Sunday, July 23, 2017

Looking For a River

We pass the long blue and white
tent, chairs set in sedate rows,
men and women silent shadows

in the heat; preparing for a revival,
they pay us no mind as our car
tires whine past on soft asphalt.

A bay horse grazes in a field; black
Angus stand belly-deep in a farm pond,
tails switching flies, heads down like

somnolent statues cut out of starless
skies.  On and on we drive, a little lost,
following the thread of a shaky map.

We’re looking for a river.  We’re looking
for a fresh green current, swirls of mica,
trout circling the kettle like holy ghosts.

We’re looking for the long white banner
of a waterfall, the hidden path behind  
a plume of mist and ragged lace.

When we get there, we’ll slide across
slick dark gray rocks, push aside moss
cascading out of deep cracks like prophets.

We’ll crawl into that cool dark space
behind the veil, listen to the river preach:
granite gospel from the mouth of a mountain.

Deborah A. Miranda

Thursday, June 8, 2017


            for the house, and the spirits, at 203 S. Randolph St.

I’m thinking of you tonight, Diego Evans.
Twilight eases over my shoulders like
an indigo cloak; I walk past the two-over-
two brick house you built with your wife,
Jane, in the late 1840s – complete with basement

kitchen.  Did the two of you sit on that porch
of a June evening, watch fireflies
play hide and seek over the graves
of the adjacent cemetery? It wasn’t famous
then – Stonewall Jackson’s headstone

was still granite inside a mountain, uncut;
Jackson himself touring New York,
visiting Niagara Falls, reporting for court
martial duty at Fort Ontario. You, Diego –
Black and free, successful merchant,

studying law: Lexington wasn’t big enough
for you, your children, your dreams.
Did you see it coming, Jane – Civil War?
Freedom’s fickle, no guarantees.
Colonization was the answer: to segregation,

discrimination, life confined on the Black
side of a small Southern town. You sold
your beautiful house on South Randolph
Street. Emigrated. You needed a whole country,
one with a name you could ring like a bell. 

You would settle for nothing less.

List of Emigrants by the Liberia Packet, Capt. Howe, from Norfolk, Va.,  January 26, 1850, for Monrovia and Bassa, Liberia:

No. 107 Diego Evans.  39.  Trader.  Reads.  Free.
No.108 Jane, his wife. 30.  Reads.  Free.
No. 109 James H. F.  8.  Reads. Free.
No. 110 Richard P.  7.  Reads. Free.
No. 111 Lavinia Ann. 5.  Free.
No. 112 John. 4.  Free.

Some interesting services were held at Lexington, Va.,
on the occasion of the departure of the emigrants

from that county, mentioned in another column,
which we have not been able heretofore to notice. 

Our correspondent says, “We had a farewell meeting
on their account on Wednesday the 19th in the Presbyterian

Church, which called a large audience.  Col. Smith
of the Military Institute, and Rev. Dr. Junkin, President

of Washington College, addressed the congregation
in effective speeches on colonization, and Maj. Preston

addressed the emigrants in very appropriate terms. 
They were seated together on the right of the pulpit.

The Pastor of the Church, the Rev. W.S. White,
also addressed the meeting, and led in prayer.

The following original hymns, composed
for the occasion were sung; the first by the people

led by the choir, and the last by the emigrants themselves. 
The whole services were impressive, and, I believe,

of good effect for the cause.  signed, Miss Margaret Junkin.

…Not poor and empty-handed,
            as first to us they came,
With superstition branded,
            And want and woe and shame, --
Are we the race returning
            Back to their native sod,
But with our laws – our learning –
            Our freedom – and our God!

Mary J. Henry, daughter of John V. Henry, wrote
to friends in Lexington, “We rented a house on Broad

Street and Diego rented a house on the water side,
which all the old settlers told him not, but

he thought he could live there – being a good place
to sell his goods.  But all his family took the fever.

We took the children home and they all got better,
but Diego and his wife departed this life.”

Ours may be a lot of trials,
            Bravely we will meet them all,
For the sake of our dear children,
            We will bear what may befall.

Dear Virginia! Dear Virginia!
Loved, Oh loved, whe’er we roam,
Dear Virginia, loved Virginia!
Farewell – farewell, dear old home.

Liberia was like a fever, Diego.
Colonization is contagious –
spread by fear of free Black
bodies walking unchained
through a white world,

multiplied by The Fugitive
Slave Act’s long arm shadowing
behind those bought or born free.
Frederick Douglass railed
against this “return” to Mother Africa,

fearing mass deportations –
Jane, did you watch your son
and daughters sleep at night
in this house, await that loud
knock at the door? I wonder,

Diego, what was the difference
between Liberia,
and a reservation? “Let us buy you
a country,” they said, “ –sorry, sorry
for all that slavery mess  –”

what they really meant: slavery
for you is safety for us;
your freedom is our worst
nightmare. They set this fever
on you, squeezed so hard

you had no place else to go.
Colonization is contagious.
Liberia was like
a fever. Catch it,
or be caught.

Deborah A. Miranda

Note:  I only know this house because, for a brief time, my therapist had an office here. I'm grateful that this house was a site of some serious healing in my life. I walk past it frequently - it's only about 2 blocks from where I live. It has been a family home, a rental house, apartments, Baptist Student Center, Food Pantry. The stories it carries haunt me. dm

Sunday, June 4, 2017



A waxing gibbous moon rises during the hours between noon
and sunset; sets in the wee hours after midnight.  In that window
of time, sit out on your porch and look to the southern sky;

more than half-lighted but less than full, this moon is eager,
bright as firefly lust in summer. Focus your gaze on the moon’s
tattooed surface: Sinus Iridum – Bay of Rainbows – surrounded

by the ragged Jura Mountains. Imagine walking across that dry sea,
hiking up those cliffs. Imagine looking back across the void
at Earth, in all her blue and green glory.  Now, just below, a little

to the east of the moon, Jupiter settles like a jewel, pierces your eye
with June brilliance. You think, no human hand has ever cast
such a pendant as these two, moon and planet dazzling darkness,

suspended in the hollow of night’s throat. Notice Corvus the Crow,
who watches from his southwest perch; he covets shiny things.
One night only; in 24 hours, Jupiter glides away. Spica steps up,

asks the moon for this dance. Luna accepts graciously. Planet, star,
it makes no difference to her. All she asks is a virtuosity of light,
an understanding of celestial rhythm. You could learn from her.

Deborah A. Miranda

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Heart Murmur

The doctor says she hears you, a little whoosh-weet
where there should be lub-DUB.  Apparently, you’ve
requested an ECG – though you never asked me. 
What else are you whispering in there, my heart,
when no one is listening?  Do you mumble
about lost loves, old dogs let go, the way loneliness
rakes you over the coals?  Do you sit and sigh
about childhood, the negligence endured like a storm,
slammed around by the cruelty of so-called adults?
My heart, do you talk in your sleep?  Call out
names, thrash in that nightmare where you must
save all the babies, over and over? Gossip epigenetic
ramblings from the maternal lineage of an ancestral
beating?  Poor thing.  Worn out from all this work
and worry.  Now, like some ancient crone in her rocker,
you mutter and stutter to yourself, incomplete sentence
here, cuss word there.  I’m sorry.  I could have taken
more walks, kicked this sugar addiction, kept diabetes
at bay with a big stick.  I should have tried harder.
I’m listening now, my heart.  Blame everyone
else, but you belong to me.  If the world has broken
you, I’ll hold you, sweet heart, I’ll sing you a lullaby.
Dear heart, grumble away your woes, and I,
I will listen like a stethoscope pressed to your body,
the silkiest of steel; I will remind you that the kindness
of strangers is like gold dust brushed into your cracks. 
Together, we’ll learn the art of mending.  I’ll burnish
bright those scars mapped in your muscle, corazón,
and you can murmur sweet nothings in my ear.

Deborah A. Miranda

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Covfefe Nation

It buzzes the room but we can’t
locate its bizarrely fixed wings
or zigzag exoskeleton gymnastics –

we just hear buzz buzz
buzz from behind us, angry thwacks
in the dusty corner, sputtering against

cracked, glazed windows; we can’t
track the hard, emerald body whizzing
past our faces as we gasp

and lurch and trip, our gaze
racketing off the plaster
walls, always one step behind

in a maze we can’t follow –
zing! just beyond our fingertips,
a crazed loop-de-loop form,

barnstormer refusing to land,
a berserker on high, humming
the brazen hymns of a zealot

who doesn’t have the balls
to lay down and surrender
or just
it up.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

No Poetry Today

No Poetry Today

Yesterday was mourning doves nesting in the cedars,
woodpeckers on the old black walnut trunk banging out
a living, the rain tribe dancing on all the roofs in town.

But no poetry today.  Maybe tomorrow, if thunder beings
roll on through.  Maybe the day after, if sunflowers pop
their heads up like curious animals, scenting a new wind.

Today is tears and ashes. Today is funeral dirges, regret
sour as old milk, the clink as we sweep up broken glass.
Cleanse our souls with fire, prayer, but no poetry today.

Probably tomorrow we’ll make a mosaic out of leftovers.
No doubt, tomorrow has cardinals in amongst the cherries,
mockingbirds dropping songs like little tsunamis of love.  But

no poetry today; I couldn’t stand the hope in it.  Ban all
beautiful beings and things for 24 hours: let us grit
our teeth, eat ugliness like a cure for loss of dear souls.

Poetry is on strike today.  Poetry can’t get out of bed.
Poetry wants to close her eyes against knives and death,
bravery sacrificed to the cowardice of small hearts.

You don’t deserve me, Poetry growls.  She’s right. We don’t.
Perhaps tomorrow, forgiveness will rise like a sonnet.
Day after tomorrow, I could bear it. But today, goddamn it –

no poetry today.

Deborah A. Miranda

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

In the Food Lion Parking Lot

Your dog is smiling at me! Look,
she’s giving me the biggest grin.
Is it okay if I pet her? Hey, you’ve
got another one back there, too –
aren’t they just the sweetest
things. Oh, I don’t care about
that – yes, you’ve got ice cream
on your chin, baby – the vet,
huh? She likes that, right behind
the ears, don’t she. And you,
mister, you’re just a love pig.
Oh, I miss my dog! I had the gentlest
pit bull. Sam. He was just
the color of sand. We lived
on the beach then, a dear
little place in Florida. I think
I loved that dog more than
I loved my boyfriend. Ex-
boyfriend. One time I found
that dog curled up, sleeping
with my son on the floor …
my son was all cuddled up
with Sam, had his arm
wrapped around that dog.
Oh I miss my dog! One day
he just disappeared. Pretty
sure my boyfriend sold him;
he was jealous. Men. Pit bulls
are usually good dogs, you know;
it’s people who’re bad. People
just ruin ‘em. I have PTSD,
so I could get a companion dog,
if I wanted one. But I live over
in the Vista Apartments, rules
say small dogs only. I like big dogs,
don’t you, like these cutie pies?
And sometimes my pain is so bad,
I couldn’t take a dog outside
when it needed to go, so … I don’t
have a license anymore, I can’t even
get over to the shelter and help out
with baths and walking like I used to.
My friend picks me up and we go do
our shopping together, like today.
Well, thanks for letting me love
on your dogs. You’re blessed
to have ‘em. Look at that smile!

I’ve seen this woman so many times
before, in so many small towns,
wearing so many skin colors;
some with nicotine-stained teeth,
some with full sets of white dentures,
some, like today, with just a few stragglers
left behind, unsteady survivors of a terrible disaster.
I’ve seen these women in grocery store aprons,
in sweats, scrubs, old t-shirts and flannel jackets,
jeans and hoodies. They’re working two
or three jobs, or struggling to get by
on disability. They’re walking home
from the Dollar Store, arms heavy
with yellow plastic bags full of cans
and day-old bread. Their mouths set
in straight lines, heads down, hair streaked
with silver, or dry from a lifetime
of home-perms; hands scarred, rough,
calloused, mapped like back roads
most folks never see. And their eyes? Oh,
their eyes. Squinting, side-eye,
blank, always looking somewhere
else. Blue, brown, green, hazel,
black, doesn’t matter: an animal looking
for shelter. Eyes that only ignite
like jewels, open wide with pleasure,
when they see dogs smiling at them
across a parking lot in late spring,
or early fall, or in the heat of July.
I think it’s that – unlike boyfriends
or sons who grow up or bosses who yell
or DSHS case managers or any number
of life’s unfathomable bullies – dogs,
dogs offer love for love’s sake,
accept touch for the sake of touch;
dogs have never hurt them.

           - Deborah A. Miranda