"Clouds that Blur Memories," "Sundowners Sign in Western New York," and "The Arrogance of Living in the Present"

Clouds that Blur Memories

August 28, 1963
I was there
I, who pushed a baby in a stroller down Rue des Saints-Pères to meet her father ‒
an AFP reporter ‒ running toward me, yelling, “Nixon resigned!” and the pensions
emptying out onto the street, the Americans cheering but wary, “How do you know?”
The streets empty of Parisians on August 8, 1974
I, a newshound from an early age, ears tipped toward my Emerson 8 transistor turquoise radio bought with babysitting money with a brown burn hole in the case from being set too close to the lamp I hid under my bed for secret night reading, bending my aching ears to Sen Joe McCarthy’s Army-McCarthy hearings in 1954, horrified at 13 at what evil men can do, hoping to stay out of school long enough to hear the end of this
I, who remember the bugles in the night at Rocky Ledges Girl Scout camp announcing Eisenhower had ended the Korean War July 27, 1953
I, who remember the day the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed practically outside my bedroom window straight across the Hudson from Sing Sing’s death chamber June 19, 1953
I, who remember the scratchiness and pale yellow color of the bedroom sisal rug on bare skin from a house we left before I could talk, the fall down the bare wooden stairs of the next house during a WW II blackout in 1943
sight and touch
before speech
I have no memory of what was said August 28, 1963
a dim memory of Mahalia Jackson’s singing
a few words carried on the wind
the length of the reflecting pool
the crowds
the talking of those close by
no Dream
drained by heat of closely-packed people
on a coolish day in DC
how is it that someone can be present
on so significant a day
knowing how important it is
to remember
but never grasping
or retaining
not remembering the planning
how we got there
whether we stayed over
or marching
or eating
but taken
like a baby
recovering from
debilitating illness
dulled by medications
from NYC to see
something important
by the sweet, cheating boyfriend
guide and protector
both of us hoping
I would understand
the meaning of that day
which I did
with no words
to measure it by
save google searches
sixty years later



Sundowners Sign in Western New York

Welcome to Sundowners
A neighborhood crime watch community

‒ City sign removed after protest ca 2020

It’s under your nose
in front of your face
Do you want to know
how many times
you’ve seen it?
How you have learned
White blindness?
despite your belief
in freedom for all?
Would you like to know
how it happened?
The sign
and the not-seeing
of the sign?
Or have you
not seen
Are you mad at yourself
that you moved into this town
where such things are possible?
Where, in fact, minds were set
long ago?
Yesterday you worried
you might have passed those signs
many times without seeing them
or reading them
or comprehending them
Today you could not find the poles
where those signs were displayed
Does that give you comfort
that maybe you didn’t know
where you live?
No.  A Black or Brown person
would have noticed those signs
The point is
you do know
you did know
Ignorance is not a quilt
to hide your inattention.



The Arrogance of Living in the Present

After linking the dominance of the world’s
shallow thinking to the arrogance of living in the present,
declaring the past irrelevant, and labeling the future
as taking care of itself, it is refreshing and comforting
to see someone complain that the world is unlovable
in 2022, so close our eras have become
there is barely time to exchange a handshake within one.
Now it appears quite possible that the world
has always been a greedy and thoughtless place
where the weak are made weaker by the neglect
of those who have everything.  Is T***p as whacked
as Nero? a bright 7 year-old inquires, and its mother
replies, Well, their fires are of a different sort – Nero’s
the more physical of the two (if you exempt Iraq
and Afghanistan from this discussion), while  T***p
has set fire to one’s spirit, leaving it burned to a crisp,
flooded, or otherwise hopeless.   Mixing metaphors
will save us in the end, the child wisely replies.  Now
another question rises to the surface of my inquiring mind:
Have you examined your poems lately? Sought the images
you favor – and perhaps repeat – to create your own
world of shallow expression ?  Birds in the yard,
snow, trees, neighbors, signs of impending old age,
and references to current politics – making up a language
most unpromising it would seem, unless laced
with exaggeration and literal preposterousness.



Martha Deed

Martha Deed's poems and stories have appeared in New Verse News, Autumn Sky Poetry Daily, Moss Trill, The Buffalo News, Poemeleon, The Skinny Journal, BlazeVox Journal and many others. She's published 7 chapbooks. FootHills Publishing has issued her three poetry collections, Climate Change (2014), Under the Rock (2019) and Haunted by Martha (2023). She mostly does not write about murder anymore. Politics and her feisty house are challenges enough.

In these days of book banning and libraries' struggle to maintain their freedom to read policies, Martha recommends donating to one's local public library.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Monday, December 11, 2023 - 21:02