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Poem: "A Different Beat" - The Wordsmith's Forge — LiveJournal
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "A Different Beat"
This poem is overflow from the July 2, 2013 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] perfectworry. It has been sponsored by [personal profile] janetmiles.  Read the sequel "Tikkun Olam"  and follow the series Walking the Beat on the Serial Poetry page.


"A Different Beat"


It's not glamorous, what they do, but it works.
Jamaica Plain is a nice neighborhood these days,
and they want to keep it that way.

Dale walks slowly, leaning on her cane,
careful of the limp left by the injury
that retired her from police work.
Her short dark hair is perfectly combed,
her buttoned shirt and trousers neat.

Kelly walks beside her, letting Dale set the pace.
Long blonde hair spills over the shoulders
of her coral dress, held back by a turquoise ribbon.
She has an artist's eye for things that should not match
but do anyway, a characteristic of her work.

They stay close to each other, always in reach,
only letting go when Kelly wants to say something,
graceful signs falling from her fingertips like flowers.
Dale replies in the language she has learned
to converse with her lover, and then
they twine their fingers back together.

Women holding hands in Boston:
not new, not news.
Nobody minds if they
march to the beat of a different drum.

They walk through the neighborhood every day,
sometimes here, sometimes there,
always present but never predictable.
It varies, how far Dale can go at a given time.

They visit the green spaces: Olmsted Park,
Jamaica Pond, Arnold Arboretum, and Franklin Park.
All around, flowers bloom and birds sing,
and the two women keep an eye on the hedges
where unsavory individuals might lurk.

In Hyde, Jackson, and Egleston Squares
the soft sound of Spanish ripples past.
Kelly responds with a few phrases
in Dominican Sign Language.
There are flyers for a new store opening;
Dale takes one and hands over
her own summary of the town hall meeting.

In Brookside they know the folks at JP Cohousing,
always a good place for potluck dinners
and movie nights with friends.
Dale and Kelly have considered moving in
but aren't sure they want to give up the solitude
that their own place provides at the end of the day.

Sometimes they eat out for lunch or supper.
James's Gate is a favorite spot,
with its casual atmosphere and outdoor seating.
People know them there.

This is all Kelly's idea, and to be honest,
Dale hadn't thought it would work.
When Dale got upset because she had to retire,
Kelly coaxed her to explore new ways of fighting crime.

It's not as flashy as the old badge-and-gun days,
but it's satisfying in its own way,
just walking a different beat.

Dale and Kelly know every block of their neighborhood.
They encourage people to meet their neighbors
and help keep an eye out for each other.
They follow city politics and talk about ways
to push the crime rate down.
They're into environmental and social activism.

Oh, there have been a few times when
they interrupted a robbery or assault,
and more than a few when they warned
some drunken bohemian crowd to settle down,
but for the most part Jamaica Plain is a quiet place.

Dale and Kelly smile at each other.
The days when they're not really needed,
those are the best.

* * *

Notes:

Boston is on the list of lesbian-friendly cities, and Jamaica Plain is known as a neighborhood favored by lesbians.

The phrase "Boston marriage" refers to two women living together, independent of male influence. It does not specify sexual orientation, and little historic evidence is available. People variously interpret these as lesbian, queerplatonic, friendship, or roommate relationships. Given human diversity, probably all of those happened and still do.

Jamaica Plain is a neighborhood with many green spaces.

James's Gate is a popular pub.

Jamaica Plain has a slightly lower crime rate than average for Boston.

Dominican Sign Language is related to American Sign Language. A significant number of neighborhood residents come from the Dominican Republic, along with other Hispanic areas.

JP Cohousing is an intentional community in Jamaica Plain.

There are many ways to make a neighborhood safer and friendlier. Many cities have embarked on community improvement.

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Current Mood: busy busy

14 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
lb_lee From: lb_lee Date: July 4th, 2013 04:23 am (UTC) (Link)
Hey, I know JP! It's a shame I'm not near that area of town, because it seems quite nice. When I can afford housing again, it's actually one of the areas I'm likely to be in.

Nostalgia!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 4th, 2013 05:53 am (UTC) (Link)

Yay!

>>Hey, I know JP!<<

That's really cool. I didn't realize any of my audience would recognize the area. Synchronicity is fun! Makes it easier to get good feedback on the accuracy too.

>> It's a shame I'm not near that area of town, because it seems quite nice. When I can afford housing again, it's actually one of the areas I'm likely to be in. <<

Good luck with it then.
thnidu From: thnidu Date: July 4th, 2013 04:45 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh I like this, in so many ways besides the story itself.

• We lived in Boston and near it for 20 years; raised the kids in Framingham.
• I have a special interest in sign languages, even beyond being a research linguist: I did my doctoral work on ASL, and am currently assembling pointers to resources on many other sign languages as well for something at work.
• I like neighborhood maintenance. One of my ... odder (though maybe not in this crowd) practices is cleaning up as I walk around, by taking down out-of-date signs on lamp poles and other public property, picking up and disposing of broken glass (and bottles that'll get broken before long if they stay where they are), and similar tikkun olam, as we call it in Judaism: repairing the world.
From: technoshaman Date: July 4th, 2013 10:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
I *love* that phrase, tikkun olam...

And I did not know that about Boston. Today I have learnt something...

And one of my favourite friends, who is also Jewish, is as we speak engaging in neighbourhood community-building not dissimilar to this...

:like:
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 4th, 2013 11:24 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yay!

I love it too, and that led to a new poem.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 4th, 2013 11:22 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>>Oh I like this, in so many ways besides the story itself.<<

I'm delighted to hear this.

>> We lived in Boston and near it for 20 years; raised the kids in Framingham. <<

I'm surprised by how many people in my audience are familiar with the setting I picked not-quite-randomly.

>>I have a special interest in sign languages, even beyond being a research linguist: I did my doctoral work on ASL, and am currently assembling pointers to resources on many other sign languages as well for something at work.<<

That's really cool. I'm not fluent, but I'm interested in sign languages -- Plains Indian Sign is a personal favorite.

>>I like neighborhood maintenance. One of my ... odder (though maybe not in this crowd) practices is cleaning up as I walk around, by taking down out-of-date signs on lamp poles and other public property, picking up and disposing of broken glass (and bottles that'll get broken before long if they stay where they are), and similar tikkun olam, as we call it in Judaism: repairing the world.<<

This fit so well, it spawned another poem. "Tikkun Olam" is about Dale and Kelly meeting folks outside a relatively new synagogue, and finding some common ground.

78 lines, Buy It Now = $39
janetmiles From: janetmiles Date: July 5th, 2013 01:46 am (UTC) (Link)
I like these two, and am glad people like them exist. Ghods know I don't know any of my neighbors, much less all of them.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 5th, 2013 01:50 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>> I like these two, and am glad people like them exist. <<

I'm happy to hear that.

>> Ghods know I don't know any of my neighbors, much less all of them. <<

We used to know the neighbors around here, but not anymore. Half the houses are gone. The guy we know best doesn't actually live in the house anymore, just uses it for farming. :(

There's another poem now, "Tikkun Olum," inspired by a comment and listed in the unsold poetry.
thnidu From: thnidu Date: July 7th, 2013 01:55 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

And now it's all paid for and it's here. :-D
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 7th, 2013 02:00 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

Yes, and it's a new donor who wrapped it up -- that makes me really happy. Quite a bit of new activity this month.
thnidu From: thnidu Date: July 7th, 2013 02:02 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

gingicat is a longtime friend of mine from the Boston area. It always warms me to "see" her online.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 7th, 2013 02:04 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

Oh yay! Small world!
thnidu From: thnidu Date: July 7th, 2013 02:04 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

You may want to put a link from the top or bottom of this poem to "Tikkun Olam", and backlink, as you do with your serial prose, which I'm more familiar with. Whatever your custom is.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 7th, 2013 02:10 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

Link added, along with a reference to the Serial Poetry page listing. Thanks!
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