Twelfth Night

by James A. Wren

the twelfth of March, my uncle's birthday, 
marked for us the beginnings of spring
and the moment when children were allowed to celebrate 
barefooted in the streets

a day when lovesick parents
mine included
abandoned dirty diapers, whining brats, 
and an ever-present barrage of bill
in favor of a moment's passion

a special day when we'd feast with friends 
on bowls of Campbell's soup and iced tea
when I'd found and clinched two stones 
and a newly minted coin between my young fingers
joined the neighbors
and made our way down the street toward Ol' Aunt Mary's
and a refrigerator of quarter-sized freezerpops and nickle chocolates

a day when we chatted among ourselves on a stranger's lawn
as we treasured our treats
licked our fingers,
stretched our toes,
gave into the slumbers of a warm spring breeze and slept.

But this was no ordinary day, it seemed.

Shattering the warmth of our sleep,
the chills of self-sacrificing mothers 
with their outlandishly blond
coiffures and blue-eyed lettermen sons
whose words burned across my face
and whose hate pushed outward in all directions.
"You're gonna burn in hell, you and your jigs."
It was the first of many days when I'd be forced to dance round the
the fragmentation and the truncations
hurdled in my direction.

As I braced myself against the pangs of increasing anger, alienation,
like the two stones I'd pocketed somewhere along the way
now the raw materials left about which I might fashion my own future,
from what was once a stuttering uncertainty and mounting void
now emerged an overwhelming sense of power
of authority.

As I drew back my hand, aimed,
threw my rocks and became the conscience of our community,
no longer innocent to the spiritual costs of blind acquiescience 
and easy balance,
only now do I recognize this day for what it was
        --the spring of 1964 in Birmingham

the day I embraced the depths of difference
recaimed meaning in my life
and found myself.

Twelfth Night by James A. Wren

© Copyright 2001. All rights reserved. No portion of this work may be duplicated or copied without the expressed written consent of the author.

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