An Offering to Maya
“I gave birth to one child, a son, but I have thousands of daughters. You are Black and White, Jewish and Muslim, Asian, Spanish-speaking, Native American and Aleut. You are fat and thin and pretty and plain, gay and straight, educated and unlettered, and I am speaking to you all.” ~Maya Angelou from Letter to My Daughter
Edgar Allen Poe always feared premature burial;
You memorized his poems while buried alive
in a five-year post-rape silence.
Losing words made them worth more and so you
mastered languages: French, Spanish, Hebrew, Italian,
and Fanti…so many hope-filled phrases knew your tongue,
expressions for daybreak, dignity and always forgiveness.
Even for two-finger Mark, lover turned savage, who beat you
with a wooden slat until your lips were speared by your teeth
and your mother fainted at the sight of your swollen face.
But wild independence cast your six-foot frame and so you
became the first female streetcar driver in San Francisco
at 14 and you vehemently refused to tolerate profanity
not even from Tupac, who cried from sharp pain when you talked
soft honey to him and you never merely spoke you blended in
love songs and spiritual songs even when they killed The King
on your 40th birthday, a day the world weeps still.
Oh, caged bird, Dunbar’s daughter, you soared freely with
the generous wing-span of a prehistoric bird swooping down
to enchant Broadway and sing Miss Calypso in a red silk dress
It took 7 autobiographies to tell us what you gleaned from
life and the dinner parties you threw to celebrate blessings,
ones that you knew hid softly under southern rocks and trees,
ones that would have been missed by mortals like us.
And you loved making biscuits, kneading with thankful fingers
amidst intolerance that sheer alchemy converted to 24-carat resolve
and your son Guy could say “Mama,” but I confess I whisper it too.
The Child Left Behind
Your spiky hair won’t wound enemies.
Piercing all of your body parts
won’t release Pain.
No one will notice next week.
Pain mangles your kidneys
despite your vodka drownings;
it Crayolas a soul quicker than
needles tattoo flesh.
Pain sparks a bonfire;
your purest weed can’t compete.
She laces her high-heeled boots with your guts;
your most skilled lover cannot
untie the damage.
A household of guilt is easy to award, but that’s not my job.
I could lull you to sleep with Chaucer, but that’s not my job.
I could stroke your hand and hear you for once, but that’s not my job.
You slid into my seating chart –
this bloodied, cynical fax of a child and I must teach you.
Hell, there’s no Mother Teresa in me,
Certainly no Helen Keller in you –
and yet here we are.
It’s you, me, Macbeth and Grendel.
Pull your foggy brain up off that desk.
Pay some respect to the woman I’ll become
when I ease my way around your land mines
and reach your mind.
Dana Kinsey has a BA in English and an MA in Theater from Villanova University. She is a poet, actor, freelance writer, fine-arts teacher, and theater director. She is a faculty member in the Fine and Performing Arts Department at Lancaster Catholic High School in Pennsylvania where she teaches Acting Technique, Dramaturgy, British Literature, and Playwrighting. Dana's screenplay, WaterRise, was filmed in Manhattan by Sagesse Productions and will be released at a variety of film festivals later this year. She also crafted the story into a one-act play and it premiered at the historic Gene Frankel Theatre in New York City in June 2015 in conjunction with the Radioactive Festival for female playwrights. Visit www.wordsbyDK.com for more information.