Their limber, nimble
bodies and wooly hair
climb, clasp settling
on the surface of everything,
a velvety rootless succulence.
I imagine the prehistoric ancestor of many life forms,
a primitive holdout from an earlier time.
I figured it feeds on the life within the stones and rocks it colonizes.
The people who study moss remind us it is the last bastion
drinking the tragedy of a storm,
inhaling the toxic junk that belches from the waste that keeps us moving ahead.
Without it we would be trampled to death by our carbon footprints.
In photographs in Katrina’s wake
I saw it growing around Mardi Gras beads
outside a party store in Chalmette Louisiana,
digesting silk flowers on a living room floor in the Ninth Ward.
As I sink deeper into my own history
I can feel its slimy danger
on the rocks overlooking the Wissahickon Creek
letting go of the grip of a neighbor boy thirteen years old,
plunging into Devils Pool, drowned.
I wandered into the sounds of the keening,
walked to the casket lined in white silk,
a halo of flowers blazing
I was eight and I went to my first wake in his home.
I stood on the kneeler,
stared at him resting there in his first communion suit,
I prayed the Our Father aloud.
A woman patting my head ushered me through a makeshift curtain
between the rooms
to a table piled high with cold sandwiches and potato salad,
surrounded by red faced grown-ups grasping their glasses of spirits,
cigar, cigarette smoke escaping through the open windows.
Charles is a native Philadelphian. In 2007 Charles was The Mad Poets Review First Prize Winner for his poem “Waiting To Come North”. In 2009 Cradle Press of St. Louis published Charles’s first book of poetry: paradise, pennsylvania. Charles hosts readings for the Moonstone Arts Center Poetry Series in Philadelphia. Charles next book, Haitian Mudpies and other Poems, is slated for publication in 2014.