Poetry and Prose

The River Place – Oconaluftee

Standing on the slope of the hill,
We watched the river flow and swirl
Around the big boulders of stone.
It sang the song of freedom to our souls.

We descended, stepping from stone to stone,
The spray dampened our clothes.
Each of us going our own way,
Picking out a place of our own
Individual praise and muse.

She began singing, lifting her hands upwards to the heavens,
Connecting with her homeland and the spirits of the past.
He stood high upon the rock, staff in his hand like Moses
Proclaiming poetic praises of nature’s joy.
We watched and listened enchanted by the sun’s halo
Surrounding his tall frame.

I sat, sunbathing on a flat rock like an ancient turtle
Imaging how I float away from my cares;
Knowing we’d have to continue on our way
Just as the river moved on to its destination
Downstream, but the memory is forever etched
In my mind like the worn grooves of a stone
In the river place – Oconaluftee.

Lord, Teach Me How to Love

You keep sending people into my life,
Yet you know I’m living in bitterness and strife.
My wounds are too deep, my trust is so shallow.
I have no love for others to bestow.

Lord, teach me how to love.
It’s clear that I need to reach out to the young and the old,
But my heart is in bondage to the wrong I’ve been done.
I trusted once, it can’t happen again.
Loving You Lord is enough of Your plan.
I gave my heart and a piece of my soul,
But never again shall I be so bold.

I can’t love! I can’t care!
Last time I got hurt; last time I was abused,
Even my own father played me the fool.
It’s too much to risk. It’s too much to care.
Yet You command it, so I’m in despair.
Lord, teach me how to love.

I pray it unwillingly, this is true
But I don’t know what else to do.
If you don’t teach me I know that my life, my calling, my joy is all but through.
I believe You and I hear Your call; but I really don’t want to.
I don’t want to take the chance, yet I know it’s You.
I can’t move the deadbolt from my heart.
I don’t even know how or where to start.

I promised myself to never let it happen again . . .
Again to feel,
Again to be real,
Again to be vulnerable,
Again to be compatible,
To give,
To live,
To sacrifice and hope,
To drift and to cope.

I can’t allow these emotions to surface again.
Oh Lord, never again, it’s not my plan.
You must teach me to love against my will
Because my wounds are hurting still.

It Is Not Enough!
It’s not enough that I’m a seer, a prophet, a saint
All you see is an old black mother too proud and free
Saying what she pleases when there is a need
For frankness and grit and political release
Of tensions that freeze out the joy of existence
With hatred and disgust for every man’s belief.

It’s not enough that I’m a poet, a preacher, a reader of thoughts
All you hear is an ancient grandma too set in her ways
Telling young people to rise and claim their legacy
Paid for through degradation, sweat, and tears up the broken
Ladder of dreams, hopes, and fears that the day
Would never come for her people
To be free to demonstrate their dreams.

It’s not enough that I’m an elder, a master, an arbitrator of truth
All you feel is fear, and uncomfortable foreboding that you missed
The opportunity to sit at the knee of folk like me and learn
Who you truly are – your purpose is to stand for more
Than the superficial fads of the land. You too are called
To plant more, live more, and give more for the culture to stand
For something worthy of remembrance.

It’s not enough that you look at me and wonder . . .
It’s time for you
To look at yourself
And proclaim –
I am!

The Voices

Do you hear them . . . the songs, the moans, the humming
Of our ancestors who could find no words for the misery, the hurt,
And the pain of constantly hoping for change;
Continuously praying for an unseen future for their children
And for their children’s children?
Do you hear them?

Can you hear the whispers to the Almighty Creator
That your great grandmother prayed?
Her only desire – to see her man-child strive, succeed,
And steady his grip on the old field plow –
For the crops to bring in enough money
To sustain the family for one more year
Can you hear her?

Listen! To the wails of long gone generations
As they arrived on the streets of northern land’s – Urban ghettos;
Shouting victoriously that the blight of the southern sun was left behind.
Trading cotton, peanuts, and corn fields for the dank concrete floors
Of factories and mills. Only to find that work in the North
Was from sunup to sundown and domestic task masters
Sounded much the same as the foremen of plantations/share crop owners.
Listen to the mixed cries of hopelessness and joy!

Can you hear the voices deep inside your chest
Pounding with sorrow over such little gain?
Grandmothers and fathers still crying, still moaning, still praying
And humming songs without words because the big house of their dreams
Turned out to be slang for the prisons that hold their sons
And their sons’ – sons who remain on death row
Waiting for appeals that will never produce freedom.
Can you hear them?
Voices still praying, still hoping, still claiming,
“There’s a brighter day ahead!” When another generation will rise up
To take their rightful place as men and women in this insane system
Of haves and have nots. Still calling, still crying for equality
In a bureaucracy where animal lives matter more than humans and
Dollars have voices too, do you hear it?

I hear them . . . speaking in my heart, not in my head,
And I see them in the eyes of my children and their children
Seeking solace in the non-reality of video games
While self-medicating on legal drugs and alcohol, trying to escape
The substandard education that lies in textbooks without their history.
I hear it in the rap and rhyme, the croon and flow of music-makers
Who still speak of the Promised Land.
I still hear the mixed cries and voices!

The voices . . . my legacy, a perpetual cry for courage,
For tenacity, for equal opportunity; for royalty to return to their majesty
And propel our nation forward into the vision of a dream no longer deferred,
But one that will blossom into our posterity; a heritage,
Achieving the possible and becoming the prophets for the new hope
And the real truth of the next generation that encompasses all people.
The voices of one generation to another.
Listen! Hear them!


It’s a beautiful day!
Though I’ve seen it through tears-stained eyes;
The sun reflects the shadows of trees green and alive.
The sky is yet blue amidst the billowy clouds
I’m still aware of You
When I’m not too proud
To say, “My heart is broken.”

It’s really a perfect day!
The birds sing their loud “twittle-tee-dee.”
The squirrels chirp and scamper up every brown tree.
The children caw and laugh, “You can’t catch me!”
I’ve seen the loveliness despite my pain
Hoping You will wipe away the burning stain . . .
My dreams seem broken.

It’s a very fine day!
When I remember what creation has to say.
You made this moment for every living being,
Filled it with hope and life worth seeing;
Even through the waters of misery and grief
My soul has found Your sweet relief.
Broken things will mend.

As I absorb the sun and the wind,
I accept the fact that my heart will mend;
I have certainly not seen the end of all things
As I wait for new blessings from some other means
To come my way, then I will still say,
“It’s a beautiful, beautiful day!”

Walking through the Graveyard

Walking through the graveyard carefully
Marching around the granite stones
Knowing my spirit is not alone
Because memories walk with me
Up and down each row.

Marble stones so cold and smooth
Warmly reminding me of the loved ones
Who have gone to the unknown home
Beyond this temporal globe
Of possible dreams turned reality.

Reading each name and number of years
Reliving the voices now gone
In the night air the epitaph too short
To cover the lives hard lived until death
Lives so entrenched with mine.

Family plots aligned and adorned
For generations whose dreams live on
Their voices and plans a composite
In our heads guiding us forward
To claim territories for which they bled.

These hallowed grounds continue to speak
Of generational lives lived simple and sweet
Posterity and heredity leaving its mark
For the living ones to take up the line
Of the hymns that kept them going.

Walking through the graveyard
I feel loved and so free
For these are my ancestors
Watching over me and
Making me complete.

Grandma’s Porch
The tin roof, the heat of summer sun
Above the parched whitewashed porch
Two red cane-bottomed rockers
Worn down by many years of rocking
Ridges in the slatted floors,
Missing their occupants of 50 years
Their spirits linger near
Whispering quietly in the wind.

Listening carefully for Grandpa’s husky laugh
To grace your ears, and sweet Prince Albert
Will sting your nose. Grandma will hum
A languid spiritual hymn, soothing sounds
Of Creaking chairs in a lonely heart
Longing to catch butterflies and bees
In the shadow of the willow trees.
Memories invading reality in the golden light

Grandma’s porch engulfed in love
Breathing life in each memory
Lying in the shade on a homemade pallet
Watching the black-eyed cat swish his tail
The fragrant scent of flowers carrying a wish
Dust particles swirling whiles leaves sway
Decades seem like yesterday
When life was lived in such simple bliss.


It’s a beautiful day!
Though I’ve seen it through tears-stained eyes; The sun reflects the shadows of trees green and alive.
The sky is yet blue amidst the billowy clouds
I’m still aware of You
When I’m not too proud
To say, “My heart is broken.”

It’s really a perfect day!
The birds sing their loud “twittle-tee-dee.”
The squirrels chirp and scamper up every brown tree.
The children caw and laugh, “You can’t catch me!”
I’ve seen the loveliness despite my pain Hoping You will wipe away the burning stain . . .
My dreams seem broken.

It’s a very fine day!
When I remember what creation has to say.
You made this moment for every living being,
Filled it with hope and life worth seeing; Even through the waters of misery and grief My soul has found Your sweet relief.
Broken things will mend.

As I absorb the sun and the wind,
I accept the fact that my heart will mend;
I have certainly not seen the end of all things
As I wait for new blessings from some other means
To come my way, then I will still say,
“It’s a beautiful, beautiful day!”

The Nursing Home

Her silvery dome glistened under the light, and her eyes shimmered gray and bright.
Unanswered questions lingered in the air while she wondered who had left her there –
Alone amongst strangers in an unknown place; did anyone notice the puzzle on her face?
Why couldn’t she remember who these people were or hear them speak above a murmur?
Was she really loosing her mind or was something else out of place in this present time?

“Don’t worry,” they said, “You’re quite okay.” But she certainly didn’t feel that way.
She wanted her mom or maybe her dad, anyone from home would have made her heart glad. If she could find her keys she would get up and leave and bid these people a fond farewell – before they could bring her to one of their cells.

Yesterday, they had tied her down and turned out the light leaving her mind in such a fright. Why would anyone want to do such a thing? All these things were just plain mean. She was so tired and confused by every sight and sound; nothing familiar was lying around. Why couldn’t they just leave her alone; all she wanted to do was get home? Somehow she had to get away, but no one would listen to a word she had to say.

“You are at home!” the young lady said, “And in a few minutes I’ll put you to bed!”
To bed, to bed! The words echoed loud; could this be all that they allowed?
When did she eat, where were her clothes? This was not the life she had chose.
Silent tears rolled down her face when she couldn’t figure out how to get out of this place.

She was a victim but there had been no crime, only nature to blame for this downtime.
Her mind has been stolen day by day, and her strength was failing along the way.
The dreaded disease had no mercy at all; it took everything, the great and the small
Until nothing was left but the outer shell and this sad story I’m trying to tell.
Alzheimer’s disease is so cruel, it leaves the setting but destroys the jewel.

Surface Knowledge

So you think you know me because you heard some title.
Titles are one dimensional, they can’t define me.
Reverend, Mother, Sister, Girl – they don’t begin to show you my world.
Who I am, who I might be; you can only find out if you get to know me.
I have ridges, creases and folds so deep, you could never know me in just one week.
My lineage, some history, even my ancestry can’t truly reveal the essence of me.
There are things about me that you can’t see;
I am not who you want me to be.
It’s certain, you just don’t know me.

The only child of an unwed mom won’t explain where I’m coming from.
Bullied until I learned to fight exposes nothing of my real blight.
Molested, raped and broken down built myself back up from the ground.
Sex, alcohol, took some pills; thank God I was never overtaken by these ills
Militant, tenacious, determined to succeed so some other black women could follow my lead
High school graduate, college and degrees; you still don’t know me because of these.
There are things about me that you can’t see;
I am not who you want me to be.
It’s certain, you don’t know me.

The Bequeathal

To you my children,
I leave you the color blue.
Not a sultry azure, but true royal blue –
Blue as streams of water reflecting the morning sky,
The blue of the heavens coming to embrace the sea,
Yes, blue –
Blue of the dark shadows against the driven snow
To comfort you and bring you peace in the murky tide
Of grief and the stormy grays of your days ahead –
Embrace my Blue as I have embraced you
Allowing it to sooth your soul
And penetrate the places that nobody ever touches
To you I leave my blue.

To you my faithful friend,
I leave you the color purple.
The color of royalty for your sweet loyalty,
Purple rich as cool satin fabric against parched skin,
Eggplant purple growing in the garden of life
Near the path where love begins
Yes, purple –
Purple to warm your heart as our memories ascend,
To places where friendship and love will never end,
Enjoy each purple moment, relax and take it in
For it embodies a companion’s heart and all the joy it clutches
To you I leave my purple.

To you my wayward offspring,
I leave the color white
The absence of color like lightening searing through the night,
White as the foamy spray upon the splashing sea,
White so bright and glossy it burns the scales from your heart
And leaves no more room for misguided mischief
That has torn our family apart.
Yes white –
White undeniable like the paper on which I write
To remove the sinewy shadows from colorless truth
And expose that which beckons and lures you from the light
Until a caring someone can recoup our losses
And help you do what’s right
I leave you white.

I keep for myself all the silver and gold.
Silver shining silhouettes of sweet smelling infants in my arms
Trinkets of conversations with toddlers and teens,
Velvet lined boxes of senior wisdom are still my charms,
Golden moments of affectionate love in the arms of my guy,
Untold wealth of memories and days gone by
And yet they sing the savory song of living before you die
Silver and Gold
Silver and Gold –
My soul’s safekeeping of sweet treasures
From friend and foe – Yes, silver and gold!
I keep for my self.

Patricia Boyd-Wilson

What Do You Have?

Have You Ever Considered What You Have?
I mean I know you don’t have time
And you don’t have money
And you probably had a fight
With your one and only honey
But what do you have?

It’s something to consider
And it may make your day
If you look at what you have
In a brand new way
Do you have a family, do you have a friend?
Do you have a few clothes?
There are things right under your nose!

Think! Ponder! Try to figure it out.
You have more than you think
Without a doubt
How about breath? Fitness? Strength?
Do you have a home?
That’s a big blessing all on its own,

Tell me, do you know?
Have you considered it at all?
All the things both big and small
Things you wanted so very much
And now you’ve forgotten then all.
Don’t spend all your time looking for new stuff
Remember “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”

I ask you again, consider your life.
What do you have?
Isn’t it something to live
Without strife?
Consider it now and what it could be
To live in a world without possibility.
Have you ever consider what you have?

Patricia Boyd-Wilson

You are Not Invisible

You are not invisible although you think you are.
To me you are a bright shining star.
You have talents the world has never seen,
So remember you’re on the winning team.
You are not invisible because I see you.

No one can pass every test,
So just keep striving to do your best.
You are sensitive, serious, and smart,
And carry so much love in your heart.
You are not invisible because I see you.

So when you’re in your tiny room
Feeling ignored and full of gloom
Just remember you’re not alone
You are the champion that sets the tone.
You are visible . . . I see you!

Patricia Boyd-Wilson

Tending the Soil

Patricia Boyd-Wilson

Olivia Lightfoot was frail and old in age and in soul from the first day I can remember. Her skin was tan like soft leather and her white cotton hair hung down her back to her narrow waist. Her voice was light and airy like the wind at the top of the sycamore trees and her gray eyes pierced like the viper seeking its prey. Yet she was gentle and kind and approachable especially to the five year old that was under her tutelage.
“Put your hands here in the dirt Sugah,” she said placing her own hands in the warm black soil. “Feel the richness, feel the warmth. This is good soil for planting and it will nurture our little seedlings just fine.”
“Now sift the soil through your fingers to get rid of the lumps, little rocks and old roots.” Teala tried to copy her grandma’s moves as best she could. Her tiny face was set in a frown of concentration. As she finished each task her brown eyes went to her grandma’s face for approval.
“Like this, Granny!”
“Yes, baby, just like that,” she smiled. “Now take the spade and dig a nice hole right in the middle of the mound we’ve made, so we can put the seedlings in.” Grandma Lightfoot had the patience to watch and to wait for Teala to make mistakes and try again.
“Granny, why do we pat the soil and make rows of mounds?”
“So that each plant has room to grow and to show our respect to the soil, to God’s good earth. It plays its part and we must appreciate it.”
“But, Granny why do we make the mounds after we pat it and don’t just dig a hole to put the seedling in?”
“So that each baby plant will have the support that it needs to grow.”
“What’s support?”
“Support is when something holds you up. Like when you were learning to walk and your daddy held you by your hands so you wouldn’t fall.” Teala liked that image. Daddy was big and strong and he had the best hugs and the funniest stories she thought as she dug the hole and patted the soil.
“The soil supports the baby plant so the wind and the rain won’t knock it down. When its roots reach down deep enough it will be strong enough to hold itself up.”
“Like me, right? I can hold myself up!”
“Yes, like you,” Grandma’s lips twitched. “Now you can walk on your own without support. But you still need tending like these little seedlings.”
“Because until it is fully grown it has to be fed and watered and the weeds have to be kept away until it’s all grown up just like you.”
“Like me?” Teala giggled. “Grandma, weeds don’t bother me!”
“Sure they do baby. Sometimes people say and do things that crowd out the goodness and the dreams in your little head. And sometimes too much idle talk about who you are and what you can do gets in your ears,” Grandma Lightfoot explained.
“Me and your daddy have to make sure that we keep those things away from you, so you’ll grow up to be the talented gift that you are supposed to be, and so that you produce the great things that you were meant to do. And if some of those weeds gets by us, we pluck them out as quick as we can!”
“How do you do that, Granny?” Teala face was crinkled with concern as she saw weeds as the enemy.
“By answering your questions and telling you the truth. By fertilizing your mind with books and stories of your ancestors. By loving you and taking care of you every single day.” Olivia place a seedling in the ground and continued working the row.
“Granny, you planted six seedlings and I’ve only planted two!” Teala was obviously disappointed that she couldn’t keep up. The worry creased her little brown face.
“Tis okay, Sugah! Every time we plant something you’ll get better. You will learn more day by day. You will do more day by day. And the next thing you know, you’ll be able to do more than your old Granny and even more than your daddy.”
“I’ll grow up to be smart like you and daddy?” Teala had a little doubt about that, even though her daddy told her she was smart all the time. No one was smarter than her Granny, daddy had said she was the smartest woman he knew.”
“Yes, Teala, smarter than us because we’re gonna keep tending the soil around your heart and supporting the growth of your mind until you are able to be and do what you were created for.” Grandma Lightfoot kissed the top of her platted hair and Teala grinned.
“Granny, does that mean this baby plant is going to grow up and be what it’s supposed to be just like me?”
“See honey, you’re already a little smarter just from working the soil and tending these tender little seedling. It’s going to grow into a big tomato plant and produce fine beefsteak tomatoes to bless our table with a fine meal just like it’s supposed to.”
“And I’m going to grow up to be a fine young lady, a scientist, make lots of money, and take care of my family just like you and daddy!” Teala announced proudly and poked her little chest out.
“Yes you will baby, yes you will!” Olivia Lightfoot beamed down on the next generation and thought, “and someday you’ll tend your own beautiful soil.”

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