By TINA ARNOPOLE DRISKILL
Roberta Bearden, a valley resident for more than 50 years, graduated from Downey High School. Roberta has a Masters Degree in Public Administration from California State University Stanislaus and a California Real Estate Brokers License. She was employed as a manager by Stanislaus County for 22 years before retiring to join her husband Ed in their real estate firm Choice Investments.
Roberta was a founding member of the Disability Resource Center for Independent Living, currently operating as the Modesto Independent Living Center. She was selected Outstanding Woman in Stanislaus County in 1991 for her advocacy work for people with disabilities. She was Department Affirmative Action Officer of the year while employed with the county and trained approximately 500 county employees on Preventing Sexual Harassment.
Roberta is a member of the Poets of the San Joaquin, a local chapter of the California Federation of Chaparral Poets, Inc. (CFCP) and State Treasurer for CFCP. She is on the editorial board of the Song of the San Joaquin, a quarterly poetry magazine that emphasizes a valley voice.
Roberta has been published in Poetís Corner, Quercus Review, Song of the San Joaquin and the Poets of the San Joaquin Anthology among others. She has been awarded prizes in the California Federation of Chaparral Poets monthly and annual contests. She has been recognized with Honorable mentions at the Bay Area Poets Dinner and at the Pleasanton Poetry, Prose and Arts Festival.
I tried to write a poem about the disaster in New Orleans
but all that came to mind was the phrase, ďhow do you
stand to watch.Ē How do you stand to watch while a
child cries from hunger, held by a mother who has
no food, water or clean diapers. How do you stand to
watch while old people in wheelchairs slowly die in
the sun without shelter, not even a bed to ease their
last moments. How do you stand to watch while men
cry for lost families, mothers, fathers, wives and children.
Anger comes. Anger at buses that donít arrive, anger
at governments who donít respond, anger at people who
shoot at the people trying to bring food and water and
hope for a tomorrow some of them will never see.
These people havenít had a chance to say goodbye
to all they have left behind in the split second when
their lives changed, never to be the same again.
How does one stand to watchÖÖ
She has never seen the car but her mind
has pictured it in numerous sleepless
nights filled with dread and fear.
She watches the tall beribboned soldier
open the car door. Between the time the car
door closes and the doorbell rings
The joy of her sonís birth;
The day he went to kindergarten;
Her fear when he drove alone the first time;
How she missed him when he left for college;
Her sorrow and pride the day he enlisted;
She opens the door for the Chaplain
freedom for her country and pride in her son
waging war with the pain in her heart.
Hell is the hot arid desert in Iraq.
He sits in the car, eyes closed,
thinking of his family, wife,
children, and parents, wondering
if they will be proud of him.
He thinks of the promised reward.
Mostly he sits, listens, waits.
Itís hurricane season. Katrina has devastated
New Orleans and Rita is forming in the gulf.
Turning on the TV to check the status of Rita
Iím riveted by a breaking story.
A large plane circles over the ocean using up fuel,
trying to unlock bent front wheels. On board
146 people are struggling with the possibility
of their last day on earth.
Iíve watched this struggle before in my living room.
From the jungles of Vietnam to the shock and awe
of Iraq. Iíve watched numerous hurricanes, floods,
tsunamis and earthquakes destroy lives.
Experts describe how the passengers will be
positioned in crash mode. Head on hands on knees.
Babies clutched so tightly they cry to escape
from frightened mothers laps.
The plane starts to land. I sit, eyes glued to the
crazy locked wheels, as the plane slowly descends
from the sky. The back wheels touch the runway,
then slowly the front wheels touch down.
Sparks fly, fire billows from under the plane,
fire trucks and ambulances race along side.
Suddenly the plane stops, people applaud and
I breathe a sigh of relief.
Hurricane Rita is a category 5 and heads
for Galveston and the Texas shore.
Winner September CFCP State Contest
Published in slightly different form in Updrafts 9/06
The Garden of Eden isnít found in the
land of Israel, land given by God to
his chosen people. It is found in the
fiery hot bosom of the Devil between
the Euphrates and Tigris rivers.
In the garden ─where the devil,
disguised as a slippery, slithery serpent,
gave the poison apple to the woman─
deceit shriveled the flowers and fruit,
turned the garden into dust and sand.
Religion, once the hope of the world,
turns the desert sand red
with the blood of the innocent,
buries the garden deeper and deeper
under centuries of hatred and strife.
Honorable mention Pleasanton Poetry, Prose & Arts Festival