Al Simmons – Three Poems
The baby next door is crying. I can imagine how she feels. Today is the first warm day of her life. She pulled at her stiff, thick, new baby clothes trying to get comfortable while strapped into a plastic high chair like a mental patient. The washing machines in the laundry room below her window stopped and silence graced the air. My nerves eased and I leaned back on the redwood lounge chair on the balcony surrounded by neighbors and trees and relaxed. And then, one by one I heard the birds calling out, the hummingbirds clicking, hovering before me, picking fruit flies out of mid-air, the mourning doves cooed, gulls screeched, blackbirds cawed, passing geese honked, a woodpecker worked the magnolia tree, the sparrows sang their ancient nest builder’s song, ducks swam in the pool. A red-tailed hawk sprang from the pond surprising me, slipped beneath the magnolia tree and settled on a low branch of the fur pine, shook water from its long, out-stretched wing.
Baby Mia stopped crying. The mallards in the pool were talking. Mia listened. A jet plane flew overhead leaving its trail of bile and industrial soot in its wake. Once passed the kids playing in the schoolyard blocks away could be heard again. Her mother spoke. Something smelled good. Another tenant dressed in her Sunday best, and pretty as a new tattoo, came baring her dirty laundry in an old wicker basket shaped like a shoe. She paid tribute quarters to the machines below and the noise returned, and baby Mia cried, again. Poor kid. I got up and walked back inside.
Conversation with a Dove
I was in the kitchen washing dishes when I noticed a dove fly onto my balcony. Their nest was on the other side of the dining room window. I wondered if she might have flown into the patio screen door and bounced off. Either way, she ended up on a potted plant and seemed OK, except she wasn’t moving so I walked over to take a closer look. My presence at the glass didn’t alarm her so I slid open the door and gave her a soft whistle hello. She stood there looking at me. I slid open the screen door. Still, she didn’t fly off. She stood there shifting around trying to focus her eyes on me. She appeared to be molting. She had light gray feathers with round black and white markings on her wings, typical mourning dove. Then, she gave me a low, quiet, inquisitive whistle, “You-who?”
I whistled her a, “You-who?” back.
She seemed amazed and got excited and spun around in the dirt. I waited for her to whistle again and then I gave her a low soft call and this time she got so excited she rustled her feathers, spun around in the dirt and called to me again. This went on back and forth for some time until we both got tired and ran out of things to say, and then we said good-by and she flew off and I went back to washing dishes. A few seconds later she landed on my windowsill above my kitchen sink where I worked, tapped on the screen to the opened window and whistled to me again. I whistled back. She bobbed her head one more time signaling to me her delight she recognized me, and farewell again, and flew off. She recognized me through the screen. I have a very cool neighbor.
While walking through the mall I bought a pair of designer shades, Made in Italy, by Ralph Lauren. There’s nothing like a recession for good retail deals or the appearance of one. Even with 70% off, they came to $68.50 with tax. I counted $66.15 in my pocket. I was wearing sweats and a tee, no wallet, so I offered the saleslady what I had. She turned me down. “The price is firm,” she said.
So, I went home, raided my laundry jar for quarters and went back and bought the sunglasses. The saleslady looked surprised to see me again. I told her I had to panhandle a couple of bucks. “I was so embarrassed,” I told her.
“Don’t be embarrassed,” she said.
“I told them I needed the money for gas,” I explained.
The saleslady gave me a questioning look.
“If I told them I needed money for Italian made designer shades how much do you think they would have given me?” I asked.
I slipped on my new sunglasses and looked at my reflection in the mirror. “I’m the best looking beggar in town. Don’t you think?” I asked.
“You are,” she said.
Author’s Statement on Beauty
Beauty is light, a reflection,
The glitter of sun, the way glitter
Sticks to your elbow,
The capture in your eye,
The way you sparkle touching the sky
Every day, the way you begin your day
Waking beside me.
Alan Ray Simmons was born in Chicago on December 21, 1948. He attended Northeastern Illinois University, in Chicago, and won two Illinois Arts Council Awards as editor of Stone Wind Magazine, Northeastern Illinois University Press. Poet-In-Residence, City of Chicago Council on Fine Arts, 1979-80. Founder of the Blue Store Readings, home of the Spoken Word Movement, and creator of the Main Event, the World Heavyweight Poetry Championship Fights, and The World Poetry Association, (WPA). Commissioner of the WPA and the World Poetry Bout Association, (WPBA), Chicago, Taos, New Mexico, 1979 – 2002. Publications include Care Free, poems, Smithereens Press, Bolinas, California, 1982, and King Blue, a memoir, Stone Wind Press, Chicago, Illinois, 1992. He is retired and lives in Alameda, California. More at: Simmonsink.blogspot.com.