it’s not the dying that’s so hard – but this incessant surrendering o a life you’d expected to beat. against the odds we made it. drenched and exhausted on some metaphorical shore on an island of nothing. we made it. thank fucking god you were there too! otherwise i would have swam back out to the sharks. just said “eat me, cruelties, i’m through.” But you were there – reminding me we made it – then this. another round of chemo or fires or loss – grief like a beggar lady we’ve simply let move in. charming as the crazy and the sullen and the gone. when i first met you we had longing by the balls – and we dared to cultivate everything – desire, freedom, innocence – loss. buried underneath honesty – all of it true. now this. my awakening is thick like maple syrup and dark like greed. borrowing Medusa’s eyes i sank the ship. and again you save me.
yesterday when i died – the black sky parted its lips and said nothing. what i hadn’t finished was my hellos. and when that black sky refused to speak and the eerie silence made our insides tremble – the everyday suffering people of the world prayed for us. they prayed for us. it feels like there are less soft places to land – yet here we are – living through our deaths like the octopus. a camouflage here – hiding in a crack there. i wonder how many arms we can live without?
sometimes staying in bed or just disappearing feels like a better option than one more pull on the bootstrap or half-hearted acknowledgement of just how silver the lining really is. we are tired. it does not seem fair that while children are starving simply because they are not our own and people around us are ailing and dying simply because its “part of being alive” – that we should have to also put up with some hack job politic or crumby job or even a hurt of our own. we are really that tired. i’m hoping it will be okay someday for you to tell me how broken you are and for me to just hold you without trying to fix you or telling you how fortunate you really are. and i am hoping that once we have all admitted we are worn to the bone by all this busy-ness of being alive we can go back to feeding people simply because they are hungry and caring for people simply because they are ill. i’m not sure there is much more to figure out than that. maybe feeding and caring would be enough to change the world.
Your death is an angry wasp –
a hungry bear –
desire turned on it’s side,
I always wanted to tell you
something meaningful like god.
As if words could summon a heart –
a tiny rainbow of hope –
taking its cue
from some other side.
You were a Diva who understood dying
well before you were sick.
I was a poet
who traded my name for numbers
and lost my death
in a life half-lived.
Both of us always running
to beat our own lovely fall.
Your falling was a quiet farewell –
no more talking our way out of this one.
I said good-bye like a broken drum
while you commanded that heart to stop.
It seems we are both still trying to speak –
Me – a mad pen, tired bones, an ache –
You, a deplorable sunrise
grief is a quiet color -
gardenia who lost her scent -
grief is without an hour -
has no second hand -
the face on a clock, gone.
there is only space
and a vacuous ledge to lean into.
my fear - not of falling
but that i will jump.
when i am a whirling dervish of doing
i can only be one way -
my heart sits on the sidelines
cheering us both on
but would never dare to interrupt.
i come here to be reminded of the color:
magenta fuscia aqua marine blue
a light yellow blouse carrying bones.
flesh and heart held up in the mix.
i come here to celebrate
even though i do not recall the occasion
until I am here
and sometimes not at all.
i sit. i admit. i pull away from the ledge
enough to breath
but not so far as to pretend
it isn't there.
my grief is a yellow tricycle -
empty basket -
under a timber of sun.
my grief is a magical final good-bye
i was not there to make -
with all the busyness
of being busy.
the doing of regret.
they say that is a stage of grieving -
as if recognizing its components
could allow for some dismantling -
but it is intact, i say.
as certain as a two minute timer.
this is how we are given a reprieve.
maybe even forgiveness.
the landmark for time.
when i reached for the moon
and fell out of the crib
i was moved to lower ground.
when i fell out of the tree
and broke my ankle
i said who likes tree climbing anyway.
when i wrote a poem
and you said it moved you
i thought i could write forever.
then forever became a mighty long time
and somewhere i decided
it was maybe better not to reach.
or to climb
or to write.
because what if with falling
i could no longer move you?
and what if not doing means not being?
and what if the climber leaps?
i cannot say why
it should be okay
to have faith drawn out on a limb
as if some sort of reconciling
could warrant what's broken.
there is no word nor sign nor even prayer
that might at once undo the ruddy ache
and losing and finally
what is terrible then
is that we love.
and our loving, like balloons in a hurricane,
is torn from us -
even as we covet the softest sweetness inside -
where only his aliveness has touched you -
where only he has been
i imagine though
that he finds you -
even now, through crooked slumber
and honest despair -
where if your eyes were closed
you both could see
and even if you did not touch
you both could feel -
there where your loving has allowed
and a leaving -
and both as honest
as a thousand migrant winds -
back and forth forever undoing
what we think we know
people are dying -
and also there is cancer
like a maniac bully
breaking our hearts.
i wanted to feel something -
one time for itself -
without another something
to hold it up against
but what's so is the tragic beauty
of everything we love -
dissolving in front of us
as we become.
for your birthday we poured martinis -
threw fresh dough on a pizza stone
and marveled at the magic of heat and cheese.
just a few of us, this several pieces
of one family
you had made for yourself.
we all miss you.
your dying is a lazy mountain waterfall
without an end.
i am looking under rocks -
in between the manzanita and madrone -
under moss and lichen -
hands deep in a hollowed oak
trying to find the empty.
but there is still too much.
an overwhelming overflowing of your aliveness -
a certain surely still at home
i am here
you left me a ruby rimmed with diamonds -
a crimson and aqua rug -
some china and a desk.
ee cummins,david sedaris,the best loved poems of jacki o.
a life of scripture, "everything that is yes"
we pretended to bury you yesterday.
but you were there at lunch
running the show.
and now i am thinking about what is lovely
and there you are again
i wanted to bring you flowers -
lift the scent of jasmine out of the air
or carry the wind with me -
to where you were hiding,
under the sleep-strained sheets
and the empty bottles -
to before pills and drink and men
could destroy you.
but you won't answer the phone
or the door
or the possibility of things being different -
because, you say,
there is no hope -
inside these dark hours -
these endless moments of grief -
this constant feeling of loss.
i say i have been there -
have run full bore into the darkness myself -
trying to get there
before it could come get me.
how i have buried myself also -
under the impenetrable longing and the shame -
and the elusive promise of forgetting.
you still think i couldn't possibly understand,
that no one can possibly understand.
but we do. So many of us truly do.
i once held the hand of a beautiful woman
while she pushed a baby out of her body
into the world.
Two years later, I held that baby
while we buried her beautiful mother
into the earth.
She'd been found dead -
kicked to death
in a crack house
just outside of town.
She was one of us -
someone with dreams and fears and love and concern -
a lifetime of new beginnings and loss.
And it started with just one little pill.
When i call you -
which i will do -
again and again and again
until you answer,
because i recognize that you are ill
and not just a pain in the ass -
i will say
come outside and smell the wind,
watch the morning unfurl with me -
see how it just opens up quietly
into the darkness instead of against it -
until all signs of night are simply gone.
and look how we are standing here alone -
just you and me -
and also a million other people
inside their houses and their cars
under their bridges and in alleys and parks.
All of us watching the light open up -
wondering how we will do it.
what we will choose -
while there is still a choice to be made.
i am thinking about dads today
and how my own died way to young -
and how so much of who i have become
was because of this man -
that, in some ways, i barely knew.
but i knew him.
i know your dad died early too, and yours.
and how hard it is for all of us
to look at our boys, our sons, our nephews
and think -
they will never get to meet him, or -
god, my dad would love you.
i am proud.
to have had a dad. to have,
through marriage and love
helped make one. to understand
the delicate fabric
that holds our men together -
that shapes our boys.
I feel dangerously too close sometimes -
to the essence of things -
how i catch a glimpse of my child
walking passed in a man's body.
he carry's my father's death with him, you know
and lends him another life.