I live in New Jersey, just outside Philly, with my husband, Seth, my seven year old daughter, Samara, three year old son, Felix and our black cat, Potato Chip. In addition to writing and teaching college English, much of my time is spent gardening, sewing, and making and selling herbal remedies via my little online store, Tigers Eye Botanicals. My publications include a chapbook, Reading Darwin, published by Poets Corner Press, and a full length collection, Ditching, is forthcoming via Aldrich Press.
Apologies for History
On the discovery of George Washington’s slave quarters at Independence Park, Philadelphia
the power to turn a pile of rocks
into a cache of shame.
step this way,
beyond the cordoned off line
to see the cracked Bell and the Hall
where exalted men
sweated through their wigs
one muggy Philly July.
just over here, to these
rough dug-outs, these
catacomb like series of rooms
where they must have lived, worked—
storeroom, cold cellar, claustrophobic living
quarters shared by many men (women perhaps
bunking in attics or made to curl up
like housecats on mats in the kitchen).
a passage sunk underground
snuck them around
so they wouldn’t raise
eyebrow or ire in the abolitionist city.
they had the usual slave names, the sort
of thing you might call your dog—
Austin, Paris, Moll, a cook
named Hercules. we don’t know
when they died, who was their next
of kin or where their bones finally lie, only
that two of them disappeared
down cobblestone streets
into freedom. two succeeded.
now all that remains are some coarse walls
where the well-meaning stand and offer
Pan-African blessings as if putting
the whole thing to bed, hoping with an adequate
lullaby it might sleep soundly,
in the end, it’s just another canker sore
in the mouth of history, the sort of thing
that festers and aches but doesn’t show up
in a tight enough grin.
nothing’s made right by commemorative plaques
or apologies for history
but like dutiful children, we try.
we strip the varnish from our own gods,
operating on the slim hope that eventually
some hero will emerge, without
the subterfuge, without
the dark, subterranean secrets,
teaching us some better way
to be human.
Requiem in the Key of Spring
What a catch in my throat
to remember you’re gone,
on a day like today, when winter
begins to roll back, first thick leaves
of tulip and daffodil emerging from the dirt
like tiny verdant flags unfurling, each
a go ahead to dream, to go on
with life. The soil is just warm enough
to walk on in just socks (to the bewilderment
of the mailman) and trigger
some muscle memory. Soon enough,
I’ll be cupping hands, scooping up
garden soil, knowing it teems
with life, that it did even when covered
with a thick exoskeleton of ice.
This time of year you would’ve been
willing to toast your forebears with a giant
eye roll, any excuse to drink green beer.
Joe, I shouldn’t have let so many years
go by, relying on a frenetic universe
to bring us back into collision and collusion,
as we were so often, once-- bodies, minds, words.
You always joked you never knew my mind,
as if it were too convoluted to fully grasp.
Really it was just cowardice
that kept me aloof, a terror of this--
of loving and letting go.
Now, as the whine of the heater cuts off,
I can open the window, let a Stones album
make its scratchy loops around
the record player, songs seeping out
into the brisk spring air. They say plants
grow stronger if you sing to them.
I saw the box they planted you in,
and you inside, mannequin made up
into somebody else.
I don’t know where the spirit goes,
if it rolls up tight like a scroll and bobs
on the firmament, a message in a bottle,
or if it anchors deep into the earth, a root
with so many fibrous shoots. I think I know
this is not all. Either you’re here now,
somehow, or I’ll see you again,
on that other shore.
©2016 Katie Delany