Thursday, December 16, 2010

Four Years: Grief Part III

Four years -

it could be a lifetime.

I see your girls, I knew your life;
I see you everywhere still, on the streets,
in the bookstore,
at the market,
as I drive by

where you used to live.

Now you only live
in my mind, in our hearts.

You died so young.
You lived so well

that it’s hard for us all
to live without you.

Pain doesn’t really lessen
nor does grief subside.
It’s a familiar ache, still a stunning loss

and one that I won’t ever
truly comprehend.

Grief Parts I and II here

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Women of the Congo

Women of the Congo singing,
we will never be broken -

brutality rampant babies crying 
six nine ten men guns firing
bayonets slicing lives organs
in shreds no place left for love
fragments feebly stitched disease spreading
babies dying beautiful women singing,
we will not be broken -
no worth no bride price abandoned
shunned bodies maimed diseased
gang banged cruelty soldiers
seed harvested hateful intent

sing out sing out, they cannot take me -

bodies shattered spirit courage

they do not know me

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


You hover,

a nameless face in
the corner of the room.

A faceless shadow
in each family picture;
the whoosh of a stirring breeze
through the silent room -
the prickly sensation
down the back of my spine.

I sense you with us,
and yet not with us;
the pain that never quite leaves.

You hover.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

I Am

I am
the piece that 
no longer fits; 

the single note
that won't complete 
your song. 

An exquisite 
gem in the simplest 
of settings; 

it was never 
your reflected light 
that made me shine.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


Grieving, dear son,
is what you are doing.

The sadness you feel
isn't self-inflicted, but
a slow insidious rise
from so deep inside;

all those faraway places
you thought had been
left long, long ago behind. 

A lullaby turned elegy,
and bright memories discolored
or were they just mis-colored –

the more recent, hastily drawn
pencil sketches, not quite complete,
some partially erased.

None are what
we expected them to be.

When you hear
the tales, or watch others,
knowing what might
have been or what never should be,

it is grief that you are feeling,
not pity, not just sorrow –
there's been no body to bury,

but he's gone just the same.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Sage Advice

You tell me
that dots will not connect
in rooms painted
by children.

Any persistent
search for intrinsic patterns
makes no more sense
than an attempt to
count the stars.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Things Shift

Things shift.

you had to reach
up avariciously

for me.


parts of me
gravitate easily

down to

Friday, April 23, 2010

I Washed Over You

I washed over you,
a desperate beat -
tsunami in minor,
so little left in its wake.

The steady trickle -
does it keep you up at night?

Dust-laden crevices
edge the window pane;
the screen scarcely guards
against imaginings of what lies 
in the shadowed darkness 
of the wooded yard and beyond.

Straight flushed
from your life, or is it mine?
I ebbed to your flow, bobbing
while you were sinking.

Victims aren't always preyed 
upon, or left hapless on the shore.

I said, 

Swim, swim, I'll help you.
Don't look back now.
Just breathe.

You chose to settle in the foam.

Many Dislikes

I said,

You're a man
of many dislikes.

He nodded.

Yeah, but I still dislike you most.

Pure Fiction Straight from Me

he said
'you write these words
on a page, and I can't 
even figure out what is real
and what you've made up.

you tell me 
that you are not your poem,
but I'm seeing things I don't 
really like and sometimes 
it's a little too true.'

she said
'just take the things 
you really like and assume 
that they're all about you, 
and anything that wears on 
your mind is pure fiction 
straight from me.'

She Carried the World

She carried the world
with the steady strength
of her back, and never questioned
whether the weight would someday
wear her straight down into
bowels so deep with slopes so smooth
that the anticipated ascent would
most likely never come.

She smiled and joked
regardless of what swirled about,
debris left scattered throughout
with little thought of who would be
left to help pick up the mess,
and eventually the cluttered landscape
would be hers, and hers alone,
to deal with and to claim.

Shades of Brown and Beige

I weave in shades of
brown and beige, earthy tones
in ecru and fallow, sienna
and raw umber; a serene canvas
to offset the tumultuous flow
of coppery auburn and
bittersweet sepia-tinged hue.

It once held black and white,
brilliant splashes of red and gold,
purple warmth and variegated shades –
the tapestry a vivid fusion, overwhelmingly
suffocating with its weight.
The colors still call to me;
the palette not yet clean.

I incrementally lose myself
in shadows of brown and beige.

Grief (Parts I and II)

For Cheryl

And in the end it didn't matter what we did or 
didn't do or what we had planned – it all came 
and went way too fast and now you're gone and
I can't even wrap my head around why or where 
or how someone so young and alive could be gone
so fast when I still have your books and you have 
the first half of my new book on CD. There's friends 
we shared that we only knew through each other 
and I have to wonder if I'll see any of them again 
and if I do will we get beyond you. Will there come 
a time when I don't start to forward an e-mail or 
pick up the phone or watch a movie and wonder if 
you've seen it yet and think the book was better than 
the film or if it was just a total dud all around. Who 
will have forty custard cups for candle holders on 
fifteen minutes notice, extra toothbrushes in their trunk, 
appreciate Tasha Tudor and African drumming (and 
sometimes in the same day), or tell me to do it when 
it just makes no sense. New kids' books will publish, 
theatre shows will be announced, tiny restaurants with 
organic fare will open and it will hurt each time they do. 
I'll have adventures you would have loved. Grief is so 
goddamn selfish. I miss you while I cry for me. 

counting down

there are only so
many days
left for me to remember;
to remember
and chocolate,

the last time we spoke,

the movie we had plans the
following week to go to
and all that you loved
about this season.

a year ago
when you left a voicemail
I can't seem
to delete; when we ate at
that restaurant
and saw the Irish Christmas show.

in less than 22 days
you'll be gone for a year
and the world, not just my world,
is oddly disjointed


seven years
defined by so much loss,
yet the void left in your
wake still cuts mercilessly
to the quick.

jockeys with grief,
and in the end I can only
ascertain that you were
most extraordinary
just for being.

The Conversation

Tracing delicate ovals
on her inner thigh, each one

a bit longer, deeper, smoother,
closer, as he listened,

her words meaning less,
the conversation begins.


I'm not
big on division;
long division,
cube farms,
battle of the sexes,
racially motivated,
emotionally charged,
name calling -
I don't think
that way.

When I have
to pull out the
calculator, figure
out parameters,
formulas, square
roots, metric
us and them,
you and me --

I always get lost.

Wisp of a Girl

Wisp of a girl,
sunlight 'cross her face
hides uncertainty;

should she smile,

is it okay,

is this something
she can call her own?

New experiences
with semi-strangers,
creeping towards friendship,
although never true kin.

She agrees
to almost anything,
and knows next
to nothing of the simple things

we take for granted,

the little things
that come with love.

Wisp of a girl
laughing with pleasure,
almost self-conscious
of her own joy,

sometimes she forgets
and just smiles,

delighted and six,
without a care in the world.

The Wind is a Wanton Wolf Tonight

The wind is a wanton wolf tonight,
giving its quarry no quarter
to run, nor hide.

A glistening muzzle takes hold,
bloodlust in its grip; the prey
icebound, unable to stir. 

Fireflies Still Alight in My Dreams

I offer no claims
to heroism or sainthood,
nor do I protest.

I know in this age old story
that where there is Satan,
there must also be saints.

There were no martyrs 
in the hard fought skirmish; 
no victors in this drawn-out tale.

Hearts and corpses
strewn to the side,
the hemorrhage not yet complete. 

Was it full blown conflagration,
or just fireflies still alight in my dreams?

Winter's Chill

I remember a place
within my own heart

Remember it well
within your heart too

Sleeping late
sleeping close

before winter’s chill
found its way in

and sent us looking
for warmth
in places once

Miss Sophie Catches Bugs

Miss Sophie
catches bugs, raptor style,
on a murky May

Perched on 
the porch, body erect;
her tiny jaw continuously
snaps, easily catching
her prey. 

Cancer in Three Acts

I.  Bone Marrow Biopsy

breathe in

breathe out

hands gently stroke my arm
the delicate touch, the extra soft touch
can only mean the pain will
be that much harder to bear

breathe in
breathe out


hands on either side
gentle, gentle. . .
the needle makes its descent

searing pain,
searing fucking pain

breathe in,

breathe in,

steely gaze,
stay focused,

breathe out.

II.  Chemo and Remission

The heat that hairless summer, child,
I was damn near close to death -
breathe in, barely a breath out;
salty rivulets slinking across my pate,
as I struggled to make that hill. 

Chemically driven, almost unnaturally still,
I could sit for hours upon hours at a time,
occasionally wondering if I would see any
of this again in the coming year,
too lethargic to care enough to cry.

The slight breeze might pass over me,
and if I felt it, it didn't register any change. 
Mosquitoes stayed clear, perhaps possessing
some fear of the poisons that lie beneath my skin.

The irony of remission
is the celebration around you
when you feel mostly dead.
They tell you that you beat it,
when, really, you just feel beaten down.

III.  Later 

She said,
'that pain in your back,
it's not what you think'
and since I wasn't really
thinking much of anything
other than what the hell
did I do to it,
I simply said, 'yeah.'

When you've had any
great illness, had anything
more than slightly serious
they always assume
it's in the back of your mind,
like you've already set a place
and are thinking there will
be a guest for dinner.
And I wasn't.

But now
I'm wondering.

Although, like a friend
that's moved far away who
took all your attention while
they were here – you might be
a bit richer for the experience
but in no hurry to repeat it and
certainly don't anticipate their 
subtle move back to town.

You know
I've been there, 
and yeah, I could do it again – 
harder and stronger, ready to face
whatever comes this way, 
but I'm not laying out the mat 
or cooking dinner.

Hell, my good plates 
have long been packed away.
You show up at my door
unannounced, uninvited,
you'll get fast food 
on paper plates and like it 
and soon be on your way.

At Night I Hear Cars

At night
I hear cars.

I wonder who
has come home
and realize
no one else is coming.
I’m here alone.

It’s not sad
or even lonely,
just an odd awareness
that you’ve grown up
and moved on to where
your life should take you.

The house is
now more quiet
and I luxuriate
in its peace.

Like the aftermath
of a great party,
there’s stuff to
relive and cherish,
much left to tend to,
even more still
to clean up.

For all the planning,
the last minute
scrambling, we made
it through just fine.

At night
I hear cars
and gently close
the front door,
turn the lights out,
go to bed.

I’m already home.

Still of You

I see the words upon 
the page, and I'm drawn 
to your pain as if I can 
fully embrace it 
under my skin,
in my heart and make
it somehow different.

Yet part of me knows 
I can't, knows I won't and 
still I keep at it - a fruitless attempt 
at creating something out 
of everything that you resist.

I know your blood. I know 
there's pain and it twists right 
through the tender edifice
still of you and I hear the words 
long ago uttered of me, the one 
searching endlessly for something 
she really knew nothing about.


it has been many years
since they last spoke
she’s been out of the game
for so long now

she’s got everything to offer,

but it doesn’t feel that way
awkward, wondering 
what he’d even see in her now
the memories hold true, 
he sees them each time
he looks in her eyes, 

remembering just who she was
what she knows 
is still true about him

on the road to this place
it seemed so far away and long
sometimes the best parts of them
got left without knowing behind

even if they could go back
the pieces no longer fit
but when he looks in her eyes
he sees it’s all there
she sees her own reflection
being swept close to his

he likes 

what she believes him to be
she loves 
that his vision is so strong

sometimes love is
a tattered comforter that feels like home,
and wards off the chill that lingers close by