“Not Sleep” Published in Cagibi, a Literary Place

Since my sister died last month, I’ve been re-experiencing grief in different ways than when grief last visited.  Before, I was filled with sadness.  Now, I am experiencing sadness, but also regret and dread.  I think of what a cliche comparing depression to having a black cloud hanging over your head, but that image is strong with me now.

I am older now than when the others died so quickly, one after another after another, 15 years older.  And my sister and I had a complicated relationship. We were estranged for some years, as is common in families where the abusive parent tries to keep the siblings apart by telling lies about each other and sewing discord.  Nevertheless, my sister and I found ourselves to become much loved dear friends for most of our lives.  We were such different people, but we shared a long history of trauma and grief, but also humor, laughing, and a love of nature.  After my sister had her children, who are now in their 40s, we became dear friends.

Fifteen years ago I wrote more poetry than ever, as I converted grief into words.  I wrote about divorce, break ups,winter, sicknesses, illnesses, aging.  I had to warn my husband that divorce was code for grief, as I could not write about death then.

It was a time of great creativity, and looking back, I can feel that grief again–a purer type of grief, perhaps, since those lost then were never other than positive in my life, family and friends who shared only positive emotions in my life.

One of the poems I started writing back then, “Not Sleep,” I finished much later and have recently had published in Cagibi, a Literary Place.

NOT SLEEP PUBLISHED IN CAGIBI

 

I do like this poem, and could only write it many months after the death of my mother.  I could return to it then only years later.

I wonder how my sister’s death will affect my poetry writing.  I would give up writing poetry forever if I could have her alive again and healthy and happy, but that cannot happen.  Writing about her would be very difficult, for we had a complicated relationship.

I felt sorry for her.  I pitied her sometimes.  I had great sympathy for her suffering.  I loved her, and felt I understood many of the seemingly unfathomable things she did to drive others away.  I wasn’t married to her, was not raised by her–we had the relationship of peers who reacted to our shared traumas in very different ways.  I found her very brave.

I am still too raw to talk much about her or write much about her, since she has only been gone a month.  We are entering winter weather already here and it’s dark so much of the day.  All these, blended with a recent injury and job change have me a bit bewildered at times and needing to step back, check my thinking, and affirm this: although I sometimes feel great dread lately, that does not make things dreadful.  I need to question my automatic feelings and force myself to perceive, love, enjoy the many beauties in life.

My husband asked me the other day if I am feeling mortal; yes, I told him, that’s a great way to put it. No matter what, my sister is still dead.  No matter how many times I pick up the phone to call her, she’s still dead.  No matter how many times I think I want to tell her something, she is still dead.   No matter how many times I think of something that could have made her last months better, she is still dead.  No matter how angry or sad, outraged or fearful, she is still dead. No matter how much regret I feel for things I should have done or should have done differently with my sister, she is still dead.

Mortal, yes.  Feeling very mortal, which has also prompted me to clean closets, read books, write poetry again, sign up for a class.  If I feel I need to turn on ALL of the lights at home, I do so.  If I want pumpkin pancakes, I get them.  I am pushing myself to exercise more, for I know good health is so important to loving life.  I am resisting the urge to get another job, because I have recognized that long term, this gift of time off is a precious gift.

What will I do with my life?  It’s exciting yet scary to imagine! Sometimes I envision myself staying in bed, jaws clenched, covers pulled over my head, in some dramatic made for TV movie of the week about death and depression.  Other times I think–April will come again, chorus frogs will return, I’ll get that storage room cleaned out, I’ll read another great novel, I will make new friends and develop new skills and wonder.

*   *   *

 

Thanks for reading.  Interesting how I can be succinct when writing poetry, such as “Not Sleep,” while I am so wordy with prose.

And a Literary Journal Survives… Phew

Addendum: I am pleased Coffin Bell Journal IS publishing again.  Always glad when literary journals survive.  It can be read here: Coffin Bell.

two red candles beside plant in pot

  Two LOVELY journals I was published in during the last year have closed their internet doors/ sites. I am sad about this, for each brought a different  point of view to the world. One was very political and one was very psychological. Sad about this, but hoping their words last out there.

Good bye (for now?) to Tuck Magazine and Coffin Bell. The first published some of my political poetry and the second a feminist poem disguised as a horror story.

Writing Sideways Poems/ “Where You Are Not” in Esthetic Apostle

Back in 2001-2005,  I suffered the loss of several loved ones, both families and friends.  Before then, I sometimes marveled how I had not experienced the death of anyone I cared about and I was nearly 50 then.  I knew that would end, and it did as friends died from freak accidents (falling on ice in a church parking lot and having a bone fragment reach the bloodstream–RIP Ruth) to dying while sleeping and choking (RIP Earl), to the death of my godmother from heart disease, my mother from dementia from a terrible head injury to my father to a stroke he suffered while we were on the phone–and so on.

All of this emotional and body memory is being resurfaced by the death of my only sister last week.  I remember grief, what it feels like (shock, anger, grief, disbelief, pain), what it tastes like (tears), what it sounds like (choking, crying, silence). And then the permanence, the inability to touch the loved one anymore.

I wrote a lot of poetry about grief before then because of childhood losses that did not involve death, during this time, and afterwards, for my sister was diagnosed with terminal illnesses, one after the other after the other.  She lived an amazing 15 years after the first terminal diagnosis–truly amazing.

But I rarely wrote directly about the one who died, except for about my best friend Susan who died young, before age 40, from colon cancer.  We were such close friends I was shattered.  When someone told me I should get over it, I snapped and wrote a very harsh poem titled NOTOVERIT, full of profanities.

You may have heard that writers used everything in their life to write, and that is true of me, but not in a direct fashion. I write sideways poems.

Sideways?  I usually wrote about the death of a spouse or a divorce, telling my dear husband it was how I could deal with the grief, to write about it sideways, obliquely.  Since we are still married, he just gave a puzzled look.  But it helped me to write about grief in a way others could understand without battering me further.

This poem, “Where You are Not,” was written to explore the empty feeling of not being able to touch, to feel, to see the loved one anymore. I am blessed to have my spouse with me in my daily life, but grief is grief I think, and while I could not yet write about the many others since they came too close together, I could fictionalize my losses and take poetic license.

I really appreciate Esthetic Apostle for publishing this poem in their June 2019 issue.

where you are not poetry at esthetic apostle June 2019

 

 

Lessons from Garbage Day–repost

bicycle pexels    You need help, was all he said. Not a question, a statement.

I had just come home from visiting a dear friend, and was making three trips from the curb to the car to the house–taking in emptied garbage cans, my purse, etc. I think I was limping a bit, leftover injury that’s so much better now, but still a limp at times.

He was a boy of 11-13, just riding his cool stingray bike around the block, around, around, around. I noticed him circling, looking bored. He seemed to be new to the neighborhood. Maybe he was checking out the middle school nearby.

After my second trip, a wheel on one of the garbage cans fell off.

You need help, he said, loud enough for me to hear him. No yelling. No gestures that would raise alarm. He stayed on his bike. A kid.

You need help.

Excuse me?

You need help?

No, thanks, thanks a lot though. You getting ready to go back to school?

Yeah, he said, sounding a bit sad.

And he rode off.

In another world, I would have said thank you , what’s your name, here’s $5 to carry this stuff in for me.

In this world, I wish I could have told him, someone taught you manners, and that’s great. But in this world,  young men might best be taught–don’t talk to women you don’t know for it scares them and we women tend to mistrust many males, even boys of 12-13.

And as a teacher, I would be very reluctant to accept help from ANY youngster not known–and I mean parents knowing ME.

If I see him again when I’m with the Big Guy, I will say hello and thank him for the offer.

But in this sanitized and isolated suburbia, we pay for help we cannot do ourselves. There is no community. None. We are advised to socialize out back, not in front. Nothing in front of the houses. No bikes, no lawn furniture.

Make it look like no one lives here but trees and shrubs and garbage cans.

I think I’m right that this was a boy who was taught to help the elderly.

Lesson learned, we are no longer than country.

We are the country of no guns allowed signs on schools, churches, etc.

We are the country of ever smaller nuclear families.

We are the country of cars and garages and where simple courtesy can be seen as dangerous. By children or adults.

It made me glad somehow that he asked, nonetheless. I salute your parents for teaching you manners. I hope I thanked you with a sincere smile; I didn’t have the heart to tell this middle-schooler that we just are not friendly to strangers.

I did look for this boy, but I never saw him again.  I hope he is still willing to help out older folks, and hope his heart is still so good.

Poetry as Gift

L has now reached out to me; we share the recent loss of siblings.

Laura Lee

This has been a touching day. A former colleague reached out and asked me to join/ read her blog dedicated to her brother’s memory. I waited a while, then read…about a missing brother, found dead after 62 days, and what that meant to her family.

A nightmare… missing, dead… found dead by my friend. Her mom doesn’t know anyone saw the body… in that condition… so much more I don’t wish to say.

I don’t know why she reached out to me, but social media let her find me.

I remember my friend L as a kind, witty, hardworking science teacher. I was the literacy coach in the building, often a hated person. But L was kind and worked with me, let me into her classroom. And then I got transferred to another school and we lost touch until recently.

After read her blog, I was stunned and also very…

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On Cable Bills, Woman to Woman, and Grieving Before Death

Since I blogged this in August, my sister has died. She passed on a few days ago. I have been grieving her many pains and sadnesses for a long time, I realize, and just yesterday was her funeral. I need to regroup, heal, process, and yes–grieve.

Laura Lee

old black and white tv

It’s so time consuming with medicines and visits and the day to day physical needs that I sometimes “forget” she is dying, and sooner rather than later. Sister’s TV/ cable turned off for nonpayment. She lives in a basement apartment and we TRIED a TV with every kind of antenna possible. No channels. Cable is needed.

Since she cannot read due to vision issues and is living alone (that’s another issue), I thought of the cable TV as a comfort issue and paid for it to be turned back on. She cannot use the internet anymore due to cognitive issues, but she can listen to TV shows and she has followed some for a long time.

I understand all the arguments against TV, but in her case, it is a comfort.

As I was speaking to the person at the BIG nasty cable company, I just broke down crying, after…

View original post 244 more words

“Three Month Sentence” to be Published Tomorrow in The Esthetic Apostle

Capture I am pleased that my poem, “The Three Month Sentence,” will be published in The Esthetic Apostle tomorrow.  I will post the link to the published poem after that day.

But for now, these are some of the words from the poem; I do need to let the journal publish the complete poem first.  But…

We had not wrapped nights
in tender sighs under stars.
Our nights
were wasted in worry.

Thank you for reading.

Laura

Publications

pexels-photo-997721 Publications, Laura Lee

Some of my poems, short stories, and nonfiction articles are included online and in print books and magazines published in the UK, Greece, India, New Zealand, and the United States. Many thanks to the staff at these publications. 

“The Three Month Sentence,” a poem, in Esthetic Apostle, 2019.

“Red Halo,” a poem, in Prometheus Dreaming, 2019.

“Devastation,” a poem, 2019, in Headline Poetry.

“Havishammed +1,” a poem, 2019, online and in print edition available through amazon.com and at High Shelf Press.

“Where You Are Not,” a poem, June 2019, Esthetic Apostle, here.

“Swamp Pearls,” a poem, May 2019, in Prometheus Dreaming, here.

“Not Sleep,” a poem, in Cagibi: A Literary Space, 2019, here: Cagibi.

“The Professor and the Gravel,” (2019), a poem, in Wingless Dreamer.

“Saltwater Faces,” an ekphrastic poem inspired by paintings at the Art Institute of Chicago, High Shelf Press, 2018, here.

“Click,” “The Night is our First Language,” and “They Left the Bed,” poetry published in The Poetic Bond VIII print issue, 2018. Available at Poetic Bond VIII.

“Moving Gravel” a short story at Crack the Spine – Themed Anthology Submissions, “Routine”, print edition, 2018. Available at Crack the Spine Anthology.

“Walk with Child,” a poem, in Snapdragon Journal, 2018, “Here and Gone” theme, here.

Coffin Bell Journal,2018, “Herstory,” a poem, 2018,here.

Spillwords Press, “Stopped,” a poem, 2018, here. 

Tuck Magazine, June 2018, “Teach to Kill” http://tuckmagazine.com/2018/06/06/poetry-1528/.

Tuck Magazine,  May 2018, “Refuge,” http://tuckmagazine.com/2018/05/29/poetry-1511/.

 Southernmost Point Guest House (UK), poetry.

Journal of Modern Poetry 21 (Volume 21), “Hell, No,” a poem at JOMP Volume 21 Dear Mr. President.

Journal of Modern Poetry 20 (Volume 20), “Moonlit Awakening,” JOMP Volume 20 Poetry Writer’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Journal of Modern Poetry 18 (Volume 18), The Official Poets Guide to Peace, two poems: “Open” and “After Poetry Class.” 2015. Purchase here.

Journal of Modern Poetry 17 (Volume 17), JOMP Volume 17. 

Cram Volume 12: “White Board Clown,” 2011. Chicago Poetry Press 2011.

Magazine (New Zealand) , Raewyn Alexander, Publisher, nonfiction and poetry.  Raewyn Alexander NZ.

Fiction in: http://staxtes.com/2003/ “Between the Sunlight and the Skipping” in English Wednesdays

Poetry in: https://poetsagainstthewar.org/ archives.

Illinois English Bulletin, a publication of the National Council of Teachers of English, nonfiction article about teaching in an alternative education program.

 Poetry in Marginalia, Elmhurst, IL.

“The Three Month Sentence” to be Published in Esthetic Apostle

On a day I lost my sister, I received an acceptance of a poem about grief. I will miss my sister more than I can say; we were close in age, spoke most days, and saw each other a lot.

We laughed, we argued, we accused each other of being stubborn.  But always, we loved each other and shared decades together.

The poem, “The Three Month Sentence,” will be published in The Esthetic Apostle on October 13th.  I will post the link to the poem after that day.

But for now, these are some of the words from the poem; I do need to let the journal publish the complete poem first.  But…

We had not wrapped nights
in tender sighs under stars.
Our nights
were wasted in worry.

 

This was a poem written during another time of grief.

Thank you for reading.

Laura