all 365 revolutions
balled in confusion
fragile fabric war peace love
part ditty part dirge.
dark eyed blues baby
boned tender blackbird
girl, woman girl.
jagged edged witness
seeking mother tongue birthright
some shadow some light
dancing a two step
with memory and knowing
I promise you girlie
your secrets are poems.
I remember a flowered bed spread
tucked neatly around a fold out sofa
a polyester garden of wilted pansies
likely chosen to match the fading wallpaper
a vain attempt I’m sure,
to bring the outside in
as they say in all the magazines.
I remember a console sitting over in the corner
as old and tired as the fading wallpaper
but Sammy Davis Jr. would sing right to me-
Hey there, you with the stars in your eyes.
Such high fidelity!
I’d twirl and twirl
going around with the record
catching glimpses of pansies
from the corner of my eye.
I could not have been more than three or four
too young to understand the meaning of anything:
our two-room apartment down a long dark hallway
first floor back behind the colored hotel
my parents sleeping under a polyester garden
on a sofa that folded out
into a room meant for living.
I was much too young and didn’t understand
that the voice I heard
the man crooning in the console
was a one-eyed negro singing for his supper
and the colored hotel was named for Crispus Attucks
a runaway slave, and the first man to die
for the America dream.
How could I know as I twirled and twirled
around in that room
that my mother was dreaming on the fold out sofa
of a house with a yard full of real pansies blooming
and a bedroom fit for a proper lady.
What did I know?
I was just a little girl
who could feel the music
and it felt like freedom.
Do not swear you love me, so unquenchably, with verses blooming sweet and blooms as rare as truth. So rare is truth, dear sir. I fear you do not love me as you swear! For this, I dare not hold your tender gifts too close to head or heart, Or lay too long inside your outstretched arms. What is this love to you, I ask? Four letters? An ancient hieroglyph of spheres and lines to tie and bind my mind, my very soul? A bid to own my woman-ness-that deep and cavernous mystery in me that riles your rest and haunts you so? I do not know. But I watch your favor turn to dust,your fervor cool to almost nothingness when I am most myself. So rare is truth.
Bernardine (Dine) Watson is a nonfiction writer and poet, originally from Philadelphia, but who now lives in Washington, DC. She has written on social policy issues for numerous major foundations, nonprofit organizations, and for the Washington Post “Health and Science” section and She the People blog. Her poetry has been published in numerous journals and anthologies, including Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Bourgeon, Rising Voices/ University Professors Press, Sanctuary/ Darkhouse Books, and The Great World of Days/ Day Eight Arts. She has also read her poetry in various venues around the DC area as a member of More Than a Drum Percussion Ensemble. Dine is a member of the 2015 class of the DC Commission on Arts and Humanities Poet in Progress Program and was selected to participate in the 2017 and 2018 classes of the Hurston Wright Foundation’s Summer Writers’ Workshop for Poetry. Her book, Transplant: A Memoir, won the Washington Writers’ Publishing House 2023 prize for nonfiction and will be published in October 2023. She is a member of Day Eight Art’s Board of Directors.