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

picture with Kathy, 1970’s

We are both dressed
in matching-tan-wool coats
topped-off with elegant tams.

Standing together on stone steps —
green grass thriving at our feet,
buds and blossoms from the rose bush
showing in the corner of the frame.

We are playing “dress-up”
(blistering hot and sweating
under the heavy-wool-weight),
in the famous June heat —
smiling on cue, as grandma snaps our picture,

with an ancient box camera
and old, arthritic hands.

~June 2012

nilsy art

Image by geirt.com via Flickr

Other Reading:

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

Beneath the Tides of Sleep and Time

Beneath the tides of sleep and time
Strange fish are moving!    

Thomas Wolfe

freya-wave-laurie-behnen

I’ve been back in the region of my childhood for three years. There were a few times, those first years, when I came back for several months at a time  before leaving again. But, I’ve never considered that “being” here. My reality is that I left at the age of seventeen and didn’t return for twenty-seven years. Now, in my early forties, I’ve come back to a town filled with ghost-like memories of a place and its silent-voiced people that no longer exist.

The clouds still look the same overhead, floating across cow-filled pastures, an opaque-white fluff against the blue-purple outline of mountains. The same sounds of whippoorwills and crickets sing through the nights.

I stand, on my back porch, as the last light of day slips away and the crickets hum. In this growing dark moment I can pretend that the twenty-seven years hasn’t passed – I am once again here in my youth listening to the singing of the whippoorwills as they welcome the deep night.

Most of the old home places are torn down – the grass, trees, and new growth disguising the old sites. Driving by them makes memory appear a trick of false pictures. Is that really the yard we once played in and the tree I loved to climb? Erasure, the way nature reclaims its own, in spite of previous existence and the blood of memory soaking that ground.

The vast-rambling plants, grasses, and trees disguise the greater void of all who are missing. This is the saddest part. Both sets of grandparents, aunts and uncles, and all the older church members are long dead and buried. Laying flowers across bronze or beneath the shadow of granite is all I can give them. Their personalities and laughter absent from the impersonal carvings. Their formal names and date to date is all there is.

I chose this path. Each step forward, toward the new, requiring a leaving behind and stepping further away from what lived here. I remember me as a thirsting, starving soul – I was silently dying. It took the leaving to make me grow, for me to understand my true and deepest identity, for me to become the intended individual that I now am. I know this as truth within my most sacred self. I chose this path – I am my own expertly crafted story.

* / * / *

The book of me isn’t finished, but the chapter I’ve lived in this past three years is telling itself into ending. I feel it. I’m familiar with these closures that seem to come unbidden, but later prove necessary and instrumental for the next phase of my life.

Coming home has been about reconciliation with myself more than anything else. I wouldn’t have expected that, but it is often at the end of a thing that you are able to see it most clearly. My life here, as a child and teenager, provided little community or friendship. I lived in an odd isolation that it would take me years to understand.

My grandparents, favorite aunts and uncles, and the like provided a foundational concept of love; but it was many long years before I could see that at work in my becoming. The deep sense of isolation, my inability to find fulfilling relationships, or a place where I could truly “fit in” as they say would change after my leaving.

In the twenty-seven years away – time divided between Atlanta, Georgia and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina – I would find my “fitting in’” and my individual identity, expand and examine my belief systems, and develop a workable life philosophy.  It’s taken this time of coming home for me to actually see clearly who I’ve become. That I am happy with the overall picture is a surprise and a gift. Other than that, my past in this specific place holds less of value to me than I hoped it would. The past is a combination of shredded mirage-memory images.  It is the future that calls and whispers to me as a vivid-flowing movement. And, it is endings that open the doors through which the future comes.

* / * / *

My children and grandchildren are here – that is my reason for staying.  My son and daughter, both in their mid-to-late twenties, are adults living their own lives. We have grown together the past few years, each one of us helping the other or celebrating through alternate periods of trial and joy. I am proud of them and content in the knowledge that they are happy, healthy, and blessed with wonderful spouses and children.

I love my children dearly, but it is the love and desire for my grandchildren that holds me rooted in this place of thick-red clay. I enjoy being a grandma more than I could have ever imagined.  The four “babies” range from 3 to 7 years old and are a constant  treasure and blessing to me – each of them special and unique individuals that I adore.

* / * / *

I spent Saturday afternoon at work with a couple from Argentina (as they purchased a car from me). It was a wonderful visit for me and I deeply enjoyed our conversation. Lately, I drift in to thoughts of traveling overseas, even becoming an expat like Hemingway and so many others. There is something that calls me to South America and Europe – part of the artist that is enamored of these places where such long history and artistic depth lives. Just “to walk the streets” as they say . . .

I met a lovely lady from Poland last year (again, in the sales process of my real-world job) and we became immediate pals. She came to work for me for a while and we remain friends after her leaving. We talk often of a trip to Europe this coming year – she’ll take me around Poland, Germany, and maybe even Greece. I love this thought, love to contemplate this trip with a wonderful friend (who will make sure I don’t get lost since I speak not one word of German, Greek, etc.).

I have always wanted to travel overseas to these places – a longing I have often dusted off and examined, but began to take less seriously as the years passed. Thanks to my wonderful friend, Agnes, this desire is rekindled. I feel the shift in movement – in path – like a wave rushing the sand between my toes brushing the tops of my feet. Travel . . . again.

* / * / *

I’ve jumped on planes, traveled by trucks, hopped in my car and started driving – traveling throughout the United States several times. These “other places” seem to thrall my Gypsy blood – it rests awhile and then roars with rushing to movement, to travel, to seeking. Each of these trips and times in other parts of the US (often working in other regions for long periods of time) created deep changes in understanding and perspective for me. I was not the same person coming home as I was in the leaving. (I deeply believe every young person should travel for a time before settling down if at all possible!)

* / * / *

The past four months at work (day job again) have been horrific in many ways. I’ve experienced things I could in no way anticipate or expect – things that put me in a position to make some very difficult decisions. I made a decision that I felt was the “right one,” as well as the only one I being me could make following some very dark days of hurt, confusion, and serious in-depth thought. The coming weeks will bring the results of that choice and I continue to pray for wisdom moving forward and a final resolution that will bring peace.

I am coming to a cross-roads of sorts in my business life. Maybe it’s just that mid-life crises everyone jokes about! Either way, I’m giving serious thought to leaving the automotive industry – my 70-hour-weeks life’s blood for the past 7 years. I am transitioning mentally (and maybe physically). It will be interesting to see how it all turns out down where those “strange fish are moving.” I’ll keep you posted!

 

~South Carolina, January 2012

 

Artwork: Freya Wave by Laurie Behnen. To see more artwork by this artist, please visit her site at Fine Art America. Please help support this wonderful artist by visiting FAM and maybe even buying a print or notecards!

 

for Luck

We have walked these
paths a hundred
times – since my little legs
first stood, learned movement,
learned to walk beside you.

The path,
actually two – defined
in a way that speaks
of distance and history. We
will walk the path well-worn
or
if you indulge me
the one slightly overgrown,
briars lining the edges,
large towering stalks
blackberries in season,
if the day is right.

This path – the second one,
less used, steeper,
with jagged rocks
buried in the dirt
of what is now more gully
than walking path. But
this is where
Grandpa and I checked
rabbit gums for a catch,
he letting me
slide the little door,
up and open,
to peer inside.

This ground grew
my love of rabbits —
I never understood,
never equated the
bait-caught prey
with an animal dying.

The rabbits foot,
for luck,
a joke, because
death
had no meaning to me then.

~~November 2011

of Broken Rooms

~for P

{Art: Isolation by Ina Mar (c) Adagp, Paris}

 

There is deep silence here ~

Forlorn-magic once spoke
whispered kisses, your name
crossing my lips, a breath only
against the skin – soft, taut, strong skin
of your neck, arms, chest. In
the dark shadows of broken rooms,
building a home of – destruction first. Then,

building a home of hope of – the sheets were clean,
the warm-blood-wood walls
holding secrets, ours and earlier, generations before us
these walls were closing in on the hearts beating rapid,
percussion, the sounds of fluttering clicking time
in a dark house beside a church. Sacrilegious – passion
burning, life burning  death — in the graveyard
at the edge of a hill – a ghost-memory whispers, soft
edible cries, choking, sobbing – whisper, whisper
of wings. Forlorn-angels once walked

in the soft dew-grass, wet droplets clinging
to porcelain animals, mysteries, dead flowers.
This sweet-heated moisture, muscle, brushing
of skin against skin – the sheets were clean,
destruction, chaos building – building
into ecstasy, into orgasm, into ending.
Our secret,
our bodies – so deliciously warm, wrapped, entwined
in a space of time
where forlorn magical angels sing, wing-beats
lifting our names above the graves.

There is a deep memory here ~

~October, 2011

Artwork: Isolation by Ina Mar (c) Adagp, Paris. Please visit her website at:  http://www.redbubble.com/people/ina-mar/works/6081284-isolation

Yesterday

~for my Sister

The door
to yesterday opens —
creaks at the hinges.

In another time
we are sitting, playing
in burnished sand —
barely-born, fresh presence,
two toddlers, laughing

into growing, into years later
we will run
past the familiar
in search of more.

***

The dilapidated bridge —
the one we walked
across into freedom —
still stands.

Straw-thatch, mud-glue
built across
dangerous-deep
ravines of memory —

We agree
never look down
never look back
march forward

Forget
those long dusty days
when we
were still children.

Forget
every smile we lost
every tear we cried.
It’s only water across skin,
nothing more.

October 2011

Artwork, Final Destination, by Photodream Art. By Den Bosch, Noord Brabant – Netherlands. Please visit here to see more about this artist and to see other artwork.

The Note

What can you  know at thirteen
of letters of love, soft words
of declaration – pouring forth
gushing admiration for
a high-school Adonis?

I was vulnerable, feminine,
soft – everything you’d expect
from a girl-child in love.

Too sappy, sincere, honest,
she told me —
He’ll show it to everyone – No,
not this note. But…

sad-broken humor
the only way to avoid ridicule –
You MUST
play the jokester,
not the lover,
she said.  

(I acquiesced.)

Later, in dark rooms,
I re-read
the first note
that would have told you
I was enamored, in heart-felt awe,
of the boy-man you were becoming.

I thought of old stories –
how we laughed together
as children. Side-by-side,
uncommon neighbors,
toddler playmates – until
the time-memory slipped away
and We were gone.

~~~ * ~~~ * ~~~ * ~~~

Apology was the first step
those few years later – us
technically grown, adulthood –
failed marriages, our own children,
lessons learned and learning —

Living in dark places beneath
burning turmoil, we were Us
for a millisecond, a moment.
— Then, the dark night shifted
fell from place —

The Muses laughed,
threw complication
into the mix, Fate
danced through the shadows
bumping into Us
jostling Me and You — then
the time-memory slipped away
and We were gone.

~~~ * ~~~ * ~~~ * ~~~

We speak without voices —
typed-letters on a screen,
new notes
written twenty years later
in real time.

Now we are friends
as we were playmates – some
strange connective-bond built
in a sandbox —

before we could know
the game we live in,
the jokes Life plays
and the roads we would choose
to follow.

And, I am still thinking
about the note
I should have given you —

 

September 2011

 

Artwork: Chiaro di luna by Escha Van den bogerd. You may find more about the artist and other works here.

 

 

Conversation


I don’t
think
it’s supposed
to feel
this good to
talk to you

* * *

It’s like Roses
in the morning
covered
in dew, too
important (beautiful)
for words.
Or, it’s like
the feel
of soft-warm
sun touching
your skin
on a cold
November
day — just
perfect and perfectly
amazing.

* * *

You
are a shadow
love haunting
my memory
like
a deep,
cool breeze
on a
blazing-Hot
day.

~July 2011, South Carolina

 
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ARTWORK: Gentle Woman by Svetlana Nivikova. Read author Bio and see more work by this artitst here.