"A Trip She Took": unknown territory, a passage, then, akin to my mother's. Using all I had. A journal of hers that by accident came into my possession. A letter she'd tucked into the journal. Piano notes in the back. How to make her voice accessible to others. To know more and less than that voice.

A Trip She Took: My Mother's Southern Ghazals, excerpts

During March-May 1943, my mother, Florence Gerald, toured
several southern states as a union organizer.


It will come back,
come down the street on one leg & a wooden peg.

Nearing Jacksonville the soil is drier,
grassy fields with a slight roll.

The fields already plowed, dead brown leaves
thick and shining in the sun.

A white woman will wait on a Negro man in a dept. store.
I bleed occasionally.

Annie's tired.
The evening sun in our eyes as we walk back.

I love you. You are the true friend of my heart.
And through it all feeling as goofy as he.

Neat. Clean. Dialectical.
But the flux is a real flu--is it psychic or physical?

Pull your shoulder blades together
& await the return of picket lines.


He writes down notes that bear upon the case.
The trunkful of documents.

The terraced garden--the tall pine woods beyond;
he seemed brilliant and "right" to his balanced wife.

Porkface cusses the waiter,
grabs bread from Greyhair's plate.

On a ramshackle porch in Georgia, a gaunt woman in a red robe
combing out her beautiful long hair.

Can't, can't, can't, can't.
Like hammerblows. Each incapacity equally important.

Miss Vaughn loves humanity:
When they passed away I decided to move to the hotel.

Very few human beings are handsome, one finds this out
on trams and buses.

I feel all dust.
And from the moment I hit town--dear God--the same blue funk.


She moved easily, red skirt, pink blouse, shining white earrings.
He gave her a dollar.

In the gargoyle plaster hotels
30,000 soldier boys all far from home.

I have a set made every six months.
See the change in the human face.

Nature abhors a vacuum:
I was empty space in a cohesive mass.

Woke up each morning,
chest stuck full of hard fragments.

It's the end I'm unsure about. Watching pelicans
skim Miami Bay--the intense blue water--their heavy grace.

A lake, framed by great pines;
Spanish moss; the song of birds; sun.

Something happens but you don't do it.
The final resistance is Mother Earth.

Deborah Woodard is currently a student in the English graduate program at the University of Washington. She has published a chapbook, The Book of Riddles (GUMBO: A Magazine of the Arts, 1980) and has work in the recent anthology Carrying the Darkness: American Indochina--The Poetry of the Vietnam War.

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