Tag Archives: death

Along Autumn’s Shadowy Road

Along Autumn’s shadowy road
among scattered leaves
and ever-blooming hibiscus
a scent surrounds and encapsulates
a time when you were here

Lace curtains and tobacco
warm biscuits and apple butter
a long drive to your houses
the train chugging beside the highway
or heard in the distance at night

Afternoons on the red metal swing
climbing trees
stepping on crab apples
dancing clothes on the line
robust tomatoes in the garden

You came to me in a dream
respectively
young faces
and smiling eyes

Along Autumn’s shadowy road
among a post-summer wind
a lamenting of the past
and an emptiness in the heart
yet peace settles in

Still I stare at the photographs
and pretend you are just a long drive
away.

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Filed under Sunday Night Sonnet

Marie

A photograph of you welcomes
anyone entering my door
It was taken years ago

The scent of tobacco leaves fill my
olfactory memory
Chats by the kitchen table
Home-grown tomatoes and buttermilk
biscuits
Scribbled artwork on the fridge
Crumpled tissue next to the snuff cup

We have the same middle name

Decades of holidays and summer visits
tree climbing
autumn leaf pile jumping
Tag in the backyard
Old toys smelling of age
Walks in the cemetery

You always bought me pajamas and
kitchen towels for Christmas
Now shredded and worn thin

Your birthday card consistently the first
in my mailbox
But this year it never arrived

You always stood at your front door
to watch me drive away

And this is how I will remember you
Furiously waving as if never wanting to say
good-bye.

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Rest in Peace, Emma Marie. Granny. You will be greatly missed.

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Filed under Sunday Night Sonnet, Yep I'm Becoming My Mother

Brothers and Sisters

We parted days ago
but it seems like years 
already

I ride the bumpy white gravel trail
near my home
that reminds me of our solitary
bike ride last week on the Panhandle

You wanted to cross the no entry point
I said no
I wanted to take a photo of the 
military threat level sign
you said don't be stupid

We listened to Pink Floyd
when we were teenagers
saw them in concert 
after a truck bed ride
down the streets of downtown Nashville
high on rock n roll 

Now I listen to them and my heart 
sings cries

We had one huge fight 
our entire sibling hood 
A letter sent to my house 
ended the feud and I made the call

Now it seems unbelievable
after all the laughs you gave me
at the Cape
Laughter I needed at the most
crucial time of my life

It was like we were ten
fifteen twenty again

Momma's brother is gone
from this earth
I cried with her in the bathroom
of a seafood restaurant
days after he passed
We embraced by the sink
and our hands smelled like
that coconut soap there

You don't love the beach like I do
but it will always remind me of you

Brothers and sisters
always a time and place

Take care of yourself
so we can cry with laughter
again. 

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Filed under Sunday Night Sonnet

The Worn Path in the Carpet

Lately I feel like I’m turning into my grandmother.

I’m going through walnuts like they’re becoming extinct. My nana’s cheeks were perpetually bloated with the masticating remnants of an assortment of nuts. She somehow managed to keep them from spewing out as she multitasked between chewing, housework, and yelling at us kids. But never in anger. Always questions, like how many pieces of butter toast did we want for breakfast.

And speaking of multitasking, she did it every minute of the day, but she didn’t do it well. I pride myself on being an esteemed multitasker. But I find sometimes these tasks are not completed, merely started and left to sit unfinished like Nana’s breakfast dishes. She would “wash” them all day long. It would be time to start dinner and the toast crust would still be lingering on the edges of the Currier & Ives.

There are days when my breakfast dishes are still stacked next to the sink when the sun is setting and I’m searching for the wine opener.

Nana also loved chocolate. Fudge to be exact. She made three homemade pans full (with nuts of course) in the afternoon and by evening they’d be scraped clean. But the woman never gained a pound. Her house boasted a pea-green carpet that had a path worn thin from her constant moving about. I don’t think I ever saw her sit down. My floors are tile so there are no threadbare indications of ceaseless activity. But at least a half dozen times a day I will enter a room and say aloud, “Now why the hell did I come in here?”

But in the evening when I’m walking in the kitchen I know exactly what I’m there for. The chocolate.

Nana was also very scatter-brained. She eventually ended up with Alzheimer’s. Lately I have lost the spatula and the dustpan, and for the life of me have no idea where they could have gone. I also lose track of my point or story mid-sentence, and sometimes call my son every name except his own. She used to do this too. When she got to the dog’s name, Fuzzy, we knew she was close.

The fact I feel I’m losing my mind recently is cause for concern. Am I really becoming Nana? Am I gonna get Alzheimer’s? I still know the key is for the door. I just don’t know where I put it.

At Nana’s funeral they played Glenn Miller’s In the Mood. We all sat, heads hung low. I imagined her swinging with Papa at some cool speakeasy. And then I imagined her the way I remembered. Her taking time out of the daily and nightly grind of tending to husband and house and kids to stop and just cut a freaking rug. Usually in the front room next to the stereo turntable. I always loved that she danced.

Nana dancing

Nana always danced with me.

When I have my kitchen dance party, or cut a rug in the living room, or groove in front of the bathroom mirror I am channeling some of that energy.

She is within me. I am a part of her. I hope I’m not going crazy. But if I am, I hope I’ll be dancing all the way to the nursing home. And I hope a bar of chocolate will be in the top drawer of my dresser. Just like we used to leave for her. But please let it be dark. With nuts, of course.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Yep I'm Becoming My Mother

Fuji Pro, Kahlua, and an Old Friend

Barry was the first person who ever took the time to teach me about photography. He wore over-sized early-80’s style glasses. He always cleaned them smudgy on the corner of his plaid shirts, which were half tucked around his round belly.

We worked together at a retail photography store in the late 90’s on the heels of my college years. He was one of the top salesman. I was a Customer Service Associate– fancy title for cashier-who-must-be-polite-to-whatever-idiot-walks-in-the-store. Barry and I would make fun of the weirdos and assholes who did walk in and thankfully walk out. He had an aversion to anyone of religious identity. I had an aversion to the perpetually drunk woman who swore it was our fault her photos were always out of focus.

Barry was one of those coworkers essential to making it out alive in the tumultuous world of retail hell. He made the pain of standing for hours on end a little lighter. He made jokes when the clock was moving so slow we thought we were in a time warp. He spouted off random facts I’d later recite to customers when they asked me questions a lowly cashier had no clue about. He made goofy faces. He laughed at himself. He took me under his pale, sarcastic, hilarious, genius, kindly peculiar wings.

Some nights after work I’d follow him to his house after a quick stop at the liquor store. This was before my wine days so I was still in the process of figuring out what my drink of choice was. I was in my White Russian stage so he’d buy me a four-pack of mini Kahlua mud slides and bourbon for himself. We’d drink our respective beverages in his basement, which he took over as his nerd lair.

He was an amazing photographer, specializing in astrophotography. He’d sometimes set up his gargantuan telescope and we’d catch the light of the stars he recognized like the freckles on the back of his hand. He had thousands of photos he hoarded in his basement. “They can’t pay me what they’re worth,” he’d say sneeringly when I suggested he try to sell some of them. He also had a mad collection of albums he’d play on his souped-up stereo. He was the first person I knew to have internet access from his television. He introduced me to The Daily Show and South Park.

Barry

I went with him to buy his second Honda Hatchback, which he paid for in full from the money he saved working at the store. He took care of his mother, who lived above his nerd lair. He bought her mayonnaise and butter and bologna, the only “food” she would eat. Barry microwaved Lean Cuisines for himself on lunch break, two at a time.

I’ll never forget the time we had worked two weeks straight during the holiday shopping mayhem. It was Christmas Eve, our store’s metal chain-link security gate was half closed, and we were doing our final count of all the drawers. Some last-minute shopper ducked under the gate and begged us to let him buy a camera. Barry frantically took care of him while I tried to make sense of the day’s numbers. The boss was at home eating a warm meal with his family. Barry and I hadn’t eaten real food or seen the light of the sun in days. The last-minute shopper finally left and Barry and I continued our closing duties. The shelves were in disarray, the carpeted floor speckled with paper liter, and our count was way off. Barry grabbed the calculator for the fourth time and it slipped out of his hand, spinning in the air and crashing on the concrete floor below his feet. “Goddamn it!” he yelled in exasperation. “Screw it,” I called back as I ran to my purse, grabbed my cigs, and proceeded to light up and give one to Barry. We stood there laughing hysterically, puffing away, trying to fix the calculator.

I found out this morning Barry passed away. I hadn’t talked to him in years. I hadn’t sent him a photograph Christmas card since the one where my son, a toddler at the time, is waving at the camera. Barry told me it looked like he was waving at him.

I don’t want to imagine Barry in whatever way I’ll find out he died. I want to remember his silliness behind the counter, or crouched behind a wall of purple pansies teaching me macro photography, or sipping Jim Beam under Arcturus.

Rest in peace, Barry. Thank you for the lessons, the friendship, and most of all, the laughter.

 

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Filed under Picking Up Strays

The Knaw of the Teeth

Last night I dreamed I was in a pale white corridor. There was no one there except me and the lion. I heard voices in the distance but didn’t see who they belonged to. But I knew they were there, just ahead.

The lion and I were hungry. I had somehow found a rabbit and killed it as I held onto its cold, white fur. My waking self doesn’t eat rabbits, or any mammals for that matter. But I’m thinking this was pure survival.

I tossed the rabbit towards the lion. A grand, altruistic gesture. Just when I began to smile in self-gratification the lion leapt over the rabbit and lunged at me. His teeth dug instantly into my neck. I could feel his warm breath on my skin. His coat rubbed against me as if it were a soft, hairy blanket.

“This is it,” I thought. “This is the moment right before you die.”

I wanted to scream to the voices. But I knew there was no chance of me leaving the lion’s grip. There was nothing anyone could do even if they were to appear at that very moment. The moment that would be the end of my life.

I thought about the rabbit. And I wondered why the lion chose me instead. But in a flash I knew. The rabbit would be there after I was gone. And my being gone meant no competition for the lion. No threat.

In those final moments I was not angry at the lion. This was not personal. He was only following his instincts.

That is the nature of the beast.

lion

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Filed under Weird Dreams

Threes

It comes in threes. That’s what I’ve always heard and that’s what we seem to experience when it comes to deaths. First it was Philip Seymour Hoffman. Now Harold Ramis. Who will be next? I dreamed last night there was only one remaining Beatle. I didn’t have an image of Ringo so it must have been Paul. I’m hoping this is not a prediction dream. I’m hoping it has to do with perseverance or honing in on my creativity or whatever the cerebral cortex is having me work through at 3am.

A few days before Hoffman died I watched The Big Lebowski. Hadn’t seen the film since it came out in ’98. It was even better than I remembered. I could relate to the main character “the Dude” played by Jeff Bridges in his passive way of dealing with the world and the fact that my choice of drink in the late 90’s was also a White Russian. Another facet I loved about this movie was the way Hoffman made this little sidekick character, a personal assistant named Brandt, a memorable part to this cult classic. It further reiterated what an intensely talented actor he was.

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A few days before Ramis died I watched Ghostbusters, one of my favorite childhood movies of all time. I’d been craving to giggle to Bill Murray’s kooky Dr. Venkman and Harold Ramis’s droll witty nerd banter. I turned on the cable (which I rarely do anymore) and there was my early evening fun snack. I could recite every line in this movie and still crack up seeing a gigantor apocalyptic marshmallow man.

ghostbusters

Lately I’ve been singing “Let it Be” to myself. A lot. I don’t think this is because one of the two of the fab four is gonna travel to his star in the sky. At least I hope not. It’s just a damn good song to sing. And the lyrics “When I find myself in times of trouble/ Mother Mary comes to me/ speaking words of wisdom/ let it be” and “When the broken hearted people/ living in the world agree/ there will be an answer/let it be” really ease the anxiety of many a despair-induced circumstance. And perhaps it gives some kind of solace when the question is asked, “Why did this person have to leave us so soon?”

All answers come in their own time. Although it can be grueling to wait for them. Do deaths always come in threes? I don’t know but it sure seems to happen that way. I’m hoping no more news is good news. These legends of film, theatre, screenwriting, songwriting, and music will always live on through their art. And they make the 3rd rock from the sun even brighter.

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Filed under Weird Dreams