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Archive for the ‘Poems of a Sort’ Category

Maybe today.

Since you left

I’ve had a chill.

It is somewhere

on the edge of my heart…

or my head.

I feel like a lizard lying on a rock

soaking in the sun

to keep her alive.

I bask in the memories

waiting for them to warm my heart.

Maybe today.

But, so far, I feel the same.

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The Shape of Love

And I do not immediately recognize the feeling as grief.  It has been gone for so long.  Yet suddenly and without warning it is back.  I have tears in my eyes and my heart is breaking.

 

You smell like boy sweat even though you have told me that you showered.  I think you lied.  I agree to snuggle with you in your bed because you are nine and I know that these moments are going to end soon.  I am really sleepy and as I am drifting off to sleep I have a somewhat misplaced thought.  I am thinking of a high school teacher that I had.  I think she died of cancer, she was part of the Historical Society, and that she always wore dresses.  But I can’t remember her name.  For a moment I am irrationally obsessed.  Then I think of mom.  I think that if she were alive, I would call her up tomorrow.  I would ask her the name of this teacher.  As quickly as I was obsessed with remembering some seemingly insignificant name, I am overwhelmingly distressed over not being able to call up my dead mother.  Particularly distressful is that I know precisely how our conversation would unfold.  I play the tape in my mind.

Hi, mom.

Hello, sweetie.  It has been two years since I have heard her voice?  I am struck that I cannot remember exactly how long.  Has it been three?  It occurs to me that after the first 365 days of being without mom I have literally stopped counting.  And yet I can hear the voice so clearly in my ear.

It’s me.  Then we would exchange small talk.  How is the weather there?  Hot.  Yeah, it’s hot here, too.

Then I would say Ma, remember that high school teacher I had?  She always wore dresses, and spoke with a lisp.  She was in the Historical Society. 

She would say Oh, you must mean Ms. So-and-s0.

Yes.  I would say.  The world being put right for some trivial reason that matters to no one in particular.

Why were you thinking about her?

Did she die of cancer?

Yes, honey.  Don’t you remember she had that long battle with breast cancer, then when she died her husband was devastated?  They had just bought that house out in the country?

Oh, yeah.  Now I do remember.  Whether I actually do remember or not being totally insignificant.  It is more the needing her that matters so much to me.  And insanely just knowing that Ms. So-and-so did die of cancer, her husband devastated has brought me peace.

I am deeply jolted by these thoughts of mom and I open my eyes to get my bearings.  I look over at you and tussle your hair gently.  I want to talk to you.  Your eyes are closed, your breathing heavy, and I am sure you are asleep.  I want to wake you because selfishly I do not want to be alone with what I know now to be my grief.  I consider it.  As if you have heard my thoughts you say What? with your eyes still closed.

I say simply and immediately knowing that you will understand, I miss Grammy.  Since you were born I call my own mother Grammy.  It just makes sense.

Me, too.  You say simply.  What do you miss?

I miss that I used to call her when I didn’t remember things and she would tell me the things that I didn’t remember.

Mmm.  You say.  I know that you have no idea what I mean.  Do you mean that Grammy knew everything?

Yes.  I know that as an answer this is completely inadequate, but I have nothing else to offer.

You consider this and accept it within seconds.

Well, you say in your attempt at a solution, I guess you could call Aunt Lucy.  She’s old.

I laugh and it is good for my heart.

And even though it is funny and it is a nine year old’s offering for a peaceful heart, after I am done laughing my soul is bare.  Again.  No, I don’t think she would know the things that I don’t remember.

Well, what about Grandpy?  He would know everything that Grammy knew, right?

Yeah, buddy.  I think he would.  And to myself I say, But it’s not the same.  And immediately I feel guilty for having that thought.

We are quiet for a long time and I think that you have drifted back off to sleep, but suddenly you say, Mom, didn’t you tell me that your Grandpy died when he was 107?

Again, I giggle and it does feel good.  He was old, but not 107.

Can you tell me about him, ma?

Well, we used to go visit him and my dad’s mom every Sunday.  They lived close to where we used to live.  They had a two-story house, but the upstairs just had one room.  I think.  There was a box of toys up there and I would play while the adults talked downstairs.  They spoke Spanish and I couldn’t understand a lot of what they were saying, so I just played upstairs.

I ramble on and tell you about the tattoos of the Virgin Mary, Jesus on the cross, my grandma’s name in a heart with an arrow.  As I relate these memories I am not sure that they are true.  But I don’t think that it matters.  I tell you about how my Grammy was as deaf as a doornail and spoke no English, but how somehow I felt love for her.  You ask me about the size of my Grandpy’s sweet tooth and I tell you that it was huge.  Possibly larger than your own Grandpy’s sweet tooth.  We both laugh.

We are quiet for a long time.  I am sure that you have now drifted off to sleep.  I lie there alone with my grief.  And again, you surprise me.

I love you, mom.  And I miss Grammy, too.  And I hope that my Grandpy lives to be 107.

No words will encompass what I have in my heart, so I just say,

Yeah.  Me, too. 

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And the time that I have spent away from you melts away like snow in hot sun when I hear your first words on the phone.  As I chatter incessantly and you “uh-huh,” and “yeah,” and reminisce to pacify my irrational need for this – I am somehow calmed and soothed and lulled into an “I’m okay,” which is propelled forward by the ebb and flow of conversation. 

It is the time after we hang up that is the most difficult.  It is the time that I am in my own house and you are somewhere in your own house that it is hard for me.  It is then that I realize that the “I’m okay,” is only resting water and that at any moment it can be disturbed by any feeling that falls into it.  It is then that my mind wanders to what could have been.  I wonder what you will think about us when you are a grown man.  I wonder what you already think of us.  I wonder if you know who we are.  Do we know you?  I wonder if you pity us.  I wonder if we pity you.

So, I allow myself a few moments of thinking about how different things could have been.  I fantasize about a life so different from my own that it is difficult to recognize myself or you.  Then I stop.

I go into my kids’ rooms and kiss them in their beds as they sleep.  I ground myself with the life that I have. 

Time heals all wounds.  But then I am not sure.  How much time?  How deep the wounds?

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“And after your death, when most of you for the first time realize what life here is all about you will begin to see that your life here is almost nothing but the sum total of every choice you have made during every moment of your life.  Your thoughts, which you are responsible for, are as real as your deeds.  You will begin to realize that every word and every deed affects your life and has also touched thousands of lives.”  Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

And when I read this it makes me think of you.

“She has been with me all day.”

“And by this you mean?”

“I mean I have conjured her up and she has been here.  I have closed by eyes and seen her on the insides of my lids.  It’s been so vivid that it has brought me to tears.”

“Hmm.  Tell me more.”

“I was in church and trying to focus on…………church…………and suddenly I had this feeling that she was there….here.  I mean, it’s been odd.  I have been away from prayer and away from my “normal self” for………….a while.  And, I decided to get back to my “old self.”  I asked her for her help with this.  Y’know?  One night I just broke down sobbing and I said out loud, “Mom, please help me.”  And, I meant, please help me with this, this…………..going back to my “old self.”

“Um-hmm.  And what did she tell you about that?  About this “going back to your old self?”

“Well, nothing really.  Nothing at first.  Then, things started to happen.  Just weird things that didn’t mean much when they happened.  I ran across some things she’d sent me when she was alive.  I happened to glance at the computer more than a few times to see her picture staring back at me.  The kids started reminding me of times when we were all together.  I watched this terribly sad movie for the second time.  I hate watching movies for the second time.  I cried…………again.  Which I hate.  I ran across some quotes that really spoke to me.  And you know when you are just flipping channels or turning the radio dial and suddenly you land on something that you really need to hear?”

“Mm.”

“It’s been like that lately.  Uncanny.  And a few other things have happened that I just really don’t want to get into right now.”

“Your dime.”

“Yeah.  Remember when I told you about the woman who told me, ‘Ask for what you need?’

“Yes.  And then I told you that I wished I would have told you that?  Or, actually I think I did tell you that?”

“Well, I have asked for things from people and they have given them.  It’s just so strange to me.  I have felt my mom’s hand in things.  In really everything.  Then today in church she was there.  She was telling me that I was back.  See, so much has happened lately that I truly long to tell her.  Things I need her help with and then things that I just know she’d get a kick out of.  I’ve been so weepy about it.  Which I hate.  But today I thought about telling her one of these things and then I had this clear thought, “She already knows.”  It was so settling.  It was like………..peace.”

“Um-hmm.”

I wait for you to say something further.  You don’t.  Somewhere deep inside of me I hear a voice and the voice says, “It is done.  You are back.”

I speak back to this voice and I say, “Thank you.”

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And there is a story that a good friend told me that I think of quite frequently.  It goes like this:  There was a poor man in Mexico who attended mass daily.  Before mass several people would approach the altar to “pray.”  This man would do the same.  When he approached the altar he would simply say, “Soy yo, Dios.  Juan Manuel.”  It is I, God, Juan Manuel.  For a long time he did this and for a long time the other people would stare at him for this seemingly strange behavior.  Finally one woman asked him, “Why do you approach the altar where we are supposed to be praying and call out to God and just say your name?”  And he responded, “Because only God knows what I need.  I simply need to tell Him who I am and He will give me what I need.”

When I think of this story, I think of you…………………………………………..

 

Waiting.

“I had a dream about my father last night.”  I pause and wait for some response.  There is none.  Only silence.

“We were watching or hearing something painful.  It had to do with a child.  I don’t think it was my child.  I think it was someone else’s child.  The child had been sick or injured or sad, but was now better.  I was sitting to my father’s left on a bench.  When I glanced up at him, his eyes were moist with tears.  He made that guttural sound that he makes when he is about to cry.  That sound makes me feel awful.”

“Why does it make you feel awful?”

“I’m not sure.  I think it’s because it is too overwhelmingly painful for me to see him like that…in pain.  Anyway.  I wanted so much to tell him something.”

“What?  What did you want to tell him?”

“Well, that’s just it.  I can’t remember what I wanted to tell him – but it was urgent.  It was urgent, but I knew that he wouldn’t be able to hear me.  When I thought this – in my dream – he reached for me.  Like in a sideways embrace.  He held me.  And I do remember what he said.”

“And what was that?  What did he say?”

“He said, ‘You see?  They have gone through it.  They have gone through pain and they are on the other side.  Do you see?  Do you see how that feels?  How joyous?'”

“What did you say?”

“I can’t remember.  But, I pulled back from him so that I could see his face.  It was wet.  Or my face was wet.  He was crying.  Or I was crying.  I pulled him back to me.  Close.  Then I woke up.”

“Then what?”

“Then I just had this amazing feeling.  It was like I was still in that embrace with my dad.  I could even feel the warmth of his face next to my face.  It was weird.  It was so vivid.  And the feeling I had…it was like a feeling of – my dad is so smart.  It doesn’t matter that he can’t hear me.  He doesn’t need to hear me.  He already knows.  He already knows what he needs to know.  There is nothing that I could tell him that would make it any different.”

I finish saying this and I wait for him to say something.  I wait for him to tell me what all of this means.  He is quiet.  Then after I have listened quietly – so quiet that I can hear my own heart beating – and he has said nothing – he says simply and with a definite air of finality, “Your time is up.  I think you’ve made progress.”

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Snow.

And sometimes love can be like a light dusting of snow in South Texas.  It is beautiful, exciting, and real while it lasts.  But, when it is dissolved by the heat it is often hard to remember what it looked and felt like.

 

I did not marry you because I thought you would be a great dad.  I think I married you out of lust.  I am still unsure.  I did not think you would be a particularly great father or any father at all.  

I bolted up in my bed and my mouth felt like cotton or paste.  I looked at the clock and it said “3:45.”  He was saying, or shouting, “Momma, it snowed.  It really snowed.  It did!  Do you want to see it?  Do you?  It snowed.  I didn’t actually see it coming down, but I set my alarm and I missed it coming down, but it’s there now and I can see it.  Do you want to see it?”

I think that I said, “Sure, baby.”

I followed him through the unlit hallway into his room.  Together we looked through his drapes and we saw a light blanket of snow on the yard.  It looked so soft and clean and white.  He was so excited it was hard for me to not be excited along with him. 

I left him in his room and told him to try to go back to sleep and we would play later.  I made my way back to my room.  You were there in the bed.  Awake. 

“Did he say it snowed?”

“Yes.”

You have vehemently told the kids that it will not snow.  This is a characteristic you have.  You do not allow those near you to anticipate anything or get excited.  You do not want them to be disappointed.  You do not want to be disappointed?

I am silent.  Waiting for you to make a move or further comment about the snow.  Oddly you say, “When he was born people all said he looked like you and I thought he looked just like you, too.  Now everyone says he looks like me.  Do you see it?”

“Mm hmm,” I say.  And yet it seems inadequate.  It seems like your heart might be bursting right now with feeling.  Some vague, tentative feeling

You got up without saying anything and I called after you, “Are you getting up?”

“No.  I’m just going to see the snow.”

When you came back you were restless.  Then you said, “I think I need to wake the girls up.  What if the snow is all melted by the time they wake up?”  There is an urgency in your voice that is almost like love.  Love?  I can recognize that urgency, yet I cannot place where I have heard it before.

“Ugh.  No.  They will be awful this afternoon if you wake them now.”

Pause.

“All right.  Do it.”

A few seconds pass and I hear shrieks of disbelief and wild cheering.

You traipse downstairs with three of the four kids.  I roll over and know that this dusting of snow will melt in a few hours without leaving any trace that it was ever here.  The memory of the snow, however will last a while.  I hope that they don’t forget it.  I hope that the memory will last until the next time that they see snow.  And vaguely before I drift off to sleep I am sure that the urgency was love.

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And in a moment of time so small it must not be mistaken for a pause I think:  Love?  Passion?  Forever?  Bliss?  Spriritual?  Heaven?  Hell?  A crime?  Unreal?  Painful?  Degrading?  Forced?  Bribery?  Mistaken?  Worthy?  Unworthy?  Too much?  Too little?  Revenge?  Make-up?  Illegal?  Legal?  Fun?  Randy?  Eddie?  Ugly?  Beautiful?  Kinky?  Normal?  And even as I mumble a clinical response I cringe at its inadequacy.

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