from when you died

there are missing pages in my

diary from when you died.

 

it was not a time for growing

poetry; all the words went in-

 

to the eulogy—which made every

thing else seem meaningless: even

 

music felt foreign and wrong. i

questioned every thing—my job,

 

my place in the family, my space

in the world. all my energy went

 

into finding documents, finding

pictures, trying to find you in the

 

boxes and piles of audio cassettes,

ledgers, sewing kits, coffee mugs.

 

it wasn’t until much later that the

words began to knit together; they

 

were in my head all along—but

needed to be brought to cohesion.

 

there’s a reason this time remains in

my mind: it is a hunt, a meditation, a

 

docking station for the spirit. i must

remember the things that god can do.

 

i must remember that music is for

feeling, and poetry is for eating.

 

i must remember the empty pages

from when you died, with love.

 

 

 

 

 

snap shot

She was thinking about moving again. It had only been six months in this apartment. Six months, and it still didn’t feel like home. Half a year, and she still hadn’t unpacked that room of boxes, moved the piles out of her bedroom to make room for living, hung any color or curtains.

Her baby sister would have had the place remade in a weekend—paint, tapestries, candles, made-to-order colors. Instant cozy. Simone knew what she wanted, and she didn’t let things get in her way. She knew what other people wanted, too, and she had that unique ability to help them see and achieve it—if she agreed with it.

Lee sat in the middle of ‘her’ house, of her possessions, of her many unmade decisions. She couldn’t even decide which name to go by. Currently she was using her middle name—as a nod to her deceased father, yes—but also as a cop-out because she still didn’t like her own name and she couldn’t think of a good alternative. Someday she would be a published author. She agonized over what name she would use. She lay awake at night putting together different combinations, signatures in her head. The notepad, computer, journal sat mostly empty by her bed.

There was too much truth in writing. Too much she wasn’t ready to face, to accept, to believe. Too much she still didn’t understand. She thought she would have had more figured out by now. She thought back to when her parents were her age—and how old she had considered them. Odd how we measure time and people. We think of people as old when they have gained a certain amount of knowledge and experience—but at the same time we label them as out of touch, as if we can’t have both at the same time. We want to swoop in and brush up against their knowledge and experience from time to time, but we don’t want to touch them. We don’t want them touching us or our ideas or outcomes.

Suddenly she heard church bells, which reminded her that it was Sunday. 10:46 a.m. A call to worship. She had never heard those bells before. She pictured people coming out of their doors, gathering on the sidewalk, walking to the big, brick church on the corner with the giant stained-glass eye that watched over the town. Driving past at night, headlights would hit the window and light up a massive image of Mary and Christ, side by side, looking somber under their halos. Their eyes would stare back at you, into you, with that shimmering light, and you had to remind yourself that it was trickery—the work of physics and man-made headlamps.

Her coffee sat cooling in her hands as she stared out the window, past the cat, past the fighting, fledgling tree in the front yard, past the street and the neighbors’ houses and the skyline. She needed to get away, to go somewhere she had never been, to meet people she had never met. She needed, deep in her core, to find herself, her name, her color, her sound.

“Mom!” a voice shouted from the hallway. “We’re out of toilet paper!”

Lee sighed and stretched and rose from the couch.

“Coming!” she called back as she made her way to the linen closet.

She had never had a linen closet before. She thought it was going to be so great, to have a place for all those ointments and products and sheets and towels and things that had cluttered up her bathroom before. Now the closet was stuffed to the brim with every manner of item which did not belong, which begged for order, which sat hidden all day on a dark shelf.

fill

we fill, you fill,

they fill;

fill it up,

top it off,

until it breaks—

over and over:

this tiny fist of a machine

inside a bigger machine with

too many inputs and not

enough outputs. our off-

spring crack us open again

and again. we are nothing but

mechanized eggs. it’s not what

we want to hear; it’s not what

we want to believe; but we

are born into it with nowhere

else to go. we stare out the

two portals—sometimes three,

if we’re lucky—and try to really

see: our mother, our father, our

motherland, our altar. we act out

the lines of our code, never truly

understanding the words. the

motherboard is never satisfied.

 

 

 

and the creeks don’t rise

in every dream, a house;

in every room, a hole: a

broken floor, an exposed pipe, a

gaping window wanting to be a door.

 

at the end of a life, last words

are overrated: i’m so confused;

i’m in trouble; get the hell away

from me. it’s not like the movies.

 

you better hope you made your

amends, exchanged embraces,

made your love known while there

was still clarity. the last gasping

 

moments are not made for love.

 

 

 

 

 

what do you see?

the first time i wore glasses — and had to reach up

to push them further onto the bridge of my nose — my

hand felt a sudden shock as i remembered my dad. he

would make this gesture hundreds of times a day; he

wore glasses all of the time, not just for reading. when i

cleaned my glasses for the first time, i felt like i was

looking down at his careful hands, his breath on the glass,

his dinner napkin sweeping over the lens as he talked

about his day at the table. it wasn’t until recently that

i felt these movements — these gestures of my father —

down to their core. they seem like such small things, such

minutiae. but they are what i saw of my father all of my life.

there’s even a picture of him pushing his glasses up with one

finger while looking at the camera and smiling. his face is split

in half by his hand, but you can still see all of that smile. at the

end of a long day he would take off his glasses, lie back in his chair,

take the weight off of all the constraints, the tools needed, the

gestures — quieted down into the night sounds: the blurred hum

of the television, the din of family tinkering around him, the

knowledge of another day closing its eyes after a job well done.

‘a spring wind blew my list of things to do away’

you were blowing out cake candles

with your red lips;

you were too young for us to know,

too red.

it was not a photograph dad would have

displayed: it was stuck in a book in a drawer

in a year.  and now, so many thousands of

days later, i’m sitting in a car crying,

listening to the world turning, my child walking

away, the houses foreclosing.

 

anansi

i found a spider on the kitchen

floor: hairy and black.

 

i asked it to let me see my father again.

but first i trapped it under some tupperware

 

(a clear container so i could keep an eye out,

watch it climbing the sides, trying to escape).

 

i apologized for detaining it, until a guy could

come by and set the spider free in the yard.

 

yes, i am afraid of the things i love.

yes, i am in love with the things i fear.

 

it is not above me to ask a man for help;

after all, i brought him into this world.

 

i dreamt of my father that night—and every

night thereafter; like before, only happier:

 

he was himself, mostly whole, mostly

glad to be with us again; longing to stay,

 

but always having to leave by the end.

mornings always bring the farewell.

 

i visit death so often it

has become a furry friend.