By Cynthia Yancey
A First Conversation With My Principito
Propped up on a soft, comfortable pillow, This terribly colicky baby boy looks momentarily happy. A smile transforms his face, He makes clear eye contact with his old grandma, An enthusiastic lilt to her voice. “So, what’s up, little boy?” Knowing what happens when kids Keep secrets, she goes on, “I haven’t seen you for two whole days, Young man, tell me, what has been going on?” Because she wants this to be a lifelong affair, Because she wants him from the very beginning To know she will be there for him forevermore, She says, “I want to hear all of your secrets. You can tell me anything. I will always believe you.” A certain song in her voice, An energetic sincerity behind her words, Seems to entice the little fellow To begin to make his own words In order to converse with her. As he croons all his coos and goos, The grandma lapses into his speech That she might be better understood. She imitates all the very precious sounds Coming from his throat, She sings his sounds back to her little Prince In these first efforts to communicate. Back and forth to one another, Then in unison, they crow these happy noises To the point, Because it is new for them both, This new language, this new union, To the point They both nearly cackle, These common sounds coming From a common place within Little Prince in all his unfettered enthusiasm Gets looks on his face as if He is thrilled with this moment of his life His little legs pull up and kick back out, His whole body stretches as if to say, “This woman really Wants to understand me. This must be love! This must be a grandmother’s love. Perhaps I WILL be able To tell her everything!” The grandma hopes he is thinking.
What is left of life’s longing At sixty-six After passing into The Golden Years Where no one has ever wanted to go Where life is much less brilliant Than such a title implies? I long to no longer regret All the lovers I never met Or the dreams that never quite fell into place I wish, rather, to long For the moment after the last breath is gone To be a magic carpet ride Through a moonlit night Fireflies sparkling against the hills I am leaving behind. I long to find a friend on the rug behind me Her hands on my waist, her mouth at my ear Whispering something hilarious To lighten the way Into the next unknown
Might I but be A sprig of poison ivy Who, when the first frost bites, Instead of cowering, She ignites Her leaves to scarlet flame. Brighter now than ever, No one in the world to blame. Wounded worse than me, She turns her face on fire, Then glows in the sun As if to say, “Hit me again, See what I might become.” For the kiss of death Only ignites Poison ivy’s greatest strength, Her beauty and her venom. Never fear The death of her essence, For she will doubtless Resurrect again next year. Might I but be A sprig of poison ivy.
Rooms of Life
A wise woman once explained Those dreams of home The ones all tangled with a menagerie of rooms So many nooks and crannies, you get lost going through “Those rooms in your dreams are just facets of a life.” My hot little three-year-old head Rests against my grandma’s breast. She strokes my sweaty hair with her arthritic hand And whimpers how sorry she is too That my mother is dead. We are taking the train to trick-or-treat In Chicago that year. How many of her own ancestors Suffered the same I may never know Just that she took me with her that Halloween. The youngster I sometimes try to be to build up my old bones Pedals the bicycle hard down the homestretch of my back road I lift my old arms to the mountain magnificence And send up a song of praise for their green bliss I send them a prayer of thanks For perhaps giving me a few more seasons To watch them turn seamlessly one into the other The honeysuckle scent of a fresh spring morn Melding into the dappled shadow beneath The emerald-green back-road canopy With its welcome respite, summer cool. The orange pumpkins peeking through the field of vines Their backdrop a flaming fall foliage will again turn to That broad blanket of sparkling white And frost will bite my nose And I won’t mind I take these rooms with me to my little Prince, my six-month-old grandson And cradle his head against my breast as he sleeps. I wonder if he will remember How deep and strong is my love And my urge to protect him From the struggles I survived. If only I could be with him In every room of his life. Gratitude occupies its own space Gratitude for time to understand Not only the grown children, but theirs And perhaps theirs yet to come. If only I might hold their heads And their hands through Their most trying times And whisper to them, “These are just the rooms of life.”
With Willie Sutton by my side, Just what might I become, Cool, audacious, single-minded All wrapped up in one Willie only robbed those banks ’cause they had extra money; While his stomach Writhed with hunger, Greedy bankers Sucked down honey They caught him Time and time again, But Willie’s will to live, To smoke his Chesterfields, To drink his Jameson, To hold his Bess Just one more time… Helped hoist him From his lonely cell Time and time again After busting free From Sing Sing, To the river He did go To dig up His old money From buckets Buried long ago. Lover of books, Illusive, Dapper, Called by some the God of Brooklyn, Folk hero for The underdog. Some say I romanticize, But imagine if you could That the downtrodden of his time Found Willie the Actor Luminous, Their very brightest star I recently understood For the very first time Why my own kids became Such mavericks and rogues. In some deep-down space, They must know How utterly smitten Is their mother With her wondrous Willie Sutton And others just like him.
Cynthia Yancey was an English major before she became a mother then a medical doctor.
Now after working 30 years in the trenches of public health, from the
Himalayas to the Andes to my downtown clinic in Asheville, NC, she is
writing the stories of my life.
As to awards, Yancey received the Suzanne S. Turner Unsung Heroine Award in
2011, an award for public service. She has written a children’s picture
book entitled Zak and Niki: A First Look at Rising above Racism,
published by Grateful Steps in 2015. She is currently studying with Laura
Hope-Gill in the Lenoir-Rhyne Masters of Writing Program in Asheville,
NC. Yancey’s work has been published in Academy of the Heart and Mind, A Thin
of Slice of Anxiety, Amethyst Review, Atherton Review, The MacGuffin,
Broad River Review, Entropy, Streetlight Magazine, and The Virginia