Tag Archives: Different Loss

Torn Love

Since today was still another free topic, I have chosen to take the Poets and Writers weekly prompt which is: The Flip Side—This week, think of something that has happened to you recently that was stressful, traumatic, or unpleasant. Write a poem about this event as you experienced it, regardless of anyone else’s perspectives or feelings on what occurred. Then rewrite the poem from the perspective of someone else involved in the situation. This new poem may not reflect the truth, but sometimes it’s important to remind ourselves that everything has a flip side.

I

Torn Love

Still standing close,
each on our own side of this terrible rending,
how can we see things so differently?
This little flap of skin
you keep pulling open
wants to close.

This is how cancers start—
this worrying and worrying of an old injury.
My darling. Leave it alone
and let us heal.
This is only a biopsy
of our changed love affair.

If it is cut out of us,
it will be by your decision;
and no number of late-night arguments
will ever change that fact.
What you need to remember
the next morning,
you will remember.

If it were up to me,
we would still be friends,
but if you need an enemy
to console you in your actions,
I guess I must be that too.
I always was a figment
of your imagination.
Believe that
if it makes this easier for you.

II

Cicatrix

I know better than you
what lies buried under
my healed-over self.

The raised part of me
grown to protect the wound
creates this distance
that I once warned you of.

I need to thicken that part of me
where part of you remains,
and if for this time you gasp for air,
it is my thick skin growing over you,
like an orb spider winding you in my web

until you become
the one in me hidden so deep
that even you
believe you’ve disappeared.

News Blues

News Blues

wars, tsunamis
murdered mommies
global warming
cancers forming
mad religions and heretics
engineering our genetics
drug cartels
emptying wells
mounting debt
nuclear threat

I hate to say it
but every day it
is getting worse
this global curse
and human capers
in all the papers
so all in all
it’s an easy call
I find less friction
in reading fiction!

The Prompt:The Great Divide—When reading for fun, do you usually choose fiction or non-fiction? Do you have an idea why you prefer one over the other?

Mind Freeze

  • The Prompt: Overload Alert—“Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.” — Gertrude Stein. Do you Agree?

    Mind Freeze

    There is new news all day long, for every single minute.
    By radio and television, we are immersed in it.
    Even on the Internet, they repeat and repeat
    every warlike action, every athletic feat.

    We know before their spouses do when politicians slip,
    view every starlet’s nightclub spree via a Youtube clip.
    Stock market scams and Ponzi schemes and other news that scares
    as big guys pick our pockets in order to line theirs.

    Sans Blackwater and Monsanto, we would be better off,
    but we’d still be deluged by news of Enron and Madoff!
    We consult Wikipedia to see what it might say,
    keep up with the Kardashians a dozen times a day.

    It’s hard enough to keep abreast of those they might be bedding,
    let alone to know the date of their most recent wedding.
    Who has gained a pound or two or who’s the most hirsute?
    This information makes our lives a Trivial Pursuit.

    There are so many details that come at us day and night,
    filling up our minds until our craniums feel tight.
    We’re stuffed with sound bites, news clips and every TV show
    until it is inevitable. Something’s got to blow!

    No wonder that we can’t remember names of our best friends
    or what we came out shopping for or how that movie ends.
    We can’t remember song lyrics or what we meant to do
    when we came in here for something. Was it scissors, paint or glue?

    I am forgetting everything I always used to know.
    Every mental process has just gotten kind of slow.
    It’s taking me much longer now to ponder each decision—
    a factor that the younger folks consider with derision.

    Like-aged friends agree with me, for they all feel the same.
    They all have minds stuffed just as full, and we know what to blame.
    There’s too much information, and like any stuffed-full larder,
    to locate things within them gets progressively harder.

    If we could sort our minds out the same way that we pack—
    putting unimportant stuff way at the very back
    and all the more important things in front and at the top,
    we wouldn’t have to search our minds and wouldn’t have to stop

    to figure out the names of things or places or of folks,
    and then we wouldn’t be the brunt of all their aging jokes;
    but it seems that we can’t do this so perhaps the answer is
    to just turn off the TV news and gossip of show biz.

    The scandals and the killings—all the bad things that astound us—
    we’d leave behind to concentrate on happenings around us.
    We’d notice more the little things in our immediate world:
    the spider in the spider web, the bud that’s tightly furled

    and notice when it opens, and the dragonfly that’s on it
    and take a picture of it, or perhaps construct a sonnet.
    See the children who are hungry and instead of our obsessing
    on matters where we’re powerless, instead bestow a blessing

    on all those things around us where we have the power to act.
    When we see whatever needs doing, to take action and react.
    Perhaps then all the horrid facts that rise up in the mind
    will settle to the bottom and then all of us will find

    the keys we’ve lost, our glasses, and remember why we came
    into this room and how to recall every person’s name.
    And all the time we save we’ll spend on the important things
    and feel the sense of purpose helping others always brings.

    The world is too much with us with its bad news of all kinds,
    and all this information simply freezes up our minds.
    Perhaps with less input, there would be less facts to astound us
    and we could concentrate on what’s important close around us.

Leftovers


Leftovers

When my father died forty years ago, it was in Arizona, where my parents had been spending their winters for the past ten years.  They maintained houses in two places, returning to South Dakota for the summers. But after my father died, my mother never again entered that house in the town where I’d grown up.

Our family had scattered like fall leaves by then—my mother to Arizona, one sister to Iowa, another to Wyoming. Both the youngest and the only unmarried one, I had fallen the furthest from the family tree. I had just returned from Africa, and so it fell to me to drive to South Dakota to pack up the house and to decide which pieces of our old life I might choose to build my new life upon and to dispose of the rest.

My father’s accumulations were not ones to fill a house. There were whole barns and fields of him, but none that needed to be dealt with. All had been sold before and so what was to be sorted out was the house. In that house, the drapes and furniture and cushions and cupboards were mainly the remnants of my mother’s life: clothes and nicknacks, pots and pans, spice racks full of those limited flavors known to the family of my youth—salt and pepper and spices necessary for recipes no more exotic than pumpkin pies, sage dressings and beef stews.

Packing up my father was as easy as putting the few work clothes he’d left in South Dakota into boxes and driving them to the dump. It had been years since I had had the pleasure of throwing laden paper bags from the dirt road above over the heaps of garbage below to see how far down they would sail, but I resisted that impulse this one last run to the dump, instead placing the bags full of my father’s work clothes neatly at the top for scavengers to find—the Sioux, or the large families for whom the small-town dump was an open-air Goodwill Store.

It was ten years after my father’s death before my mother ever returned again to South Dakota. By then, that house, rented out for years, had blown away in a tornado. Only the basement, bulldozed over and filled with dirt, contained the leftovers of our lives: the dolls, books, school papers and trophies. I’d left those private things stacked away on shelves—things too valuable to throw away, yet not valuable enough to carry away to our new lives. I’ve been told that people from the town scavenged there, my friend from high school taking my books for her own children, my mother’s friend destroying the private papers. My brother-in-law had taken the safe away years before.

But last year, when I went to clear out my oldest sister’s attic in Minnesota, I found the dolls I thought had been buried long ago–their hair tangled and their dresses torn—as though they had been played with by generations of little girls. Not the neat perfection of how we’d kept them ourselves, lined up on the headboard bookcases of our beds —but hair braided, cheeks streaked with rouge, eyes loose in their sockets, dresses mismatched and torn. Cisette’s bride dress stetched to fit over Jan’s curves. My sister’s doll’s bridesmaid dress on my doll.

It felt a blasphemy to me. First, that my oldest sister would take her younger sisters’ dolls without telling us. Her own dolls neatly preserved on shelves in her attic guest bedroom, ours had been jammed into boxes with their legs sticking out the top. And in her garbage can were the metal sides of my childhood dollhouse, imprinted with curtains and rugs and windows, pried apart like a perfect symbol of my childhood.

Being cast aside as leftovers twice is enough for even inanimate objects. Saved from my sister’s garbage and cut in half, the walls of my childhood fit exactly into an extra suitcase borrowed from a friend for the long trip back to Mexico, where I now live. I’ll figure out a new life for them as room décor or the backgrounds of colossal collages that will include the dolls I’m also taking back with me.

Mexico is the place where lots of us have come to reclaim ourselves and live again. So it is with objects, too. Leftovers and hand-me-downs have a value beyond their price tags. It is all those lives and memories that have soaked up into them. In a way, we are all hand-me-downs. It’s up to us to decide our value, depending upon the meaning that we choose to impart both to our new lives and these old objects. Leftovers make the most delicious meals, sometimes, and in Mexico, we know just how to spice them up.

The prompt: Hand-Me-Downs—Clothes and toys, recipes and jokes, advice and prejudice: we all have to handle all sorts of hand-me-downs every day. Tell us about some of the meaningful hand-me-downs in your life.


 

 

Justification

Justification

I spent all day in town today for business and for pleasure,
so by the time I got back home, I felt I’d had full measure
of driving-selling-trying on, shopping-eating-walking;
so I just thought I’d have some time that didn’t include talking.
I put my suit on thinking I would jump right in the pool,
but then the cat began to whine, the dogs commenced to drool—
sure signals it was feeding time—in this they were united.
They’ve learned their human serves their supper faster when invited.

The problem was, the dog food was still up in the car,
so I ran out to get it. (It wasn’t very far.)
I fed the dogs and cat, then found new flea collars I’d bought,
and so, of course, I had to put new collars on the lot.
Then, finally, the pool was mine—aerobic exercise
kept my body busy while a movie wooed my eyes
to disregard the time that passed while bending, kicking, flopping,
for when I am distracted, I am less intent on stopping.

With no prompt to finish early, I just went on and on.
Two hours passed so quickly that the setting of the sun
(and the ending of the movie—I guess I must admit)
finally gave the signal that it was time to quit.
But as I climbed the ladder, something poked my breast—
something sharp and lumpy that had made a little nest
there between my cleavage all my hours in the pool;
and when I drew it out you can’t image what a fool

I felt like, for this faux pas cannot help but win the prize
of all the times that I’ve done stupid things in any guise.
As teacher, daughter, writer, artist, sister, lover, friend,
I’ve committed stupid acts impossible to mend.
But this one takes the cake, I’m sure, as stupidest by far.
I’ve told you how I went to get the pet food from the car,
then fed and put flea collars on protesting dogs and cat.
(I doubt you’d do much better when dealing with all that!)

When I went out to do all this, I didn’t want to lose ‘em.
That’s why my car keys (with remote) wound up within my bosom!


Try as we may, those little indicators of age will sneak up on us.  There is no plastic surgery for a sagging memory!!!  (The Prompt today was:  “Age is just a number,” says the well-worn adage. But is it a number you care about, or one you tend (or try) to ignore?”)

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Wonder of wonders, when I put the key in the ignition the next morning, it worked!!! Saved on this one!

First Friends

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The Prompt: Do you — or did you ever — have a Best Friend? Do you believe in the idea of one person whose friendship matters the most? Tell us a story about your BFF (or lack thereof).

First Friends

I am three years old, lying in my Mom’s room taking a nap. I can hear voices in the front room. The world comes slowly back to me as I rouse myself from the deep sleep I swore I didn’t need. I hear my mom’s voice and the voice of a stranger. I slide my legs over the side of the chenille-covered bed, balancing for a moment like a teeter totter before giving in to gravity and letting my feet slide through space to the floor below. I creak open the door, which had been left ajar. My mom’s voice gets louder. I smell coffee brewing and hear the chink of china coffee cups in the living room.

I hear a dull rubbing sound and move toward it—through the kitchen to the dinette, where a very small very skinny girl with brown braids is sitting at the table coloring in one of my coloring books. She is not staying in the lines very well, which is crucial—along with the fact that she is coloring the one last uncolored picture in the book which I’ve been saving for last because it is my favorite and BECAUSE I HAVE IT PLANNED SO THERE IS SOMEWHERE IN THAT PICTURE TO USE EVERY LAST COLOR IN MY BOX OF CRAYOLAS!

I sidle past her, unspeaking, aflame with indignation. Who could have—who would have—given her the authority to color in my book? I stand in the door of the living room. My mom is talking to a mousy gray-haired lady—tall, raw-boned, in a limp gray dress. My mom sees me, and tells me to come over and meet Mrs. Krauss. They are our new neighbors. They are going to live in Aunt Stella and Uncle Werner’s house two houses down. Did I meet their daughter Pressie in the kitchen? She’s just my age and Aunt Stella and Uncle Werner (who are not actually related to us, but just friends of my folks) are her real aunt and uncle.

The gray lady calls Pressie in to meet me. She is quiet and I am quiet. Then we go back to color at the table together. We drink orange juice and eat potato chips. We will be best friends for what seems like a lifetime but what is really only until we approach adolescence. I will have a love-hate relationship with her mother, who will continually set up competitions between Pressie and me to see who will win. She will try to coach Pressie first; but still, I will always win.

Pressie and I will play hollyhock dolls and dress-up. We play, sometimes, with Mary Boone; but her parents are too religious and don’t think we’re nice enough to play with her very much. I want to put on neighborhood plays and circuses, but none of the other kids want to perform. I want to play store and school, but Pressie eventually goes home to help her mother varnish the floors.

Pressie’s house is full of loud brothers and a sulky teenage sister. It is full of high school-aged cousins who tease us unmercifully and old ladies who come to play Scrabble with her mother. It is full of a missionary sister who comes back from South America and married brothers who come from Florida with babies that Pressie and I take charge of.

Pressie’s house is full of slivery floors that are always in the process of being varnished or de-varnished. There is one drawer in the kitchen full of everybody’s toothbrushes, combs, hairpins, hair cream, shampoo tubes, old pennies, crackerjack toys, rubber balls, lint, hairballs, rolled up handkerchiefs and an occasional spoon that falls in from the drain board above it. They have no bathroom—just the kitchen sink and a toilet and shower in the basement, across from the coal bin and the huge coal furnace. Their toilet has a curtain in front of it, but the shower is open to the world.

Sometimes when I am peeing, someone comes down to put coal in the furnace or to throw dirty clothes in the washtub next to the wringer washer. I pull the curtain tight with my arms and pray that they won’t pull it back and discover me, my panties down to the floor, pee dripping down my leg from my hurried spring from the toilet to secure the curtain. To this day, I have dreams about bathrooms that become public thoroughfares the minute I sit down. To this day, I get constipated every time I leave the security of my own locked bathroom.

Pressie babysits with the minister’s kids for money. I go along for free. She spanks them a lot and yells a lot. I think I can’t wait until I’m old enough to have kids so I can yell at them, but when Pressie is gone and the minister’s wife asks me to babysit, I don’t yell at them.

At Christmas I can’t wait to have Pressie come see my gifts: a Cinderella watch, a doll, a wastebasket painted like a little girl’s face, complete with yarn braids, books and toilet water from aunts, a toy plastic silverware set from my sister, stationery from my other aunt, playing cards, sewing cards, paint by numbers, a new dress. I run over through the snow to Pressie’s house to see her presents: a new pair of pajamas, a coloring book and new crayons, barrettes and a comb. In her family, they draw names. Quickly we run to my house, but she doesn’t pay much attention to my presents. She is funny sometimes, kind of crabby. The more excited I get, the more withdrawn she gets.

Later, I want to make snow angels in the yard and feed leftover cornmeal muffins to the chickadees, but Pressie wants to go home. Pressie always wants to go home. What she does there, I don’t know. She doesn’t like to read. None of us will have television for another five years. She doesn’t much like games or cards. I don’t know what Pressie does when she isn’t with me.

When she is with me, we take baths together and sing the theme music from “Back to the Bible Broadcast,” washing our sins away in the bathtub. We play ranch house in our basement. We pull the army cot against the wall and put old chairs on either side of it for end tables. We upend an old box in front of it for a coffee table. My grandma’s peeling ochre-painted rocking chair faces the army cot couch. We sneak into the hired man’s room and steal his Pall Mall cigarettes and sit talking and smoking. We rip the filters off first, which is what we think you’re supposed to do.

Pressie will always stay longer if we smoke. I blow out on the cigarette, but Pressie inhales. We smoke a whole pack over a few weeks’ time and then go searching for more. When the hired man starts hiding his cigarettes, we discover his hiding place and learn to take no more than four at a time so he doesn’t miss them. When he has a carton, we take a pack and hide it under the mattress on the army cot. My mother wonders where all the filters are coming from that she sweeps from the basement floor, but never guesses our secret.

Pressie spends more time with me than before, drops by almost every morning and always wants to go to the basement to play and smoke. Then the hired man finds another room and moves out and when Mrs. Church’s granddaughters come to visit, I will want to play with them but Pressie won’t. Then we will pair off—Pressie with Sue Anne, the girly one, me with Kate, the boyish one. We have a little war—mainly instigated by the sisters.

When the new farm agent moves in with two daughters—one a year younger than Pressie and me, the other a year younger than my sister Addie—I want to ask the girl our age to play with us, but Pressie won’t. I have a slumber party for everyone—all the girls we know. I invite the new girl, whose name is Molly, but no one talks to her much. She is shy and doesn’t push herself on us. No one else ever wants to include her. I go play with her anyway and spend the night at her house. Her mother is nervous, her dad cocky. Her older sister laughs nervously under her breath a lot, as does her mother.

Many years later, by the time we are in high school, everyone has accepted them. By then, all of those girls have parties where I’m not invited. They are always a little reserved when I come up to speak to them. Maybe they’re always reserved. How would I know how they are when I’m not around? Later, they all got to be pretty good friends. But in the beginning, I was everyone’s first friend.

Unstarched

 

Unstarched

My ladies writing group is classy—never crass or gaudy.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I found they can be bawdy!
Just one impromptu potluck and a few bottles of wine
turned their metaphoric minds to matters far less fine.
For Jenny had just mentioned that a friend had lately lent her
a rather naughty film that nonetheless had really sent her
off into the paroxysms of unbridled laughter—
the kind that take you wave-on-wave and leave you aching after.
I’d been needing that for months—my life had been sedate
since my old gang had moved away and left me to my fate
of no last-minute games of train and late-night jubilation,
for though I still have good friends here, I lack that combination
of friends that I enjoy who all enjoy each other, too,
enough to create silliness to make my nights less blue.

“Bad Grandpa” was the film we watched, and though I must admit
I watched behind spread fingers for at least a fifth of it,
still the antics had us all just rolling on the floor
—starting with a snicker and then ending with a roar.
Scatology is not my thing, nor are pratfalls or shtick,
yet still I must admit to you, I got a real big kick
from this film filled with all of them, and so did all the others;
so as we watched, it felt like we were all sisters and brothers.
And as they left, I think we knew we’d shared a priceless treasure,
for there’s nothing that unites us like a mutual guilty pleasure!

The Prompt: When was the last time you watched something so scary, cringe-worthy, or unbelievably tacky — in a movie, on TV, or in real life — you had to cover your eyes?