Cassandra’s Children

© A Very Good Feeling

From My Little Girl Jasmine…

I give you a very good feeling
I felt as if I were stealing
I’ll be as smart
and give you my heart
Happy Valentine’s Day!


To Paul Raynard Mamby “Luap Dranyar Ybmam”

12/21/1964 To 03/16/1990 Happy Birthday Son

LEGEND: Memory Man by DECIMO – A vintage calculator

And the Memory Man plays back all that it has stored As cow dappled meadows float by Calculations, calculations, the sum of it all Paul it has been 13 years now Life divided by death equals what

I remember the day that you came home with friends to practice a few hot licks in the music room. Thank you for asking your fifteen year old buddy’s to wait in the living room for you, while you went out to the garden to cut roses for my dinner table. I was having guests and you were proud to cut roses for your mother in the presence of your friends. I love your ethics and confidence in yourself. When my head hurts, I remember your healing hands and how you would “palm” my head like a basketball, squeeze gently and draw the pain from my head.

I sit now by your grave and recall so many days. They float by like cow dappled meadows. You and I, hands clasped behind our heads day-dreaming in front of the fireplace. On that day, you told me what you were going to be when you grow-up. You wanted to help people and perhaps a minister would be the best way. My heart warms as I think of that day and my admiration of my son’s goals. Do you work through me now, my son? When I forgive the unforgivable, excuse the inexcusable, show the beauty of life to the despaired, convey life tools to strangers; is it you Paul, is it your hand that touches the shoulder and hugs those in pain?

Today is your birthday and you are 39 years old, but your physical life extended to 24 years only. How I wish to see your unborn children and hear them call you dad. So tender would you be as a father. You and your best friend Dennis, walking in the park with your sons and daughters.

Across the river, Bethlehem Steel’s plant is quiet and you can rest. The BFO is as still as the rows of gravestones that surround you and I. I remember when “the Steel” supported us and your music lessons, horse back riding lessons and math tutors.

I ask you for clear, undeniable and measurable proof that you are with me today. Only cool breezes stroke my face as I clear the snow from your headstone. “You are loved”, the inscription composed by your sister to remind you for perpetuity that in the sum of your life, you should count her love.

My head is filled with the litany of what I “should” be doing at this moment and I shout back at that litany, that I am a mother and I “deserve” time with my son… not minutes! Rather, I deserve years with my son, years, many, many years. I deserve to see you now and talk to you now and hug you now. As I bend time to reach you today, I wonder at the form that we may be in, when again I hug my boy. I pray that we will have a form to embrace and that I may see the shine in your eyes as I did when you were a boy with your calculator, trying to add, subtract and multiply.

The beauty of your spirit lives. In your measure remember that eternity has been touched by you. On this the day of your birth, I keep the memory of you, my dear son.

Love, Mom

Cassandra M. Dougherty 12/21/2003

© Worms

I’m tired of lifting worms from the wet pavement and depositing them back in the grass. After the rain stops, they do not know that there is no chance of them making it back to the moist sod. Their slow creep in the wrong direction, towards the office building, ensures that a shoe will crush them long before they dry up like the evaporating water on the walkway.

After a rain, when I leave the office I immediately look down before taking a step. As I spot the slender pink to red tubes, I scoop them up in my hand. It’s a balancing act, the constant bending down, since I have my laptop briefcase strapped over one shoulder and my lunch pouch in one hand. The writhing segments arch just enough for me to cup each one in my palm without causing them harm.

We humans typically are aware of our hands, aware of our feet and we usually know our mothers. They, the worms, however, may not know that they are born with the number of segments they will have throughout their lives and they may not remember their mothers. I don’t know if they miss their mothers or if their mothers miss them. I don’t know.

It seems that every step that I take brings another worm into my line of site. I rescue each one and place it safely in the moist grass or mulch. I rescue them. I’m tired of rescuing them but, I rescue them. I rescue each one. I rescue them. I rescue the earthworms the way that I could not rescue my own son.

Cassandra M. Dougherty

©Did I Forget To Tell You?

(For my Jasmine)

Did I forget to tell you that…

When you were three months old, you pursed your lips and blew spit bubbles? Your cheeks were round and soft and beautiful. You had a few scraps of downy brown growing from your head… just enough to tie a pink ribbon on to match your dress. You were beautiful then.

Did I forget to tell you that…

When you five months old, you sat in a cardboard box (your pseudo playpen) on the back porch with the kitchen door propped open in our Texas home, while I was just a few feet away washing diapers in the sink. You would toss a toy out of the box and I would stop washing and playfully plunk the toy back in the box. You would laugh and shake the toy for a couple of minutes and I would go back to work at the sink.

Inevitably, you would become bored and the toss, fetch, giggle and rattle cycle would begin again. This was our game and you knew all the rules. One day, I became engrossed in my washing ritual for a few minutes and it occurred to me that you were quiet. I glanced over at you and all of your toys were outside of the box. I had not fetched them. Then I noticed that your forefinger was straight out and clenched firmly between your four front teeth (your only teeth). That was not the most amazing part. Your head was trembling from the force of your clenched teeth now digging deep into your finger. It was not teething that caused you to bite so hard that you broke the skin in your tiny little finger, it was rage! I was not playing our game the way that you knew it should be played and you were raging mad! I quickly placed your toys back in the box and massaged the deep tooth grooves in your finger. You were beautiful then.

Did I forget to tell you that…

You are beautiful now!

Cassandra M. Dougherty

 © Granny Apples

For my daughter Jasmine (My Schatzi)

Schatzi did not give up Granny Apples due to an aversion to the tartness that she had savored for years.

She had no truck with their origin be it Grandmother Marie Ana Smith’s Australian garden or Acme Supermarkets 3 pound bag.

She did not suddenly deny Granny its right to be a hybrid or sour.  She herself could be considered to be both.  That this fruit could cause her lips to pucker placed it above any flirting, fleeting suitor.

At the office she used to work at, each lunch time would end with this juicy, crisp fruit then it was back to solving technical problems for the clients that she loved and who loved her.   This was her daily lunch ritual.

No, Schatzi did not give up Granny Apples because she stopped believing that “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”.  In fact as time went by and her MS progressed, she assured me that this delicious fruit also contained stuff that gave her the energy to get through the day without being consumed by fatigue associated with MS.

No, there was no reason related to the apple itself that caused her to abandon this delectable treat.  On the day that I asked her why, she held her hands out and the reason was evident.

To peel away the part of the Granny that was not digestible by her now delicate stomach, she would need to be able to hold a paring knife and carve away the skin.  These hands could no longer be sufficiently directed to peel and prepare the luscious Granny Apple.
As she raised her hand in irregular jerks and stroked my saddening face her fingers fluttered like directionless birds.  I hold forever that bitter sweet moment.

Cassandra M. Dougherty 11/14/2010

 © Finding You

To my dear son Paul R. Mamby…

Driving through Bethlehem

I can get back to all these places

Here and here, and here

Where you and I drove together

Where you and I talked together

Where you and I laughed together

I can get back to all these places

Why can’t I find my way back to you?

Mom   6/11/2006

 © Frozen

Stricken by what my hand has revealed
I sit frozen, eyes fixed on the bank deposit slip
There between the home insurance reimbursement check
and my name on a plastic money card
it tells the truth in blue ink
on white 2” x 6” of bleached tree pulp
this hand told the secret of my soul in blue
bound to fill in the blanks
prompted for the date
I wrote the honest to Gods truth
Ignoring the crushing pressure of this work day
Despite the deer I nearly hit tonight that would have delivered me to kingdom come
At the “Y” I pushed aside the urgency of each spirit hungry child that peered into me
They sucked my vulnerability dry and called me to stay with them forever
Yes, even forgot the face of the man that I love, my daughter, his daughters, our lives together
Tonight, just hours after a day of proving for the 53rd year
proving for the 19345th day that
I was better than every non-black person expected me to be
Just two hours after kissing eternity’s furry tan ass and living to write this
One hour after turning my eyes away from withering spirits clawing at the light in me
Only minutes after looking pure love in the face
His radiant green blue gaze took me
for a second
back to yesterday’s caresses and the sweet smell of love
Yet none of this could hold me
Not one experience could shield me
Lock me away
Take me away
Insulate me from the place I live in
Sure that work did work with my ego to block it
Certain that brushes with my own mortality would keep me in the present
The needs of other would consume any torn and swollen place in my heart
and love, ah yes sweet and sticky love
will surly ooze into gaps
coating every pain and sealing it away
The broad smiles of loving daughters will seal it up tight
never to be seen again
but no
there it is
rearing it’s ugly bleeding face
un-healed tendrils
pulling me in again
out of the blue
blue ink
tell me what I think
day in and day out
Frozen I stare at it telling
Yelling my truth
Frozen I stare
Shocked as if I were the last to know
Not today’s date
She steps out of my skin
snatches the pen from my hand
tells of the pain that cycles through me for eleven years now
she shouts “NO!
You haven’t forgotten him!
You never will!
Not even for a split second!”
and writes to me
“Here I will prove it to you in BLUE ink and WHITE paper.”
This day, this day, this day, this day, is all there is
This day is March 16, 1990 again and again and this day will burn blue ink into your hand forever
Let me take your hand and prove it again and again and again, when you least expect it
I will tell you again what you think…
March 16, 1990
I am sorry, so sorry Paul
that I could not be there for you
So sorry that I could not protect you
from this brutal world
That I did not teach you how to fight
the unyielding savages that would take the breath from your lungs
Each time my automatic writing prints that date
I am again astonished and again
reminded of what is happening on the underside of this crust that holds me together
Each time I see the date emerge from me
as if it has a life inside me still
each time the date splits me and emerges to the screen behind my eyes
each time it plays the scenes out again and again in blue and white
each time it tears another year of my life away
and draws me closer to you
each time I see the date
I see the rope
I see you hanging
and again
I am frozen!

Cassandra Alleyne  August ‎16, ‎2007

 © Entreating

Entreating Paul               Supplication

If it is safe for you             I accept your death
If it is safe for me              let me say goodbye
If it is good for you            let me hold you
If it is good for me             fold into your arms
Come to me now              feel your loving breath
Here in this clearing         hear your kind voice
Come to me now              then let us walk away

Mom     ‎December ‎20, 1990

 © Deep Inside

Deep inside, I scream your name.  Your face is before me, mild, forgiving, and sweet.

Twenty-four, twenty-four, twenty-four, twenty-four.  Too new to know anything about being a father or mother.  Too young to know about the pain of burying the dead.  Such a tender soul you are.

I drive to Buford, NC every day at 150 mph, determined to rescue you, the way a mother should.  I reach Buford and I am too late.  I see you, I see the rope, I see my failure to protect my only son.

The scream comes up slowly at first, from deep inside me.  It starts in the womb that nurtured you, up past my shattered heart.

This scream emits from my mouth, my ears, my eyes, my nostrils.  This scream is a single sound, one pitch, one syllable, and it does not end.

This scream is a constant and it goes on and on in the background of my life, like “white noise”.  Were it not for the volume, I could call it a hum.  Were it not for the pain, I could name it companion.

Thirteen years, three months, and thirteen days of hearing one single unending scream deep inside.

Some days, I come home and the house is empty.  At first I leap at the chance to sit and relax, but in minutes, the scream, the “white noise”, moves from the background to the foreground.  This scream grabs me and spins my body like a tornado.  I am lashed against the sound.  This scream rips flesh from my bones as it pushes to emerge from deep inside.

In one sound, one scream I am begging aloud to see my son again, to hold him again, heal again, to feel peace and calm deep inside.

Cassandra M. Dougherty April 13, 2004


1 thought on “Cassandra’s Children

  1. How can I not known he died on 3/16? I always thought and have mourned on March 15th 1990 all these years.
    Beautiful poem, he was a beautiful soul

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