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Sunday, September 15, 2019


by Barbara Simmons  

after Muhammed Ali

Not sure where that is, sometimes, my room, my home,
but this west coast city has too many zip codes,
and too many faces that turn away
don’t look at you, sometimes beyond, afraid connecting might mean
you want something and here there are too many
whose wants aren’t being met
whose needs go unwatched whose backs we don’t have.
Sounds on this hot Sunday rise like hot air sending gospel notes
beyond the outdoors stage, lifting words that catch up with my feet
so I am walking keeping time
walking and watching and walking and listening and walking and hearing
“Give me your arms for the broken hearted    and San Jose cried with Dayton and El Paso and Gilroy.
Give me your heart for the ones forgotten   and San Jose cries for all who don’t have refuge.
Give me your eyes so I can see”   and I cry until my tears clear my eyes, and I hear
the words on your t-shirt sing to me of  Ali, you walking towards me, me looking at you with you.
Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth
My room here on earth—so many rooms where I’ve slept and risen
loved, been lost, saved, often still looking for redemption, my many lives
spent trying to understand  words we wear, words we feel, words I say.
I stop to mouth the words to you, to all of you, that yes I’ll have your back
I’ll read and listen and watch and hear and see and see and see.

Barbara Simmons grew up in Boston and lives in California; her dual environment—shapes, skylines, even color wheels—informs her poetry, as do her families of origin and extended. She graduated from Wellesley College, received an MA in The Writing Seminars from Johns Hopkins University, and an MA in Educational Administration from Santa Clara University. As a secondary school English teacher, she was able to revisit texts she loved with students who inspired her to think more about how we communicate with each other on pages/screens as well as face-to-face. Retired, Simmins savors the smaller parts of life and language, exploring the communion of words as ways to remember and to envision and to heal. Publications have included Santa Clara Review, Hartskill Review, Boston Accent, Soul Lit, Hamline Review, Oasis Anthology, Writing it Real and Common Ground, among others, as well as short Perspectives on NPR affiliate.