Mothers and Daughters

It is a mid July evening in Georgia.

We are at the ball park, sandwiched between

Two rusted, pro life trucks.

Above us, the deep baritone grumble of a

Summer shower.

The crack of the bat and my breath held, hoping.

An intern in the heavens flicks a switch and the cicadas cry as one, screeching and cheering her on.

Mosquitos take turns ravaging me, feasting on every bit of exposed flesh. I swat them heroically, but I only have eyes for her.

She does not like failing and she isn’t particularly good at this. I want her to be. Desperately. Laugh in the right spaces. Play the right sports. Be happy.

Be. Be in exactly the right way so that she never cries in the dark, helpless, considering all she never was.

I will try for nonchalance when she returns to the car. For a moment she is haloed by the sun, surrounded by pale faces. She is golden and she is light.

She holds the ball that she was gifted tight in her hand, as fragile as a robin’s egg. Somewhere a strong mother is using this very moment to build a stronger daughter.

I want to be a stronger mother. I want to give her advice. Make this a sage moment that she will remember later.

So I grab her empty hand, and she lets me hold it. I turn down the radio and let the cicadas sing us home.

Four Years Gone

There is no

Dust where you once dwelt,

No darkened edges of pages that

Once bore your hand.

There are no memories,

Faded and underfed

Dragged up every now and again

As bread and water to those who knew you.

There are no scars where you

Were snatched through to the

Hereafter;

Just jagged wounds, still steady bleeding.

Your seat at our table

Is still warm and waiting,

As though you stepped out for a moment

And will come through if we wait awhile.

Perhaps for you, our forever boy,

It has been an age,

or perhaps time paused to collect itself,

It, too, lamenting the

Beautifully brief soul that Death took.

For us the moment is our collective breath

Held tight,

Waiting for your return.

The Silence and The Stillness

I hear your laughter—

It drifts through the expanse of a crowded room:

Jovial. Sincere. Mirthful.

When it caresses the ear—with permission, of course—

The listener smiles. They can’t help it.

You are well-liked, but flavorless.

.

When I hear you laugh

I grit my teeth

And pop my ears.

.

Your laughter is like the toothpaste you let harden in the sink

Brittle and grotesque.

It is the story I repeat over and again

While a faint light on the phone I bought you

Begs for your attention

And you graciously give it.

.

It is the gasp you make when you remember

Something you swore you wouldn’t forget:

To buy eggs, to make that phone call, to change that light,

Me.

.

It is like the hot lash of branches on my shins

One after the other

As I stalk alone through the woods you promised we would explore

But only as an asterisk after the complaint you made

About the irritating small things I want to do

With you; that asterisk coming after the complaint you made

About the expensive big places

That you will never take me to. 

In your laughter I hear the smallness of your voice

When I ask for your time

And you pinch for me crumbs

Complaining that I have enough of you already.

.

Your laughter is the pain in my chest and the heat in my throat

As I wonder at the way your smile never reaches your eyes.

As I marvel at the brilliance of it for other people

How it dims ever so slightly

At the sight of me.

It is the rolling of your eyes

When you think I am not looking,

And the silence and the stillness

When your mother says I am not good enough for you,

As though the weight of helping build

The magnificent, hollow construction of you

Isn’t worthy of an honorable mention.

.

Across the expanse of the crowded room I see you

Wearing the shirt your mother bought you

Because the one I bought was too fancy

And much like me, too much for you.

Behind you I see the door that I’ve left open

Considering time and again

How I long to go through

But then?

.

So I hold myself back,

And I let my disappointment sweep over you

Like the ice that has formed between us,

And I let myself smile 

At the frown your mouth makes

Knowing you have felt something—anything—

And it is just for me.

.

Still. This lying laugh makes me sick.

I want to call Ms. Giovanni and tell her what you’ve done. 

Tell her I understand her.

Despair to her that you won’t share the lie of you 

With me.

.

“He’s so wonderful,” one of your fans gushes.

I smile at her, so dazzling my countenance will 

Never right itself.

“He really is,” I reply. 

Breadcrumbs


Where do I place the love for you
Now that you are gone?
Perhaps I will pluck it from my chest
Still pulsating, quick and heavy
And bury it near your favorite tree?

Perhaps it will break down and
follow you
And lead me from here to where you are
Like a trail of breadcrumbs
Guiding me to the only home I’ve known?

Perhaps it will wither and waste and turn to bitter ash?
Will it shrivel and grow cold and brittle
And flake away, rotten and unused?

Maybe I can give it away?
To someone who won’t
Really need it, who won’t
use it as often?
Who will let it stretch and grow thin
And drape about them like an ill-fitting suit?

I will tuck it with the memories of you
And all the things about you that
I am sworn to keep.
My love was yours.
And it belongs with you.
And perhaps one day I will find you
And give you back what was yours,
Still gleaming and familiar and worn.

782 Argonne Drive

Mid century modern, green shutters,

Original flooring in all the baths. Eat in kitchen and a yard you can easily manage.

Cold breakfasts there, where the kitchen table used to wait. A half cup of orange juice, unbuttered toast and a grapefruit.

Eyes just missing each other over the morning paper, the stiff lilt of songs remade floating from the kitchen radio.

After dinner drinks there in the parlor. Knitting and crocheting and long silences, interrupted by small sighs and wanton glances out the window. Perhaps company would come. They did not come unannounced. How improper.

Perfect patio for summer barbecues. Grease blistered scalps covered by scarves, boiling bodies huddled together under the awning to escape the sun.

Christmas cards drawn up and divided. His and hers. Her family. His family. The living room is perfect for the separate living; the dining room was created for cleaving and tongues sharpened by the after dinner whiskey will do the job nicely.

The windows throughout let enough of the light in though. There are moments that are stifling, that rob you of your breath and you ask if this is all. If your little life will fit into this white house with its green shutters and the basement that is big enough for all your small secrets.

That door is the perfect size to never walk out of. To walk right up to, bag gripped in your palm, the other with the keys to the car you didn’t learn to drive. You would walk through that door. You would.

But there is laundry and dinner and hair and sewing and it can be warm sometimes. And you have known cold.

It is enough, though, to get to the door. Perhaps the next will walk through.

The house sells for a profit, but you will never see it. You are in the ground then, still warm but cooling. The house is let but never again owned. The oak door—original to the house— is swollen shut. No one ever gets through.

The Hours

Where do all our hours go?

The time that burns holes in our pockets:

Precious minutes we waste getting into

The hours, getting

Through them, leaping

Past them—

And then they brush by us

Without so much as a goodbye.

They are so unlike all things known,

Far too quick,

And away one behind the other in a

Seamless blur,

Here and not here; so close we can

Taste it

So far they are unwrinkled and unblemished

And sweetly sour.

In the end will we get them back still warm?

Not every hour—

Not

The ugly wretched rotten ones;

Those rancid things can be collected

And buried deep together.

But I would like a bouquet of the

Short Blissful Hours

The roots of finiteness cut from them.

In the end I wish to be swaddled by them

The hours that were gracious enough

To lie to me about their leaving;

The ones that stained my lips,

Left marks on me and in me–

Those that visit once in awhile.

I want those again

An endless loop of being

Rocking me into the slumber of eternal hours

Or the deep and abiding nothing.

i love you big.

So much it is pandemonium. Time licks at our heels and races before us and curls and stretches lazily between us and then it is gone and I ache with need of more of it.

I envy you and your innocence, a babe still sated at the breasts of your belief.

I want what you have and I want you always.

I want an always to be real, exactly as you imagine, for you

And for me.

In the lonely quiet I curse your god loud enough so that he/she might hear and hope that maybe they will become angry and curse me

Stand down to me

Show up for you

So that I know they will be there in the end for you.

I love you big.

So big that it cuts me open and I mourn nightmares that haven’t happened. I want to be with you and burrow myself within you and hide and be warm and know every part of you down to your essence.

I want you to want to pick me apart and covet me and catch yourself off guard thinking about one day maybe missing me the way I think about one day missing you. It is grotesque, the way I imagine the dust of me, the shadow of a being, the damned mess of a half life, all that would be left of me without you.

I want words that don’t exist yet, the ones that mean the complete and utter apex and nadir of love for another and the beauty and the despair and

I love you big.

gone from her now

They once held many secrets and loves and desires and hopes, her eyes.

The soul within them intoxicating and eternal.

The effervescent luminescence baptized like blessed rays from the lifted veil.

It dazzled, its mirthful depths held oceans and multitudes—a universe entire.

But then he gasped his last and the light dimmed and flickered and at last

Was out.

She remains.

But she is only remains.

The universe within her out in an instant.

Soul darkened, gasping and aching with the anchor of too many tomorrows and

too few yesterdays.

The light and her Light are beyond the blackened veil.

Every beautiful precious living thing

borne away,

Gone from her now.

baby’s breath

He wanted to grow old. Not the reality of aging; the loss of bodily processes and the scent of death and decay lingering about the body like a lover. Not the kind of death that follows you and makes others uncomfortable with you because of your proximity to It.

No, he wanted the romantic age. To see the fine papering of his skin with the bones that have been with him all the while still strong (though knotted and perhaps a little softened) beneath.

The age that sees rows of wrinkles like freshly planted crops drawn across the expanse of his face, a map of who he had been.

He wanted to have been many things. Mostly worthy things. Real things.

He wanted to complain, loudly, about the menial and mundane. He wanted to be swept into the monotony of dwindling time, wanted to catch his breath with a memory so real he could still feel the warmth of it on his skin.

He wanted to be pampered, but not infantilized. He wanted to be heard and sought out, he wanted his words to drop from him as a fount of wisdom. He wanted people to collect memories of him and tell them back ages later.

He wanted to be definitively old, all the black of his hair long gone. The old that snores loudly in any number of places, that strikes up unpretentious conversation with any living being in the room. He did not want the loneliness of aging, though he would not have minded every now and again being alone.

He wanted to be able to tell them about the silver linings that one can only see from the distance of years measured against a past ache. He could tell them how much time it would take because he would have crossed the bridge and would have measured its length.

He wanted the time that comes with age. The romance, too, fake though he always knew it was, but he wanted time. He wanted meaning.

Instead, in the end, he got the jagged piercing of the heart, the abrupt cessation of everything he was and ever would be, the ripping of the string, the all encompassing blackness, the void, the fiery anger of unrequited want—all tangled with the sweet innocence of a baby’s breath still lingering on his cheek.

but only Jesus wept

His father was away. Not permanently( though he had never seen him). No, he was away and waiting and would return soon.

The house must be clean to greet him.

The food prepared.

The body bloodied.

The eyes turned to heaven unblinking,

Throat parched and knees aching;

Should his father find him not prone and wanting for nothing

He would be angry and would turn away, leaving him to perish (he would perish anyway, but still.

This would be eternal and the first death would sting but only a little).

His father’s absence could not be viewed as permanent or even really away, for he was absent in love.

His father angered quickly.

He had never seen his father so he could only tell of his anger secondhand

But he assumed his own hunger, which his father could quickly abate, was a test.

If only he loved his father enough and tread the path of Righteousness (razor thin and devoid of sound and light) carefully he would not starve (in this life he might. But in the next he would be full and live with him in paradise).

In paradise he would be free–

To tell his father at great intervals how very much he adored him.

His voice would be used as his father wished to thank his father for his own life. For greeting him in eternity and allowing him to look upon his glorious face. To know that his endless suffering was so that his father might hear this praise and be satisfied.

The threat of flames lapped at his heels and his skin blistered. The unceasing wailing of those drowning in the lake of fire bled through his ears in the night. His father took pity on them so that they might not die; rather they could drown again and again and wonder that they did not thank him enough to be spared.

He himself could spare no thought for them, the undying. To think of them was to question his father, and though he could not see him he could feel his disappointment. How very much those thoughts would displease him.

Bloody tears rubbed his skin raw. He begged his father to stay his hand, or perhaps even reveal it, but received no answer.

He would die for his father.

Sun parched and aching and earth bound and lonely.

Perhaps his father would hear him and take him down? Perhaps he would appear and show them–all of them that he had not been wrong.

His father would return.

He would save him.

He would. It was the way of fathers.

The sun rose. And set. Rose. And set again.

And still his father remained silent.

Absent.

His tears of blood stirred the dust.

Alone and fatherless Jesus wept.