“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.

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.

What do You Call Your Father?

42694360_10155800587148499_7360350429420453888_n FROM THE WRITINGS SNIPPETS RANDOM AS I THINK OF THEM FOLDER

 CNF STARTER:

I Never Called for Him

Being older, I sometimes find myself in the “remember when” conversations with family, friends, colleagues.  And sometimes those conversations turned to our childhoods and what did we do, or watch, or dress like, or listen to, or call…

Or call. Yes.  Lolo what did you call your father?

Indeed. What did I call my father? I could not remember calling him anything to his face.

‘What did you call yours?” I might ask, trying to avoid the question.

Daddy, if I wanted something.

Sir, Yes, Sir.

And then she laughed, the kind of laughter that meant love, trust, fond memories.

Mitter, another friend said.

Da, another said.

Papa.

Pop.

Dad.

DAD!

HEY!

Old man.

OG.

Pops.

Lots of laughter, lots of smiles.

Me, oh I don’t remember.

Me?  I don’t remember calling my father anything.  I don’t remember calling him at all.

I never called him on the telephone if I could help it.  I never called him anything to his face.

But writing was different. In writing in those spiral angst filled journals, I called him my father.

With my siblings it was He or Him.  What kind of mood is He in?  Shhh… Him one of us might whisper, pointing with our chin to another room where He was. Or sometimes just among ourselves we would call him by his initials, LW, and later The Weird One. If we said That Bastard, we knew we meant our father.   Or if we said that mother fucking cocksucker son of a bitch we knew we meant our father.

Perhaps it was our way of identifying our father while keeping him at a distance.

I did not share these family secret of what we called my father at any party or any gathering ever.

But if I were honest, I believe this–I never called for him.

 

Moth Mate/ Rough Draft

Just a few snippets, since I hope to submit a revised/ edited full version for publication and don’t want to have this considered published.

Moth Mate

Moth to a
Fake flame

Candle, lit
To accompany

Mid summer’s night
Solitude

White flint
Small gold flutter

Before any

Dawn songs.

 

img_5737

 

(I wanted to see what I could do with this learning and healing time. Can I observe more? Can I see what I don’t really see on a busy workday? What do you do, what do I do with those middle of the night silences? The crickets have stops singing. The cicadas have not yet started their trilling. And I am waiting to learn when the robins start their dawn songs.

I shall find out soon.

I hear frogs now. They’ve joined us.

And I’m trying to find out what can I do with my limited mobility and access right now to Technology.

This was created in the hopes of making meaning out of silence and pain.

Dare I send from my iPhone? So unliterary.

But this to me also speaks of the power of literacy to sustain.

I turn to words.)

sent from my iphone

Brake for Beauty

Around 17 years ago,I started “braking for beauty” during a time of great grief and sorrow. Suddenly, I was losing friends and family members. Nine in just a matter of a few years. I was devastated.

I carried sunglasses with me everywhere, in all pockets of all jackets and all my purses; I also tried to look for the beauty in life. If I could safely pull over when driving, I would look for beauty, brake/ break for beauty, take a picture or two, keep those pictures on my phone so that I could look at them when times got very hard.

Nature rather saved me during this time, which lasted six years.

I wrote a poem back then, titled “Parking Lot Maple,” one of the few poems I love. I like this poem so much I don’t want to publish. I will submit it every now and then for publication then withdraw it because I just don’t want it gone for me, if that makes sense.

I still brake for beauty since it enriches life.

Conversation with the Woods

“You said good-bye already.”

–I know. I thought I’d risk it, because–because–

“You need me. Go ahead and say it.”

–I need you.  It’s because–

“I don’t need to know the reason.  Just don’t expect me to ask the insects to leave you alone like you did last year.”

–I won’t.

“Better get your sunglasses.”

–I won’t need them.  I am feeling better.

“No, you are not.  I don’t care if you weep in the woods because I hear death all the time.”

–How did you know?

“I hear death all the time.”

Caught

“You didn’t get out of the car at all?” he asked, returning from his walk.

“No,” she answered. “There’s too–just too much out there. And I don’t have my sunglasses.”

“You’re not talking about the woods,” he said.

“No,” she said.

 

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.

Spring promises

I promised myself I would not ignore this spring, the surprises and certainties. That I would work less and live more. I’ve not done so well on keeping this promise. Old habits die hard.

And winter had been so cold, dark, lengthy.