A stone is made smooth
with the least bit of pressure,
a constant and maybe thoughtless rubbing
between thumb and forefinger.
As tarnish from a piece of old silver,
maybe your grandmother’s knife made bright,
Or the wind’s insistence against snowcapped mountains
Or water-made canyons
Of deep hollows, fern filled and green,
Hiding the shy deer and red fox den.
I keep that pressure steady-
Rubbing the memories deep into my skin.
Tattooing the years tears on the lines of my face
Until I see your eyes
Look into mine
From the bathroom mirror
When I was a child,
I would switch off the light at the doorway and
Before night fell into the corners of the room,
I would run swiftly to the rug in the middle of the floor.
I counted one, two, three-
Then leapt onto the middle of the bed,
hurrying under the covers and holding my breath:
One two three four five six seven eight nine ten
Making sure there were no sounds coming from the great darkness
Beneath my bed-
That I had not somehow dislodged
Then I could sleep.
Now I stand at the shore
Of an ocean of wept tears
There is no island of comfort
No counting charms to chant
Only the great darkness falling heavily
Into the corners of the room.
Nothing now between
and the monsters.
There is so much goodness
In a warm sunny afternoon on winters ebb.
Its warmth caresses my aching joints
And eases too, my hearts grief-
Not that the grief is gone-
But a cold dreary winters day
Reflects my grief
Back on itself, a sad and tarnished mirror.
A sunny February afternoon,
When the promise of spring looks to be real
(A promise made that will be kept not broken)
It whispers to me that this is life-
That my father died after the winter,
That my mother died after the winter,
That I may die after a winter,
And then my children and their children
Will each die.
Maybe on a soft spring day,
But each February there will be a warm afternoon,
solitary and splendid.
And life will seem easier somehow
And the heart lighter.
And that will be enough
Until April comes.
I lie awake-
bits of remembered melody
drift in the morning breeze,
old hymns of redemption
I lie awake-
whispers of ghosts and angels
walking the deep green forested paths.
Across the water I hear their murmuring,
I wait for the fall.
I lie awake-
scent filled breeze
brings the smell of ripened grain,
sweet grass and damp leaf mold.
I wait for the season’s change.
I lie awake-
a fallow field
after the year of jubilee-
debts forgiven and begging no longer-
I wait for the autumn rains.
The bright winter sky is dappled with high clouds
The color of butter.
The light and shadow play across the landscape,
Light then dark,
A dark shadow comes across my brow
And the grief returns to my heart.
Though our lintel was marked
With lambs blood,
Blessed with prayer,
Adorned with mirrors,
The dark angel still came.
Her beauty, awful,
As she sat at our table
And the losses became un-countable.
I wonder still when she will return,
Because, oh yes, she will return.
Or perhaps, she is just
Sitting on my porch step
Waiting for another shadow to form.
My face again is in sunlight-
The dappled clouds moving away from the sun,
Casting shadows on the winter landscape
Bright in the buttermilk sky.
He insists on barking at the angels-
Their feathers rustling as they perch along the walls of the hall
and the edges of her room-
Watching as the communion of saints beat a path to her door.
He is alert to the folding of their wings as they settle
She told me that this life
Is hard to let go of.
Knowledge deep now,
As the blood and bone she created in me.
Wants to continue beating, breathing-
Though the spirit is chomping at the bit
To go home.
So they come and visit-
Those who have died, now returned to hold her hand along the way.
I feel that I should be the good hostess
As these venerable women were,
And bake a pound cake or
Offer sweet tea and lemonade.
They pass the time, laughing,
Talking of hunting trips
And rabbits loose in the yard.
Friends and relations gathered for her coronation,
As the small dog barks
At the heavenly host.
Those rooms were never mine,
built especially for her,
they are now larger
and more empty
with her absence filling the space.
I understand the impulse
that would cause someone to board up rooms,
leaving whatever ghosts living there
to rest in peace
with dust and memories.
I can no longer stay in her rooms,
the memories are too thick
and they leave no space