Donna Pucciani, a Chicago-based writer, has published poetry worldwide in such diverse journals as Poetry Salzburg, Istanbul Literary Review, Shi Chao Poetry, Journal of Italian Translation, and Acumen. Her work has been translated into Italian, Chinese, Japanese and German. She has been nominated numerous times for the Pushcart Prize and has won awards from the Illinois Arts Council, the National Federation of State Poetry Societies, Poetry on the Lake, and other organizations. Former Vice President of the Poets Club of Chicago, her seventh and most recent collection of poems is Edges.
Live Oaks New Orleans
The moss in City Park hangs like ghost-hair, swaying in the lukewarm wind of ancestor breath. My grandfather
used to take us here to play, two pale Yankee children who needed to be gently pushed on the old wooden merry-go-round, to run barefoot in the grass without mama knowing.
Decades later, the park fills with new children playing on red plastic see-saws, their parents sipping coffee from styrofoam cups.
They have driven in from gated communities far from the riffraff of city-dwellers and those of darker hue. During the week, they work in big oil, big pharma.
They flip houses, forgetting the old home on Frenchman where Mawmaw used to live, now a jazz mecca on one end, a ghetto on the other. They have fled to mansions on a golf course.
Meanwhile, the live oaks in City Park hold close the aged remnants of trailing moss, more gray than green, and invisible nooses, swaying in their century-old arms.
Waking is a form of thanksgiving, a prayer that doesn’t know it’s a prayer, its identity as strong and tensile as the spider’s whispered web floating over the bookcase.
Most days I’d just as soon turn over and go back to sleep, after a lifetime of waking before dawn, working far into the evening, my body resisting utter exhaustion.
Some day, if I’m lucky enough to die in my own bed, my hands will pluck the blankets, I’ll gurgle a bit, eyes unblinking, seeing something in the beyond clearer than the nebulous universe of a December dawn.
Now I enter the fogged clarity between sleep and consciousness. The mists of autumn have evaporated from the soft earth, breathing hoarfrost. The birds have vanished into winter. Life is a muted joy. I swing in a hammock of invisible stars.
A cold intelligence descends in the half- light. I breathe survivor’s guilt. I own warmth, a roof overhead, shoes, a refrigerator. I can switch on a light, flush a toilet. I can read books on astrophysics, the Gnostic gospels, political turmoil. I can read.
On the Cruise
They move about the ship with care, clinging to the rails, wheezing over their canes, shouting questions to each other in carpeted elevators.
They refuse to surrender, padding thickly on deck if the weather’s warm, their thin white hair aloft in the wind. The starboard side is “a bit slippy,” he notes.
They carry their sorrows in the pockets of their anoraks. They survive in the phlegm of their chesty coughs. Each morning they bless a plateful of familiars-- eggs, Cumberland sausages, beans, black pudding, toast with marmalade.
At four, after naps, they stir their milky tea with silver spoons, listening to what seem like sleigh-bells in a china cup. They stare into each other’s eyes with rheumy affection.
They do not disembark at Porto, preferring to sit at the ship’s window watching those with younger knees scramble for sherry and trinkets. At dinner, they order soft foods, then go to bed early, rocked by heavy seas into their portholed dreams.
A giant cloud of icy breath draws us together in our small house, our pilgrim feet stilled in the daily procession called marriage. We are trapped within each other, under a snowy Arctic carapace pretending to be Chicago. Suddenly everything becomes irrationally quiet except for the odd cracking noises from old wooden furniture, ice quakes, bones creaking in tired flesh.
This weather has never happened before, a phenomenon of human making that has closed airports, schools, libraries, even the post office. It’s dangerous to breathe, but needing to inhale above all else, we hunker down, thankful at home for the pulse of mechanical heat that throbs like heartbeats.
We crawl under quilts, our hands finding the pockets of faded sweaters, our hopes camouflaged in the folds of curtains. When the weather warms up, we’ll emerge from our home, blinking transparent smiles, waiting for the next cold spell. Meanwhile, we are thrust into hibernation, our mutual salvation endless cups of tea.
I heard a rabbi on the radio talking of God, the great Circle from which we humans are not excluded but dwell in our own small circle inside.
Are we like eggs laid by the God-woman in a cosmic nest beyond human making? Thunder will call us forth into the galaxy of Being.
Lightning will illumine our vision for one split-second of stellar wisdom, the mysticism of unfulfilled desire forever encased
in the divine. Love, loneliness and astonishment are our lot, ice and fire, fact and fantasy, the benediction of weeds and roses living together in a secret garden, never touching.