Sidewalk Cafe

Side Walk Cafe

We sit up straight. Quiet…like much of the world, right now. Masks at the ready for when the veterinarian returns our ear-infected dog to our truck. So strange, this new way of being.

Then I see a woman pushing an ancient, rusted cart. She looks to be an older, stooped-down version of my age, very wrinkled, hair and clothes disheveled. Her head turns side to side, bobs up and down and she’s mumbling to herself…no mask in place, no fancy ear buds, no standing on a corner with a cardboard sign. She seems to be mentally ill, and walks the sidewalks of a strip mall…searching for food.   

She approaches our truck, but not too close, and manages to look up, “Food, any food?” I frantically look around for a stray orange, dig in my purse for the usual protein bar, find nothing.

“I’m sorry, we have nothing.”

She turns and walks away, empty. Stoop back in place, head bobbing.

It all hits me in the gut. Adrenalin kicks in. My God, she is hungry. I say it out loud to my dismayed husband. “She is hungry! I have to find something!” I dig deeper into my purse and at last, a Kind Bar. Oh my God, a Kind Bar! I throw on my mask and open the door.

“I’ll be right back.” And then I run. I run after the woman who represents in that moment, all of the world’s hunger and sadness. All of the world’s fear, poverty, war and mental illness. But hope too…I pray for hope.

“Lady, Lady! “I call out to her. “Ma’am, Ma’am” I scream. She turns. I hold up my simple trophy. “Something to eat, something to eat!”

I put the morsel down on a block of stone as she comes back for her meal, while I turn back to where I’m safe…to where I have a home.

Jean E. Taddonio

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Purple Tribute June 2020

Littered lavender blooms

lace the cement walk-way

brilliant camouflage

for our ordinary

everyday sameness

better than broken glass

better than riot trash

that is scarring our hearts

Perhaps we should leave this

purple-hearted mantle

a sign of our sadness

a reminder to love

                       Jean E. Taddonio

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Arms Distance Plus Three

Jean E. Taddonio

I’m up extra early this a.m., keeping my ear plugs in…the ones I’ve grown accustomed to in the night as if today’s reality will stay away…maybe for a time it will. It’s been weeks since I’ve felt like writing, but today is the day my writing class usually happens and I’m missing it.

There is supposed to be an on-line program waiting for me…not sure if it’s in ‘real time or recorded…I’m resisting even the thought of it.  I’m not young anymore. I like being with people where  I can see and  touch. Techy stuff doesn’t come easy for me, though I know it is the way the world runs these days. It can be quite wonderful, when I stop to think about it, not take it for granted… even using my computer now is pretty amazing. I like to hand-write too… Catholic- school- penmanship, Palmer Method. But I guess that’s even an art that is becoming obsolete. Now that makes me sad: the feel and the sight of ink swirling on paper forming words, an art being forgotten.

How many things we all take for granted.  I’m glad I lived before computers and cell phones were ‘the thing’ and before my mother learned to drive a car…before men and space ships landed on the moon and a time when kids played games in the streets. When I was very little, I even remember gathering around a radio for entertainment and stories with my parents and little sister: “the shadow knows”. My brother and other sister hadn’t been born yet.

Many years later my widowed mom housed a college Chinese doctor who was working on his Public Health Master’s degree. (years later, he and his wife Jinjua, became American citizens) I was a hospice nurse at the time and our hearts had a lot in common…still do.  I told him that he helped me not take things for granted. He asked, in his broken English, “Jeane, what mean ‘take for granted’. I really had to think about that one for a while. “Zili, we Americans have so much…plenty…and many times we don’t fully appreciate it. We think it’s a ‘given,‘ automatic, but it’s not. We ‘take it for granted’. You help me appreciate things more deeply, in a way I didn’t before. Everything is so new to you here. Thank-you.”

And so now it is, that me and almost everyone else in the world is learning not to take anything for granted. An invisible bug that wears a microscopic crown has invaded the world, making people sick and some of the most vulnerable are dying. It is truly a fearful and amazing time. Many of us are seeking and finding courage.

 We Americans are being told to stay away from each other, remain at least six feet apart and keep gatherings to a maximum of ten people.  Huggers are using teddy bears and animals to get their touch fixes unless, of course, we are blessed enough to have spouses and family in the same household. Many, right about now, are wondering if being together under one roof really is a blessing. I’m trying to be funny, but patience is being stretched for most of us and we are getting the opportunity to practice. Seriously, we wonder if anything will ever be the same in our lives after this. What will be the ‘new normal’.

Will there ever be a ‘normal’? And yet there are those of us who choose to believe that a new balance will be formed. Creativity will be enhanced, prayer and spiritual relationships deepened, God discovered, relationships not ‘taken for granted’ and the world will be richer for it…. and the world will be  richer for it…Let us hope and pray. I’ll take my ear plugs out now. It’s time to fix breakfast.

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Little Things

It was a small thing

noting the name tag of the 

twenty-something

young man behind the counter

or was he a teen

Ivan

Focused and serious

when he took our fast-food order

then served us 

He made sure all was in right order

Thank-you Ivan, I said

He smiled

It made all the difference 

to his serious demeanor

When we left, I went up to him

He was behind the cash register

Ivan, I said, Keep smiling

It makes you extra handsome

Thank you Ma’am, I appreciate that

It went from ear to ear

There was no mistaking that smile

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Numbness

Numbness fills the space
of feelings named wrong

like a hobbled balloon
punctured on purpose

What is this feeling
called guilt

this slippery
as moss on a rock feeling

of not good enough

were mistakes made
or perhaps choices

only to suffer
the fish-line tangle

of shoulds and should nots

does everyone
need a trophy to win

or is a path of discovery
the greatest prize

a meaning assigned
to uncertainty

like recognizing the strength
of a pruned rose

leafing in time
to fill the empty space

no longer numb
but believing

a larger process is at work

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Wait No More How could I not know she loves clouds the way I do? Didn’t we share the same sky? What else have I missed as years fly by? Another cliché, I sigh but it’s true, how else can I say There were things that took my attention away like fog too heavy for me to believe there was more light waiting for me, waiting for me city lights not too bright to see fireflies fly In the star-streaked sky And there is now and the knowing somehow it’s not too late to renew moments of grace where souls are bared and forgiveness is shared where clouds don’t escape the notice they crave from hearts that serve without waiting

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The In-Betweens

we poets love shadow

the wildness of dark

opaque as obsidian

smooth, shiny

and sharp, we are very sharp  

cold born of fire

bursting from earth

like trumpets blaring

yet soft as silken sand

we are as mysterious

as the reasons

why everything

sounds better in French

which most of us

can’t understand

and why nothing

is black and white

except for those keys

attached to hidden strings

that sing

and give us pause to consider

the grays…in-between                                                                           

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Shadow Silence

Her tears were stifled
by her mother’s grief
shaming sorrow into secrecy
shrouding childhood innocence
like sinister clouds on a windless day
crawling their shadows
across blue turned gray
silence had the only ears to hear

and then the girl grew to woman
and became the wind

she learned to shift the clouds
clarify her sadness without fear
pass shadows into daylight
become bold enough to tell her story
the story of her childhood grief
the one others need to hear
that stayed hidden for so long
with no ears to hear but silence

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Jacaranda

Blueberries are really purple

but their hue can’t compare

with the tiny trumpet flowers

that drift silently

from the Jacaranda canopy

onto the green of damp morning grass

Their confetti is the color of royalty

with a fragrance named fresh

think lavender, think restful

Many reverence the blooms

Others see a mess that needs raking

We get to choose

Jean E. Taddonio

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In-Between

We poets love shadow

the   wildness of dark

opaque as obsidian

smooth, shiny

We are sharp, very sharp  

cold born of fire

bursting from earth

like trumpets blaring

yet soft as sifting sand

We are as mysterious

as the reasons

why everything

sounds better in French

which most of us

can’t understand

and why nothing much

is black or white

except for those keys attached

to hidden strings that sing

and give us pause

to consider all

the gray of in-betweens

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