The WordPress prompt today is bestow.
The WordPress prompt today is bestow.
As certain as its final outcome may be, death is maddeningly vague. How will it happen and when? I do not like this uncertainty. I ponder its unfairness, fear its possibilities. Would it be better to know for sure and therefore to have a choice in whether we accept life’s choice for us or take our ending as firmly in our own hands as we have taken the other decisions in our life?
Death is the only thing in our lives that is simply an absence of something else. A meal is more than an absence of hunger. It is sensation, texture, a combination of temperatures and tastes. Warmth is more than a cessation of cold. It has security and depth, succor and support. Warmth cuddles us. It is round and deep and soft. Would that we knew that death, too, was more than a deprivation.
Certainly, religion has promises of streets of gold, a reunion with departed loved ones, a coming back to the whole, but what guarantees of the truth of religion have we? I’ve seen friends and relatives return to the faith of their younger years as they grow older, needing some comfort to cushion their inevitable slippery slide progress toward death, perhaps. But I cannot talk myself into a fairytale ending. The poet in me looks for truth over the comfort and distraction of fantasy, and it prods me to create my end as proactively as I’ve arranged those aspects of my life that have led me up to it.
In this case, creativity, however, seems to fail me. I feel helpless in this inescapable forced march toward my end. Possibilities for the first time in my life seem limited. Is it the fatigue of a failing body that keeps me from finding interesting possibilities from which to choose? Or is it the knowledge that whatever my choices, the ending will, inevitably, be the same? Rude death, to be at once so inevitable and yet so vague.
I’ve always hated vague endings in literature or films. Torture for me is a book with the final pages missing. Ironic, then, that I cannot know my own ending. Cannot flip ahead to the last page to know what I am heading toward. Perhaps this is the secret of those who choose to end their own lives. Perhaps it is just their successful attempt to not only know their own ending but to write it as well.
The prompt today is vague.
I ordered cottage cheese pancakes with bacon on the side.
I’d heard they were delicious, so I took it in my stride
when I saw them on the menu, not thinking it absurd
until I took my first big bite and bit into a curd.
So what if cottage cheese had lumps? I thought it wouldn’t matter.
I thought somehow that they’d be blended smoothly in the batter.
Not so, I found, attempting to mash them with my fork.
and take a bite of pancake, then a bite of pork.
The pork and syrup didn’t help this dish lumpy and pallid.
It still tasted like breakfast that was conjoined with a salad!
By the time I’d drunk my coffee down to its last dregs
and tried to hide my pancakes under my scrambled eggs,
my friends were finishing their meals, replete and smacking lips,
settling their bills and figuring their tips.
Their breakfasts were not strange ones—neither oddly-paired nor lumpy.
Nothing in today’s cuisine had left them starved and grumpy.
They went on to see a matinee and other day’s adventures,
while I went home to pry the curds out of my brand new dentures!
Next time I’ll order scrambled eggs, an omelet or a waffle,
not chancing more exotic fare potentially awful.
The prompt work today is partake.
As an artist who worked in wood, stone, metal, paper, glass and any other material he could find to project his mental imaginings into concrete objects, my husband had mallets of many shapes, sizes and materials, but my favorite was the one he fashioned himself as part of the first gift he ever gave to me—the musical instrument shown towards the end of this post.
He handed it to me without ceremony—a small leather bag, awl-punched and stitched together by hand. Its flap was held together by a clasp made from a two fishing line sinkers and a piece of woven wax linen. I unwound the wax linen and found inside a tiny wooden heart with his initials on one side, mine on the other. A small hole in the heart had a braided cord of wax linen strung through that was attached to the bag so that the heart could not be lost. He had woven more waxed linen into a neck cord. I was 39 years old when he gave me that incredible thing I never thought I would receive: his heart—as much of it as he could give.
It was the first handmade gift I’d ever received from a man. Inside, over the years, I have put a lock of his hair and a tiny tiny animal of indeterminate species hand-cut out of wood by his youngest son and presented to me. Twenty-eight years later, this bag is all that is left of what was once my union with the man and his eight children from three different women. When he died, we returned him to the inevitable earth and all of the children returned forever to their real mothers.
The bag lies in a box with other relics of our past together: a silver heart brooch, another carved of wood with wings attached and, strangely enough, a miniature computerized hand piano. Years after his death, it struck a chord on its own, just lying on the shelf beside my favorite picture of him. One last dying gasp from the tiny gadget I’d put in his Christmas stocking but then grown tired of hearing him play and so had hidden away, only to enter our bedroom one night to find him playing it under the covers like a guilty pleasure hidden from the adults, although he was already in his sixties.
For our first Christmas, he gave me a large sculpture that was also a musical instrument—three hand-raised copper gongs in the shape of breasts suspended over a wooden keyboard played by rawhide mallets, (ironically, they are not shown in this photo) the gongs suspended from the long horizontal neck of a copper wind instrument with two necks and two mouthpieces, so two notes could be blown at once. When he died, it was the sculpture chosen by his youngest daughter, and I let her take it. Now, the remnants I have of him are only the leftovers that remained after eight children had chosen. I was moving to another country and could not hold onto everything he’d given.
I moved away from most of those things we had collected over the years, but somewhere hidden away in the thousand objects in my studio is the small leather bag and the tiny hand piano, now forever mute, his father’s pocket watch, his biking medals and the other assorted pieces of his life that will one day wind up in a secondhand store in Mexico. All of our gifts finally melding with the parts of all those billions of other lives that strike their brief chord before blending, inevitably, back into the cacophony of the universe.
Some material in this post was posted four years ago. The prompt today is mallet.
Sometimes, to get to that authentic part of ourselves where poetry resides, we have to illuminate some dark corners.
Let There Be Light
My mind is a growling dog.
While I stew and fuss,
she jumps the screen door,
Rude me, to turn my back
on the only playmate
who wants to play
the same games I do
every day, every hour,
because I fear that initial
plodding through silt
page after page
in search of the stream
yawns so wide
that I have to enter it,
to wander its inner closet
where for decades
In some dark corner
where I spank the dog
or search the bedside table drawers
of a lover called out at midnight,
I find the river’s source,
rings and I’m off
gathering crumbs from a forest path,
leaving lost children
stranded in their own story.
Stray puppies—I collect every one,
wild orange funnel flowers
washed in an afternoon kitchen
just before the invasion
of five o’clock sunlight.
All of them I carry back
to hidden places
to rub against each other
into the language of this place
where life goes in,
If you’ve been following me for four years, you’ve seen this one before. The prompt word today was authentic.
When faced with talk of games and sport,
I seldom have cause to retort.
For dribbling, sparring, touching down
raise no emotions but a frown.
The games I play are just of mind
Less physically taxing and more kind.
Using tongues and brains to spar,
I am more likely under par
than when I hit a pock-marked ball
off of the course to hit a wall,
bounce off and into someone’s car
to be transported to regions far.
I have not thought to scream out, “Fore!”
My terminology’s as poor,
I fear, as my coordination,
I will not, ever, stun the nation
with my prowess with balls or bats,
parallel bars, hurdles or mats.
Likewise, I have no interest in
watching others skate and spin,
touch balls down or thrust a fist.
When it comes to sports, I must insist
when the tube depicts each bout,
I am forgiven for running out!!!
This is a reblog of a piece I wrote three years ago. The Prompt today was parallel.