Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Purple Flower and the Umbilical Cord

Stray corkscrew curls swirled behind her like kite tails as she pedaled ahead of me on her bike. I followed in my car blotting out clear images of French braids, pink fenders and wobbly training wheels. She darted in between two crumbling houses surrendering to chipped paint and sagging front porches with missing windows. I cranked up the volume of the CD player, disappointed in Schubert for not providing me with much needed relief from the ugly, grim reality and imperfection of our culture as it invaded my safe world. I closed the window, hoping to keep it outside where it belonged. How could this be? I reached for a piece of gum.

Laughing toddlers with three-day-old orange Kool-Aid moustaches – oblivious to their grungy disposable diapers that should have been changed hours before – dashed in and out of the street. I drove by slowly, trying not to look but unable to ignore the vacant stares of adults who sat slumped on deteriorated steps. The stench of abandonment filled the air.

I parked the car and waited, for what? I didn’t know. She – the resilient purple flower that grows in the crack in the sidewalk – stood beside a gray trashcan flipped on its side, smiled and motioned for me to come. I struggled against the stronghold of gravity and found myself standing beside a corroded El Camino with no tires, searching for the tools to abandon my own sense of abandonment.

The gatekeeper – a dark brown dog – watched from the second story window of a dirty pink house. I hesitated when we locked eyes. He didn’t flinch. Ignoring my initial impulse to meet the challenge, I looked away. I could hear him panting when I walked past the window.

Something smelled – a cross between cloves, pepper and sweat. I couldn’t identify the source or decide if it was good or bad.

I stepped over rusted bicycles, random parts and more trashcans to a small chicken coop tucked against a slanted wooden fence in the corner. The sight of familiar clucking hens – allies – invited tightness in my chest. I bit my thumbnail and watched them peck for bugs in the once paved driveway. They had food, water and adequate space. I exhaled, but not enough. What are we doing here? I screamed silently.

I brushed away the cobwebs of lullabies, apple blossoms and green grasses dotted with bright yellow dandelions. I grasped the delicate tendrils of long forgotten innocence and hope and tucked them back in the box with longing and regret. With the weight of the key pressed against my chest, I gathered faith and carried on.

A woman gives birth. The umbilical cord – never severed – remains intact and grows, invisible to the naked eye.


  1. I'm not sure if this went out on the mailing list. Testing 1-2-3.

  2. This is beautiful--and I love your poem too

  3. Thank you, Lisa...I think you understand this place in motherhood.