Sunday, March 9, 2014

Time - draft two

I visited the church where I grew up
Against the folkways of dress standard
I wore dashiki and blue jeans
This has been a year of confronting emotional backs and forths and I
To my bewilderment
Longed to feel sweet breath and look into faces
Of folks who have known me
From baby shoes to press n curls and training bras

Have loved me with praise tongues
And stern voices of forgiveness
Rubbed my belly when I was pregnant
Stood with me
Agreed with me and believed in me

I went to church

The church that was white with rugged cross and red steps
I used to love red steps
The church that kindly held my clouded prayers
From when I first understood praying

Not just on my knees with hands clasped
Like on communion Sundays
In white dress
But pray all the time
For everything
Good grades
New Barbie

For everyone
For my father
Whom I adored but came home drunk early one morning
And did not notice me waiting by the door with my arms
Wrapped around my shoulders to clean up his vomit
Before my mother woke up

For my mother
Who was fascinating in the way she tried
To mask living under more pressure than she may ever be willing to discuss

For myself
That I would one day have a voice
Commanding enough to speak the world of my dreams into fruition

Though I did not have language grown up enough to divulge
All of my narrative
I knew God was listening

Had the whole world in His hands in His hands
Hands so big still somehow fit into me
710 south
Exit PCH east

Where there was my Sunday school class
That began at 9am and held the choir stand
Behind the pulpit

The youth choir where I was the president
For four years in a row and could not sing a note
But was there every Sunday
And knew the books of the Bible from Genesis to 1 Corinthians

On second Sundays after we sang in the church
We went to Bel Vista Convalescent Hospital
And sang for the patients and staff
Where I was tall and skinny
With long pressed braids and paten leather shoes
And fold down socks with white lace on the edges

I wore my first pair of Leggs B Coffee grown up stockings
From the plastic egg  wrapping and my hair down for the first time
At that church

Thick tight curls from small yellow sponge rollers
That absorbed the excess hair grease
That Aunt Ruth made and prayed over in her kitchen

There were Easter speeches and vacation Bible school classes
Gospel concerts, prayer and usher board meetings
And other weekly and monthly routines
That made our church

The church that held its own
On the KDAY and crip infested streets of 17th and Lemon Ave. in Long Beach
My church
I am still a little girl where all the world is mine
My mother still attends
Like my grandmother before her is the secretary of the church

It was good to see my mother in her element
In her usher uniform
Lavender skirt and jacket with white top
And scarf and q tip white gloves

I started to cry watching her march around the church
After the offering
I used to be an usher
Stood knock kneed
Long and lanky in center isle
With my back to the pulpit facing the front double doors

I sat next to a woman who reminded me of my grandmother, Omega Davis
But she was not my grandmother
Had her brown eyes and good skin
Had her outdated Jheri curl and was a pretty woman like her
But she did not shake that belly laugh shake
That made the smallest joke even funnier
Did not pass me fire stick candy during service
Or write notes in perfect cursive that were always inappropriate

My grandmother was a wise woman
Whose ever prediction came true

"Y'all gon see after I'm gone."

After she was gone
We saw

She was our Orson Welles and we did not know it

I listened to the pastor preach and
His message was on the birth of Christ
As it is today the Sunday before Christmas

Bishop Higgins is still new to St. Mark
This great man with the prevailing voice
That comes from the bottom of his abdomen
Whose potent message is ever inspiring and entertaining at the same time
Is not my pastor

He is not the Rev. Ford I grew up with
The pastor who called my mother
And told her where she could pick up her new tire that was already waiting
Because he noticed hers was bald

No, this man looked at me when he led the benediction
As if I were a visiting sinner looking for a Jesus who was not lost

He does not know me
Time has not allowed him to know most of us
Though while we understood that he appreciates the warm cloth
He does not know the private stitching of our tapestry

Our quilt that is not secret but well used and stained just a little
Perhaps we have not paused to realize
That we do not know his

That he has a story absent dossier and resume of good deeds
Has an award worthy yesterday
That we cannot Google or confirm

Where did the time go
I am not old enough to wonder where time went

These were the same walls and chairs
Different choir robes and pews
But same piano and drum set as before

Only time changes
I was beginning to understand

There were memories on these floors behind these doors
That are pieces of me like cells and lashes and pinky toes
That feel good like rent paid and stretch jeans
And hurt at the same time
Like sore feet and friendships gone bad with no completion

There was Vidette and Cheryl and Pam and Corderlia and Kim
And my own Aunt Janice who were women
I looked up to

There were the Harris sisters whose voices could match a team of angels
And Lazette and Sophia who were as beautiful as their names
Sophia who told me the Sunday before her suicide
That I was a pretty girl

There was Rev. Hunter who was strict and respected
Had nice house and dutiful wife and new car
And his tongue touching mine too many times
In a way I was too young to understand
And too scared to tell

There are pieces of my shaping that have escaped the surface of my recollection
But the brick and strips of caulk and boards of plaster of this building
Will always

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