Sunday, July 28, 2019

The Late Years Thirty-Nine

Judy by Emma Tobin, late 2018, teaching a class.

The Late Years Thirty-Nine July 28, 2019

The human body has its ways
of sending messages, especially
when aging. I know when I need
to slow down, rest, listen, obey.
I had these messages years ago.
I’d have vertigo then. Nothing
to do but lie flat. I learned to
drink self-heal tea–better than 
Dramamine. Now it’s afib–
my heart racing. I drink lemon-
peppermint tea, take deep breaths,
forget about work, sleep if possible.
Then allow myself a lazy day: 
read a novel, write in my diary.
How I love to work, get things
done. I remind myself that
everything can wait for a day.
“Take a load off.” “There’s no
rush.” The work I want to do
will be there tomorrow and the
next day. I slept. I rested.

I listened. I healed again.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

The Late Years Thirty-Eight

Photo and sign by Keely Wood. A hot day in Moncure, N.C.

The Late Years Thirty-Eight July 21, 2019

I was thirty-eight when I had that dream.
I was sitting in a circle with black women,
and someone stabbed me in the back.
A nightmare which has come alive
in my mind again, but of course it has
happened before–in the intervening
years. I use my ingenuity and courage
and make things happen: a small press,
a major library program for new writers,
a statewide writers organization where
all are welcome, giving a death blow
to the clique mentality. It’s no wonder
I was hated. I didn’t publish them. I
Interfered with their power base.
Or here, I wanted to protect my
neighbors from coal ash poison, and
in years earlier, formaldehyde, plus
other causes of cancer. I lost John
Cross, who was always willing to help,
and Terica, endlessly inventive about
how to fight fracking and coal ash 
dust, and Cora, who told me she
loved me as if she knew people who
didn’t. I wouldn’t change what I’ve done
even if I live among those who stab
me in the back when they can. I forget 
more. I can’t go and do as much as
once. Yet here I am. Help me or 
harm me, but let me do my work

while I live.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

The Late Years Thirty-Seven

Photo of sunrise  from Jordan Lake Dam on New Year's Day 2019 by Ellen Tinsley, DVM

The Late Years Thirty-Seven July 14, 2019

It is quite true that the artist, painter, writer or composer starts always with an experience that is a kind of discovery. He comes upon it with the sense of a discovery; in fact, it is truer to say that it comes upon him as a discovery. It surprises him.
–Joyce Cary, Art and Reality, p. 15.

What then do all these words mean
that come upon me–years of them now?
I listen. I record. I respect, nay, I honor
that mysterious flow. As to Eliot’s vision
of how a new voice will become part of
the tradition that has gone before and change
it all, I’m hesitant to claim to be that
important. Besides, he says, such poetry
won’t be personal, and mine definitely
is. My friends and children, my chickens
and hydrangea bush, the little blue
grosbeak who sings to me at six in the
morning–at sunrise time–when I go to 
walk, are personal, or are they? Does the 
bird’s insistent call when the sky is pink 
all the way around, red, and even green
in places, and he waits to hear me sing,
“I see you!” does that stay personal
or does it change into a token of eternity?
What happens to the words I hear in
my ear and baptize with the water
of my spirit, which lifts me past my
balance problem, my lament that I can’t
do everything I did only eight years ago?
The answer comes easily now. I’m still
making discoveries, and they are 

still in possession. I needn’t be afraid.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

The Late Years Thirty-Six

Judy and Sheila Crump after Gospel Sing to raise money to fight our coal ash dump. Photo by Johnsie Tipton.

The Late Years Thirty-Six July 7, 2019

It has been so for most of my life. 
Some people love me, and some hate me. 
I think of the woman in the post office, 
being waited on. I didn’t know her, walked 
around her and put my package on the scales,
not imagining I would offend her, but when
she left, she said pointedly and coldly, “Sorry
I interfered with your post office business.”
Meaning: “You interfered with mine.” I
was reprimanded. True, I didn’t think my
gesture would be offensive. She probably
has me pigeon-holed now as a racist.
Another day, walking toward Food Lion, 
a woman coming out calls to me, “Miss
Judy.” It’s Delois, whom I know, and who
hugs me. “How you been?” “I’m fine.
How is your mother?” I hadn’t heard since
late last year. Cora was so sweet, so dear.
Once she told me, as if in defiance of 
somebody, “I love you.” “Mama passed,” 
said Delois. “I’m sorry. She was so sweet.”
I’ll be more careful in the post office, but
I doubt I’ll change the mind of the other
woman. Delois’s hug and Cora’s love
are what sustain me. A friend told me
 years ago, “If you make enemies, it means
you’re getting something done.” If people

love you, you’re doing something right.