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  • Train Trip

     

     

     

    The train ride wasn’t fun, like Mama promised.

    Instead it was hot and dark and smelled like sewer

    Stuff when the basement flooded and sludge reeked in the house.

    We cried for food until no more tears would come

    And Mama tried to feed me from her breast,

    But fear had ravaged even that most pivotal of meals.

    When finally the great wood door ground open

    And the sunlight burned our eyes, I saw my Nana come towards us down the track

    Like a bird of heaven in her bright blue dress, she reached out her arms for me.

    “I’ll take you, child, your Mama needs some rest. Close your eyes and hold to me tight,

    and remember last summer when we slept on a blanket under sun-pierced trees

    and we laughed at birds squabbling and shrieking while they fought for food.’

    As she walked towards the low white building, surrounded by wailing children and trembling women,

    I closed my eyes in gratitude

    and I remembered.

     

     

    ***

    On the Dunes of the Sleeping Bear

     

     

     

     

    We lie upon the parched sand,

    hugging the skin of the dozing Ursa Mater

    Who has warmed herself for eons

    sleeping and waiting for her children.

    She must know that her young no longer live.

    She could see them for herself if she but raised her eyes

    (their bodies in death have turned to islands,

    Stopt at the place where legend says they drowned

    Trying to swim the endless lake, trying to reach their mother.)

    And where was Jezanna then, she who saves children from death?

    Did she also sleep? Or does she only love the daughters of Zimbabwe,

    And making brilliant entrances in heavy beads and corsets,

    Gathering plaudits from the daughters of Africa, that distant dreamy place.

    Jezanna, I must forsake you, you who spared Africa’s daughters

    Only to make them reconvene in Hell,

    Their nether parts hacked and bloodied, in squalor and exquisite pain

    (Some lives make death a bit of sugared candy, melting in

    a baby daughter’s mouth.)

    We lie on warm sand listening to the steady lapping of the lake below.

    Its seems my own daughters are lost to me in mists

    That rise from an endless sea. Which way must I turn to find them?

    And what was lost has now been gone so long

    Years, perhaps ages, have passed since last I saw them.

    Together the Great Bear and I will keep our vigil

    Too weary now to start the endless search.

    To re-live that rapier memory of those childish cries.

    Jezanna, will you be our deliverer? Who rises roaring from the twilight sky

    Drenched in sweat and gore, the protector reborn in terror and fury

    To seek revenge for daughters maimed and slain?

    Dare you to work your ancient magic, dispel the fog,

    Force us to wake and face what we have lost?

    Are even your starlit rituals enough to assuage our guilt?

    A gathering fierceness rises in the night, loud as our grief is deep,

    Our wandering daughters call us from our sleep.

     

     

    *Jezanna, as with all moon goddesses, figures in Zimbabwean lore protector of children and children’s health.

     

    About The Author

    Nancy A. Jackson

    Nancy was born in 1943 in Findlay, Ohio. After obtaining her English and Juris Doctor degrees from Ohio State University, she practiced law for 25 years. During that time, Ms. Jackson became increasingly frustrated with the inequities built into our legal system. In 2011, she received her MSW, and has been working as a therapist in community mental health since that time. As Nancy turned 72 in May, 2015, she considered herself in the often-overlooked minority of women, septuagenarian mixed-race poets. She receives great pleasure from traveling, as well as just hanging out anywhere along the Great Lakes, and is looking forward to an upcoming stint volunteering her time teaching English in Haiti. Ms. Jackson currently has two children, four grandchildren, one husband, and a devoted but eccentric cat. She lives in Monroe, MI, a Detroit outlier.