Tag Archives: Death of a loved one



He hovers in the corner less frequently now. His face is rarely seen in clouds. He leaves no further messages as the cats walk over my computer keys. It is true that sometimes I catch the scent of him, but it’s not often and not for long. Who knows how long a spirit is tied to earth? The cats sense him sometimes, as do the dogs. The candelabra with its arms arched upwards and the carved wooden Virgin of Guadalupe statue rising up like a head in front of it, in a dark room backlit by kitchen lights, has given me a start now and then; but I soon realize it is not him. None of these places are where I keep him now. It is only long after midnight, when, exhausted, I fall to dreams, that his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream.



For the dVerse Poets Pub prompt, we are to write a 144 word prose piece that contains the quote “his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream” from Maya Angelou’s poem “Caged Bird.” Read other responses to the prompt HERE.


Version 2


As death came to unfold my hand,
you chose to stay and hold my hand,
so that this quietus, meant
to give the steam of life a vent
and calm the mighty wave of life,
was borne with a much lesser strife.

If we are meant to salvage nought
from all the riches life has brought.
(Not one single wild carousal
nor vestige of passion’s arousal.)
If death gives heed to no demand
and no relief from its remand,

then, at least, it seems most fit
that, before our life is quit,
we should have the comfort of
a single gentle press of love.
All, perhaps, that we can stand—
the forgiveness of a loved one’s hand.

Prompts today are hold my hand, carouse, quietus, salvage and wave.





At times you were the problem and at other times the buttress.
At times my lost direction and at other times my compass.
You were my kindred spirit, my teacher and my lover,
and when you went away, I felt that I could not recover.

I saw your face in everything—in rivers and in clouds.
A dozen times, your profile. Your retreating back in crowds.
Love dies but does not vanish. It has a thousand faces
seen at the least likely times in unexpected places.

Facts we can’t face up to in our mutual lives
swarm around in memory in buzzing swarming hives.
Facts as sweet as honey. Facts that sting like bees.
Niggling facts that seize the mind to torture or to tease.

It is a constant truth with love that one will first depart—
an act that seems so far away when love is at its start.
But the truth is always looming. Death will end what we’ve begun.
That inevitable setting of the brightest glowing sun.

Prompts today are things with faces, buttress, kindred or recover.



A handful of memories, discounted by time.
Five for a nickel and ten for a dime.
Burned down to ashes, their bodies erased
along with the dreams they achieved or they chased.

How we incorporate thoughts of the past
into our lives may alter and cast
the present in molds that are better off shattered.
Better new memories than those aged and tattered.

Life is for living, so best throw away
corpses of the past that get in the way.
Living is glorious, but it’s not portable.
By merely living, we become deportable.

Thoughts hoarded in dreams should dissolve in the day.
Think too much of the past and it gets in the way.
As hard as it is, it seems that we must
render ashes to ashes, return dust to dust.


Prompt words for today are ash, portable, glorious, incorporate and erase.

New Birth

New Birth

The phone rings four times in the very early morning.
I reach between the bars of the hospital bed
I have been sharing with you for the past hour
and grab the handset of the phone,
hear the long beep of the fax connecting
to announce Art Fest 2001
for the fourth time in the past two days.

Three times I’ve asked to be taken from their list.
Yet still, in this early morning
more intimate than our honeymoon,
the phone rings and rings,
as though even as you decide
to be rid of the world, the world is not quite rid of you.

At the end of your life, we pull ourselves into this house, then into this room.
“Roll the pain up in a ball,” I say, “and toss it away,”
And so, just as we had decided to venture once more out into the world,
the world rolls up into a ball of pain suspended in the air above your bed.

The morphine works only as a distraction.
You moan and make broad gestures, trying to pick the wildflowers
you see growing from the ceiling.
You say they are blue. “Not my style,” you say,
as though any flowers are your style.

You grow imperious,
calling out for chipped ice, not cubed, in the bottle, not the glass.
Knit socks become too uncomfortable, their threads pushing against your skin,
so you ask for those more finely woven.
I ease them over your swollen feet–like trying to squeeze gut over fat sausages.
You bark commands like a general, crabby no matter what the outcome.
Finding fault seems to be your new virility.

It is not the tender moments that fuel the long long days.
Your ill humor and harsh demands
raise a spirit in me where before I wavered.
I need not answer back to feel my strength growing day by day.
I can do anything–deal with any bodily fluid, most abuse.
I can take the blanket off and put it back again
a dozen times in as many minutes.

I take NoDoz for the first time since college,
trying to stay awake to drive you to the doctor’s office.
After so many nights with little sleep,
I pound my hand against the wheel to hurt myself awake.

Trying to make you comfortable
has become an impossibility,
and although it breaks my heart,
it does not break my soul.
You are constantly mad at me,
I always on the way to being a little mad at you.
That’s the way we get through this.

When you fall in the shower,
you lie as though crucified,
your body slight now–
Christlike in your suffering
as the water rains down on you.
When I turn it off and reach out to help you,
”Leave it on!” you snarl,
like a dog protecting his bones.
Ten minutes later, you are too weak
from the hot water
to stand on your own.
I put your arms over my shoulders
to carry you on my back,
like a penitent.

What pain feeds your anger these long weeks?
Is it the cancer or the slow hard truth
as your wife becomes your mother
and you, a child–
petulant, demanding,
are borne once more,
this time away from her.


The dVerse Poets prompt is to write a poem on the subject of birth.

Last Small Gift


scan112 2

Last Small Gift
for Zackie, 1982-1984

He always noticed high things––
airplanes, kites.
His long fingers
pointed to small things,
moving things, things that needed to be eaten,
people who should leave the room.

He gave second chances.
Even after I bit his finger
along with the cookie he offered as a token of friendship,
and even after the stout and lengthy 
cry of outrage in his mother’s arms,
in two or more additional meetings,
he was willing to start over again,
this time from the middle,
at becoming friends.

He never held out his arms to me.
He never cried when I left the room.
Yet he shared with me,
along with a glimpse of a heart that could still break,
all of the pleasures first experienced
which I had once felt,
and some long glances where neither looked away.

Usually,  I felt that in between his own needs
he knew everything there was to know about me,
this wise baby,
so that when he rejected me,
I knew it was for good reason.
And when he accepted me,
I felt I’d gained character.
Maybe I found it irresistible
that I had to earn his allegiance,
so that I felt flattered by it—
like the first girl chosen from the bench at a dance.

This baby
that I never knew well enough.
This baby who never noticed the toys I brought him.
This baby who reigned
from the corner of my sofa
under his pointed birthday hat,
never learned to say my name.

But he held something old for me in his eyes.
Promises, perhaps,
that some of the mysteries are left in a life
where most of the presents have been opened,
revealing objects less precious
than the surprises they came wrapped up in.


For dVerse Poets Open Link Night



Sunshine lies today.
It lies on the backs of the cupped palms of plumeria,
floats on the surface of the pool.
The outdoor cat
brings it in on his gleaming back
as he streaks through a sun ray
on his way to steal the indoor cat’s breakfast.

So, though I am prone to gloom,
I compromise with a small journey
to meet friends for coffee and croissants
and conversation reminiscent of talks
with ghosts before they were ghosts.

My bright hair the color of the hay
that he picked out of it.
His skin the gleam of ebony
in the high mountain air.

That sparkling past turned dull
before its ending.
Choosing which part to remember,
that daily decision.
Whether we choose to say
that sunshine lies or not.


Prompts today are sunshine, reminiscent, prone and compromise. Here are the links:
and for dVerse Poets




We were a marvelous combination, determined to survive.
When we were together, each of us more alive.
There was no way to forecast what our end would be.
Never did I dream that love’s survivor would be me.

It’s best that love can’t forecast the future that is pending
We might not choose ever to love if we could know its ending.
For it is inevitable, after true love’s gain,
for one or the other, the ending will be pain.



The prompt words today are forecast, determined, marvelous and combine.



Three years ago, I wrote a blog entitled “Plummeting.” Although it describes an event that occurred almost seventeen years ago, the subject is still a timely one, so I’m going to reblog it. It is linked to a blog entitled “Soaring” that completes the message.
Please join the Daily Addiction prompt site. It is easy and they post consistently. Today’s  prompt word, as you might have guessed, is plummet.

lifelessons - a blog by Judy Dykstra-Brown


The weekend before, we had had our last moving sale and had nearly cleared out our very overladen house in California.  We’d sold as much of our accumulated lives as possible–a 125 years (sum of our two ages) combined total of collecting art as well as material and tools for making art.  We were shedding the detritus of our old lives to begin a new life in the house we had just purchased in Mexico.  Our van was fully packed with not one inch of spare space other than a place for our cat and two more suitcases we would add when we finally took off for our retirement in Mexico.  We had only one more appointment–to talk to our doctor about the results of Bob’s last physical examination, which had included an ultrasound.

We’d been on a high for months as we prepared to head out for our…

View original post 96 more words

Footnote to the Revolution

Footnote to the Revolution

The red clay from the cane field in your hair,
leaves pressed into my neck from lying in the tall stalks,
we heard in the trees
the movements of the shepherd
who had watched.
Later, at the Filowaha baths,
we washed ourselves from each other
and slept in a room
by the eucalyptus.
I would have wanted you more in that room
if I’d known about the bullet
already starting its trajectory through the minds
of men spending youth fresher than ours
in revolution.
I remember watching your shave
in the lobby barber shop,
your face mummied by the steaming towels.
I tasted bay rum afterwards
as we shared cappuccino.
Parked at the roadside near enough to hear our parting,
I imagine they drank katikala,
its bite sealing brotherhood
your blood would buy in the street
outside the Filowaha baths.





In 1973-74, I journeyed to and lived in Ethiopia. It was not my original intention to do any more than visit and pass through, but fate had a different plan in mind. I was first detained by violence, then by love. The Filowaha baths in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, were probably the equivalent of the “No Tell Motels” in Mexico, but for Andy and me, they were a place to be alone, to soak in hot water together and to make love with no listening ears. I guess that is what they were to everyone who visited, but there was nothing illicit in our relationship. We were both single and in what at the beginning we thought was a committed relationship that would end in marriage. His family had accepted this. My parents, thousands of miles away, had long ago given me the message that they did not want to know anything that, as my mother had stated, “would make them feel bad.” My sister knew, but they never did.

This poem actually chronicles two different visits to the Filowaha baths–one near the beginning of our relationship and the other our last night before I departed to fly back to the United States. On this second visit, we both knew we would probably never see each other again. Once again, we had figured out that the relationship wasn’t going to work, and our own feelings were complicated by the revolution that was already raging around us. We had both just spent a month in the hospital–Andu Alem recovering from the bullet that had gone all the way through his body as he defended me from a man whose intention was to kill me. Not able to return to my house, I had stayed in the hospital with him so we could both be guarded by his father’s soldiers.

Years later, when I made my first assemblage boxes, I made this music box that told the story I’d already told in the poem years before. The song it plays is “The Way We Were.” I’m now trying to tell the story a third time in a book. Now that I know the true ending to our story, I might have changed the poem, but I leave it as I once thought it was. There are many truths in our lives, according to which vantage point we are telling them from.  This story is as true as the very different story I will eventually tell, if I have the courage to face up to it. Please enlarge the photos go see the details which should be self-explanatory. The hand I sculpted out of clay. I photographed the assemblage box on the table where I had been rereading letters I’d written home from Ethiopia as well as letters Andu Alem and other friends living in Ethiopia had written me once I returned to the states.