The day my Dad died…

June 28

It was a Monday,
hot and humid and still
while I slept away the morning
unaware of the dawn screams, begging,
the ambulance, and slowly gathering family
as everything in my young life fell apart.

I had a new clock,
plastic, yellowish, with numbers
that would flip to the next minute
and I woke to the arrival of 11:28 am
looked out my window to see a dozen cars
I didn’t not recognize or care to care about.

Everywhere I looked
people were whispering,
standing and listening and careful
and when I appeared they turned to look
but didn’t acknowledge that I was the last one
to know, to hear all that had happened.

Even before Mom
could get the words out
I started to cry, but must admit I
just knew it was Nana who had died
because she was old and getting older
but never thought it could be Dad.

He was just 49,
and important and busy,
and when he was home he was home,
with us always with him, but no more,
and an Aunt fed me weak tea and dry toast
because somehow that would help.

When Mom said that earlier…
I felt guilt, of course I loved him,
but with my last words yesterday
I’d cursed him for refusing me something,
kicking and promising my hatred,
now unchangeably my testament.

That was in 1971,
and I was young, naïve,
now wondering if I can still remember
his face, rubbing his whiskers at day’s end,
cooing love instead of what I did,
praying every day he’s forgotten my words.

A student that didn’t study…

I hated school and loved it
with the best reasons I could imagine
when I was so young,
it was everything I wanted but came
with such a painful price
of learning by unlearning, hearing
what I didn’t know to hear,
my imagination of a world constantly
spinning had to be stopped
to gain what could not be stilled,
all measured by letters and
discouraging questions trying to diagnose
what might be missing
as I failed to live up to my potential
which as they described it
was never much to aspire to,
year after year until
I walked away because I wasn’t ready
to stop the world’s whirl
and every day I missed what I lost,
every moment counted as wasted,
until the undoing of my undoing
began to take shape
and the only thing I had missed
was what I had missed.

 

What is to be found in books…

In Books

On a bright, fresh Saturday morning
an old man walked from
the library with a large book of some subject
open before him, reading closely
it seems, stepping carefully along the walk
so much like every one of my children,
fascinated and eager for the stacks,
little fingers tracing the spines of
everything they reach, starting book
after book, story after story, then
begging to know how many
they were allowed to borrow, how many
worlds could be opened in their hands,
emerging from their libraries clutching tomes
with one open before each, reading closely,
never stumbling with a peripheral view
that just knew the way even while
occupied with a realm becoming theirs,
toward home and each
would migrate to a spot predetermined
to finish each too quickly, too passionately,
even our one who could never sit still
would perch unmoved for hours
and still does, having to be beckoned
back to now for mundane things
like food and sleep, and this is how I
learned to read, not in letters and words
and sentences, but in lives and worlds and
in books that were borrowed.

On my dislike of daffodils…

Daffodils

I just don’t like daffodils
although I adore Spring and hope’s
resurrection, the greening
of life pushing through earth and bark,
occupying spaces abandoned,
but those pale perennials leave me unimpressed;
yes, they are often first, but to what end,
as for some life is a race that goes to the swiftest
which I never seem to win and therefore don’t value,
but these wisps are the stuff of memories because they
so quickly and ingloriously fade, to one humbly
bowing, to another pristine yellow, a cup
for fairies, brave but beaten but persistent
each year with stingy fragrance of painful pleasure,
to one in solitude in competition with
Wordsworth’s sprightly dancing ten thousand
which still fail to impress my jaded temperament,
because I do not wish to dance with his daffodils.

Is heaven supposed to be a lovely place…

Heaven has become a parody
A lampoon of itself somehow
Beulah land made a game show
Answers in question and you’ll know

Why? is answered with clarity
But why? receives a rationale
It’s better, and it’s a better place
Spared this life, saved disgrace

Priest consoles parents bereaved
Much suffering babe’s been spared
And preacher of dear Emily’s fallen life
Remembering all Lot’s wife

Why face it true while dance macabre
Baptism the pyre for faithless bourgeois
Gnosis the alms of this shangri-la

The deserved grave of richly aged
Welcomed passing when well passed
Only then is rest the Bard’s silence
The grave deserved comeuppance

It is no longer God’s cemetery
Adoration is drowned by homily
But in this veil the last enemy prevails
Mocking clerics spinning tales

We gather because we must
To speak dearly of the departed
Doubt given sense, answered pence
Death is living in past tense

Rejoinder due this bare pain
Fear that nothing wounds as nothing
Ignorance defeats death’s diffidence
Banqueting with wink and wince

Welcome must a proper death
Blessing one’s own Golgotha
Barn sour is requiem’s pale horse
Pall bearing a tour de force

Through hallowed valley I charge
Lively in my step, brave of heart
No Ilyitch be I, ending friendless as he
Receiving viaticum finally and finally

There was a P38 in the sock drawer…

 – Surrender

Tucked under his socks in a dresser drawer
was a German P38, holstered in worn
black leather so thick it looked like elephant’s skin,
and the pungent mix of leather and gun oil still strong
after all these years; it is a trophy, sort of, he said,
from a funny thing that happened when driving
a Colonel’s jeep and chauffeuring maps, and
a starving German soldier appeared roadside
raised his arms in surrender and offered his rifle,
bayonet, and this P38 to a U.S. soldier who was in
the war but said he didn’t see war like so many had;
and without knowing better, he chauffeured his prisoner
sitting in the Colonel’s seat into camp
to be met by anxious MP’s and dressed down
by everyone but rewarded with this P38;
he told the story sheepishly so many years later
and was patient when I asked,
over-and-over again, if he’d ever killed anyone,
shot anyone, blow-up anyone, and he said,
thankfully, no, and I didn’t understand at all
why that was good and he was thankful.

The life of my map…

The Map of My World

Laid out before me
is a map of my world that is,
unfortunately, very different
from those on walls, in books
and wrapped around globes;
mine follows a storyline
that creates borders which
are not meant to be respected
or guarded; elevation changes
are stained with tears,
and the earth is filled with
smudges of mis-drawn lines,
eraser marks, and tracks of
double-drawn paths
through the heart of good lands;
most are well-worn
and like ruts that make life
easier to live with detours
crisscrossing at the low points;
I never knew I had this map
before it was too late to
draw my own lines,
and every time I try to
change a border or straighten
a zig-zag my pen fails
to leave an impression.

Oh the places you’ll never go…

A Splendid Sufficiency

You know that moment when you realize
it’s just not going to be your day, week, year
or even life – it hasn’t happened the way you planned,
and that’s okay because what has happened is nice enough,
maybe too nice for someone like you (to be quite honest),
and all that planning and dreaming wasn’t for naught
because it taught you to hope for tomorrow, not just more,
and you learned to enjoy not travelling to Europe,
sleeping in smelly youth hostels, eating bread and yogurt
that tasted nothing at all like the food Mom fed you,
hitchhiking to Kathmandu to the feces covered monkey temple
although you’re still convinced that would have been nice,
and somewhere around Ayers Rock in Australia
your true self is still waiting to dream about stars with you,
that volcano in Chile is dormant until you ascend
in bright sunshine and thinner air, to burp some lava
from deep in earth’s crust just so you can say you were there;
there are hundreds and hundreds of things you never did,
and so many people you just missed and never will meet,
but that’s still okay because if you’d have done it all
you would have burst from life’s gluttony and never realized
that dreams fill you up quite enough if you let them.

We ate casseroles once upon a time…

 – Casserole

I come from a family of casserole-eaters,
growing up in the 60’s when frozen and condensed
were all the rage in a life that was busier
than any had ever imagined (or so we were told)
until the weekend when Mom would spend all day
Saturday baking and roasting and stewing
and creating left-overs because no one had time
on Tuesdays and especially Thursdays,
so a ‘single-dish’ meal was the all the rage
with everything covered with cream-of-whatever
soup and baked forever covered with aluminum foil
to be topped with crumbled crackers or, if
you were lucky, those fried onions, and we’d
sit together somehow and eat seconds and
thirds until my brother wondered aloud if
they would be enough for leftovers and Mom
would laugh in embarrassment over leftover-
leftovers and we didn’t understand.