from a pimp. We treat for head lice, scabies and you name
it. Read that material and call me if you are interested.” Anne rose from her
chair and I took the papers from her hand. “How many days a week does the
average volunteer come?” I asked.
“It depends on their time,” she answered smiling. “We will get as much out
them as we can but it is a well organized schedule. It is too important. We
just can’t tolerate the lackadaisical, or a flake that shows up at their
“I understand.”
“ You look astonished, this isn’t for everyone. I truly believe it takes a certain
gift to do this kind of work. Oh and Beth, we ran your name and drivers
license during this interview. The police work hand in hand with us. You
could be the sister of a husband or boyfriend, we just don’t know and we
can’t be too careful. A woman’s life may depend on it.”
“How would you know?” I asked solemnly.
“That is a very good question, we have the women write down every name
that could compromise their stay here. It is very rare that we have problems
with the perpetrator, but it does happen and that is why we have very tight
security. In our history, we have had just one woman murdered on the
premises. In other cities the statistics are much higher. She held out her hand
and I took it, my head spinning. I thanked her, and then she walked me out,
put in the code in the keypad on the cage, and then hit the buzzer so that I
could open the door.
When I arrived home, I quickly shed my coat and handbag, then went into
my den to study the papers that Anne had given me. After reading it all
thoroughly, I felt too overwhelmed to think so I decided to put it on the back
burner for now.
The next morning after Daniel had left for work I sat down to read the paper.
After looking at the world news I turned to the community section. The
headline read, “Gala To Be Held For The Shriner’s Children’s Hospital” at the
Grand Ballroom on Broadway. I sat straight up in my chair. It was as if a
light had flashed through my brain. “Of course,” I nearly ran to call my
mother. “Mother, I am glad I caught you,” I said as soon as she answered.
“Are you in a hurry?” She said she had a minute or two. “Can I meet you for
lunch this afternoon? I really need to talk to you.”
“ Is everything okay?”
“Yes, Mother. I’ll let you go and see you this afternoon, say Nick’s Café by
12:30? She agreed and I grabbed a notebook to jot down my ideas and the
names of those that I knew my mother had influence with.
Nick’s was a favorite spot for me to go if I wanted a quiet atmosphere
together with the best minestrone in town. My mother walked in looking as
lovely and regal in a black business suit and white blouse. Her fifty-five years
had made her more sophisticated than ever and she retained that telling smile
that would either melt you or freeze you in your tracks. Her back was
perfectly straight and she carried herself with an air of confidence and grace.
Her thick salt and pepper hair was pulled up into a French roll. I stood and
kissed her cheek. She gave my hand a squeeze before removing her gloves
and taking her chair. “I have ordered for us Mother.” She arched an
eyebrow, then said, “Thank you.”
“How is Daniel, Dear?”
“Very well, thank you.”
“We have said our niceties, So what is so urgent? I can’t stay long as I have
an appointment with a client at 1:30.” Nick brought out a cart with two
bowls of hot soup, wafting scents of tomato, basil and garlic, warm bread
and a beautiful salad with his famous house dressing on the side. After
ordering tea, mother looked at me expectantly. It took me a good twenty
minutes to relay everything that had happened. She sat listening, eating her
soup and sipping her tea. She was a skilled listener and very skilled at
expressing her feelings with an eyebrow or if needed an icy smile. I was met
with a look of concern. When she finally spoke, it was my turn to be silent.
“ I see you feel guilty that you can’t be there in the thick of things, shirt
sleeves rolled up, holding a baby, or the nursing the cuts and bruises of a
badly beaten woman. We are put in this world with many diverse gifts. Some
are here as helpers, laborers, administrators, teachers, healers, and nurturers.
If this weren’t so then nothing would get done. So that being said, what do
you want of me Darling?”
“You are right Mother, I have felt weak and stupid. I defied Daniel thinking
that he didn’t have a heart. I think that he just knew that this wasn’t for me.
I have suffered for a couple days from a sort of culture shock I guess, until
this morning. I have an idea. I want to be a fund raiser for the women’s
shelter. I am not talking about a rummage or cake sale, I am talking about
$100.00 or maybe $200.00 a plate dinner and a formal ball, with the best
dance band and champagne in town. I need you to call all the right people
and I want you and Daddy to contribute by securing the ballroom, and by
providing the catering. Daddy’s law firm has some of the richest clients in
the state. Your friend Gretchen is a multi-millionaire herself? Mother, you
know everyone and get the mayor involved. Please think about it and get
back to me. A New Years Ball would be perfect!”
“Elizabeth, You are a little too enthusiastic Dear. The New Year is not even
an option; here it is nearly Christmas. You know full well that the Grand
Ballroom is booked, as is every other decent facility in town. I really have to
go. I will call you in a few days after I have had time to think about it and
after I speak to your father. In the mean time, I’ll write a healthy check to
the women’s shelter. I need to do some year-end giving anyway and I will
put it on my list. I am familiar with their work down there.”
Mother arose and I stood up then kissed her cheek. As she left, her beauty
and elegance was evident enough to turn the heads of the men in the café,
both young and old. I sat back down to finish my lunch, with confidence in
the fact that she would do all she could to help. I knew despite her queenly
countenance, that my story had tugged on her heart. She wasn’t in the habit
of making promises and I knew that she would be business like in her
approach. Every tee would be crossed and all possible scenarios considered
before any fund raiser would be held.
Mother didn’t need to work, she preferred to. She was a broker in real estate
and had earned a fortune on her own. She knew people in high places and
most of her lady friends were high society.
After the holidays were over Mother called me to tell me what she had been
able to accomplish for the women’s shelter. “First of all, we have a spot on
the local television morning show. Your Anne will be there and we will have
an opportunity to talk to the public about the needs. Next, we have the
ballroom but it is not anywhere near a holiday, I have secured it at the same
time that Bob Johnson is in town campaigning for his run for governor. If he
wants our support, he won’t turn us down. This will be like a political gift
for him if he gets behind this with us. Next, we will cater it but your father
wants nothing to do with it other than writing a check and showing up to eat
and you know how he loves to dance. I have talked him into giving quite a
large sum annually and that is something. I will get back to you on the dates
and Darling, you can close your mouth now.”
Mother this is just wonderful, I love you!” I cried.
I told Daniel about everything and he too agreed to give annually. I told him
that I had gone to the women’s shelter in person because if I was going to
err, that it was going to be on the side of mercy.
I realize now that we all have different gifts and mother in her infinite
wisdom,was the first to point it out. I told him, “I may not be able to handle
watching a baby scream as they are being separated from a mother or see
wounds on a pregnant woman, but I can hostess, I can make calls and I do
know people who know others of influence. So I feel we all can do
something.” Daniel took me in his arms and squeezed me very tight. Then he
winked and said, “I don’t want to have to do anything but show up and eat.”
“That sounds familiar,” I laughed.

"An Ode to Georgia"

I saw her from my hotel room in New Orleans. The day was hot and steamy with a
swampy stench in the air. She sat on a blanket across the street and then the dance began. I
watched her sponge bathe out of a faucet coming out of a short rock wall. Her black skin
strategically covered leaving her unexposed.
It looked like an art to me and I was amazed. She washed her garments, wrung them out
and then snapped them vigorously in the air laying them across the same rock wall to dry.
Then she lathered and rinsed her hair and wrapped it in a rag turban. I marveled at this
ballet, all done with precision and with nothing exposed. She lay down on the blanket to
rest now.
Then a preacher came by and stopped. Both were animated for quite some time, she more
than he. She was the winner as he gave up and moved on leaving her still mumbling and
shaking her head.
I was spell bound now and didn’t feel in the least voyeuristic.
I took her some money and my Reader's Digests when I spotted her searching for a book in
her bag. As I approached, I ask if I could join her on the blanket. She surprised me with her
gesture for me to sit. I handed her the money and the books. She gave me the standard
"God Bless you". "Family?" I asked curiously and truly interested. "I don't want to talk
about family," she grumbled. "Enjoy your books,” I said smiling, and then I returned to my
clandestine room.
I watched, with her unknowing, as she stretched out to read. My smile turned to a frown
when the policeman walked up to her, hands on his hips, hovering. She stood slowly
glaring. I watched as she folded her damp clothing and put them in her canvas nap sack
with the rest of her world. She trod slowly away commenting over her shoulder. The
policeman held his authoritative posture.
The play had ended abruptly, dangling with no closure! I sat on the edge of my bed angry
and I found myself wiping a tear.
A short time later I went back to the window, the policeman was gone but there she was
pulling out her damp clothes and spreading them back on the wall. “She’s back!” I cried
out loud, laughing with delight and admiring her grit. What a lovely finale!

"If you have the chance to sit it out or dance, I just say Dance." writen by Mark Sanders recorded by LeeAnn Womack

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