Poetry as Gift

   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 aware of what a privilege it was to be trusted with this knowledge.  How should I respectfully reply?

I asked L if I could write a poem about sisters and brothers for her, and that while I don’t know her situation exactly, I am old enough to have known much grief. L had a broken heart, and I know about broken hearts.

I thought of the many years I looked for my brother in different ways, estranged due to our father’s many violences. All the longing to find him over the many years. The late nights, the silent mornings. The bird songs that found me still awake.

I gave L the poem, knowing there is nothing good I could say that would make any of this okay. Brothers don’t go missing then get found… like that… but of course they do. In real life, horrible things happen.

L liked the poem and posted it on her blog so her family members could read it as well.

I am very happy that literacy could help me reach her, that reading led her to find me, that poetry helped me reach her. It’s a small thing, but I hope positive.

And this is a small tale of how literacy can help lives and how literacy can help us reach each other, heart to heart, mind to mind. And the special place of poetry to be personal and universal at the same time.

Submitted Nonfiction Today

img_3954I submitted a piece of nonfiction today; it felt very scary. No hiding behind poetic license. It was an essay about grief, something we all know about as we get older.

But even though submitting nonfiction was very scary to me, I was able to enter this essay title and information on the excel sheet I created after learning from another writer; I followed his suggestions for creating a submissions excel tracking sheet. I added color coding for Rejected, Accepted (that’s in green), Pending, Withdrawn, and Unknown. Too many unknowns, it seems!   I am learning to sort by these categories as well.

I am having fun working with this!

I don’t think I will become a nonfiction writer now, for I really need that poetic license and I do tend to look at the world through a poet’s eyes.

But I am still trying to grow as a writer.

Thanks for reading.

Fifty-Five Years of Gratitude

img_1235-1(From a work in progress)

 

The heart knew it was 55 years ago that you last went to that restaurant with your uncle. Do you say something to him?

 

Probably not because back then you were a child who was too small to even look out of the backseat of his car and see the snow covered streets, streets with no one but children who had been forced from their home during another Sunday night alcohol fueled rage. Do you say something, hoping he would remember?

 

Do you look at him and realize that back then he was barely more than a teenager himself, so young and proud of his red 1963 Chevy with back then unheard of features of automatic windows and doors. I drove all the way from the city to pick up the kids, your uncle said, so they wouldn’t be walking in that empty field or the swamp.

 

You look at your uncle and realize he’s nearly 80 now. You look at his hands that have had dozens of operations from damage done during the lifespan of a laborer.

 

Yet he still has that boyish smile, the quick wit, the quick temper.

 

But he’s 80 and you’re not eight years old anymore. You have a career, an education, a loving kind spouse.

 

But this is a gratitude 55 years in the making , for taking a child off the street that night, making jokes, buying hot chocolate, anything other than spending a cold winter night alone outside.

 

You can’t say thank you for that to an 80-year-old uncle. You just can’t. You’ve never spoken about it.

 

You reach across the table, take the check, walk to the counter and pay.

 

Nature and Grief

(From my phone)  And I’m here, still.

...I’m trying hard to keep it together. My husband is pulling me off the ceiling sometimes, as I’m finding I’m having chest pains and horrible urges to sob loudly.

When I see her, I will be cheerful and not dwell on the fact that she is most likely dying and going to die an awful death. But in my alone moments, I don’t handle things so well.

Took a short nature walk today and it really helped. Saw a flying squirrel and an ornate box turtle. The poor turtle was stuck between a rock and a hard place, literally, but got free. The flying squirrel froze when it saw a human. I tried to be still, to disturb it as little as possible.

The walking paths were snow-covered, which is surprising since it is still autumn.

Sitting at home, done with grading, waiting for night to fall. Flashes of red from outside. Three male and three female cardinals picking seeds up from the bush in back of the house. Those brief flashes of red are so beautiful and so life affirming somehow.

I stand up to look outside, and they fly away. They must have been able to sense my presence, perhaps see my shadow.

And it helps. And the sunset helps. And the trees and the birds and friends and loved ones help.

But it is impossible to inoculate yourself from grief. At least I think so, if you are a loving person, the loss of a loved one will hurt greatly.

About 13 to 14 years ago, my family and I suffered the loss of many. Some died from a freak set of accidents, some from cancer, some from old age, etc. But it was so many in a short period of time that I was truly overwhelmed and didn’t get a chance to really mourn the loss of most of them individually.

Of these nine losses, the loss of my best friend, Susan, my godmother, and my mother hurt the most. The others I feel bad that I have not mourned them individually; it was like a collective grief.

So I know I’m going to face a lot of pain, and if you love someone, that’s to be expected.

But not something to be looked forward to.

It’s the price of loving people and getting older, surely.

The cardinals have returned, cautiously picking out seeds from the bush behind the house.

 

And I’m here, still.

img_2501img_2503img_2502img_2496img_2483

Lest I Forget

Lest I forget. Find beauty even in the quiet of a gloomy day. It’s there. Especially if love is there; I do not take anyone for granted.

The Email that Vanished and Good Bye to a Best Man

About five months ago, I started this blog and got an email associated with the blog. At first, I added that email to my phone and my computer at home. However, since I only got spam- like email there, I removed that email many many months ago.

However, tonight I saw an email from the daughter of one of my husband’s dear childhood friends. She informed us that her father had passed away, and asked to contact her. My husband asked me to reply as soon as possible, so I went into the next room and logged onto the computer.

However, her email was gone. Completely gone. Absolutely completely gone. Not in spam. Not in deleted. Not in trashed. Not an archive. Simply nowhere.

Since two of us saw the email, I knew I was not crazy. I knew we had actually seen it. And I remembered enough about the writer to be able to find her by her career and institution where she works.

And then I added back the email to my phone for my blog, the blog here. And there was her original email, notifying us of father’s death.

Her father had been the best man at our wedding. Her father was a very dear dear dear friend to my husband, who is a quiet and gentle soul, and appreciated his friendship very much.

There is no way I should’ve seen the original email at all. It is not surprising that it disappeared; rather, it is surprising that I saw at all since it was not on my phone, that email, nor on my computer.

Sometimes glitches with technology can work out. I’m not going to make it anymore than that.

However, we had been wondering what happened to his dear friends since he didn’t reply anymore to our texts or emails.

And now we know. Now we can mourn him, and send our love out into the universe and to his family.

Sometimes glitches can actually help us.

Thanks for reading this, and I hope all the little glitches in your life help you.

I Never Thanked Them

img_1003    Today I met a woman about my age.  She told me how many times her children thanked her for moving to America to give them opportunities they would not have had in their small town, which she characterized as small, unsafe, lots of guns, lots of drug dealers.  She raised five children here in America, all in college or college graduates.  And now it is her turn, she said, to go to school.

I was so bitter and angry growing up I never thanked my parents for anything, not even the now obvious sacrifices they made so we children could go to good schools.  I was too busy feeling like a victim to appreciate they sacrificed a lot–I didn’t see it at all.

As I walked in the woods this afternoon, I was full of regret.

Is it possible to thank the dead?

All I could think to do was embrace the beauty around me, the trees, wildflowers, gorgeous sky and say thank you, Mom and Dad, I wish I had thanked you while you were alive.

I hope my life itself and my embracing of literacy have shown my appreciation, but I doubt it.  I took it as my due while I tried to distance myself from my family, my neighborhood, and especially my father.

Thank you, Mom and Dad.  I wish I had told you that while you were alive.  While you were far from perfect and even destructive at times, I acknowledge you made big sacrifices so we could have a better life.

How I wish I had told them that while they were alive– thank you for the sacrifices you made so we could have a better life.  No, that’s not good enough.

Thank you for helping me have a good life.

Prose Poem Draft “Didn’t Say Good bye”

bonfire        (Note: I wrote this fictional prose poem after the devastating fire and explosion nearby that hurt more than a dozen teens in late April.)

I didn’t Say Goodbye 

Cool spring night in April. Red bud blooms just starting to soften, School nearly over— We wanted to say good bye.
A dozen gathered for fire and ghosts (We were too old for Ghost stories– We mostly laughed at them.) But huddled closer before the end of school We wanted to say good bye.
Nearly full moon peaked gold on the horizon, watching us, laughed at us a bit, hid back in the clouds then showed its silver side.  Showed up in our ghost stories–the hide-and-seek moon.
We just wanted to say good bye.
Twelve, a dozen motley crew on a Saturday night, asking if it was time to go home, but no one wanted to leave the flames gold, flickering, magical like the moon’s silver— They held us in place. The talking stopped, but we were saying good bye.
I slipped away, knowing Mom needed me– I didn’t want to disturb them, my suddenly silent but free and sweet silver and gold friends.  Flames calling me back but Mom needed me. I didn’t say good bye.
I heard it, the explosion. Ran back but I was too late. Faces, arms, hands just gone. Explosion then sirens and crying, sobbing and smells and screams
I didn’t get to say good bye.

Of Broken Hearts…a Moment of reality in the doctor’s office and more…

broken heart syndrome       I don’t know why more people don’t die of broken hearts.

I was in a doctor’s office today and heard an infant crying.  An INFANT.  I looked at my doctor and asked, Do you hear that?  At first, he kept his professional persona, as I know he needed to do, and then he said, I thought I could be a pediatrician until my wife and I had children…I could not…could not…

A moment of connection with the medical provider and me—neither of us wanted to hear an infant crying in a medical provider’s office….

I could not tell a parent, he started to say.

And I knew what he meant.

I don’t need to see this doctor for a year or so, so I was a safe patient to be real with… but we both looked at each other and wondered–how do people cope?

All the news about children and parents being separated at the border.  How do people survive?

I worked with someone whose infant was born with a stomach tumor as large as the infant himself…and his insurance company denied his claim as a PRE-EXISTING condition.

How does one survive this heart-breaking, life-breaking fact, that a BABY would be denied coverage? That this child was born with a life-threatening disease?

I have often wondered how anyone survives a war; I doubt I could, as I am very sensitive and I do not make quick decisions. I ponder, ponder, fret and consider, while the world has moved on.

In any case, I found an article from the American Heart Association about Broken Heart Syndrome.

This doesn’t answer the question of HOW do people survive? I don’t know. I really don’t know… how people survive war, catastrophes,  etc.  I admire anyone who does.

And I think we REALLY need to be kind to others, since we don’t know what people are trying to deal with.

Be nice.  Try to put yourself in their shoes.  Life isn’t easy at times; life can be so complicated.

But I think most people want to survive, protect those they love, and have a purpose in life.

With all of this in common, can we find a way to get along?

I hope so.

Thanks for reading, and wishing you peace and empathy.

Laura Lee

 

PS I wonder how many people *do* die of broken hearts, but it is called something else?  BE NICE.  Try to understand others.  Try to extend compassion.