Bodies In My Trunk, Respectfully, Goodbye.


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I know the blue footlocker didn’t materialize into my teenage life like something that Scotty would beam up to the Enterprise, all magical-like.  I know the footlocker came from somewhere, and I’m guessing I got it either from a friend or from a yard sale. I kept the locker in my room somewhere. I’ve worked hard trying to remember where I kept it. Strange how some memories are present, the kind you can stub your toe on, and other things are just so unclear.   It wasn’t the centerpiece of the room, though. That was my stereo. This footlocker is dinged up, dogged up, gouged blue metal with brass corners and lock. I think I kept stuffed animals on top and glasses of tea.

When I left my teenage home I brought the trunk with me, my strong shoulders unceremoniously stuffed it into my Bronco, hauled it up two flights of stairs, and I kept it somewhere in my apartment. I’m not sure where. It wasn’t the centerpiece, though. That was my stereo.

One night, a man suggested that he was going to bring me, his soon to-be-wife, to meet his mom tomorrow, a backwards proposal. I squealed and we rolled around on his waterbed by the light of his Plasma Ball (look it up), and I hugged him so hard, excited and happy and it all felt so right. Later we dragged a 10,000 pound couch I got from a neighbor I no longer needed to my Dad’s house. Everything else got moved into my future-spouses house via our trucks, including the rusty, dusty footlocker.  I remember opening it on the bedroom floor, exploring old yearbooks and notes from boyfriends rediscovering all those feelings. I did not write down all those things that flooded back, blooded back, as I remembered those high school days. I shoulda. We tucked the locker into a root cellar where my old stereo went. I mean, he had his sound system and mine wasn’t needed, after all, just like some of the stuff that came from my mom’s apartment after she passed, and Dad’s house after he passed along, too.

The blue and brass footlocker pockmarked with rusty volcanoes is in my bedroom now because I asked one of the apartment maintenance crew to help me upstairs with it. If I was a teenager I could have done it by myself, but my rotator cuff says no-go. We pulled the rusty trunk out of my trunk and we lugged it upstairs.  I asked the young lady who reminds me of me (you know, running around after her dad, wanting to learn everything) if she likes the Thirsty Camel so I could buy her lunch.  I’ll repay her as soon as she will allow me. I know she will say yes.  Meanwhile, the trunk where I told my son all the dead bodies are buried sits alongside my bed.  The rusty key is somewhere. I have a screwdriver plan B in case I can’t find it. From memory I know my yearbooks are in there and a shoe-box filled with notes from those I loved and loved me. Not sure what else I will discover, but the focus is that this is where the bodies are, a life left behind and should not be ignored.  How will I reckon them, those notes in ink I can still smell?  What can I do with the past that was part of making the me who is not the same me anymore?

I see a bonfire in my future, not an angry one filled with hate and the desire to harm, but one that burns hot and clean.

Crack In The Stone


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For me, the very best poems are the simple ones. I enjoy a simple table in a sunlit room with friends I love and foods that satisfy all my emotions. I am relaxed, at ease, a bit of sauce on my sleeve, a light touch on my thigh, a certain sadness upon parting: I will miss you all but take comfort in knowing I will see you again.  The very best poems are the simple ones.

I sat on the bed of the Saffron Queen and we exchanged many things until her daughter came in. It was awkward because I know both of them, so I went downstairs to fill my fancy water glass to give them time to talk. Suddenly there were three dogs in her room and it was more than she could manage, and suddenly it was just the two of us again. The queen spoke and I laughed and she said I was beautiful just then, my smile, something she’d never seen before.  I became self-aware, knowing why I rarely smile in her presence, guilty for that, suddenly looking for ways to be more relaxed and real on her bed where she lives now.

The very best poems are the simple ones. Life is real and death is real and friends are real and poems are real and sometimes I just can’t handle it all.

Work Zone Awareness Week


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It’s mostly starlings zooming by my work zone
blackflash streaks past the sill where I keep heart-shaped rocks
rusticles, and a plastic shell that some anonymous person placed
one day when I wasn’t looking
(I don’t have the heart to throw it away)

I am waiting for the dragonflies to drive by
misguided missiles on a southern trajectory,
herded mistakenly between these yellow canyon walls
forgotten which way is west!
Where are they?
they’ll be here soon
don’t force larval days to arrive)

It’ll be election day tomorrow,
my work zone will become a dehydrated mess that I will abandon
in favor of watching warships cruise by
contemplating the nature of the clammy quartz I sit upon
fondly remembering Glen and Mike and Fitz and Steve and Lucy.

Sunrise kindles my work zone
predictably pedestrian in its charm
Fingers and face stiff in April’s chill
Slurping java waiting
for the skimmers to skim by
while I watch the paint dry,
rerouting all forward momentum
towards the laundry room.

Ah look, a white butterfly!

All Your Birthday Are Belong To Us


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you would never believe how big you can be
until your bellybutton turns inside out.
you would never believe how much pain you can take
(your mission, should you decide to accept it)
until you accept it, knowing
the pain train was coming,
ready to deliver a full body-blow
that you’d forget it like nothing,
all that stretching and bursting a shadow
a breeze on a mountain you left below
like the chat you made with the guy who
tattooed “always” on your tender skin
or the reason you put it there.

you would never believe how much you can figure out
curled up on a towel in the dark,
a hard plastic piece in somebody’s endgame,
you become your own mother
when you figure out the gore will stop when it’s ready
and not a minute before
like it does sometimes
so sweat it out, sister,
allow yourself a whimper, walk the floor
you ain’t dying though it feels like you’re birthing the whole damned world

you would never believe that the body can shut off the faucet
a freaking morning miracle that you can breathe pain-free now
the clot-o-rama paused
courtesy of healthy organs the doctor said he would never remove
because you are fifty and want a reprieve
but you get what you get and you don’t get upset because
there are one hundred more birthdays waiting to burst through
before this is done.

Morning Things That Make Me (happy)


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Remembering the moon in my window last night
My bedroom air is Goldilocks perfect
My plants are not dead
No blood on my sheets
A mourning dove or two sits on the shed
Rising to the sound of rain, but no–
it is wind, gustyalive
Water murky jade, large water churning
white caps advancing
A silent house
A perfect cup
A pen that does not write nonsense
(purple nonsense? illogic, pity, painful dysharmony,
prayers beside a sputtering black candle in a half-dark room
beloved specters berthed, tucked away safe and I am well)
A pen that did not stop
feet flat on the floor, knees bent with no desire to wander
from this slightly too narrow page — a morning miracle
The phone has not yet rung, there is still time
The gift of choosing which book to read today–
and which one to write

Another tally mark (gratitude) 

Speak For The Dead & Do Something For The Future


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Where there are people there is sound. Walk into a theater before the show begins and you will hear the low murmur of voices. In every mall, church, school, business, even the library, you will hear us making the talk, shuffling feet, turning pages, sniffling, fingers tapping keys or tabletops.

I cannot say you could have heard a pin drop when Emma Gonzales stopped speaking for five minutes, but I can say that you would have felt the overwhelming discomfort of silence. Approximately 200,000 people stood on and near Pennsylvania Avenue and experienced surprise when Emma abruptly stopped speaking. She gave no warning the silence was coming. People started looking at each wondering what was happening, but we realized what she was doing, and we stayed silent. I heard no baby cry, no toddler beseeching mom for a cookie. There was a breeze and the sun was almost too warm for a March afternoon in DC. Perhaps I heard people shifting from one leg to the other, placards slipping in sweaty hands as we stayed silent, thinking about 17 people dying in 6 minutes and 20 seconds. It was holy and it was horrible.

Five minutes is a long time for humans who really do not like being reflective to stand quietly.  Five minutes to reflect on what we have done or failed to do for our women, children, communities, our nation.

When the children of Sandy Hook were murdered I screamed in my head and my heart or I talked with anyone who wanted to talk about the tragedy, but for all intents and purposes I was silent. Tears I shed as a mother have little meaning now that the bodies are cool and the helicopters stopped flying over the school. My silence makes every mass shooting a problem I did not choose to solve: I was complicit. The best I could do was offer thoughts and prayers and hope that the right people would stand up and take on the job of trying to stop the madness.  Today my message is simple: Children belong in classrooms not body-bags. Teachers need budgets for classrooms instead of gun lockers. People belong in churches, theaters, and dance clubs filled with what gives them happiness in life. Military-style weapons (and their accessories) should not be in the hands of civilians. We can do this and keep our Second Amendment, too.

My son came with me to A March For Our Lives.  He surprised me at first when he asked to come, and of course I was glad and proud that he wanted to participate. His generation is getting tired of being gunned down in classrooms. They are speaking out, pissing people off, and I hope that by their example we of all generations will find a way to be a part of the long-needed change. I will leave you with the words of Emma’s mother, Beth:   “Somebody said ‘Please, tell Emma we’re behind her,’ which I appreciate, but we should’ve been in front of her,” Beth recalled while stifling a few tears, “I should’ve been in front of her. We adults, we should’ve dealt with this twenty years ago.” 

If you are so inclined, visit Moms Demand Action to learn about sensible gun reform, and what you can do to help decrease gun violence at all levels. 

The Queen Wears Saffron


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“They left me. The dogs. The afternoon!”  I cobbled together what she meant. I heard the panic in her voice, but that didn’t stop me from brushing my teeth and buying her a Slushie before I pulled into her empty driveway.

I entered the house, de-pursed and -jacketed myself onto her sofa. I took note of the state of her home. It wasn’t until I reached the second stairway that the dogs decided to make a fuss, but the herd did not murder me as she always fears. The dachshunds are a noisy lot but they know I’m not afraid of their “yeah just you try it” eyes and ivory teeth. They flop over and let me love them like the pussies they are.

She needed someone to take the dogs outside for their afternoon walks because everyone left her. I did my best in shifts and had some success as they relieved their bowels and barked at the breeze inside a plastic white fence. She asked me to stay and of course I did, willing to stay until midnight.

I brought the queen a blue Slurpie because I know it’s what she likes. I walked her dogs because it’s what she needed.  I listened to the queen whose house has been on fire since I’ve known her, Judge Judy playing in the background.

The queen sipped and nipped at food which I found encouraging, her dogs circling her wagon, allowing me on her bed. I complimented the lady on her bedroom curtains not because I felt I had to but because it was sincere.  It seemed to make her happy. I understand now why she says her bedroom is cold: the north wall is one big window that faces the Chesapeake Bay, and it’s hard to keep out the north/northeast wind from your eyelashes this way. The view is beautiful, if only one is okay sleeping under a pile of covers.

The queen was strong enough to ask for help in getting her dogs outside to relieve themselves, yet she wouldn’t allow anyone to delve into why her body is wasting away. I find it hard to ask and receive help, and her cold fingers remind me that I am a fool. She apologized for the current state of her home where she served everyone homemade meals and tried to save everyone from themselves because it was her job. I held her cold hand and noted the “watch it, punk” look in Izzy’s eyes: I told them both, “No worries.”  I left them resting in a nest of clean saffron sheets and a gray throw.

We all let each other down when we do not talk, when we do not speak the real. When we do not truly listen to each other.  My prayer for today is wrapped in saffron and dandelion, tiny pollens stuck to my fingers and nose, that we stop and we listen, and we grant ourselves peace.

Branches, Crossing


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20180324_132119.jpgSome might say we make our appointment with Death on the day we are born. There are few promises we are given in life and death is one. So is life and temptation and choice. Dance, song, rain. Drought, snow, and wind that changes direction three times in the space of a day.

We come from imperfect, fragile seeds that force our way up, out, from the dark and into the cold light. We are imperfect, fragile humans told we must go “that way,” and we go with hands that are empty or hands that carry unnecessary burdens. Success is a word with little meaning, like failure. What matters is Life. What will we do with this one wild and precious life* we are given, that we don’t even know exists? What will we do with what remains of this one wild and precious life when we know we are at its end?

My friend is in transition and she knows but doesn’t know. She reclines, weak and full of effit on a broken branch, afraid it will fall, certain she did not cause its withering, fighting all of us and our outreached hands, begging her to come in, come back in, you will fall, please come in, but she knows best. We are watching the branch breaking beneath her. She pushed us away and we turned away and now we are watching her wither at the end of a branch that needn’t be.

My friend’s greatest treasures are her memories of her childhood family and of taking care of her children. We never talk at length about this life, today, or the future. In her best days and today at her withering branch, she’s only ever wanted to talk about her children, how she took care of them and knows what their favored foods are. I have listened to her heart breaking, and the hardest part for me is that she will not allow me to suggest she could try and make a change. It’s hard for me to watch a woman consign herself to misery and pain, who refuses to believe that she can be Herself and let go of everything else.

My friend’s body has been dying for a long time and she refused to respond to herself or anyone else’s push to seek wellness. I listen to a woman whose brain has so little function she can’t speak coherently, and I refuse to give up on her. She has no one else who will be patient with her.  I watched her branch wither, I stand on it and I struggle today to not fall to my death with her.  I will give what I can to her and her family, but my greatest wish is that she believed enough in herself to stay alive.

*Mary Oliver, “The Summer Day” 

The Pleiades Are Not Amused


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“You want me to what?” she said, nearly choking on her raspberry-flavored coffee. It was 11 AM. She was fully awake but not yet showered or dressed or fed. She’d spent the morning reading Twitter trying to make sense of the outrage, impotent, her body filling with her own outrage and bile. Her lips and throat were dry. She pondered more coffee. She pondered the pain in her shoulder she’d ignored for months. She pondered the call for submissions and wondered just what do you mean, call for submissions? You talking to me? She pondered emailing the editor to make some small talk, to see how he’s feeling these days. She supposed if she wrote to him he would reply kindly and she could take it as some kind of encouragement to answer the call, but the man is busy and he ain’t got time for loiterers.

She thought about answering the call for submissions, the deadline is plenty of time away. A comfy goal. She wrote a little poem long ago that would be perfect for their upcoming tome, absolutely perfect, but what was the title–what did she call it? Where did she save it? What file? Which drive? Or should she begin a new piece just for their next issue?  Should she search for it now or take a shower first? Or have another cuppa joe? She couldn’t start, do an actual anything without being clean and watered and fed, who can actually doing anything in disgrace?

“What do you mean, call for submissions?” she murmured. Might as well ask me to divert rivers to clean out the king’s stables, she thought. It’s only been 30 years of shit piling up. No biggie. She supposed she’d get started after lunch. No sense trying to find a poem in a haystack on an empty tank. Her mind drifted into wondering what she should wear today, something comfortable, was there enough dirty clothes to take a run to the laundromat yet, and then she thought about putting meat out to thaw for dinner and prep veggies for a nice salad. Better use up the cauliflower before it goes bad…

A Storm Day


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The morning is so dark as I write, but I look forward to the promise of rain. I finished the last page of a journal, one that took too many years to write and the wind and rain have come. A battleship passes. Foghorns are lowing. The winds are gusting at 30 driving rain from the North, Northeast. It is a writing day, a living day.  In the early morning hours gray but still the finches (sparrows?) were active, flitting, calling in words I cannot mimic. They were rejoicing in the rain, here are the worms and the grubs and they can feel the spring coming, I haven’t heard their ruckus in so long, how I missed them, missed windows open, hearing wind in the pines.   And now they are silent in the darkness of 11:41AM, wind gusting, a candle burning for someone who doesn’t know her way in the dark yet.

Empty beach chairs sit on the balcony holding court
Arms touching discreetly
Waiting for rain.

My Pilot pen, made in Japan (Samurai?)
A full container of ice cream placed carefully in the garbage
Because I couldn’t unstick the lid (all the tricks were tried)
And my old-lady hands and fingers hurt all night and day from the trial
Well, at least I can still hold the pen.

The light is brighter now, I feel I need to get moving. Henry’s birthday is tomorrow. Light is calling. I know the temperatures will fluctuate and I will still need piles of blankets and layers of clothes before my skin can be exposed, no matter how glorious the air from the south feels. My little toes know frostbite, and seagulls have an agenda.