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.
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?
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.
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 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.
i don't know how i became a stranger here -
walking the worn aisles of the market -
recognizing no one.
i found myself -
where mount tam meets the pacific -
at a point in life up until which
i'd only ever tried to lose.
it was something.
being found -
instead of found out -
at the beach
in a quiet town with a loud heart.
i almost raised my hand as a visitor -
at the same meeting that had saved me -
when i had nothing to inherit
but undeserved grace.
instead i took a token -
a marker of sorts -
to remind me that i belong
here with the wind and the salt and the sea
where being recognized is trumped
by being known.
you can feel home in your bones,
like marrow carrying breath to the heart.
Forty is a magic number
like 7 and 11 and 13.
Forty is when you are closer to fifty
that you are to twenty
and you just cannot believe it.
It is also when mean people start to not matter
and your real friends show themselves
and your occupation is only part of who you are.
It matters who you love when you are forty -
because you realize you may be half way home
or on the back nine
or however you say
to old to screw around anymore.
It matters who loves you back now also -
more than it did before -
because who has time anymore
for half-assed love affairs
and broken promises
and the greatest insult of indifference?
Forty is great because you really start to care
about things that matter -
differently than you could
when you were thirty -
and you've lived enough life to simply reply
"because i said so"
when someone asks you why.
At 46, I'm thinking 'hells to the yeah'
just watch me put in some crest strips
and hit Facebook -
i'll write a poem all about the life.
they say all is fair in love and war
and i think that's a bunch of malarkey.
like how with love -
there are so many more catchers
than there are pitchers,
its nearly impossible
to get a game going.
from the bleacher i want to just yell
Throw the fucking ball! Hurl it!
because i think eventually someone will show up with a mitt.
i know it looks easy to say
from where i'm sitting -
sharing a bag of seeds with my prince -
but i'll be damned
if love won't break your fall
if you jump.
i have always known
that i am not afraid of heights.
what i am afraid of
tonight i left a piece of who i am
on the dance floor
because Stefani Keys was playing
and i thought
man, i wish i could sing like that -
like god was walking
down an empty road
and someone stopped
to give him a ride.
that's a particular sound you know -
two lanes. one car. and god.
my friend Louise is little and cute
and i call her loulou because of it.
also she is a quiet somewhat sneaky
sort of artist
who splashes you with her art
instead of drowning you in it.
i admire that about her -
how she treads lightly,
slinks into a room unassuming,
but with a smile
that changes how the light rests.
loulou is one of those people i think
who would never expect a poem
but who sees the poetry everywhere -
"you don't need to rhyme" she tells the moon,
"no iambic pentameter needed here" she assures
the daisies -
"just speak" she whispers
"all your secrets are worth sharing".
i used to think
there was so much beauty in the tragic -
or such tragedy to be found in beauty -
and now i realize
is just a stepping stone
or away from
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.
i am trying to find a way
to say i love you
that sounds like i am saying something different.
because you are my special forever friends
and there should have been some words reserved
from before you were even born.
i love you because sunlight
and acorns and messy green trees
and the call of the wild and dangerous men
and sugar and heartache and pink.
i love you because old old memories
and new beginnings and broken dreams
i love you because you read and laugh
and argue and worship and regret and cry
and demand so much from life
that even life gets tired -
drops a leaf or two,
trembles when you roar.
i love you because you are kind and silly,
ridiculous and mad,
compassionate, cuddly, and soft.
you make me soup
and vegetables and cake.
you bring flowers and worry and trust.
you peel back decades of things that hurt
to let the sunshine back in
day after day
and you weep
beside me when i am hurt
as if there were no other place on the earth to be.
and you let me do the same for you.
i love you because there so many things happening
all the time, everywhere -
but when we are together
to be together
for real and forever
even if it only lasts a minute.
i love you because you care
about people who have less than you
and people who have more
and you share your beautiful inside hearts of hearts
with people who do not always deserve it.
i love you because when we met
we did not have to court each other
like lovers who would date -
but instead we were married
the moment we first laid eyes...
like the best of friends...
because you can
because it is possible
because it is okay even
to love someone the moment you meet.
i love you because you have made me full
of so much beauty and depth and good
that i am having to teach myself to bow -
so i look less crazy bent over -
dragging around this bulging heart
entirely filled with you.
for my birthday i got
a belt of cellulite
a bag of popcorn
and tickets to hear the stone foxes.
nobody told me my ass would drop
or the fine lines on leaves
would fail me
or that it would be my choice.
if it werent for the way you danced
i might have blamed it all on age.
tonight i am listening to a cello concerto
on a vintage garage sale turntable
i scored for twenty bucks.
last night - a law and order re-run.
tomorrow - maybe cake.
it's easier not to be perfect.
people think if you are happy all the time
there must be some lack of depth -
as if only misery or worry or grief
could be measured against the truth.
i think happy is an unmeditated reprieve.
a joy for something not forgot.
a joy for escaping the narrows.
i see how we wear our hearts on our faces.
"mine is broken" or "love me"
and then how we do all these other things
to pretend they are saying something else.
the best part of friendship
is the friend part -
how every single other thing in life
for a minute or a day or even a week -
but then one real talk
with one good friend
makes the blue meanies go away.
when there is just enough good again
to make the creepy stuff a blur,
i feel like dancing.
sometimes grief comes out of left field
dressed like an angry bird.
steals your sack lunch -
makes a mess of things.
i try to hold your despair
like walls down an unlit hallway,
feeling my way through the dark
to your heart.
I cannot tell if everything is sailing
or sinking -
whether what feels like rain
is food for the plants
or floods in the making.
there is so much half and half
about this living -
how i'm certain good will win over
then terribly worried
others won't get the memo.
i try to take a few deep breaths a day,
pausing to remember how we are loved.
most of the time it is quietly -
in ways we cannot know.