Renah St. Claire is historian and retired librarian living in the small college town of Montevallo, Alabama, USA. She published extensively 1980-2000 but went in to a hiatus for a while. This is her first attempt at re-entering the world of published poets . She lecters for state poetry society conferences and serves as a judge at poetry slams. She writes history and other non-fiction under the name Renee Palmer.

Arabic Like Gunfire

Entering a Lebanese café, I am struck
By the staccato burst of Arabic, like gunfire.
It pulls the trigger of memory – ricochets off the past
It hits me in the heart.
I die a little, again.

I stagger a little, a table of young men smirk.
My eyes fall on them, perhaps too long.
They have the unmistakable smell
Of the expatriated Arab male – good soap, expensive cologne and tobacco.
I’d know that scent in the dark. It is like incense to me.
They are sure they are handsome
And that, even at my age, I want them, each and every one.
They have seen Playboy and watched American porn;
They know what American women are like.
Or so they think.

Arabic, like gunfire -I hear that sound and instinctually
Look for him wherever I am.

I cried when he would not marry me and take me home with him,
He said “You wouldn’t last 6 months.
You couldn’t see the way things are and remain silent.”
I thought he did not love me.
Now I realize, perhaps he did. .
A year after he left, the wars began.
I watched his hometown bombed through the night on TV.
Decades later, I do not know if he lives.
No, I probably would not have survived.

But had he been here, what would I say?
That he was my first love and my last?
That others have touched my skin but not my heart?
It is barren as a desert since we parted.
Would I confess that I still, sometimes, spray my sheets with his cologne
Wrapping my body within a memory?
I cried every morning for a year when he left.
I am certain the last word I breathe will be his name.

Arabic, like gunfire, pulls the trigger of memory
Hits me in the heart
And I die a little, again.

Alive in Me, Still

Alive in me, still,
Are all the girls and women I have been,
And you reminded me
There’s no need to be a-mourning them.

The young explorer of meandering creeks,
Old barns and wooded places
Off the well marked trails
Until my mother’s frantic calls
Drew me, reluctantly, homeward.

The misfit, mumbling, mystic teen,
Invisible to my high school peers
In spite of busty figure and long legs
I kept hidden neath long gypsy skirts
That swirled out, fevered blossoming petals
As I flamenco danced through college,
A place where scholar poetesses
Could catch and hold the eyes
Of dark eyed men.

My 30’s and 40’s found me paling
Into the muted tans and misty grays
Of the professional academic.
My waistline expanding,
I became ashamed to dance.
I became this pagan earth mother
Struggling with this rocky red clay
To yield a field of lavender
To conjure it up by sheer determination
To prove I can still fill my world
With something magical.

I was mourning my passing my 50th birthday
Until I read your lines, written so long ago,
And they reminded me
That what lives within me is immortal
The best of me is not subject to death.