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
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.
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.
at union square
i always carry tiny wads of cash
to give to men in doorways
for whom no doors are open.
they are always much too gracious
considering the cold
and the ridiculous wonder
that while i was enjoying the theatre
they were begging for heat.
i am embarrassed sometimes
for how much i have.
2 healthy boys a husband
my friends a job
there are not enough ones or fives or even twenties
to make the kind of difference
where you are no longer alone
or hungry or cold.
and i am no longer looking for someone to feed.
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
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
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 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 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.
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.