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.
We arrive sleepy and bent -
a crumpled wad of desire
for something new.
These wet hot streets -
a vistors reckoning -
But that is what you carried here
my dear -
packed neatly in your bags -
folded, creased, alert.
I tried to find the thing
that made London her own.
But, belonging to everyone
and spread so densely
through street upon alley upon court
she's a union of nations at once -
scurrying about in search.
The homeless prefer, it seems,
to sleep in broad daylight
beside a riot of words.
There are no shoes,
a tired beard,
an altar of water bottles
left at his feet.
I thought about quitting marriage
when I couldn't summon joy -
as if London should ring that old bell
back into awakening.
But it was dinner time again -
and every other door
an open mouth for feeding.
So we dine
so we sleep
so we rise once more
and when you say good-bye
i love you at last.
what would you do, heart
without a cell phone ringing
or me texting and snapping and retrieving
one hundred and fifty times a day?
what would you say, heart
without me having to answer
every forty emails, deleting forty more
and bothering so much with Siri?
what would happen to you, heart -
in all your soft glory -
if you could just beat and love
and beat some more?
intuiting the vastness of stars
before night even falls.
catching his breath
before she walks into the room.
embracing my child before he walks
i remember when.
there was a feeling.
so much to feel really.
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.
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
we have always liked to organize things
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
my hands are dry from all the scrubbing
and i try my best
not to hold on
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.
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
the string of christmas lights in a round hat box
that i will not test this year
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,
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 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.
finally, i got so tired of words -
and the way they were being used
to destroy what we love
and who we love
and even how -
that i quit them.
just stopped writing.
like the fury of a hundred years
could be contained instead
but when the answers didn't line up
and my own silence
started to feel more like cowardice -
i quit that too.
had a run with rage. and ignorance.
i found it is terrible to hate,
even the haters.
so I'm picking up the words again -
like so many wild flower seeds -
and i am throwing them
into the wind.
into the abominable hatred -
even as it tries to oppress -
i am throwing the words and the seeds and the light
back in the face of the darkness
and i am hoping
that in the midst of all this dirt and manure -
our wild flowers will grow.
And they will take over
all this shameful, barren bullshit
with their outrageous color.
for a minute i forgot you.
or maybe it was a week or a month
or any time really -
that is longer than okay -
until suddenly something leapt
from a quiet divot in my chest
i raced to tell you
that i am still
every minute and week and month
so much enamored with you -
my friend, my heart, my gift.
i jumped off the bridge last night
in my heart
and now some twelve hours later
i still haven't hit the bottom -
the immeasurable depth of being,
to slam up against
with something so simple
so i wait.
think about the crawling out -
the accent -
the way back up
to where things are indeed
even inside the darkness.
even with it.
the frailty of being human -
i know the clouds are grey for a reason -
that there will be more rain
but also i know, from it
will come new growth
and this is where i rest
against the walls of a weary heart -
pull myself back out
and up -
where i can dare again
i am sorry for dying -
the way the orchid petal limps and clings -
refusing to drop.
i found all the merchandise a heartbreak -
the way i said i love you with a boxful
and ribbon -
as if even a portion of my reverence
could be contained.
when time steals you away from me -
because you are growing
and learning to love things outside of Us -
i wonder at having had once
my own dreams -
before i cared more about an elusive collective
and following your youth
into the night.
when they forgave me -
for words i had not spoken -
i hurried to use my voice again,
for forgiveness's sake itself.
before i changed for the better,
i broke things.
a stampede through time
unaware of the china -
a hurricane of doubt
in a trusting heart -
oblivion on top of indifference -
and the tiny riot of fear.
people said come back -
there is room here -
in-between the pictures you left,
are all these blank pages
upon which to show you care.
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.
i spoke to an old friend today
who belongs at the beach
but lives somewhere else.
and i wanted to erase time for him
and destroy space
so he would be here again
in a town that loves him.
"they have no idea who you are, do they?"
i asked, thinking how absurd
you can be famous in one town,
and a total stranger in another.
"No they don't," he said
and i wanted to cry for what they're missing.
we are these little worlds to each other
meaning so much
depending so much
on each other for our rotation.
i think when you remove one of us
from the solar system -
all of the other planets wobble.
or, at the very least -
i mean to say -
i miss you.
when i was a child
i very much wanted to be famous -
so that everyone would know
how special i was.
at four i decided
when i grew up
i would marry johnny cash
so i could make him happy.
they seemed such useful goals.
now,as an adult,i only want to be more reflective -
so that the people who love me
can see how special they are instead.
and if i could -
i would marry my husband again -
this time not trying to make him
anything different than he already is.
i know i got a much better life than i deserve.
when i go to bed at night,
i try to think of new ways to pay it forward.
sometimes it's just shutting up.
i don't like mean people
as well as i like the nice ones.
kinda like it's better to be healthy
than barfing in a bush.
some things are simple like that.
still, life makes you suffer a bully or two
before you get your free slurpee.
eventually, if you don't let the bad stuff get you down,
you'll own the whole 7-11.
start with a few good friends.
my pen is broken
from too much thinking.
where without the soothing curse of love -
i might be bored.
someday my friends will find me
asleep in an attic at noon.
curled up in a pile of cards
they sent through the years.
there is a chocolate cake pillow
and a little a little cup of tea.
i dont drink but tonight
i wore a missile toe and mimosa t-shirt
with the arms cut off
to qualify for the ugly sweater party.
all of my friends are beautiful.
they donned their santa-riding-a-unicorn sweaters
and acrylic reindeer shells
and tried to neutralize their exquisiteness with Tacky -
but it is just impossible.
one friend showed me an app
where she could wipe her screen with her index finger
and she swore it was erasing our wrinkles.
i could not stop laughing.
not because i couldn't tell the difference
but because i thought it was so damn funny
that she would try to erase the wrinkles
on a photo
of something so imperfectly perfect already.
plus it was the way her finger rubbed back and forth
naive almost, the finger,
i could barely take it.
friendship cannot be measured in cocktails poured
or hors d'oeuvres served
or even sweaters worn.
but little fingers on screens
and white elephant re-gifts
and the magic of reading the bill
held out three feet in front of you...
one eye closed for squinting
the other shot full of love.
girlfriends are just the best.
there is no other way to say it.
the fairies are coming
in their holiday sparkles
with their christmas jingles
and their hanukah lights -
and you can almost feel the cheer
thickening the air.
it's nice to be alive
when there is extra hope afloat.
and to watch people cozying up
and sitting closer -
to beat the cold.
mostly, though, i like the sound of you snoring -
like a sedated lion
harmless and safe beside me.