Friday, February 27, 2009

Stages of Grief

First Stage

Unwilling to wait

for the secession of breath

from history

I study the Tarot


and ephemerides

Seeking arrest in arcane rituals

succour on phantom altars

hope in despair’s wake

Like a prodigy

lapping the stages of grief

I advance to immobility

Second Stage

“Take your support where you find it”

advised a sister

who inherited in a day

five children to her four

Plus parents

made a soccer team

Mick Jagger screamed

“You don’t always get what you want.”

A gift with consequences

and rewards

Beatification assured

Third Stage

Tears like acid rain

she weeps in plain sight


excoriating the whole world

with her pain

That one is tragic


wears suffering like a badge

Fourth Stage

Betrayal has its own aroma

scenting victim

and transgressor

Your organs betray you

flickering off and off

You said, “I thought

they’d make an exception

in my case”

when you talked of death

It made me wince

Fifth Stage

I gaze upon my fingertips

I pray the incantation

to write you into my being

So many words have flowed

between us

So many joys we’ve shared

So many words forsake us

So many worlds unshared

Obedience to biology

Surrender to the Wheel

I am comforted

by contemplation

of your molecules

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Last Word

Where do you suppose
the urge for self-immolation
comes from?

An inability to rest upon laurels
An unquenchable itch
to pick at scabs
A quest for absolutes
A final piercing 
sharp tongues poised
A bullet to the head
“Make sure he’s dead!”

All hands upon the oars
that push us round
and round

Who can tell mutton
from goats not sheep
the bespoken
from the coveted
the forgiven
from the merely guilty
Looks deceive

All lips pursed to speak
cacophony of reason
and bunk
Infinity of syllables
Inanity of yearning 
for the last word


Wonder like miasma intrudes

Seeking guidance in foreign terrain

my fingers trace

the hole in my chest

my heart’s domain

I wonder if it’s possible

to scoop up the good times

horde them like a precious salve

anoint when needed


to coax a smile

in a fading afternoon

I wonder if you can see

through my lies

made up excuses

for staying one more

one more hour

I am brave for a day

for a night

for as long as it takes

I’ve sworn myself to silence

I wonder if the muscle disappearing

under your skin

will reveal the bones broken

in childhood accidents

if the memories dropping like bombs

from the hatches of your mind

will reveal the absence of you

Wonder is a gift best given

to the young

whose blood affirms life

unimpeded by anticipated grief

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Hitting the Spiritual Reset Button

In mid-January, I evacuated our country home because of a fast-moving fire, whipped by 80 mph winds that had blown the trash bins down the road several times that morning. A reverse 911 call instructed everyone in the neighborhood to evacuate.

I considered for all of 30 seconds whether or not to leave. Our one road in and out melded with a visual of the clogged roads in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Rousting Mom from bed where she had gone to nurse the flu, I said plainly, “No time for a shower. We have to leave.”

I made an armload: laptop, purse, checkbook and cash, 2008 tax records in mid-organizing. Off to corral the cat.

Animals have a special attitude that kicks in when something important like fleeing a fire tops the “to do” list. Tink didn’t appear at the rustle of the treats package. Damn!

We sheltered at my son’s house 30 minutes away, anxiously glued to computer and TV screens, awaiting periodic sheriff’s updates. Tink stayed on our laps, unsure about a field trip to someone else’s home.

Our house was spared by winds that didn’t turn northeast where it lay directly in the awful path. I thanked God for the firefighters’ efforts and the mercifully minor destruction, a miracle that nothing worse had happened.

Afterwards, I thought, “What a gift, to be required to decide at a moment’s notice, what’s important in my life.” It's like hitting the spiritual reset button.

It turns out that, as much as I love the family photographs, artwork collected from our travels, and treasures that map a lifetime, I’m not attached to any of those things. Just as I walked away that day of the fire, I know now that I could give up my possessions if I had my family safely with me. They would be enough.

Monday, February 16, 2009


A worm spins ceaselessly

encasing itself to change

from humble self to self flying free

Rudely disrupted in midlife

Are those dross or silken strands

My family history lies in a book

back in the village of my ancestors

Each name a word in a story

penned one character at a time

I cannot tell if the story is high drama

profound philosophy

or conundrum of humanity

My family favored unisex names

for the girl children

prospering us with fortitude

In cattle class of cargo ships

we arrived as brides not adventurers

Oh, ancient grandfather,

which third wife wept relief

at the death of Lao Yeh’s first lady

which patriarch cursed heaven

at rivers of female progeny

which daughter, breath resolute,

awaited the birth of Young Sir

Parsing truth from desire

we pick the threads apart

Redeeming the spinners’ sacrifice

weaving new designs of hope

we write our fate