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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Dead Young

I am struggling right now with the death of my nephew. He was my first nephew; born when I was 10 years old. I was the youngest in my family, so when he was born it was my first chance to have a baby to love.  Derek grew up some; he was 31.

I feel the distance between my family and myself more sharply than usual. I am so glad they are together right now, but I miss them. I miss Derek. Selfishly, and without reason - I miss him.

I don't have any art about this yet. There are no words.  Derek was a bright spark... He was complicated- and beautiful.

Derek and I when we were younger...

Two years ago our neighbor died. My husband has a knack for befriending. He and Bill became close over the last year or two Bill was alive. Bill, like all of us, was lovable but not easy to love.

My Neighbor

He liked to flirt with me…
I’d rather give this cabinet to you than sell
Bill, with Joe and Georgia before our trip
it to a bunch of Mexicans. he’d say, My neighbor, he’s  a faggot,
but a helluva nice guy. Good

Bill had both hands gripped tight
to the wheel of the ‘89 Corvette
that he waxed two weeks
before. Thin, caved in chest –
out there in shorts, arms
moving in circles – making
her shine.

Sitting in his camp chair-
watching birds eat crumbs, sores
seeping – eyes and nose running. Slowly
smoking that Winston – bitter ash. Ruminating,
family won’t return his calls. Brother
won’t start his Corvette. He worries
about the battery.

His mom, Georgia, keeps him with her. She buys
him his favorite foods
He scared her when he was young.
Smoked pot and drank. Sold drugs –
one time she found a big black garbage bag
full of weed and –good Texas mama that she is-
threw it out. When he got home he came at her
like he was going to hit her
before running out the door. He didn’t
come back - except for his first wedding-
until Diabetes lost him his job
at the casino.

When Georgia shows me the picture
of the wedding she wonders why he kept
the framed photo of him looking 70’s
handsome with Georgia’s second husband
who he hated standing a little too close
behind him like he was holding a knife to his back.

Now he is kept…. by her. Out of love – but he
is 46- and living at home.

How should we mourn
this man. He walked
without a cane on brittle
legs falling over and again
he couldn’t allow the help he needed,
until gracefully and
without warning he would accept Joe’s arm
as he walked up the steep driveway.

Joe and I sitting next to him in his garage
watching the slow drift
as he falls asleep sitting up with the cigarette
and coffee still in his hand. At the last possible moment
Joe reaches out and touches his chest to keep him
from falling over. you’re so good to me Bill said smiling-

Joe visits him nearly every day,
on good days they talk cars, bikes, music. Joe
knows that Bill needs to be what he always
has been,
A man- a cussing spitting fast-car driving
hard-drinking man with time
to get soft and misty eyed

One morning, Bill is crying
and listening to the songs on the Sunday morning

Amazing Grace and a country
number about walking through a graveyard.
His crackling high
voice joining in, whispering then dropping away to nothing
while tears ran down his face
like he was a mourner
at his own Memorial. The one he forbids
us to have.

Now Joe and I sit vigil, in our garage
two doors down from Georgia’s. In folding
camp chairs, smoking cigarettes and trying
to dislodge our resentments, the ones
we haven’t managed to work into pearls yet.
Not wanting to end like Bill but also
wanting to snatch back for him what he couldn't get.

Two months later, Bill’s brother Bud rings
our doorbell. He has a gift bag in his hands. He says
It is from Bill. He bought it for you guys back when he
was watching your cats. Wow, I said
stupidly, It’s not every day you get presents from the dead.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Relationship with a Capital R

The ironic thing about the Relationship (with a capital R) is that it is the place where you are most likely to run up against your own limitations. No fair! Our culture sells romantic love as a kind of panacea for the aloneness that is inherent to the human condition. Maybe it is partially that, but its essential nature less straightforward.

It is in relationship that we see the exact ways that we are alone. This first poem is about the disillusionment that happens when you realize love - as you have known it so far - might not be enough.

Your Heart

When you give your
You pretend it beats
vibrant and full of blood- You say
take this, it will be a worthy companion
to you. Then little by little the hollowness
and the cracks are exposed
The way the thing skips a beat.
You patch it up Move along, nothing
to see here.
Then one day
broken crumpled moth wings
daub - stick, mud tape
The crowds gather stand around and gawk at the thing
wondering if it will ever fulfill its former promise.

Sometimes you wish for something less - no matter how flawed it might be. You want to know that you are separate, even from those you love. 

In My Daylight

In the thick dark
of the front seat
of his dented Volvo
parked on a dry
nighttime riverbed
wrapped in Leonard Cohen’s voice

beside a man
I’ll never know
well. Talking
the kids
from the Elwha tribe
used to pull pranks
on that bridge. They would
make dummies that looked
real and  throw them
into the middle
of the narrow bridge
under front wheels, screeching
to a halt and almost
through that guardrail

one time.
I will never read
him in the dark. It will
be over after
our first fight. In the dark
of the places he grew
up, I am not required,
to fill any holes.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

I have a relationship with the moon...


Lying in the back seat of the car. Watching the moon stand still while the rest of the scenery rushed by.

Other Night Lights

My dad (who always carried me in
 from the car even if I was fake-sleeping)
 and me on a road trip to Cali.

Driving highways late
at night sitting low in the back
seat. The slow arc of a spot-
light in the sky. Searching
for something really important – 
alien life or missing children. I didn't realize for
years that it might be prosaic. A huge
sale at a used car lot or the opening
of a new supermarket. Really, it was about
the beam slicing like a light saber
in slo mo. Me low in the back
seat, imagining infinity.


It is a hippie infestation...
When I was a teenager my friends and I held Full Moon Festivals. As a result the moon became our communion, our gathering point. We were a family; we frolicked, we watched the moon rise and set. Often we would still be there at dawn. I lived at the edge of the Puget Sound. The connection between the moon and the tides is science at its most magical.  Our low-lying driveway would flood with the highest of the tides. I cannot tell you how many hours I spent - happy, angry, thoughtful - at the beach.


I am going to the water
don’t follow me.

Lifting the hatch and riding
the current, you might see the other
side of madness – fishes and loaves
and crystalline shards of goblets ground
between our teeth melting
to slink between my toes. Where
they came from.

I am going to the water don’t
follow me.

In the foam my toes feel the earth
move beneath me standing at
the center of stillness. All of the turns
I have ever taken are putty
in foreign hands. Tiny sillicates drift
glistening from side to side, looking
for home. But not homing. What you
think I might be I have never been.

Through every ripple I will
hold you. I am going
to the water
do not follow me.


My relationship with the moon has become complicated, as is true for most things in adult life. Now that I live in a city I sometimes go months without noticing the moon. When we lived in New Mexico the moon was very present. The moon is both the upsurge of passion and the constancy of the tides. In this month of the blue moon - I want to call forth the passion.


Stand with me in this tilting lot
wet black cement of the just rained.
The sky is orange to the east and
deep purple to the west. Look up
at the trees and wires filled
with mewling Grackles. Barbed
wire against the darkening sky. The air
chill and damp; I wrap

The way the dark birds move together
squid ink sprayed across
the water. And the sound – Alien
earthy whispered screams.

We won’t go inside for ice cream. We
shouldn’t be placated by creamy sweetness. Stand here
with me. Rub the rosemary between your fingers. Look
back over your shoulder. It is just enough to be dangerous.