These Times

I share here a poem written for the ceremony welcoming an African-American woman president at my B.A. alma-mater, NEIU, Chicago, 2018.  It was also published in Fifth Wednesday Journal.

These Times


In these times, you and I share,

amidst the air you and I breathe,

inspiration we take from day to day thriving,

opposition we meet,

the sacred conch shell calls us,

drums beat, prayers sent up,

aromatic smoke of the pipe are our pledge to the gods.


An all-night fire vigil burns

where we may consume the small cactus messenger

of the Huichol and of the Pueblo people of New Mexico,

red seeds of the Tlaxcalteca,

mushrooms of María Sabina,

 tes de mi abuela

from herbs grown in coffee cans on a Chicago back porch,

tears of my mother on an assembly line in Lincolnwood, Illinois,

aid us in calling upon memory,

in these times.

In other days,

when memory was as unshakeable as the African continent,

and long as Quetzalcoátl’s tail in the underworld,

whipping against demons, drawing blood,

potent as Coatlicue’s two serpent face,

and necklace of hearts and hands

(to remind us of our much-required sacrifices

for the sake of the whole.

we did what we could to take memory

like a belt chain around the waist to pull off,

to beat an enemy.

But now, in these times of chaos and unprecedented greed,

when disrupted elements are disregarded,

earth lashes back like the trickster Tezcatlipoca

without forgiveness if we won’t turn around, start again,

say aloud:  This was a mistake,

we have done the earth wrong and

we will make our planet a holy place, again.

I can,

with my two hands,

palpitating heart; we can, and we will

turn it around, if only we choose.


In these times, all is not lost, nothing forever gone,

tho’ you may rightly think them a disgrace.

Surely hope has not abandoned our souls,

even chance may be on our side.


There are women and men, after all,

young and not so young anymore,

tired but tenacious,

mothers and fathers, teachers and those who heal and do not

know that they are healers,

and those who are learning

for the sole purpose of returning what they know.

Also, amongst us, are many who flounder and fall;

they will be helped up by we who stumble forward.

All of these and others must remember.

We will not be eradicated, degraded and made irrelevant,

not for a decade or even a day.  Not for six thousand years

have we been here, but, millions.

Look at me. I am alive and stand before you,

unashamed, despite endless provocations

railed against an aging woman.

My breasts, withered from once giving suckle,

and as of late, the hideousness of cancer,

hair gone grey,

and with a womb like a picked pomegranate

left to dry in the sun; so, my worth is gone,

they say.

My value in the workplace, also dwindled,

as, too, the indispensable role of mother.

As grandmother I am not an asset in these times,

but held against all that is new and fresh.

Nevertheless, I stand before you;

dignity is my scepter. I did not make the mess

we accept in this house.

When the party is done,

the last captive hung — fairly or unjustly,

Children saved and others lost,

The last of men’s wars declared,

trade deals busted and others hardly begun,

tyrants toppled, presidents deposed,

police restrained or given full reign upon the public,

and we don’t know where to run,

on a day the sun rose and fell,

and the moon took its seat in the sky,

I will have remained

the woman,

who stayed behind to clean up.