Against the Current No. 4-5, September-December 1986

Margaret Randall

The Gloves

for Rhoda Waller

Yes we did “march around somewhere” and yes it was cold,
we shared our gloves because we had a pair between us
and a New York City cop also shared his big gloves
with me–strange,
he was there to keep our order
and he could do that and I could take that back then.
We were marching for the Santa Maria, Rhoda,
a Portuguese ship whose crew had mutinied.
they demanded asylum in Goulart’s Brazil
and we marched in support of that demand,
in winter, in New York City,
back and forth before the Portuguese consulate,
Rockefeller Center, 1961.
I gauge the date by my first child
–Gregory was born late in 1960-as I gauge
so many dates by the first, the second, the third, the fourth,
and I feel his body now, again, close to my breast,
held against cold to our strong steps of dignity.
That was my first public protest, Rhoda,
strange you should retrieve it now
in a letter out of this love of ours
alive these many years.
How many protests since that one, how many
marches and rallies
for greater causes, larger wars, deeper wounds
cleansed or untouched by our rage.
Today a cop would hardly unbuckle his gloves
and press them around my blue-red hands.
Today a baby held to breast
would be a child of my child, a generation removed.
The world is older and I in it
am older,
burning, slower, with the same passions.
The passions are older and so I am also younger
for knowing them more deeply and moving in them
pregnant with fear and fighting.
The gloves are still there, in the cold,
passing from hand to hand.

That was written in March of last year. In October, already cognizant of the need to shore up for a long struggle, I wrote.

Immigration Law

When I ask the experts
how much time do I have?
I do not want an answer in years
or arguments.

I must know if there are hours enough
to mend this relationship,
see a book all the way to its birthing,
stand beside my father
on his journey.

I want to know how many seasons of chamisa
will be yellow, then grey-green
and yellow



how many red cactus flowers
will bloom beside my door.

I do not want to follow language
like a dog with its tail between its legs.

I need time equated with music,
hours rising in bread,
years deep from connections.

The present always holds a tremor of the past.

Give me a handful of future
to rub against my lips.


September-December 1986

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