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Posts Tagged ‘death’

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            for Stewart Warren, now in hospice

It was the early 2000s. I was in Del Norte as an emcee showing movies for Telluride Mountain Film on Tour. From the stage, I could see in the dark audience a man who was almost beaming. He had “that light” about him. Did I know him? I wanted to. After the show he came up to say hi.

“Are you a poet?” I asked him. Why? Some hunch.

He nodded and tilted his head to the side. “Yeah.” That’s a word that when Stewart said it had three syllables.

Over a year later, Stewart Warren admitted to me that he hadn’t written many poems at that point. He was a drummer, but he had a poet heart. That was easy to see. At the time, I needed poets who were willing to travel and teach in the schools, and he was gloriously game. I invited him to Telluride, and he had the kids drum on the desks and write. He was equal parts goofy and glamorous, childlike and ageless, playful and profound.

After that he came here many times to teach, to perform, and many times just to help me with programs. He’d dress up in a sport coat and jeans and he’d be my right hand man, helping with details, making everything easier, smoother, more fun. One tricky thing: I’m a tea drinker and he disliked tea, called it “pond water.” After many visits, he finally showed up with a new coffee maker, the one I still have. “I know that all the poets who visit here in the future will be grateful,” he said.

And isn’t that Stewart—the one who jumps in with a devil-may-care grin and a plucky “yeah.” The one who, when given a big pair of shoes, finds a way to grow himself into them. The one who turned his own difficult story into a life out of helping others share their stories. The one who relentlessly continued to learn, to push himself, to inspire. The one who thought of what others would need, and then gave it. The one who brings out the best in others because he dares to bring out the best in himself.

*

September cottonwood

just before the barren time

turning itself into gold

*

Stewart, poet, drummer, partner, friend, web-master, tech-guide, word-sharer, heart-opener, I am a much better me because of you. Thank you. Thank you.

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One Week Later

 

 

 

There are moments I forget she is gone.

Perhaps when I am in the garden. Or painting

rocks. Or making dinner. And then I remember.

She’s gone. I cry less now, but still.

I cry. Of course. Because the cloth I use to wipe

my glass table. Because the vase I slip

marigolds into. Because the necklace

I am wearing. Because out of nowhere

the sound of her voice. Because

the book I am reading. Because

when I think of how much she loved me,

how much I loved her, I gasp and

my nose starts to tingle and my eyes

well, and I know she would tell me

not to cry, but I do. Because it’s a beautiful

and rare gift to love someone. Deeply. Because

she was my gift. Because I was hers.

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            for S

 

I don’t want you to die.

I know that is selfish,

but it’s the truest thing.

I know we don’t speak of it.

I know I am supposed

to find acceptance,

to find metaphors about

rebirth and letting go—

the trees are always good that way—

but I don’t want to.

I hate that you are hurting.

I hate how far away you are.

You and I both know

that I would never write this

in your card. No, instead,

I send a metaphor about birds,

about resilience and

the gift of wings. Instead,

I tell you I love you.

It’s the other truest thing.

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Ways to Go

 

 

And if it gets colder and colder,

then I want to go out the way

the bean sprouts do—with their leaves,

though darkened, still in the shape of a heart.

 

And if it gets hotter and hotter,

then I want to go out like the ripples

that waver above the pavement

softening the edges of whatever can be seen.

 

And if Thanos really did snap his fingers

and half of all living creatures turned to dust,

I want to go like the Cheshire Cat,

my smile the last part of me to exist.

 

And if it’s a fast death, then

let me come back as a sparrow

so I can visit those I love

and sit on their porches and sing.

 

And if it’s a slow death, and I suppose

that’s what life is, may I talk too much about love.

May I go out saying thank you a thousand times

a day, astonished and gasping with praise.

 

 

 

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basil on the porch

the morning after a frost

leaves limp and black things—

how greenly it met yesterday

no amount of I’m sorry will do

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grief and celebration

share the same bed—

one keeps stealing the blanket

the other

keeps knitting a beautiful new one

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She wants to go see the bluebonnets, she says.

This is after she tells me they’ve said she has three months to live.

And I want to find her vast fields of bluebonnets,

acres and acres of white-tipped blue bloom.

And I want to send her more springs to see them in,

more days to live one day at a time. I want to remove

the pain in her belly, the pain that aggressively grows.

I want to make deals with the universe. Want to say no

to the way things are. I want to tell death to wait.

I want to tell life to find a way. I want to hug her

until she believes she’s beloved. I want to give her

the pen that will write every brave thing

that she’s been unable to say. There are days

when we feel how uncompromising it is, the truth.

How human we are. There are days when the bluebonnets

stretch as far as the eye can see. There are days

we know nothing is more important than going to see them,

a billion blue petals all nodding in the wind, teaching us to say yes.

 

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A metal table in the sun. Beyond it, winter.

Two women sit, brought here by rambling.

 

One woman weeps, tears of mortality.

The other woman rhymes with her.

 

Everything rhymes eventually, though

neither of them know it yet. The grass.

 

The snow. The dirt. The way the two women lean

into shadows. It’s not that time makes demands,

 

it’s just that the women still see themselves

as separate. They grasp at the present,

 

thinking this makes them a part of it.

Meanwhile, the birds. Meanwhile,

 

the trees. Meanwhile, the cells, changing.

Meanwhile the sun slides down the sky.

 

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I fell in love, today, with the black

and blue marker stains on the table

made by the two-year-old boy—

he colored in the circles he’d drawn

with so much enthusiasm that the ink

seeped through the paper

and into the lemon cream paint on the table

where no amount of scrubbing could remove it.

 

It wasn’t so much the stain though, no,

and it wasn’t the color. What I fell in love with

was the way his mother didn’t see

that the table was ruined. She saw

that he did such a fine, precise job,

that he took so much pleasure in the coloring.

And when I apologized for bringing markers

that didn’t easily wash, she looked at me

with so much surrender and said,

“On a day like today,

who could worry about a table?”

 

It was yesterday they found the dog

waiting beside the car.

It was this morning the skier’s body was found

in a massive snow slide.

It was all day, through the stupor of loss,

I fell in love with the shape of empty branches,

the scent of black tea, the sound

of my son’s voice, fell in love

with the grace in the way my friend shrugged

when she saw the table, the way she hugged

her son. She offered me chocolate from London.

We ate the squares slowly. All day the gray edge

of grief made every little thing

more precious, more sweet.

 

 

 

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One Great Loss

—for Jack

 

 

such terrible silence

when the dog isn’t whining at the door—

the space on the dog bed empty

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