You

Two in the morning, I can’t sleep so I wander into the front room and take your favourite book from the shelf, a garish, broken-spine paperback, not to read but just to hold, because there must be some molecules of you still attached to its tattered pages. I smooth the front cover, perhaps hoping the book will act as a talisman and that my actions might affect time and ignore the laws of physics and recreate you, and perhaps hoping that God or whoever can hear my thoughts will bring you back to me.

I’m dizzy with loneliness and I understand now why we humans think the heart is where love resides for it there I feel empty and yet full of pain at the same time. I ache for the impossible. I need to see you.

When I was at the grocery store yesterday, I stood at the cash register lineup and I remembered you, three months ago, so tired and weak but still insistent on helping with household chores, leaning on me for strength and resting your chin on my shoulder. You only did that once. I didn’t want to move. I wanted to share that moment of peace forever.  And, I wanted you to know you were safe.

It’s silly sometimes. I remember exactly how high I reached when I straightened your shirt collar and how you would lean down a little bit to make it easier for me to tie your tie, even though you made a much better job of it than I ever did.  I remember the comfort of your arms wrapping around me.  I remember the warmth as you slept beside me.

So tonight, I take your book, and my memories and strange notions back to bed. And I pull the blankets around me for warmth, and I cradle your pillow in my arms, and I close my eyes so I can see you and be with you, again.

From the archives – 2014

Ricochet

Tired times, waiting, fleeting, stolen.
Meted tick-tocks.
Moments meant for someone else’s life,
Descend like sparse crumbs fall from the dinner table.
Mine to capture, hide, and cling to for all I’m worth.
Ricochet your guilt if you must.
Bounce back to me. Soon.

 

Uncontained

Startling crimson seeped across his chest,
Truth displayed for all to view,
Hidden wound of woe expressed,
Proud demeanor now unglued.

Shattered moans escaped blued lips,
Scarred broken heart made final leap,
Across the whitewashed room and splattered,
With love gone, it didn’t matter.

****

dVerse Poets Pub challenge – write a poem or short prose of exactly 44 words, including the word leap.

Festive

Shadows blink, Christmas lights twinkle,  bright white, bright pink, on and off, on and off.

Yet no golden-present miracle nor present-giver appears, two times a loss of Christmas miracles for me, for me.

It seems an utter sham to swathe a house with fir, a house devoid of spirit and of cheer, cheery me, cheery me.

Will hark the herald angels music sing or let it snow drifts, will music change this feeling, feeling off, on and off, on and off.

Shadows lose their sparkle now, the day’s hope fading, the light turns dark, the bulb’s burned out, and so it goes.

Then there I go, off I go,off I go, off I go.

(from the archives)

Defining goodbye

Twenty five years ago today, I sat in my mother’s room at the hospice, holding her hand as the clock ticked down her final hours. This is a vigil that many will keep but this is my blog so this is my story.

Being the only child of a single parent defined my life and continues to do so even though I am now just an only child full stop. Perhaps this is why I write. Once I die, my mother’s stories and mine will both be completed. I feel the overwhelming responsibility of this although I feel honoured too.

Twenty five years ago. It seems longer somehow. My mother died from lung cancer, a disease we both knew she would get given her smoking. I don’t say this lightly. My mother smoked 3 to 4 packs of cigarettes a day for over thirty years. Think about that. Unfiltered cigarettes. They were bound to take their toll. I got upset with her about her smoking very rarely. If I remember correctly, only twice did I raise the issue. It doesn’t matter now and it didn’t matter then. Her smoking was a fact of life. We all have something we wish we could change, don’t we?

From her diagnosis to her death was a span of 6 months. She went for treatment to ease the symptoms but she was so frightened of the radiation, I had to go with her and stand immediately outside the door. She was very upset they wouldn’t let me in the room when she had her bronchoscopy. That day I became the adult.  The doctor came out of the surgery room and sat down beside me on the bench in the corridor. He told me that he hadn’t been able to finish the test because it had been too traumatic for her, but that he’d seen how large the tumour was. He knew it was cancer, inoperable and that she had only about six months to live. In my mind’s eye, I can still see the wood grain of that bench. I couldn’t look up into the doctor’s eyes. I wondered how many relatives had received such news while sitting there. It was terrible knowledge to have before my mom had it herself.

The hospice was five months later, after one stay in a regular hospital ward and two stays in the hospital palliative care unit. Luckily at the time, I worked at that hospital. It was easier to have her there because I visited her before I went into work, I went over to see her at lunch. After work, I went to back to her hospital room and stayed until well after visiting hours were over. Many times she was sleeping for the majority of the time I was there. But there I sat. I sat and made lists of things to do like giving notice at her apartment, moving her belongings, making phone calls to her friends. I love the friends that visited her. Her elementary school friend, now they were both in their 60s, brought her mauve flowers (my mom’s favourite colour) and a mango. My mother had never eaten a mango, so her dear, dear friend sliced it up and fed it to her. It was such a comforting, loving gesture. I shall never forget it.

The hospice was a few miles away but relatively close to where I lived. It was as homey an atmosphere as they could make a small facility. There was a communal table where the residents ate dinner, with their guests if they had any.  It was usually soup and my mom, not always being in the present (dementia set in due to a lack of oxygen) would sometimes need help eating it. She let me feed her but I could tell that she often didn’t know who I was. Her eyes were glassy. Time was running short.

For me, the thing I remember about the hospice was that they had a package of flavoured tea. I drank all the orange spice. The scent of that tea always takes me back to standing in the hospice kitchen while another doctor quietly gave me the news that my mom would die in a few days. Three days later, she did.

I was holding my mom’s hand when she passed away. Her breathing by then was so laborious, intermittent, with long pauses between each gaspy rattle. I watched as the pauses became longer.

When she died, I felt my mom leave.  Her spirit lifted up and went away. I cannot describe it any other way. I called out quietly for the nurse on duty. Yes, she said after checking her. Your mom is gone.

I didn’t cry immediately. I felt dizzy. I had cried a lot before and I cried a lot later. But at the time…

So, yes. 25 years ago. Long, long ago.

E.E. Cummings’s words, though written for a different kind of love and a different kind of situation, express best this defining goodbye – how I feel, how I felt then, my great responsibility, my great honour.

I continue this journey for the both of us now, and will until my own last laboured breath:

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

Winnow

In the warm cocoon of a calm childhood, sleep descended, downy soft
Air inhaled-exhaled easily, soft skin on crisp cotton sheets
Bright, crayon-box dreams were standard production of cosy nights for years.

But frights found their way through unfamiliar movement, harsh words
Whisper hissed behind doors quickly-tightly shut
Secrets came-in-went-out through the kitchen door, heavy footsteps fading, leaving.

Cold shivers replaced blankets as your night cover
No rounded thoughts or multi-worded sentences were shared
The most important detail of your life story spoken casually, chosen carelessly, by another.

And no matter which way you turned your ear to the pillow, you couldn’t ever hear it.

**a poem I’ve written and re-written. I keep wanting to improve it because the subject matter is so personal. This is the April 2017 version. **

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Place

When the car turned off the smooth highway pavement, its tires met dry dirt and sun-heated gravel: a winding, country, almost-road with bumps, lumps and potholes. Necessarily, her uncle had to brake, gear down, and slow the station wagon’s speed. In the trunk, luggage and boxed groceries rattled in anticipation of tipping.

This was Jane’s favourite part of the annual journey to the lake. The smell of dusty red earth billowed up to her as she turned to face the view out the open side window. At this leisurely speed, Jane could see the surroundings crystal clearly. She saw every speckled rock, every brightly coloured flower tipping towards the sun, every tall, toasted grass in movement with the breeze caused by their wagon driving past.

What if they hadn’t ventured up to the cabin this late August, Jane wondered. What if those flowers and grasses had been given time and room to just be still? Would nature in all its forms have waited another summer for Jane and her family? Or would the dried and crumbly flora have wandered off, in search of water and adventure in the nearby mossy forest?

dirt road

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