Memory Says Yes Curbstone Press, Willimantic, CT, 1988

, by Margaret Randall


for Rhoda Waller

Yes we did march around somewhere and yes it was cold
we shared our gloves because we had a pair between us
and a New York City cop also shared his big gloves with me
--strange, he was there to keep our order
and he could do that and I could take that back then.
We were marching for the Santa Maria, Rhoda,
a Portuguese ship whose crew had mutinied.
They demanded asylum in Goulart’s Brazil
and we marched in support of that demand
in winter in New York City, back and forth
before the Portuguese consulate
Rockefeller Center 1961.
I gauge the date by my first child
--Gregory was born late in 1960—
as I gauge so many dates
by the first the second the third the fourth
and I feel his body now again, close to my breast
held against cold to our strong steps of dignity.
That was my first public protest, Rhoda,
strange you should retrieve it now
in a letter
out of this love of ours alive these many years.
How many protests since that one, how many
marches and rallies
for greater causes larger wars deeper wounds
cleansed or untouched by our rage.
Today a cop would hardly unbuckle his gloves
and press them around my blue-red hands.
Today a baby held to breast
would be a child of my child, a generation removed.
The world is older, and I in it am older
burning slower with the same passions.
The passions are older
and so I am also younger
for knowing them more deeply
and moving in them, pregnant with fear
but fighting.
The gloves are still there in the cold
passing from hand to hand.