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Ken Tomaro

Fifty Percent Cotton

Francis Francis of West Virginia
gave birth
to eleven children
four of which 
made it to adulthood
and the ones who died
she buried one by one on the hill
by her house
one died when his nightgown burned
as he walked by the fire pit
another died when she coughed herself
to death
the four who had survived 
made it to Ohio
Zelah whose name was from
a bible story
went to school with 
the famous writer Toni Morrison
who was named something else
at the time
Francis was married to
Golden Mills, an alcoholic
and every week she went
down to the coal mine
to get his paycheck
before he could cash it 
at the bar
and I tell you this now
before I am too old to remember
or maybe
no longer here to tell you

On This Particular Morning

Two birds were arguing with each other
as I walked, half asleep
to nowhere
lovers in a drunken quarrel
dancing on the bar top for all to see
I say this because it was loud and
rumbling above the other sounds
above the noise of my own footsteps
above the rattle of the coming train
and the booming airplane engines
in the sky
they were in two separate trees
on two separate streets
the air was cold
the kind of cold that settles into the bones
and makes its home for days at a time
with no intention of leaving
the sun was coming up
as it had been doing so earlier and earlier
and I could tell just by staring into it
how it reflected from every branch
in the spider web of trees
how everything was lit just so
Spring would soon be here
the sunrise had that look to it today
sometimes in the Fall as well
but this sunrise doesn’t come with a 
the awareness that every living thing
will start to wilt and crumble
but instead be born again
so they argued
in the naked branches
of the separate trees
unaware and indifferent
to the idea that I was listening to everything
I pulled my coat tightly around my neck
adjusted my hat for the hundredth time
felt for my house keys
stepped over a tree root
squinted from the sun
and walked on
letting them continue their disagreement
I let the wind blow through the branches
I left the squirrels to forage
stepped aside allowing the waking life
to reach up to the rising sun
watched the feral cats prowl
watched it all fade behind me
until everything was silent once again
except for the sound of my footsteps
thumping in tune with
my own beating heart

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