Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Poem by Nadine Waltman-Harmon

A Matter of Maturity
Mama hinted ‘bout salesmen,
     gigolos ‘n foreigners,
     but I was eighteen
     then an’ Mama never expected me
     to leave Washington County.
Mama had read ‘bout big
     city life an’ slick-talkin’,
     fast-movin’ city men.
     Maybe my Mama
     had met a few. But if Mama
     had seen that Galla salesman—
     fat, fawnin’ and fortyish—
     she’d have said, “Mercy!
     Lord! Protect my child!”
If Mama had seen his white Fiat
     and knew about his big
     city life she would
     have prayed harder for her child.
I wish Mama had told me there
     could be a no-good man
     who’d smile an’ sweet talk
     a woman while they
     were smilin’ an’ sweet talkin’
     some other women
     whose Mamas had never
     told them that once they got wise
     an’ kicked the bum out
     they’d spend nights wonderin’
     if the phone would ring
     an’ that no-good man
     would be on the line sayin’,
     “I still love you.”
It took me a year to see
     that he was a user, a no-good
     man that danced
     with and sweet-talked other women.
He was always wheelin’ an’ dealin’
     an’ tryin’ to get money
     from everybody.  Once,
     he asked a woman,
     who had more money
     than youth, for twenty thousand
     and, within five minutes,
     sweet talked her
     into bringin’ his sistah to America!
I packed his clothes, set
     them in the hall
     and, within the hour,
     he’d sweet-talked some woman
     and had an apartment and a car!
That night Mama came to me
     in a dream.  I heard
     my Mama say, “Lord,
     have Mercy on my child.
     That man’s a no-good
     piece of baggage, child,
     driftin’ on your shoreline,
     jus’ usin’ everyone, not sharin’
     real emotion, jes’ steppin’
     on people.  He’s jes’ a no-good
     salesman; a no-good gigolo.
     Forget him, child.”
That night I packed my bags
     an’ took off for Oregon
     and rented a flat
     without a telephone
     so I wouldn’t be listenin’
     for its ring and the sound
     of his voice sayin’,
     “I still love you.”
Nadine Waltman-Harmon is a retired teacher (42 years) who grew up in northeastern Oklahoma.  In the l960's she taught African teachers in Tanzania, East Africa Nadine lives in a log house in the  Pacific Northwest with her cat, Mama Chai.

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