Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Danielle Lee Simmons

(Oct 14 – Oct 16, 1962)
by Danny Earl Simmons

After trying for days to cry herself pink,
she died a tiny gray whisk of fingers
out of the corner of our mother’s
mourning. That was medicine in 1962.
Danielle was given our father’s name
an autumn-and-a-half before this gift

was passed on to me. They say life is a gift,
unless your too-young lungs never pink,
never billow enough for nursing. Her name
was insurance against a fate Dad figured
he’d rather not face – it was, after all,1962
and fathers passed on their names. Moms,

on the other hand, not so much. Our mother
was still a girl who thought she had only one gift
to give the first boy who kissed her right. By 1962,
though, she’d given him their first bundle of pink--
Lyné, born big, full of breath, with all ten fingers
and all ten toes who was given a schoolmate’s name.

But Danielle was the second girl of two, named
for our father, because, by now, our mother
was desperate to hold him home, her tired fingers
holding the pen, spelling Danielle – a gift
to her husband – a child-man, in some ways still pink,
in other ways nothing but a red, red rooster. In 1962

he was 20 years old and a super soft kisser. In 1962!
But now he had babies: one toddling, one dead – named
after him by his shotgun wife. She’d saved all the pink
clothes from their first, not knowing that a mother’s
grief would visit so soon, that this one thing she could give
would turn into ten gray and forever gone fingers.

I watched my parents wet-kissing once, his fingers
stroking her hair, from the hump of our parked 1962
VW bug in the drive-thru line of a greasy spoon. Given
the passion they let me see so young, I named
what I saw love. So much sharing, or so my mother
thought – life and death, coming and going, eyes cried pink.

Danielle, my sister, was a gift to our father whose fingers
always found new pink to pet even before 1962,
even before leaving behind a grave, his name, our mother.

Included in my full-length poetry collection, Tender Melancholy.

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