“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

 

 

“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

“The Night is Our First Language” Published

This is a poem inspired by a poetry reading by Li-Young Lee in Chicago.  When I heard  Lee read, I immediately wrote this poem on my train ride back home.  During the reading, the audience was stunned silent.   We listened intently and even stopped fanning ourselves on a desperately hot summer afternoon.

Lee is not active on social media, and that’s okay–he is probably busy writing more poetry!

The poem’s title came from something Lee said toward the end of his reading, that “the night is our first language.”  That stuck with me.

My poem is published here: Willowdown Books, The Poetic Bond VIII.

And here is the poem:

The Night is Our First Language
(after Li-Young Lee’s poetry reading)

Chicago, hot afternoon
packed reading room.
We wait as sweat drips down
faces, onto blouses, shirts–
unpoetic bodily functions.

A slight man, black ponytail,
black boots, turtleneck, blazer,
dark round rim glasses,
shuffles papers at the podium,
asks quietly:  Is the microphone on?
Thank you for coming. I will
read from new poems,
these are not finished.
It takes me so long to write
in English, not my first language.

Can you hear me know?

We sat forward
nodding, yes, yes,
we can hear you, we are listening,

His voice soft but clear
a slow low bell
of three countries
as he read a love poem to his sister,
who at eight
held the family keys and
held the duty
to keep the family together
while Mother
waited at the prison daily,
hoping for a glimpse of Father,
and he remembered sister’s screams
when father was beaten while arrested.

Sister, I will not tell your secrets.

He looked up, startled
that we were there,
as he went on to
talk of his mouth, not
suited for certain sounds,
of a river of escape,
so swollen with dead bodies
their boat could not move.

Finished, quietly, the poet
started away from the podium
as we sat in stunned silence,
a room packed, doubly packed,
while he said in parting,

The night is our first language.

 

From: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/li-young-lee

Li-Young Lee was born in Djakarta, Indonesia in 1957 to Chinese political exiles. Both of Lee’s parents came from powerful Chinese families: Lee’s great grandfather was the first president of the Republic of China, and Lee’s father had been the personal physician to Mao Zedong. In Indonesia, Dr. Lee helped found Gamaliel University. Anti-Chinese sentiment began to foment in Indonesia, however, and Lee’s father was arrested and held as a political prisoner for a year.

 

Thank you for reading.

Laura

Publications,Updated

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 The 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.

“Red Halo” Published Today in Prometheus Dreaming

prometheus dreaming journal cover page  Published here: “Red Halo” in Prometheus Dreaming.

I am thrilled to have a  poem published in a dream journal, Prometheus Dreaming. The editor treats writers and their work so well and the work is presented beautifully. As I sent a poem I truly love and was very close/ personal to me.

Thanks for reading!

Laura

 

 

Red Halo

by Laura Lee

I did not want to find you
by the mud flats
where things live that
I always want to see:
heron, fox, cardinal, hawk.

But the sun broke shadows
wildflowers bloomed late this year
brown eyed susans, sunflowers
unnamed purple velvet.

I did not want to find you
standing across the river
staring west into a sunset
you’d hoped would take you, too.

I do not know
how the red halo encircled
my pale face, peeked through
the weeds and the dirt.

About the Author

Laura Lee is a Chicago area poet, college instructor, literacy tutor, and writer. Her poetry, fiction, and nonfiction have been published in print and online journals in the US, the UK, New Zealand, India, and Greece.

For a complete list of publications, visit her website at: http://lauraleewriterpoeteducator.com.

Follow Laura Lee on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/LauraLe97942016.