Tagged death

Even if you stop moving

scoot

Life keeps going.

If nothing else, that’s one thing we can bank on. Even in our stubborn complacency, our unhealthy comforts, our black-hole grief—even if the first thing you think about when you wake up every day is what you are not, or you don’t have, or worse, what you have lost.

This year has been a fierce, really, and in all the ways. Since D died, I have inadvertently split my life into two distinct time periods, before she died and after. Yeah, there are a ton of pivotal moments in my life that could’ve created a similar divide, but they didn’t. Mostly because of who I was before and after, and who I continue to be.

Three years this July.

The anniversary of her death came on so suddenly. It was physical. I was readying myself for a Chicago trip (the same location I headed to the day after her funeral), fussing to finish work assignments, worrying the semester, but then it came on… a wave over me. Not sure that I believe in much, but I do know when I feel her there. She kind of knocks you know. I’m sure you know. I’m sure there is someone you lost or miss and though often it’s the intensity of the missing that conjures them, sometimes they come uninvited. It’s a surprise. And no matter what your beliefs are—god or no god, spiritual or black and white—you invite them in. You invite them because it’s warm and nostalgic, the kind that hurts in the best way.

Do you speak to them? Out loud? A whisper? Inside? I do. I’m not embarrassed to say it—three years later I’m still sneaking in chats. Not like the daily texts and phone calls we engaged in, but car rides and bathroom breaks and walks to the coffeeshop. In that way, I never feel so alone. Not like I used to.

But for some good? Facing fears… and hopefully not foolishly. I got a scooter! It’s a “barely” used guy, a Yamaha Vino 125. It’s honestly been a source of pure joy. I can’t explain it. I’m just glad this summer weather is holding out as long as it is.

Latest poem published by Arsenic Lobster, “ONCE I DIDN’T DROWN IN A LAKE.”

And I finally scored a poem in my white whale of a lit mag, my favorite, Rattle. Scoop up a copy of your own.

But this. This is something that’s been haunting me, this poem and it’s sentiment. It’s so vital. While I wish I’d had discovered it long ago, I don’t think I’d have the Life Equipment to really get it.

Leaving you with it. Here.

mt

 

After Twelve Days of Rain – Dorianne Laux

I couldn’t name it, the sweet
sadness welling up in me for weeks.
So I cleaned, found myself standing
in a room with a rag in my hand,
the birds calling time-to-go, time-to-go.
And like an old woman near the end
of her life I could hear it, the voice
of a man I never loved who pressed
my breasts to his lips and whispered
“My little doves, my white, white lilies.”
I could almost cry when I remember it.

I don’t remember when I began
to call everyone “sweetie,”
as if they were my daughters,
my darlings, my little birds.
I have always loved too much,
or not enough. Last night
I read a poem about God and almost
believed it–God sipping coffee,
smoking cherry tobacco. I’ve arrived
at a time in my life when I could believe
almost anything.

Today, pumping gas into my old car, I stood
hatless in the rain and the whole world
went silent–cars on the wet street
sliding past without sound, the attendant’s
mouth opening and closing on air
as he walked from pump to pump, his footsteps
erased in the rain–nothing
but the tiny numbers in their square windows
rolling by my shoulder, the unstoppable seconds
gliding by as I stood at the Chevron,
balanced evenly on my two feet, a gas nozzle
gripped in my hand, my hair gathering rain.

And I saw it didn’t matter
who had loved me or who I loved. I was alone.
The black oily asphalt, the slick beauty
of the Iranian attendant, the thickening
clouds–nothing was mine. And I understood
finally, after a semester of philosophy,
a thousand books of poetry, after death
and childbirth and the startled cries of men
who called out my name as they entered me,
I finally believed I was alone, felt it
in my actual, visceral heart, heard it echo
like a thin bell. And the sounds
came back, the slish of tires
and footsteps, all the delicate cargo
they carried saying thank you
and yes. So I paid and climbed into my car
as if nothing had happened–
as if everything mattered–What else could I do?

I drove to the grocery store
and bought wheat bread and milk,
a candy bar wrapped in gold foil,
smiled at the teenaged cashier
with the pimpled face and the plastic
name plate pinned above her small breast,
and knew her secret, her sweet fear,
Little bird. Little darling. She handed me
my change, my brown bag, a torn receipt,
pushed the cash drawer in with her hip
and smiled back.

—From What We Carry. (If you don’t have this book, you need it.)

A little dark for December

BarrenFieldsGBG14

It seems like everyone is dying these days. Matt told me not to make a list.

“Please don’t,” he asked loudly from his bedroom.

We talk like this most days: through walls, overtop house static and the far-away rattle of Main Street just a few blocks below.

“Where are you going?” he asks on nights like this, seeming surprised. But he doesn’t need to ask. He knows. The parking lot.

“Geez,” he’ll say.

I say it as nonchalantly as “the mall” or “Giant Eagle.” He knows me by now. When you live in a house with someone, you learn these types of things. For me, it’s how Matt spends nearly every evening on the couch flicking undecidedly over Netflix movies, falling asleep there snuggled with the cat (about 20 minutes after he finally chooses a film or TV show to watch). He cleans with vinegar. He makes random late-night stops at the cupboard to grab a fistful of granola. These types of things. For him, it’s my rituals he learns—my gummy-bear binging, my space-heater occupying, my evening coffee, my tendency to leave the house anywhere between 9 and 11 for a restless Walmart run, or worse, the parking lot. We both talk to the cat in a demanding and unhealthy way.

But it’s already December. And stranger than that realization is the the unescapable truth that loss is in the air: the way the smoke from a blown-out candle lingers a little too long.

Who am I to comment on this? Everyone in close range to me is ok—fortunately, and fuck if I’m not knocking so hard on my wooden desk right now. It’s those on the periphery. And for as much as I’m not trying to make this about me, my heart is breaking all over the place, you know? For them. Am I allowed to say that? It just feels wrong to mention, like these aren’t “my people,” but “my people’s people.”  It’s just that death is a lesson I’ve learned, a lesson I grew up with and grew to. Maybe it stirs it back up like some sticky fingers reaching gut-level. I hate watching others learn it, whether it’s for the first time or not.

It seems to have all started with Robin Williams’s death and that awfully omen-like dream I had just days before about him. I still can’t shake that.

Anyway, battles everywhere are being lost—to cancer, to addiction, to suicide, to old age (even). And at this time of year, it’s all we can do to let the Christmas lights twinkle and the holiday songs play without feeling the cut of grief and loss, no matter what shape it takes. So instead of “bah humbug”—I’m being grateful. Let the magic in, for those who can stand it.

To everyone facing loss right now, my heart is with you. All the way. <3

mt

The new routine

Finally, it’s not as sharp as knives. I’m learning to live without my best friend. The routine is going back, back to a time when I didn’t know her or need her. I talk to her ghost less and less. I pretty much stopped journaling and poeming in.

I feel void.
I haven’t been back.

A certain grief

“I’m not smart. I just know a lot of words,” said the me in my dream.

I come back to this quote so often. It’s rare that I remember direct quotes from my dreams, but when I do, they usually stick for a while. For instance, a dream quote from a few years back that had me scared and paranoid for months. A little boy jumped on my bed in the dark [in Dream Land, of course]: “The devil will be asking for your soul soon.” Whaaaaaa?! I bought my Scion a month later, so I equated this to my Toyota loan. Eek!

But when it comes to smarts and all, I agree with my unconscious admission: I’m not. Some things just don’t sink in, you know? Like that paragraph I have to read three times before I get it.

There are moments, of course, when I feel intelligent—confident about what I’m saying or doing. Mostly it’s in my language or the way I can [sometimes] articulate myself. What I’m saying is: speaking/writing is the only mode in which I feel like I may have an IQ higher than 65. Real talk.

And we can call this moment Exhibit 94, 509. This not sinking in.

As you all might know, life has the tendency—especially as of late—to shit all over me. You, like I, may be thinking: Another bad spot? Really?

I say “spot,” because I hope it’ll pass. I say “hope,” because I’m not certain. I was certain a week and a half ago that my best friend [mother, “favorite” and soul sister] was too busy to text me. I was certain she was wrapped up in work and the everyday bustle of her world, which had become rather stressful as of late. I was certain she’d text her usual “G’nite, madam” or at least send me the Sun and Moon emoji. But she didn’t. For two nights in a row. I was starting to get a little frustrated.
But then I got a call last Thursday at work, 4:12 p.m. She had a heart attack and had been unconscious since late Monday night. With her full heart, childlike curiosity and hard-assed grip on the world, I was certain she would outlive us all. I was certain that with my carelessness, my clumsiness, my incessant need for productivity and the way it outdoes my need to be healthy, my rollercoaster of melancholy and triumph, I’d be the one in the hospital bed prematurely. But it wasn’t me.

After the call, I found myself in the car—rushing and crying and screaming and navigating through Pittsburgh traffic to Allegheny General Hospital. I sat on the Parkway, a standstill, sobbing to the million memories that hit me, a slideshow:


Remember the time you sat by the bay in Cape Cod and watched the sky until early morning, where you cut limes for her rum and refused her another drink at 4 a.m.

The color teal.

Standing atop Mt. Washington at sunset and dancing in the orange light, puffed up by winter coats, knitted scarves and gloves without fingers. 

Singing “You’re so Vain.” 

Remember the glass bottle full of tiny shells from the Dead Sea. 

Watching her watch her Koi swim below. 

The time you mocked her easy lifestyle and told her you’d come visit her even if she lived in a trailer park—even if the time you spent together was playing 500 Rum and eating Chef Boyardee. And to prove it? You brought her a can the next time you came over.

My brain gets the best of me. And since this moment, it hasn’t stopped with the snapshots, the words, the smell of plastic and death in her hospital room. I smell it everywhere. I realize now, more than before, she is everywhere. Maybe it is the fear of forgetting. Like with my dad. The years have come quick and with it, the memories have faded.

For a week, everything was underwater. With the amount of crying I did [both angry-at-the-world and end-of-the-world tears], my eyes were swollen to half-visibility. I was certain I had been emptied of tears. I was certain there was nothing left. I was certain she’d wake up now that her heart was fixed. It was only a matter of time.

For days, her family and I watched her lifeless, but warm, body. We smiled; we cried; we laughed; we prayed; we hushed her grandchildren as they ran around the ICU Waiting Room in an oblivious boredom with Twizzlers. The doctors gave terrible news. The doctors told everyone it “wasn’t looking good.” The doctor told me personally: “She’s very sick.”

So we prayed harder. I painted the picture of all the light in my body leaving mine and entering her. I was certain this would make her wake up, like in a movie.

But she was showing more signs of regression. Her pupils ceased to dilate; she stopped reacting to pain. And her brain, they said, was swelling and there was nothing they could do. She went too long without oxygen causing “irreparable damage” [a phrase I still cannot get out of my head, the way the doctor said it with brown protruding eyes, head down.] I was certain they were mistaken and that the Universe wouldn’t let this happen. It couldn’t. Not to any of us that stood by her bed sobbing and holding her limp hands, to the us that needed her, that could still hear her laughter ringing in our ears, could find pieces of her—like evidence—everywhere.

I picked at beige colored cafeteria food for days trying to imagine tomorrow.

Thank you for reading this. I know it’s “too soon” to write about—a writing instructor would say. But I have to. I want to remember all of it. Even this fresh grief.

I don’t know. I think I’m stupid, maybe. Because it’s been a week since she passed and I’m still waiting to wake up. I’m still trying to bargain with the world like a trade-off. I just don’t want to go on. Maybe I’m stupid. Because I still don’t get it. I’m certain now that I don’t want to.

 

mt

Short. Sweet. But alive.

So after some nutty health issues and loss, I’m alive. Just sayin’. Through the events of the last few days, I’ve still been keeping up with this poem-a-day extravaganza.

Today’s poetry prompt was to write a “tentative poem.” I got hit with this image, you know. Sometimes I do that. I get a clear picture. It doesn’t often make sense, but it’s something. Like shadow puppets in my brain.

“Somewhere someone dreams of ellipses…”

I couldn’t get it out of my head. I guess it’s about fighting the routine, the mundane… keeping one eye out for a detour. Something jarring. Because if you catch a sip, even, of those sparks in between the layers of “filler”—days and days of work and obligation—it just might be enough to make it worthwhile.

I spent my whole life waiting impatiently for the next page, something to look forward to. I needed it to stay sane, to motivate me to fight. I needed that reason, remember?

Sometimes people fight the daily. Sometimes vanilla isn’t enough. It’s ok to need a detour. But. Patience.

That’s what I need. That’s what it’s about.

Sleep now.
mt