Her long sturdy bones
once walked miles to serve
and provide comfort to family and friends
Now enfeebled by chronic illness
she lies immobile
days turn to endless nights
with but a thread bare blanket to cover
Her malnourished and atrophied limbs
draped in parched withered skin
abandoned in a dark musty nursing home
Assistance is required for feeding, bathing or repositioning
demeaned with no control of bodily functions
Formerly a pastor her strong oratory voice
commanded respect at the First Baptist Church
Now muted, sad sunken eyes communicate deeply
with a slightest perceivable grin
a faint crease etching her smooth ebony features
An all knowing gaze follows me across the room
where I visit my mother in the next bed
A single tear takes form then gently falls
And I soon realize that it is mine
As a newborn, my hand grasps around your finger
My fingers soon discover a mouth, a belly button and toes
Hands reach to explore faces, food and moving objects of color
Hands play with clay, small toys and hug a puppy
Hands develop the skills to draw, write script or calligraphy
Hands engage in baseball, bicycling or rock scrambling
Hands learn to sew, crochet and create macramé
Hands practice the disciplines of martial arts and yoga
Hands read books, take school notes and filled in circles
So that hands could provide compassion while examining
young and old to help the sick or wounded
Hands that love to garden gently stroke lavender, rosemary and
coriander so as to savor its fragrance
Hands patiently nurture the soil, plant seedlings then
grateful to harvest nature’s offerings
My hands hold your now aged ones still soft and warm
Your hands, which continue to hold me gently
comforting daddy’s little girl
Despite tendons that would tighten and cramp or
gradually lose dexterity from swollen joints
My hands are still holding yours as I am flooded with memories
Yet in stillness they become phantom limbs
as I sit in deep meditation
Hands along with body and mind have now
finally come to rest
Come, take my hand and walk with me now
Let us gaze upon the earth from the edge of the sky at dawn
Let us feel humbled by the vast oceans and the majestic mountains Let us bask in the beauty of all the living things
And when we see that there is great pain and suffering
We won’t need to be afraid or look away
Let us just bear witness to everything we see
And surrender the need to judge
Come with me now and lay down your head
For the seductions of the earth are no longer your burdens to bear Just let the deep dark night wash over you
Lift up your soul to the heavens and
Let all the light of the universe shine in your heart
Let yourself feel the peace in knowing
That you will be forever loved
and your soul is forever free.
What to do When A Disturbing Yet Intriguing Character Appears
Of course you want to run and scream.
Of course you want to hide.
Don’t run don’t hide don’t look away.
There’s a razor-beaked bird thieving eggs from a robin’s nest, A dismembered Barbie shouting obscenities,
A grubby and very hungry boy clutching your ankles. It’s ok. They have gifts for you.
Secrets to share and treasures to unearth. So here’s what you do:
Keep a journal by your side always.
Now when a gang of angry marionettes appears
Or a laughing gull starts pecking at your head you’ll be prepared.
Don’t be afraid or annoyed at them.
Instead, invite them to supper.
Ask some questions.
Usually the birds will speak. Children, not so much.
Don’t worry. Ask anyway. Listen carefully. Keep watching.
Now find a blank page in your book,
Pluck the blood-stained feathers from your teeth and stick them in there.
Spit out the broken bones and the wounded hearts,
Collect the oddities and absurdities and everything that makes your skin crawl and
Put them all in your book.
Good. You can keep everything there until you’re ready.
Have patience, my friends, patience.
It could be a week but it could be twenty nine years.
One day you’ll pick up your book and it will open to some random page, only it isn’t random at all.
That lonely and woeful child once so reluctant to speak will have a song for you so joyful you will weep. All you need to do now is listen.
Plus five months ago
Mothers and fathers
Sons and Daughters
And friends of friends
Squeezed elbow to elbow
Knee to knee
Around the new table
With the extra leaf.
We added one long folding table and
One card table,
Cobbled together enough chairs, Although some weren’t really chairs at all. Two cats prowled underfoot
While a sister wrestled a
Twenty two pound bird in the kitchen. Three bottles of wine or maybe more Opened, consumed, discarded.
Some deaths were slow and painful Others sudden and tragic
One was not known for quite some time. A wife and a friend
Moved one thousand miles away, Though not together and
Not at the same time.
Sons of the sister, scattered.
Another son drifting, lost.
A son’s girlfriend is now A daughter
Some might add “in-law” But I don’t need laws
To tell me who is family
And who is just passing through. A granddaughter
Takes her place by my side
No extra leaf
No extra table
No mismatched chairs.
A small gathering.
A full table nonetheless.
This day broke Ugly
Light of dawn Revealing remnants of Rage.
Any hint of hope Shredded.
This day broke Me nearly in two I speak to
Not a soul
I just crawl
Inside myself and Howl
Coiled around my Belly
I hold it there Breathless. Godless.
This day. Today.
I am broken.
That faint jagged line you thought was the shore Was claimed long ago by the sky
You have no bearings now
No sure footing and nothing to hold on to You’re unmoored
Adrift in the fog.
Can you feel that needling under your skin?
Welling up from deep in your belly
Threatening to consume you.
Resist the urge to flail about
Just close your eyes and
Let your mind wander where it will
Under the dusty debris of abandoned dreams
Behind the crumbling walls of angry insults
And into the deep canyons of lives lost.
Just notice these things and let them be
Move on gently without judgment.
Notice now, too, the welcoming call of the garden path Lined with bountiful boughs of lighthearted laughter And the comforting innocence of a child’s smile.
Can you feel that little flutter in your heart?
Encircling you with love and light.
That’s what you hold on to.
You hold on to hope.
Under barely a moon
I buried my
Next to the tall
Purple Coneflower and Brazen Yellow Tickseed
Beneath a carpet of Sweet Alyssum
In the crevice of a Rock wall I
Tucked tiny slivers of Unspoken sorrow
Like an early snow And in the
What will grow now,
What will grow?