Common as Grief



A local story tells
of a dam that blocked a creek in late ’60.
The water rose, year by year,
seeped over a poor family’s
rocky homestead,
the one that was supposed
to be an assured future.
58 years under
the dark, cool waves,
bass and perch swimming past
foundation stones covered in mud and algae.
The loss of a dream
is a reason
the family gives
for failures.
They might be right. But…
If only they’d found another dream.

A WWII bomber is hoisted from the
mud of a bay in New Guinea, and a name
thought lost to an era before
plastic was found, reclaimed.
A niece, nearly 60, gets the call and walks into
the street, cries openly.
“I don’t know where that comes from,”
she tells a reporter through sobs. “I never knew my
uncle.”

A neighbor in his late 80s,
back from the grocery.
He fed my dog another biscuit,
leans on a cane, his back twisted. He told
of a son’s suicide 15 years ago.
Over a woman.

He shakes his head.
His beautiful boy,
Lost over a woman.
His wife died 12 years ago,
broken-hearted.
He talks about them both
quietly, all alone now, still
coaches little league,
loves dogs,
and lives with loss.
“She likes her biscuits,” he says
looking at a pair of bright eyes,
gives her another and laughs.

A few doors further,
on the other side of the street, dark-haired
Michelle puts down a rake and
comes to pet my dog.
She lost her black Lab
two weeks before, and
was quiet, remembering.
She glanced through the dark
rectangle of their screen door,
source of the sounds of TV,
said her children were still sad, too.
She just wanted to
touch what she’d lost, resting her hand
in the warm fur and energy
for a moment.

Things that never used to reach me,
all the pains and burdens ordinary people
carry with such quiet dignity,
Well…I just didn’t want to see.
They’re all with me now,
and it’s both comfort and rebuke:
there but for the grace of God…
And I consider my sins anew.
Everyone has a story. So many stories…

“I never knew that life was loaded…
I never knew that things exploded

I only found it out when I
was down upon my knees,
looking for my life.”
–George Harrison

 

 

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Cry


*Part of the “Saying Goodbye” collection to be published soon. 

Do you remember our babies’
crying through the night
with colic, red-faced, kicking,
little fists clenched, punching the air?
We took turns with
futile soothings,
new at this baby thing,
desperate to comfort, to
silence that infernal noise
so we could go to work
in a few hours and not
fall asleep in the elevator.

They didn’t seem to want
comfort, did they?
Continue reading “Cry”

Sunsets on Mars


“Not again,” He saw the ignition begin behind her eyes. 

“God’s an amazing artist,” she said, gathering her righteous energies to spring into the “do you know Jesus? speech”. 

“I just said I’d seen a sunset as though it were for the first time. Don’t make this all about you.”

“But.. “

“No. Just don’t. I was trying to tell you something, and you were about to use my pain to evangelize. It’s selfish. It’s unworthy of you.” Continue reading “Sunsets on Mars”

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night


Dylan Thomas

by Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Continue reading “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night”

Vows


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I was 21 when I took the official vows,
but had really taken the important ones
some months earlier. When I proposed
on April Fools Day and she said ‘yes.’
And like two fools,
we thought that was just fine.
Turns out, nearly 50 years later, it was.

But vows are merciless things, and they don’t
tell you the whole story. You can’t listen, anyway,
with your eyes full of hunger for each other’s bodies
and your ears full of music and laughter and dreams.

It’s easy to make promises when you
don’t know all that will be asked of you,
the blood and the bone and the griefs.
You find out the truth bit by bit,
day by day. You find out
where you’re weak and where strong,
and whether you’re someone people
can count on.

But you never learn these things unless
you have solemnly vowed, and keep the promises
made in hope and ignorance.

You learn the lessons that come
only with walking a long road,
until your feet are worn as thin as paper
and the dust of the road is your new skin.
And, if you’re lucky, keeping promises
has, with much practice, become second nature.

I found all this out the hard way,
and not until I listened to a still, small voice
and started writing again.
I was asleep for 50 years, more or less,
but when I awoke, it was
to shorter days and cool nights.
And I wasn’t sure
if I was fully awake or not.