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Posts Tagged ‘death’

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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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.

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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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And so I pull the purple comb

through my son’s thick hair,

the same way I’ve seen

the stylists do at Great Clips.

Wet the hair. Comb it through.

Part it. Hold it between

two fingers. Cut vertically. Snip,

and his hair falls to the floor.

Comb it through. Snip. Snip.

 

We both know that I

have no clue what I’m doing.

So we laugh as the hair

piles up on the floor.

We chatter, the way

a stylist and customer would,

talking of school and his friends

and his unruly cowlicks. Snip.

 

I remember that time

I was trapped underwater

by the river’s hydraulics,

how I stared up at the light

shining through the surface

and thought, I don’t think

it’s my time yet to die.

And the river spit me out

and I swam hard as I could

through the rapid toward shore.

 

I don’t think it’s my time yet

to die. Nor my son’s. Though

all around us the news of dying—

the numbers increasing every day,

stories of beloveds who are gone.

 

We ask ourselves, how do we

go on? And meanwhile, we do.

We go on. And because my son’s hair

is too long for his taste,

I learn how to cut it by cutting it.

How much more will we learn

as this goes on? How to share?

How to grieve? How to let go? How to live?

 

And meanwhile, life spits us out

into sunlight, and we come up

spluttering, gasping, surprised

we’re alive, and we swim, what a gift

to find we’re still swimming.

 

 

 

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IMG_6026

also known as Johnny jump up, heart’s ease, heart’s delight, come and cuddle me

 

 

Into the shade by the porch

bloomed the first wild pansy,

its small yellow face sunny

and eager and open.

 

The Athenians used to make

the tiny flowers into syrup

to moderate anger and

to comfort and strengthen the heart.

 

And here it is today,

small volunteer beauty,

growing in this patch of dirt

where nothing else wants to grow.

 

This tiny garden is but one of many

concurrent realities—others involve

hospitals short of beds, loved ones

gone, doctors scared to go home.

 

Our hearts need strengthening.

Little violet, we’re learning, too,

how to be surrounded by death

and still rise up, bring healing as we bloom.

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after her funeral

hanging her ornaments

on the evergreen

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100_0891

            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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