funeral song (for my mema 2001)

on-the-bridge-joana-kruse

ego-separation from the letting-go
is the last phase of loss.

solemn-silence is declared.
it will not lift, it can not lift
until vision clarifies.

imagine the world as a new
place created and transformed by
the without, adjusted perception
looks for meaning
submerged in the pain,
seeks solace from a fragmented spirit
that clings to us in absence.

each lost thing claims
a part of our souls
perfection
unravels the lies we hide
inside ourselves

leaving us
bare and jaggedly grieved.

we becomes
the creation of losses
evolves into shards of recovery.

stimulated by grieving
we acknowledge
the mirrors reflection –
our souls love for others.

Art Prints

Photo Credit: On The Bridge by Joana Kruse

for Matthew

man-on-stairs-joana-kruse

 

How do I tell you to a stranger?
Do I start with that goofy walk – yours alone
Or the quick smile, always with a slight laugh,
Tilting head and blue sparkling eyes?
Or, the truth when we met –
though I denied it then –
that you looked to young to be the GSM,
that you weren’t what I expected the GSM
of a large store to be.
Your steadfast declaration –
that you were worthy of the spot:
“I can handle it!”
As if convincing me of this in some way
mattered. To you

I was “your angel” come to help.
The proclamation over and over
again. NOW we could do what must
be done to turn it around, grow
your success. I remember that night
in the bar (your words still ringing
in my ear). Us. We. Laughing, agreeing
in unison with the crowd of people
that we would move forward, clean up
the debris, build a stronger better future
together. You – the age of my daughter –
twenty-eight and electric with youth,
hope, drive. But gray shadows circled
even then, ethereal smoke twirling

at the edges of a dream. I spent
ninety-four days by your side before
fate bade me leave, warned me
that the darkening skies
and nightmare abyss would
claim you.

Seven hundred and thirty days later.
I look down At your face,
cradled by silk cushions in the coffin,

Gray and still like a deep, dark storm
blowing distant Over the ocean.
Your smile missing. I remember

a singular moment of time, mere weeks,
a few months on the calendar,
when kindred souls met, laughed,
and dreamed. Happily planning
a future that fate knew
would never come.

Photography Prints

(RIP Matthew Sayers 2014)

Photo Credit: Man on Stairs by Joana Kruse

Life At A Given Moment

“… the meaning of life differs from man to man, from day to day and from hour to hour. What matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person’s life at a given moment.” ~Viktor E. Frankl in Man’s Search for Meaning.

What is the meaning of life? What is the meaning of MY life? Does my life have meaning for anyone other than me?

I read the book, Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor E. Frankl about a year ago during a period of questioning. I believe it’s a book everyone should read at least once – not because it answers the “big” question, but because it changes the way we ask that question and others like it. Frankl shifts our focus to the deeper longings hidden in these questions of existence and meaning. He also gives us a new perspective from which to view ourselves and others. The idea of a fixed destiny changes and mutates under his examination.

***

Last week I wrote about thoughts on mortality and the personal situation that led me to those thoughts. This week, I’m happy to report that the doctors found no evidence of cancer and I am doing well. So what did I learn from my cancer scare? Some surprising things actually.

I learned that I don’t have as many regrets as I expected. There was no great need to go make amends for the past or apologize to people so I could die with things “made right” in my life. I’ve always tried to live as if today were it, which means I try to apologize and make amends as I go. Still, you always wonder if you’ve done the best you could. No one wants to be that person on their deathbed filled with a thousand regrets and tons of bitterness. The cancer scare helped me see that I’ve made right those things within my power to make right – the lingering “unfinished” things are there because they are beyond my ability to fix. Sometimes an apology and forward movement are the best one can do.

I also realized that I’m fairly happy with who I am and the experiences that make up my daily life. My primary regret was the books I haven’t written — and that was a surprising epiphany! I’m not sure if it’s because I believe my words are that important or if it’s about needing to leave some type of legacy behind. Just that I kept thinking: “Crap! I thought I’d have more time to get these things written!” The thought that my projects would never be real and see print bothered me terribly. There was a sad sense of leaving something unfinished and not completing my purpose. It was an odd but enlightening experience that brought writing back to center stage as a primary focus of my daily life. (Who knows? Maybe that’s exactly what it was intended to do!)

***

Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life to carry out a concrete assignment which demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated. Thus, everyone’s task is as unique as is his specific opportunity to implement it. ~ Viktor E. Frankl in Man’s Search for Meaning

***

Photo Credit: pensive by James Shepherd

Meditations on Mortality

sweet-william-barbara-moignard

Sweet William by Barbara Moignard

 

Springtimes have needed you.
And there are stars expecting you to notice them.
From out of the past, a wave rises to meet you
the way the strains of a violin
come through an open window
just as you walk by.

~ Rainer Rilke, from the First Duino Elegy

 

There was a graveyard I visited regularly with my grandparents as a child. My grandmother would go tend the graves of loved ones (possibly her parents) while I picked Sweet William in small bunches and put on the graves without flowers. I loved the delicate beauty of the petals, their velvety texture and intricate patterns. It seemed the most natural thing in the world to pick them from the edges of the cemetery and place them on graves that seemed lonely and untended. A child’s belief that putting something pretty there would make it all better.

The cemetery was a beautiful and peaceful place to me (other than the painful annoyance of the little sticky burs that always found a way into the side of my sandals or down into my sock). The quiet stillness enthralled me as a child before death or graves held any real meaning. Visiting the cemetery was one of my favorite things to do.

It’s been a long time since those cemetery visits – I turn 46 tomorrow and I was not even school age back then – but I can remember what it was like when death was just another word that meant nothing in my mind and heart. A grown-up word that made people sad and nothing more. My child self living free and joyful without the understanding of mortality.

 

^~^~^

 

I worked as a property-sales manager for a small local cemetery from 2003 to 2005. I was responsible for all facets of the business operation – designing advertising, making product sales, solving customer issues, meeting legal requirements, overseeing burials and entombments, and maintaining good relationships with the mortuaries and their staff. I took the job expecting to be “creeped-out.” I ended up loving the place and becoming friends with the clients we served and the morticians with whom I worked.

I listened to all the personal stories of my clients and attended every funeral service on our grounds. I was a quiet presence, standing nearby at graveside or sitting in the last row of a mausoleum service, listening and watching, making sure everything was as perfect and well orchestrated as it could be. This was the respect, the care we provided to those trusting us in their final rite of passage. Honoring that trust mattered deeply to me.

Two years in the death care industry gave me a new understanding of death and dying. It also provided a glimpse of the actual job of professional body disposal carried out by morticians and cemeterians. Overall, death care is a business much like any other, but there is a level of respect and compassion present in the workers that is seldom found elsewhere.

What did I learn?

At every burial there are people crying, but their tears come for a variety of reasons – as many due to regret and self recrimination as for love and loss.

 

^~^~^

 

Twenty-two days ago a harsh, burning pain developed in my left shoulder and armpit. A random “share” on Facebook with pictures of example breasts showing cancer signs sent me to the internet to look up my symptoms. What I found there terrified me into a hospital visit…

I was in the E.R. five days after the first symptoms appeared with a swollen left breast, a “mass” of unknown origins, and a great deal of searing pain. The diagnosis was Mastitis of unknown origin, and I was given high strength antibiotics and a referral to a local surgeon.

Today – the infection is gone, the swelling has diminished, and the pain is much duller. I go for a mammogram and ultrasound tomorrow to start the diagnostic process. I am hopeful that it is something small and easily solved, prayerful the word cancer will not apply to me. I’d like a little more time, please, to experience this thing called life.

 

^~^~^

 

My first thought was that out of all the panic scenarios and insane phobias I’ve imagined in my life, out of all the ways in which I have feared dying, the thought of possible breast cancer never even crossed my mind! How like life to throw something at you from left field!

My second thought was of not wanting to leave my husband, my children, my grandchildren. Worry that I needed to teach the kids more, maybe I haven’t prepared them as well as I should have, and a myriad other things having to do with all of them being okay or not.

My third thought was the shock of realization that I might soon take my last breath, that it could end so unexpectedly, the lights go dark, and thought – emotion – feeling – sentience just STOP.

Awareness becomes the split-second adrenaline rush of panic, fight-or-flight in a state of indecision, anxiety…and then quiet. Then, thoughts of all the stupid and important things you’ll miss: McDonalds pancakes, the way a breeze feels, the way your children call you mama, sun on your skin, books on the shelves you haven’t read yet, grandbabies in your lap, poems you’ve only half-finished, snuggling beside your husband at night, the dogs always underfoot, the projects still half-done and disorganized, you and you-you-the you that is the personal I-the I that has likes and dislikes, cares, loves, needs, gives, feels…. living.

Life in all its deep complexity. The small moments and the large that make up a life….that make up your very unique and personal life.

 

^~^~^

 

You recognize the fallacy – you have been living all this time as if you were immortal, but you are not. Your specific time here is finite. There will be a last day, one day.

Suddenly, so many daily things become unimportant. The core relationships in your life and the core things in your personality become everything all at once.

You realize you will not miss your job only your calling. You cannot justify money as a motivator for anything that matters only the hope, safety, opportunity it may buy.

You wonder at the speed of days, how they have passed you ticking like a rush of water over rapids. You reach to capture them, slow them, but they drip through your fingers and out of your hand. ~

 

 

Feeding Molek (for 100-million-girls blog)

The rock still stands —
growth of bushes,
briers, and half-dead flowers
covering its north side —
the south side shows
its grooved-smooth-gray-top,
this ragged side, chipped,
well-worn from use.

~ * ~
For thousands of years
it was a place of
fresh-born scrub-bushes
and twisted-tiny
crawling roses. The rock
at noon, the hottest hour
of the day, so it
would pull the seeping blood
deep into its skin.
Faster than room and space made —
bodies slain and pushed aside —
they lined up with,
the crying children
held tight to breast, shoulder, face —
whispering, “remember the honor,
necessity. You must die.”

In this way they fed Molek
the blood of their children
for days-on-end, one-by-one.
Crying babies, death knell ringing
across a summer sky while
the hot-wet-smell of blood
filled the breeze, floated away.

~ * ~

One hundred, two hundred, three
thousand, four thousand, more —
slaughtered into dark-gray silence,
quiet like the years
passing after them.
Two thousand years,
countless days, and
100-millions-girls later.

~ * ~

They come to the rock,
clear the way for sacrifice —
the blood, child blood, warm blood
splashes on the crawling roses.
The lines grow long, filled
with crying children
held tight to shoulder,
breast, face — whispering,
“remember the honor, necessity.
You must die.”

In this way we feed Molek
the blood of our children
for days-on-end, one-by-one.
Crying babies, death-knell ringing
across a summer sky while
we pretend it’s an illusion —
turn away, hide our eyes.

The rock still stands —
the growth of bushes,
briers,
and half-dead flowers
covering its north side;
its south side chipped,
well-worn from use —
waiting.

~July 2012

This poem was written for the 100-million-girls website. This site was created, and is managed, by my friend Sheree Rabe. Sheree is a poet, an attorney, and now a human-rights activist that I met via Twitter. She has a wonderful poetry site HERE, but it’s her 100-million-girls site HERE that prompted this poem. The site is dedicated to creating awareness and change in the world, and to stop the mass slaughter of young children in our world. PLEASE take time to visit her site and consider helping in this endeavor. If you’d like to know more about Sheree’s poetry, 100-million-girls effort, or if you’d just like to say “Hi” — you may do so in the following ways:

Sheree Rabe
3267 Bee Caves Road
Suite 107, PMB 281
Austin, Texas 78746
Sheree@shereerabe.com
My blog is at http://www.poetonpoetry.blogspot.com
Facebook Page:  http://www.facebook.com/poetonpoetry
Find me on Twitter @poetonpoetry

OR

BLOG: www.100milliongirls.blogspot.com 
FACEBOOK: www.facebook.com/100milliongirls 
TWITTER: @100milliongirls
PERSONAL WEBSITE: www.shereerabe.com 
#shereerabe

Artwork Credit:   Artwork by (c)  Tirin, aka Tilde Carlsten. Please visit her blog (offering a variety of interesting topics and great artwork HERE.) Thanks and gratitude to Tirin for the use of this picture.

Citations:

Wikipedia contributors. “Moloch.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 11 Jul. 2012. Web. 21 Jul. 2012.

Molek – explanation from Wikipedia:

As a god worshipped by the Phoenicians and Canaanites, Moloch had associations with a particular kind of propitiatory child sacrifice by parents. Moloch figures in the Book of Deuteronomy and in the Book of Leviticus as a form of idolatry (Leviticus 18:21: “And thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the fire to Moloch”). In the Hebrew Bible, Gehenna was initially where apostate Israelites and followers of various Baalim and Canaanite gods, including Moloch, sacrificed their children by fire (2 Chr. 28:3, 33:6; Jer. 7:31, 19:2–6).

Moloch has been used figuratively in English literature from John Milton‘s Paradise Lost (1667) to Allen Ginsberg‘s Howl (1955), to refer to a person or thing demanding or requiring a very costly sacrifice.

Derivation

I grew up in a small town.
Southern – reserved countryside
where even the roses said grace.

Each fragile part of life
exposed in natural hardship
of daily living. For years

I would believe the old adage:
Everything will be okay.

But, it wasn’t, couldn’t be,
and you knew time marched
hard forward. The end
coming on a mild February day.
Your promise to never leave me —
broken.

Three days later in a silk-lined
casket, your final sleep.
Lowered, leveled, the dirt
softly rolling down
to cover you. This deep-dark
iron-fed earth your final home.

The beat of my heart, flesh-torn,
forever changed, a murmur
of loss traceable — back
to the day of your leaving.

~June 2012

Death As House Guest

If I met you on the road
Say, at Halloween or Christmas, I
like to think I would know you —
a bright “Ah-hA” moment inside my mind.

But, this is doubtful
and troublesome because
I’m not sure I’d recognize
your presence on that day any more
than I do your absence on this day.

I like to think there is
a quieter quiet; a more solemn
hush to the air when you arrive —


like some new guest who walks
into the house
with his suitcase
to spend the holidays and
he is distinctly there
roaring in his own noises, singular in smell,
his dress-shoes clopping – clikee-clop, clikee-
clop-clop down the hall,
up the steps to stand
on the landing, studiously
trying to decide
which bedroom to enter.

~January 2012

Epitome Filial

When you are
gone, there will be
no one to fight,
struggle, rebel against.
Instead
only the blank space
where the wall of you
once stood – the line
drawn, marked,
painted red – the fight
a devouring effort
between us. But
when you are gone —
Death will let go
that loud cackle,
slap his thigh,
and crow our names —
There will be only
the blank space
hollow-cold
empty from your leaving
against which
I push
and when you
are gone
there will be
no one to stop me
from falling.

~November, 2011

 

the excavated self

the excavated self

~from the Collection, Odes to Plath

I admit there is an obscurity
in your work
that lends itself
to my confusion.
But —
don’t bother yourself about it.

I am not expertly aware of how
stone is cut either but
I can still appreciate
the majesty of the cathedral.

So it is,
block by block,
piece by piece,
this building we must do.

The excavated self of blood-raw bone
and glistening sinew,
taken-out, twisted and cut,
examined, the warm blood lingering
fresh on our hands.

Poems are pulled
from a raw-bright-red center,
twisted-cut, re-coiled,
reconstructed,
to form words into lines
into stanzas into poems.

Poems
born at the center of
an excavated self,
becoming our cathedral
as we worship at the center
where creation hides
poems
that we build.

~September 2010

Gleaned from Ink


Gleaned from Ink

~from the Collection, Odes to Plath

It is never a shock that you died.
(You announced deaths’ presence often
enough, explained your acquaintance
with his cold, familiar person.)

Not your dying, but the final distorted picture —
Isolated, alone, invisible gas, babies in the next room.
That stunning portrait shock-ripples our consciousness.
The proximity of life and death
so closely knitted together —
touching threads aligned
evenly in your created tapestry.

Your destiny was to become a great poet,
immortality gleaned from ink
flowing across a contrast-white background,
the dark-lined letters of your life
a glistening hue.

~composed September 2010.

ARTWORK CREDIT: The Scribe and the Scroll…, by Jon Gemma. Original and other artwork here.
Sell Art Online