Wind Storm

Wind Storm

the light glorious warms the hours,
asking forgiveness for the gale
bullying trees and knocking them flat,
tearing at ropes, stopping the buzz.
the sharp silence inside.
the gentle roar outside.
ticklish trees and leaves at play
swooping and swirling,
sashaying and sliding,
dipping to descend in a blink,
blanketing all beneath.
yellow and red:
shining then dark,
taking turns, and
letters lined up
inside the diamond,
directing drivers and
distancing directors.
each page tells a story.
a little girl and a maple tree
there in the corner,
offering shelter and shade—
a steadfast sentinel
going nowhere.
like mom—
until the parasitic
organisms and cells
killed their hosts and
left nothing behind
but a stump
and yearly games of  guessing
when the guilt would show
and how merciless it would be.
it’s always October:
life and death playing together,
swooping and swirling,
sashaying and sliding,
until all is a blur.
the grey houses,
the railroad tracks
too young to be there alone,
too innocent to feel afraid.
just the cold gnawing
at nose and cheeks.
darkness crouching
behind rocks and trees.
a snowmobile in a yard
and trucks up on blocks,
woodsmoke dancing
with the mist in the air.

Tear It Out

Tear It Out

Billy’s life of quiet desperation
never before concerned you,
so why pretend to care now?

I stepped in to fill the void you left
when you snuck away with Ted,
taking with you all Billy held dear.

You always were one to capitalize
on a situation others find abhorrent—
your optimism extending to no one but you.

Soon enough he’ll be out of reach.
Is that what drives you to grasp for him now?
Is that why you squeeze those tears onto his pillow?

I long ago learned the futility of trying to best you.
You play the game better than I,
never questioning the value of the prize.

If my tragic flaw is clarity of vision, so be it.
I’ll offer you my eyes and feel my way home,
blind to all, including that in me which I hate in you.

Save

Singing the Chants

Baby Stella

My mother held on to the past
like she was clutching a baby to her breast,
trying to keep it an infant forever.

The bone china teacups
never broke, never got stained,
never got used.

The pewter dish, shaped liked the sixties
(a wedding gift not to her taste),
never left its box or the house.

Her hope chest, hard to close,
sat as sentinel at the foot of her bed,
perhaps holding all of the hope she ever had.

There was the friend who said something insensitive,
the brother who did not appreciate all she did for him,
the sister who took all my mother thought she had left.

The last time I saw my mother, wasted and woozy,
with four women watching over her—
two of us kin, one bound by love,
and a third, assigned by the hospice agency,
she left the room without her body.
I pray she left behind her baggage, too,
but knowing her as I do,
she likely slipped some resentment
somewhere inside her soul,
the way she hid a twenty
in a change purse, an address book, a pocket of,
well, a pocketbook: black in the winter, white in the summer.

I guess no one taught her that the past has to grow, too.
We need to give it legs, so it can walk away when it’s ready

Save

Save

Scatter the Seed and Go on with Your Life; I Mean it

A Tree to Watch Over Them

Plant a tree for me, said someone I know—
as we know people these days.
The notion caught my attention.
What a lovely thought, I said to
the space in my mind that receives
and holds onto all the words
created by the space in my mind
that tries to tells it things.
Oaks and pines, birches and aspens,
crabapples and cherries, spruces and maples.
Ah, maples.
Make mine a maple,
with beautiful leaves
and big, brawny branches
to hold a child or two
when a child (or two)
needs a place of her own—
a place where one space
in her mind
can make words
for another space
in her mind.
But don’t plant a sugar maple for me.
The thought of syrup and synapses
that no longer fire is a sticky mess
in my mind.
Did I mention death?
The person that I know
(as we know people these days)
mentioned death.
Sort of.
He never actually used the word.
Instead, he chose a nice, soft
euphemistic phrase meant
to replace the mean, hard, forthright word.
When I’m gone is how he chose
to phrase it. He could have said,
After I pass.
My sister never says Died.
Instead, she uses Passed,
as in How long has it been
since your mother passed?
and she says it in that soft,
lilting, apologetic voice
that sometimes drives me crazy.
But the crazy is my doing,
not hers.
We get through this life
and on to another in
whatever way seems best
at the time.
She doesn’t practice saying
How long has it been
since your mother passed?
in a mirror hung on a bathroom wall.
She doesn’t compare those words
to more graphic ones like
When did she kick off? Or
So, she’s pushing up daisies now? Or
When did she die?
I don’t think that she even
passes the phrases from
one spot in her brain
to another.
She simply lives her life,
feels her emotions,
and says what seems
appropriate at the time.
Speaking of appropriate,
I guess now is the time
to tell you that I don’t want
you to plant a tree for me.
If I can take a moment to
choose my words carefully,
I’ll tell you in this way:
There is no need to plant a tree for me.
Wildflowers will do.
Then you won’t have to think about me
all the time, only in season,
and you won’t have to worry about
weeds and watering,
pruning and paring.
After all, I wouldn’t want to
have to do the same for you.
It’s not that I don’t love you.
You know that I do.
But the dead are to bury the dead.
Which I guess means that
the living are to go on living.

 

Thank you, Peter Notehelfer, for getting these notions into my head and these words out into the world.

Circulation

Circulation

The roundness of tonight’s moon
added depth to her words
printed on the old newspaper
that happened to find its way
into my hands.

She is a former colleague
who might have been a friend
if our paths had crossed
at a different point
in the cycle of life.

“I sense a circle full,”
she wrote,
sharing her past,
hinting at her future,
and reminding us all
that life becomes death
and death becomes life.

The vines
that form the wreath
are pliable.
They bend.
And as one slides past
another,
a crook
catches on
a flaw.

Branches tangle for a while,
spending time together,
until they break free
and go their separate ways,
continuing on so that
a ring is formed.