#64

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
or breaking
or resting
i could no longer move you?
and what if not doing means not being?
and what if the climber leaps?

for Yvonne

i cannot say why
it should be okay
to have faith drawn out on a limb
        hanging     
        mid air
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 
of having
and losing     and finally   
losing heart. 

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

for you.

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
a living 
and a leaving - 
and both as honest 
       as a thousand migrant winds -
back and forth forever undoing
and confirming 
what we think we know
about life
about death 
about love.

 

#63

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 
or toward.
but what's so is the tragic beauty
of everything we love - 
        dissolving in front of us
as we become.

 

the attic

we have always liked to organize things
differently.
you file beautiful 
next to exquisite and lush and tradition -
your systems become tasteful displays of abundance - 
while i like to purge
and name the spaciousness something pretty.
you bring the color 
while i remove the things that filter it.
you have big soft hands and a warm heart
and room to hold every little thing that is sacred
close.
my hands are dry from all the scrubbing
and i try my best 
not to hold on 
to things. 
still, i will leave your home every time
with my arms full
of certain special gifts
i could not have lived without. 
a poem clipped from an old magazine -
an ancient alligator suitcase - 
the rusted locks and tired lining
proof that you can stop time.
and i would.
stop time.

i wonder how many times i have taken  
the fake poinsettias down - 
tripping over my own feet
and the heavy curtains that line the closet -
the ladder leaning against the wall 
like an old friend
i have used twice a year
forever.

the string of christmas lights in a round hat box
that i will not test this year
breaks me.
but i do not cry. 
only some of them would have lighted. 
and i would have wrestled them around the tree
like i do every year,
finding out a little too late
that one string needs to be replaced,
again. 
you would point out the holes 
where the light is not enough.
where it is dark.

we will fill the tree with color again -
every year with your box of color - 
we will fill the tree to overflowing - 
all the sparkling glass balls and crystal boxes, 
the shiny bundles of red berries 
and intricate ornamentation - 
the precious hold-it-in-your-hand beauty -
the loveliness of things
made meaningful by your keeping.

this time you say go ahead and give the poinsettias away
and we act like it is no big deal.

someday when we have grown weary of the attic
i will ask you for the ladder.
this is how she taught me
i will say
to make beauty worth giving away
and memories worth keeping. 

i will have tiny clippings
of poems and articles cut -
things you saved
and stored
and finally delivered
as if it were no trouble at all
that you cared enough
to save it.

this year we'll get the tree early
and maybe spill red wine on the sofa
or not use coasters. 
we will have known better
and that will be what counts.
that because of you
we will have known better.

#57

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 -
she 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.

#30

i used to think 
there was so much beauty in the tragic - 
or such tragedy to be found in beauty -
and now i realize 
everything, really,
is just a stepping stone
                 either towards 
          or away from 
divine compassion.
Off highway 5 at Livermore today,
a lady held a sign on the overpass
"I bet you can't hit me with a quarter."
I gave her twenty dollars and pleaded
please don't let anyone hit you with a quarter.
she spilled a broken tooth smile 
and crossed herself
and i could see in her eyes
exactly who she was when she was eight.
my husband asked don't i ever worry
people will just use my alms for drugs?
no, i told him,
i only care that for a second
they have hope -
that they feel worthy of something.
i have heard a lot of addicts speak 
about a "moment of clarity" -
and never did the story take place 
while meditating in some cave somewhere. 
That twenty dollars may not have changed her life
but she changed mine.