“Autumn Song,” “Wang’s Xiao Flute,” and “London Pieta–July 7, 2005”

Issue 50 by Olga Dugan

“Autumn Song,” “Wang’s Xiao Flute,” and “London Pieta–July 7, 2005”

Autumn Song

                        (for Mom and Siani)

the body disabled

is most times a cacophonous suite—

moans, a cry, a groan in fortissimos

mounting fading to and from abrupt

weakness

as misguided antibodies

rhythm forward, injure receptors

in muscles, sever ties with nerves,

scale-stepping back any hope for cure

but the music of this fall from

normalcy has its euphony too

this body autumnal,

slowing life to a drum-beat steadiness

of efforts to walk not run, to live

and not just be alive,

frees hours for contemplating

everyday minutiae that actually matter—

from the powers of sun

pulling at oceans,

nursing a still green grass that envelops

my soles, brushes my ankles with cool,

to winnowing of wind

through well-mannered heather,

through feathery accents of Purple

Fountain Grass mounding peach mums,

peaking kale,

through cotton-white hair …

just black yesterday—

and while the body’s bleats

and wails are in season,

their treble, no sooner than begun,

balance out in time to soft pianissimos

of child’s play and birdsong and of a day’s

fugue—that shorter/colder/cloudier in fall,

nonetheless, timbres contrapuntal weaves

of bolder/brighter reds, oranges, purples,

pinks of dusk and dawning skies

Wang’s Xiao Flute

                        (for Ola M. Dugan)

end of day at the bus stop

rain slows to drizzle splashing puddles

brisk winds blow thick black hair, skin

brushing skin clears strands from brown eyes

baby giggles, shifts under pink fleece quilt

mother’s nylon bubble jacket, hugging her

thighs, shuffles against father’s dapper

grey Cole Haan car coat

soon high heels and wing tips come

crowding the slushy pavement

a chorus of sighs combust as eyes strain

through will o’ the wisps for sight of a bus

but my eyes stray to where my ears

have long been dancing

fingers, aflutter along a holy bamboo stick

nudged between them and the O of her mouth

the O of careful embouchure control,

nimble out the evening’s pitch—home-made

opus of lifts, lows, and blending resonance

my denims whip around my legs

sneakers squish on asphalt as I cross towards

her O! of epiphany stretching straight up

to an ancestor’s eyes when I offer

to buy her cd—“for six dollar”—when we

talk about the origin of her music, fifty years

of training in a Southwest Philly garret,

when her thin voice purls confession,

“my English, from Zhouzhuang?”

our conversation ending in laughter, the bus

droning/snorting arrival, tiny curbside pools

sloshing under rubber soles that ratchet and

squeak up bus steps—drown out melodies

and arcs from Wang’s Xiao flute

but from the window I see her

head bobbing, the flute, her fingers, her

mouth—all one song, now in its turn,

swallowing silence into an end-blown

composition celebrating that day as often

as I push replay to recollect a best memory

a hymn meting out the strains of a shared

world’s much needed flux

London Pieta—July 7, 2005

Breaking News: Her son, twisted spinal path

in the darkness, eyes closed, body exposed,

piercings in his side; Lord, it’s so hot—

families heaped beneath London

streets. At Kings Cross,

he’s hers. Slivers of heavy glass like cat-o’-nine

tails splay across his bare knees, through one;

a hand, drawn far from her body, a desperate

reach from his. Crackles of fire

show him atop debris and ash, something

moves—someone cries, ‘is he breathing?’

Another, ‘the subway’s been bombed!’

She hears only the question—I can

read the horrors and hopes

tracking her silence. I’m a mother. While she

navigates hell, my little girl and I negotiate

paradise, wanting no end to sunny days

and light summer rains at dusk

on a Blue Ridge mountain,

an ocean beyond London streets, where we

ask if we need jackets for the growing

cool. And here we remain, watching

a news anchor account for children,

fathers, the mothers—flesh torn

with shrapnel, some on stretchers, on foot

emerging from a tunnel’s corded throat,

kissing its open mouth to resurrection,

also pain—that mother’s, mine—

in my child’s mouth,

asking what no child should: “Mom, do

bodies melt in heat from a blast?” We

pull close. Tears drop. But the shaft

of ancient soul shining from her

eyes dries my cheeks

with my daughter’s trust: “Let’s pray God

sends them rain, Mom.” Her largesse

brings that surpassing joy we often

fail to see for sorrow—I pray

clouds lower over London—

“Your child has light enough to rise above

the dark,” I whisper ‘cross mountains,

ocean to her wavering soul, “wait,

Mother. Wait on the rain.”

About the Author

Olga Dugan

Olga Dugan is a Cave Canem poet. Nominated for Best of the Net and Pushcart prizes, her poems appear or are forthcoming in Channel (Ireland), Relief: A Journal of Art and Faith, Grand Little Things, The Windhover, The Sunlight Press, E-Verse Radio, Anti-Heroin Chic, The Southern Quarterly, Kweli, Ekphrastic Review, Tipton Poetry, Typehouse Literary Magazine, Peacock Journal, Origins, Poems from Pandemia – An Anthology, Cave Canem Anthology: XIII, and Red Moon Anthology of Modern English Haiku. Articles on poetry and cultural memory appear in The Journal of African American History, The North Star, and in Emory University's “Meet the Fellows.”