“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.

FACE STORM —very rough draft

Oh how I hated to close the window!

FACE STORM

The Smell of rain

Through an opened window

The sound of thunder

Awakened her

at the beginning

week five

Of recovery.

The excitement of a

late summer storm

The sky turning gray green

the raindrops falling

down, straight down

Towels around the window

soaking something splendid

summer storm, found a small way

blessing way

fresh onto her face

On a Sunday morning

On the first Sunday

dreamed for week 5

Of recovery

Rain, the smell of rain

Awakened.

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.

Nine Month Sentence ROUGH DRAFT. To edit. Revise.

ROUGH DRAFT. to edit. Revise.

Just a few snippets from that time ten years ago, since I am submitting a revised/ edited full version for publication and don’t want to have this considered published.

The Nine Month Sentence

Stunned. Nine months of

little sun, closed streaked windows to follow.

We had not

used our summer well.

We had not slept

under the June blue sky,

toes curled in fresh green.

 

…We might

flee with them.

Poetry or Fiction: Genre Decisions/ Rough Draft

Can any topic be used for a poem? A narrative of a father drunk vomiting… agreeing to drive daughter to work during a winter storm–how can that be in a poem? I’m feeling the story wants to be a poem–or am I being influenced too much by Hayden’s “Those Winter Sundays?”

Because I have been reading poetry and keep coming back to  “what did I know” This father is not a farmer, but a father who wasn’t always drunk and sometimes tried to help his daughter get to work so she could save money for college.  (When he wasn’t waiting for her paycheck to “give it home,” if he was drunk on payday—before direct deposits.)

Because no, maybe fiction would be better. The father heaving, vomiting between telling Lo he will, he should drive her to work in a storm, not to walk in the storm. Lo wondering… can she trust Da to drive her?

Fun to explore the decision of what genre would be best for a narrative. Interesting to learn what these characters insist on–poetry, my usual genre, or fiction?

img_1235-1 

Da Girl

Da, girl says
Are you sure you can drive?
Five minutes, he says.

Tap-water instant
Coffee effort Not doing it.

Can you boil water, Lo,
can you?

Five minutes more, he says,
Don’t walk, I hear
The storm.

Da, she whispers,
I’ll lost my job,
Searching the sideways blizzard.

 

 

***And a link to Hayden’s poem: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46461/those-winter-sundays

Little Sister-Rough Draft

img_1235-1

Just something I found on an old flash drive.  Will edit, revise, see where it goes.

Just a few snippets from that time ten years ago, since I am submitting a revised/ edited full version for publication and don’t want to have this considered published.

Little sister
you are not alone
sometimes I am
in your dreams
purring
a pink cat who speaks.

And sometimes
I am at the top of the stairs
thrusting
limbs forward
as a shield.


Little sister, sometimes
I am in between the lines of
words from decades ago
straight to your mirror.

 

 

 

img_1235-1

“Devastation” Published at Headline Poetry Today

Happy to have a poem published today (“Devastation”) at Headline Poetry.

The history of the poem arises from when I taught ELL years ago.  It was around 2002.  I taught with a colleague who was a refugee from Sarajevo. She survived the siege–and the stories she told still haunt me.

saravejo siege

Thanks to the editors at Headline Poetry.

 

Photo credit: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

The Destructive Age of Urban Warfare; or, How to Kill a City and How to Protect It

John Spencer | March 28, 2019

 

 

 

 

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

Jab of Feral Cat

red cat picture from creative commons

A few years ago, I saw a male cat at my patio door. It was a loud August day, full of cicadas trilling.  I could hear them, but not the cat-sounds.  I could see his mouth move, and I think he was mewing.

It was high August, a loud fierce time of blasting summer heat, sounds, images.

As to the cat, whom I called Big Red?  He looked bad—had been in some type of fight. He was skinny, losing weight. I’d been noticing him for years and grew to be fond of this fighter—he had challenged a coyote and won!  He would fight younger, stronger male cats.

And he would eat from anyone who would feed him, learning quickly that the back patios were home to older ladies at home who loved cats.

And I am writing about a cat, but also poetry. Because I could not hear him.  Because the words “pane” and “pain” came to mind, and boundaries and borders came to mind.

I jotted down some ideas on my phone in Notes.  And just found them years later, since I had posted them on Facebook—yes Facebook—so I could find them again. They came up on my timeline, so it worked.

Just a cat poem rough draft.   I want to see where I can go with this with language, can I create a real poem?

We shall see—maybe that jab of feral cat will come alive.

Just a few snippets from that time ten years ago, since I am submitting a revised/ edited full version for publication and don’t want to have this considered published.

ROUGH DRAFT–partial poem

jab of feral kitten
black, white, orange
crust on nose and mouth
up to glass door
paw up to glass he
mewed silently
all that pane
between cat sounds
and my world…

 

 

(picture from the creative commons–Big Red does look like this, only bigger, furrier, and much older)C5438C4D-7EFC-4B03-8398-D253E9D9DDE8