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Posts Tagged ‘son’


Because I can, I carry the box with your ashes
around the house as if you’re a baby on my hip.
I point out things and explain them,
just as I did when you were young and alive.
There, I say, there is where you practiced piano.
Here, I say, is where you sat at the counter
and wept when I told you the story
of Cinderella. And here is the wall
where we hung all your artwork.
And here is the room where you slept.
Here’s the plant you gave me last year—
see how it’s doubled in size?
And here’s the new couch in the place
where the old couch once was,
the one on which we snuggled each morning
before school. I walk the floor as I did
when you were young and fussy and needed
touch and movement to calm you.
Now I am the one who is calmed by the walking.
So familiar, these steps around the kitchen island,
these steps around the table.
So familiar, this weight on my hip.
Soon we will place this small wooden box
in the ground, so while I still can, I carry you.
Oh sweetheart, how is it I’m thriving amidst this gravity?
It is, I am sure, because I, too, am deeply companioned,
carried from moment to moment, from space to space.
And though I don’t hear it, there is perhaps a voice
that says to me, Here is where you lit
a candle every day. Here is where you practiced
to love in new ways. And here is where
you did not judge yourself as you wept.
Here is the place where you did nothing but breathe.
And here is where you thought of all the people
who have carried you.
And here is where you said thank you.

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3.14.22

   Tonight, instead of serving pie,
 I serve the memory of pie—
    serve the memory of pumpkins
 we grew in the garden
     then processed into custard.
         Serve the memory of years
  we made gluten-free crusts.
      Serve the memory of your rhubarb plant
     that will rise more robust this spring,
   memory of thinly sliced apples,
     key limes, lemon merengue,
        and all those tart cherries
         we harvested together.
       I serve the joy we shared
         in celebrating a constant
   necessary to the geometry of the world.
  I serve the thrill in knowing
   there is something
        both transcendental and infinite,
    something death can never touch,
      something ubiquitous that defines
  the world we inhabit.
      And though it is math,
    it is no less love,
   something that helps us
   understand our universe,
        something that hints
   at the grand design
  that amidst great catastrophe
       continues to hold it all together.

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The Softening




I carry it with me now, everywhere I go,
this softness, this limp unstuffed toy, a puppy
with a thin square body made for snuggling.
I carry it in my purse where it mingles
with my wallet, my glasses, my lipstick,
my loss. When I’m walking, I reach in
and let my fingers rub its soft, worn fleece.
When I’m watching a movie, once it’s dark,
I pull it out and let Skinny Puppy settle in my lap,
as if its brown embroidered eyes could see.
I know it’s just an object, but it’s a well-loved object,
some small proof that my boy was here,
that he loved, loved hard, loved long.
I remember how he carried Skinny to school,
clutching the small brown scrap to his belly
when we would say goodbye. I remember
how long after the toy trains and model tractors
and even the complicated Legos had gone away,
Skinny still slept on his pillow.
It’s been worn down by love, this old friend,
and made even softer by the loving—
like me, an old woman who has become
frayed, sentimental, slightly tattered,
distressed, but so shaped by love, and softened,
yes, softened. Even more myself, only softer.

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I Bless Every Yes I Said




There were nights when my son
would come to me late, like midnight,
and say, Mom, come on, let’s go drive.
And though I was tired, and though I knew
the canyon roads would make my stomach turn,
I’d say yes, because I was glad he’d ask,
and we’d get in the Ford and I’d feel the thrill
as it flooded him each time he’d sit at the wheel.
The night was our cathedral.
And we’d talk, or we wouldn’t, and he’d drive
us up to the top of the Dallas Divide.
I’d feel like heaving my guts every time. But damn,
how I loved those nights. The hymn of the wheels.
His smile. His laugh. The quiet canticle of breath.
No matter what choices came later,
I have those times he steered toward joy,
Those nights when we were so alive
and we’d drive, just drive.

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In Those Quiet Hours




For two weeks after he died,
I’d fall asleep exhausted
only to wake just past midnight.
Desperate, I’d claw at sleep,
frantic to catch it and clutch it,
but always it slipped my grasp
and I’d lie awake till morning.

My friend suggested
I reframe those sleepless hours
as a sacred time, an intimate,
personal quiet time. Not a problem.
Not something to be treated.
Not something to be feared.
That night, as I emerged from sleep,
dreams dripping from me like water,
I did not resist the waking.
Instead, eyes closed, heart open,
still lying in bed, I said,
I love you, Finn. I miss you, sweetheart.
And woke on the shore of morning.
Ever since, it happens just like this—
when I slip from sleep,
I tell my son I love him
and slide unknowingly
back into the tide of dreams.

How many hundreds of times
when he was young, did I go to him
when he cried out in the night?
I’d press my palms against his chest  
until his breath was a skiff for dreams.

Years later, though I can’t feel his hands,
though I don’t hear the lullaby of his breath,
somehow he arrives to comfort me.
And though I don’t hear him say
the words I’d always say to him,
I feel them float above me like a blanket,
warm in the cool night air—
Shhh. I’m here. It’s okay. I’m here.

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Tonight I stare at the photo
of you and me and the cat
and the wooden train tracks
and I can’t stop marveling how
your head angles so neatly
into my shoulder, how my
body angles so easily into
yours. And I see how, even
now, after you’re gone,
I am still angling toward you,
my whole self somehow
defined by the space
where you’ve been. Today,
someone asked if it
was too hard to think
of the happy memories.
No. I love them. And I love,
impossibly, the hardest
of memories, too. It is
so easy now to love
the all of you. Remember
how many times we built
those wooden tracks?
And then pulled them apart,
only to build them again?
What isn’t a teacher for love?
Even then we were learning
about dead ends. Even then
we were learning how things
circle, how things change.

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Revival


The day your son died, the person you were died, too.
            —Mirabai Starr


Death came to her
as a blue sky day,
as a feral scream,
as an ambulance
with no need
for its siren.
Death came to her
saying, “Ma’am,
you don’t want
to see your son
this way.” Death
knew what it
was doing when
it erased everything
she’d thought
about how to meet
a day, when it scraped
her of who
she had been
and left her barren.
It was habit
that made her
brush her teeth,
routine that helped
her drive the car.
But it was life itself
that inspirited
her, slipping
 like starlight
into her every
dark cell, life itself
that whispered
to her death-bent heart,
You are not done
yet with your
loving.

*

this poem has been published in ONE ART

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Tonight your absence
is a long-haired cat—
circling me, nudging me,
curling in my lap
and deciding to stay.

Is it strange to say
I love the presence
of your absence—
not the fact you are gone,
but the way it reminds me
I have made a life
of loving you—a choice
I will again and again make.

This is what I want:
To be awed by how
you still teach me
to love;
to be inspired
by how you still insist
I meet life as it is,
not life the way
I wish it would be.

I want to hold out my arms
and lean into the spaces
you’ve left behind.
I want to be as close
to your memory
as this cat in my lap—
how it molds to my shape,
how it makes of my body
a home.


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Ode to the Saltine Cracker




Oh, salty square,
oh, bite that turns
to savory paste,
oh, flaky wafers
stacked in long
white plastic sleeves,
you fed the boy
who could never
eat enough,
attended him
through online school,
travelled with him
in his book-laden backpack,
fueled him as he
researched twin-
turbocharged V-8 engines
and fawned over
Italian luxury cars.
Finding you today
out of place
on the shelf beside
my thesaurus,
an unopened box,
I crumpled,
longing for the boy
who would have opened you.
I’d love to clean
your stupid crumbs
from the couch.
All afternoon, I taste it,
this daily salt
that falls to my lips.

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But I found myself
rigid in the room where my son
took his life. And I sat
on the floor in the doorway
where he had last sat,
where his blood had pooled
and the air had briefly smelled
of burning. I sat there
beneath the wall
where the bullet had made
its narrow hole. I sat there
with my coil of sorrow.
I didn’t want to meet it.
I desperately wanted to meet it.
I wanted to give sorrow space.
I wanted to crawl inside it.
I wanted to be anywhere
but there on the dark wood floor
in the night dark room,
and I wanted to be wholly,
completely, obliteratingly there.
Fear-ridden, ferocious,I met it all,
felt the current pushing through.
Acceptance is a filament
that takes our resistance
and makes it bright,
makes it luminous enough
that we might see ourselves
exactly as we are.
I did not find my son
in that doorway. Perhaps
I had hoped I would.
But I saw the light
that came with me.
I softened into that light.

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