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Posts Tagged ‘death’

Again. Again.




Almost every spring, I forget them,
the six packs of cosmos starts on the porch.
All it takes is one cold night,
an innocence of frost.

By dawn, the buds slightly droop.
By noon, the leaves hang darkened and limp.
By the next day, they’re black.
And dead.

It’s a familiar story. How one night
changes everything. How one day
I’m blooming, thriving, alive,
the next all I’d grown is gone.

I used to believe all was lost.
I used to throw the whole plant away.
But I learned what is dead serves as a blanket
to protect whatever still lives.

Wait, and in days, a tiny green filigree
emerges from the base.
In a month or two, it’s a bask of blooms,
no trace of how bleak it was.

Such tender study, the cosmos.
Blame is no part of their process.
They let what’s been lost be of service.
They know they are here to grow.

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on the way to the graveyard
taking a few detours through spring—
trill of red wing blackbirds

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When I say Happy New Year,
I hear my grandmother’s voice
inside my voice, the way
she slapped the first syllable,
the way silence hung for a moment
before she finished the rest of the phrase.
HAP-py New Year!
Each time I say the words, she
is so alive in that moment—
the syllables themselves
wear her bright red nails,
her signature updo
and her rhinestone earrings.
HAP-py New Year!
I sing out again and again,
loving how she enters
each conversation this day.
There are small ways
to bring our beloveds back,
little rituals so strong they
defy the loss, so strong
that each time we do them
we become more and more
who we love. Her voice
becomes my voice and her
joy becomes my joy.
I don’t have to look in the mirror
to see she is here, her smile
my smile curving up from the inside.

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When I think of encouragement,

I think of Jack Pera,

who stood every year

at the top of Imogene Pass—

in snow, in sun, in sleet, in fog.

On race day, a thousand plus runners

would reach the top,

weary, having climbed

over five thousand feet in ten miles,

and Jack, he would hold out his hand

and pull each of us up the last foot,

launching us toward the long downhill finish.

I remember how surprised I was

the first time, and grateful,

grateful to feel him reaching for me,

grateful to feel his powerful grip

yanking me up through the scree.

“Good job,” he’d say to each one of us,

cheering us though we were sweaty

and drooling and panting and spent.

After that first race, I knew to look for him

as I climbed the last pitch,

trying to make out his form

at the top of the ridge.

And there was. Every time.

“Good job,” he’d say

as he made that last steep step

feel like flight.

There are people who do this,

who hold out their hand,

year after year,

to help those who need it.

There are people who carry us

when we most need it,

if only for a moment.

When I heard today Jack had died,

I couldn’t help but imagine

an angel waiting there above him

as he took his last breath,

an angel with a firm grip and a big smile

holding out a hand, pulling him through that last effort,

telling him, “Good Job, Jack. Good job.”

And may he have felt in that moment

the blessing of that encouragement,

totally ready to be launched into whatever came next.

Good job, Jack Pera. Good job.

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Forecast

Nobody keeps any of what he has, and life is only a borrowing of bones.

          

  —Pablo Neruda, “October Fullness,” trans. Alistair Reid

And if we can keep nothing of what we have

then let us love more right now. Naked as sunlight

and unapologetic as ripe apples. Let’s invent

new compassions and conjure new kindnesses

out of what seems to be dust.

And if life is only a borrowing of bones,

then let us use them well while we may.

Just today I ran through the corn maze

and marveled at the joy of being lost.

Bless these borrowed femurs and spines.

Bless these borrowed skulls.

And let us love more right now.

Though the forecast is for loss.

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My grandmother asked me that night

to sleep with her in her bed.

Though I was thirty-something,

I knew little of loss. I remember

the great weight of her as she slipped

into the soft white sheets—

a mountain inside a woman’s body.

I wore a long flannel gown with tiny violets

and she a thin flannel robe, slightly pilled and well worn,

with tiny embroidered roses.

We hardly spoke. She did not cry.

Any night stitched with that much sorrow

will linger in the heart for a lifetime.

I did not hold her—nor did she seem

to wish to be held. And when I return

to that night in my mind, I don’t try

to rewrite it. She sleeps on her side of the bed.

I sleep where my grandfather used to sleep.

I listen for the eventual slow tide of her breath.

But I am not the same version of myself

who shared a bed with her then.

Now, when I lie down beside her,

I know something more of how vast

an emptiness can be. How it can feel as if

a whole garden has been ripped up by its roots.

How sometimes in the dark, though we know

there are stars, we simply can’t open our eyes.

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Forecast

In two nights, the killing frost will come.

Because I know this, I wander the garden

and talk to the broccoli, the nasturtiums,

the cilantro. I thank the beets for their willingness

to grow. I tell the onions what is coming.

Tomorrow I will pick enormous bouquets

and fill the house with orange flowers.

Tomorrow I will sit in the garden

and try to store the beauty in my body

though I know it doesn’t work that way.

Please, just one more day, just one more month,

just one more life to try to get it right,

just one more chance to be as attentive

as I am when I know it is almost over,

the basil dark green, the marigolds crinkling with gold.

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Learning

Today the shadows

teach me to love

what is dim,

the sweet respite

of obscurity

when the sun

is too much

and a tree

yields its shape

so that I might slip

my clumsy heat

out of the bounds

of the vertical world

and find instead

a cool dark pool

on the ground,

as if I’m a boat

that has discovered

at last

a slim calm eddy

in which I might rest.

This is perhaps

the way we start

to meet our deaths—

sliding into the relief

of these dark, quiet

channels.

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Flourish

Whatever it is inside the larkspur

that says grow, grow, grow,

I want to know it, too. Want

to obey the voice that urges me on,

even in frost, even in rain.

I want to rise out of my own dried debris,

want to know how it is to die and return,

new and yet somehow the same.

And what is it that fuels the drive?

I want to know that— the divine

encouragement that knows

when to wait, when to push,

when to wilt, when to flourish,

when to swell into oh! bright bloom.

I want to know myself as wick,

to be lit, to be the fire itself.

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Tonight, life wears me like

an old pair of shoes. The kind

it can slip its feet into

without untying the laces.

The kind of shoes a mother

would probably throw out

thinking of the act as a favor.

Life is tired, tonight,

of running. Doesn’t want

to dress to impress. It just

wants to know that it goes on,

especially tonight when

events seem to point

to the contrary. And so

though I am down at the heel

and shabby, life slips into me

as if life depended on it.

And we walk in the moonlight,

cry. And howl. Then take another step.

And then another.

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