Divorce

Broken Love

We talk
and there remains
a tension, friction
of what we
once meant
to each other.
More in common
now than then –

We share
two children,
four grandchildren –
a silver chain of being
links us still –
Regrets obvious
as we talk
while
the children watch –
shocked by the lack of
argument.

Did we really hate
each other so much? Or,
was it more about
how deeply
we hated ourselves?

Oil and water
from two different worlds –
Shared stubbornness
our greatest commonality.

Married once, in love
with the idea of
each other — the cold reality,
that we were just children
haunts me still.

We’re growing older
and it is easier
to talk about
what we never were,
things we tried to be,
all we had to kill.
That mutual cold death
of ending
that set us free.

~written February 2011

Photo Credit: Broken Love by analil.deviantart.com

Advertisements

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. ~

 

 

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

Authenticity

Appalachian Mountains

Appalachian Mountains (Photo credit: BlueRidgeKitties)

I can see the bright-white hair

Of the child, bending, fingers reaching,

Trembling down into grass blades

To touch the little bug crawling along.

Mesmerized by moving life, slowly

Touching the tops of its shinny fly-like

Wings. Then, stand to running

across dark verdant grass yard,

Freshly mowed, to chase the butterflies

Across bush-tops around the corner.

I can hear the Appalachian accent laden

Voice of the young woman, screaming

The argument to higher intensity

As if loud will win it. The twirling turn

Of angry body, movement in flash-quick

Motion toward an open door. Then,

Footfall to running across the red dust dirt

And down through the wood path

To cry in solitude, quietly.

I can feel the angry quick vehemence

That becomes a cause becomes a mission

Becomes what will change her into wholeness

While she struggles to leave the dark rooms

of hard memories and tries to help others

never visit those places. The drive to live

after making such an effort to die, rather

than stay in the pain that was nothing

but is becoming, becoming a voice with

purpose. The first letters forming

words forming a poem, forming tomorrow.

I can remember time before it became

Abyss of career and responsibility, before

Manager became a carried title implying

In charge, a time before being diligently dutiful

in taking care of the things Others left

un-taken-care-of.  The twirling turn From art

to actuality, from theory to responsibility.

That has come to feel like a very long version of

A four-letter word said under-breath in madness.

I can still see

The bright-white hair of the child, bending,

Fingers reaching, trembling to grasp life.

~South Carolina, 2009

magnitude to microcosm

~for J

We are talking
miles apart
on the phone, as if
change never
happened, as
old friends do
from time to time.

A conversation
about truth —
(elusive fiend)
and I can hear
you wrapped
in sadness
for all you never
found, felt
you should
become, believe
you should have been

You say
you have
let the world down.
I say
it’s too big to notice.

Break down
the feeling – from
magnitude to
microcosm.

At that
cellular level
we are born, re-Born
every day.
Truth hides
in the quiet
shadows – It knows
that everyday
you are busy
re-Becoming
who you are.

~November 2011

 

 

 

 

 

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

Husband

I live you
breathe you
love you, but
seldom write
poems about you.

The sun shines
without being
written.

The air moves,
invisible life,
never seen.

You
are the flow
of these
necessities
through me.

You are soil
holding my roots
in place,
nourishment
written
in your name.

Your face –
my memory.
Your arms –
my home.

Otherwise, my
spirit filled with
gypsy blood –
too crazy, too unorthodox
for the masses –
burns.

You are
all the deep-true
things that carry
me. I thought
it was time to
write a poem
for you – So
this is yours,
husband.

This is How We Dance

 

In circles that flow
during dream-time,
a step to the side.
A whisper to the left.
Two-step toward possibility.
Your voice in my ear
hushed tones of my name
spoken a thousand miles away.
There you are – living normally
where you are – I live normally
too, except for that vast space
of empty, during dream-time.
A whisper to the left,
A step to the side, two-step
in circles that flow. This
is how we dance.