eulogy for my brother

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“He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.”
-W.H. Auden, Funeral Blues

To paraphrase Emily Brontë, my love for my brother was like the eternal rocks beneath, not always visible, not always a source of delight, and no more a source of pleasure than I am to myself, but necessary, it resides in my bones, not just in my heart, or my thoughts, it lives in every cell in my body. Whatever souls are made of, his and mine are the same.

To say John was brilliant, or merely complex would be an understatement. He was so many, many things, – to paraphrase myself – a brilliant creator and solver of puzzles, a talented player and lover of music, a gifted conceiver and expresser of visual arts – be they paint, pencil, wood, clay, or words, and an inspired and – sometimes overly – creative chef.

He created. He created games, puzzles, paintings, delicious food. He created a home for his daughters.

He made you laugh.

John would have had you in stiches by now. He was the funniest person I’ve ever known. Brilliant, witty, irreverent and always ready with a joke or amusing observation.

Everyone in this room has laughed, and not just once because of something John said or did. He was the original photo-bomber, he was always ready to drop to the conversation lowest common denominator, which generally involved loud bodily functions, burping, farting, burping and farting together, burping songs, making fart noises in his arm, in his arm pit, and then drawing everyone in.

20151019_144255-01When my son first started struggling he sent him homemade Hero cards, featuring Greek, Roman God, with points and skills assigned. Each and every one said “Kicks Butt” and Hercules “Occasionally goes BESERK” The last card he sent was the Uncle John card. The Uncle John Hero was described as “The Sharpest Spoon in the drawer, fancified dancer, can kick his own butt – plus that of Uncle Ruth’s, yep, that’s what he called me when he wasn’t calling me Big Nose. His Attack number was 42, a Douglas Adams reference I’m sure, His Thoughts were listed as “Not Often”, his Symbol was “Messy Hair and Stinky Socks” – although his stinky socks, as many of us knew could be better listed as a Weapon. His special skills were “Sarcasm and Burping” – okay, that part was pretty accurate. The card was quintessentially John, from the stinky socks to the self deprecating humour. he also sent Graham a rubber chicken, a series of original Canadian comic books, still in their protective covers (a state that did not last long), and a hand sewn teddy bear.

He was generous. With his love, with his art, food, with everything he gave openly and freely.

Picture John made for (of) me, 2003

Picture John made for (of) me, 2003

He also called me Big Nose, even made me a little drawing of Big nose. I called him No Chin. It was a special sort of endearment between us. He also called me Bruce, well my whole family calls me that, between that and the Uncle Ruth is surprising I don’t have a gender identity problem. At my wedding he gave a brilliant speech – it included Ode to a Grehian Urn, my driving skills, my applying makeup while driving skills, my applying makeup, singing to the radio, while shifting gears, driving skills – you get the idea. He was brilliant. He was also charming, and a beautiful person all the way through.

Where I have been described as feisty, stubborn, Little Miss Splendid – yes, they gave me that book, John was the sucky second child, the one who charmed his way through things. I would dig my heals in and cross my arms – metaphorically and often literally when faced with obstacles, John used charm. It made me crazy. One fateful year when I was visiting from school I came home to a little brother who was now taller than I was. It was a moment he had been waiting for his whole life. In the den he wrestled me to the rug, sat on me with his hand over my mouth and the poked and tickled me all the while yelling “mom!!! Ruth’s hurting me!!” Needless to say by the time my mother arrived he had jumped back and assumed an injured stance in the corner looking beseechingly at our mother, who may or may have believed him, but certainly played along. That is how my brother rolled. Many of the times I have laughed the hardest, the stuff coming out your nose, tears coming down your cheeks, the immanent danger of peeing your pants kind of laughter, those laughs 20151019_152813-01originated with my brother.

Which makes his ending all the more tragic.

A few months ago, a friend of mine died. He was in his 90s, had lived a full life, was productive right till the end, and then one night he died peacefully in his sleep. We took comfort in that. The rare times we think about our own deaths, this is often the one we want, the good death, the peaceful, after a long well lived life death. This is what we want for ourselves and our loved ones. No one wants to die like John did, no one. There is nothing comforting about his death. It is utterly heartbreaking and tragic. It is unfair. It was wrong for him to die as he did.

The thing about a brain disease, which is what John died from, a brain disease called alcoholism, the thing about it, is that it takes away the personality, and then it takes away the person that you knew and loved. We lost John, but before that he lost himself. That guy, the one who made us laugh till we cried, who sang to us, read to us, who made wonderful art and delicious food, that beautiful person, was lost to a disease that affected and distorted the way he thought, the way he saw the world, and mostly the way he saw himself.

John felt things very deeply, maybe too deeply. One of my first memories of us is me wrapping him in a blanket during a sand storm on a beach. I have no idea what the context of the situation was, what I remember is wanting to protect my brother above anything else.

I couldn’t protect him from this. None of us could. There was never something that one of us did that caused this, there was nothing that we didn’t do that would have cured this, and there was never a way anyone else could have controlled his disease. Cunning, baffling and powerful is how alcoholism is aptly described, and it is, it is all of those things. It took our father, and it took John, both before their 50th birthdays.

John’s behavour for the last several years was baffling, it was heartbreaking. He pushed us away. His brain, his thinking was so distorted by this disease that the only way he could cope was to continue to try and numb his thoughts and feelings. It never meant that he loved any of us less. He loved his family, his daughters and Tamara were his life. That never wavered, not for a instant. He loved us, all of us, and in the end that’s what we need to hold on to. As painful as this has been, hold on to the times he made you laugh, the times he showed his love to you, the times he was his exceptionally lovable and goofy self. It won’t happen today, or maybe not this year, but start to let go of the painful memories, and hold on instead to what you loved about him. Remember him as someone full of love, caring, stinky socks and really terrible jokes. His personal favourite was “you know the corduroy pillows, the ones that are making all the headlines?”

“I myself am made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions.”
― Augusten Burroughs

“He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last ——

I was right. Love is the thing that endures. Love is what we have left of John, love and some pretty wonderful memories.

12108267_10207722033310124_8293890433605817967_nHang onto those, and hang on to each other. He loved us all, what we have to do now is continue to love each other, to create in what ever way we express ourselves, eat good food, play games, solve puzzles, and make the odd fart or burping joke.

this is what the living do

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Johnny,

I have become a person who people send sympathy cards to, someone people want to nurture with food, chocolate, flowers and kind messages. People hug me when they see me, and ask how I am. Most of the time I have no idea.

I’m wearing your pj bottoms as I write, and drinking tea from one of your cups. The pile of your newly washed, and neatly folded clothes sits on my bed and asks me what are you going to do with us now? I don’t know, that’s why I tried on the pj bottoms. I had to roll the waist because you were taller than I am. Were, I have to get used to speaking of you in the past tense.

We’ve been speaking of you in the past tense for two weeks, two weeks tomorrow, Saturday at 4pm. I’m still getting used to that.

I also wear your wedding ring, the one that dad left you after he died. It’s on my thumb. I play with it constantly, twisting it, rubbing it. I think about you and dad, and how I ended up older than either of you, and wonder if wearing this ring is a good idea or not.

I think you would like your service, it’s in two weeks, and I have spent a lot of time working on it. It has readings, poems, and we’re playing Leonard Cohen and The Beatles, actually the choir, the one you used to sing with, will be performing Hallelujah and All You Need is Love. They said they would be honoured to sing for you. Honoured, I wonder what you would think about that. We’re doing two of my favourite prayers. To be honest I don’t know what you would think of the whole thing. I finished the first draft of your eulogy, I’ve never written one of those, but I’d never written an obituary either, and I think your’s turned out alright.

When I went through your clothes that first week, the week we went through and cleaned and organized your apartment, I mainly thought of ones for Graham, so he could have something of yours. I thought about taking a box of your books for him too, but then didn’t. You two had so much in common, but he walked out of his treatment centre 3 days ago and we don’t know where he is now, so I’m back to looking at the pile of clothes, and I’m still don’t know what I will do with them.

I sit here, healthy, safe and warm, and you’re gone, you’re not even a body anymore, you’re ashes siting in a container somewhere, I don’t even know where. They gave mom your glasses and your watch. That’s what she has, your glasses and your watch. I can’t begin to know how that feels. Did they put them in a special box with gold lettering? A velvet bag? Or did they just shove them in a brown envelope? Does that help? I don’t think it would. I think it would equally excruciating to receive the items from your child’s body no matter how they were presented to you.

You broke my heart, Johnny, you broke all of our hearts, and I let you die. I let you die alone. I let my son become homeless, and I sit in my house and feel sorry. I feel sorry, and sad, and tired, really, really tired. Somehow that seems wholly inadequate. It seems there should be larger consequence for not saving you, or Graham, or even dad.

There is more, obviously. You can’t tell by looking at me, or by talking to me, most of the time anyhow. On the outside I look and sound pretty much the same. I’m not. I’m unmoored, I am no longer somebody’s sister, I no longer have a brother, and you were it, my only sibling. It’s just me now, and that feels unnatural. All our private jokes, our code words, things that only we talked about and knew, all those things are gone, and what’s left is just space.

This was not how all of this was suppose to turn out. We were going to be great. We had grand plans. Happy lives mapped out. Lives with spouses, and happy children, successful careers, and somehow bits of that got lost.

I have to stop now. I have to find a place to put your clothes, and I have to go back to the actions that make up my life now.

I found this poem for you. I think maybe you would have made fun of it, but you don’t get to speak for yourself anymore, so here it is.

What the Living Do
Marie Howe

Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil probably fell down there.

And the Drano won’t work but smells dangerous, and the crusty dishes have piled up

waiting for the plumber I still haven’t called. This is the everyday we spoke of.
It’s winter again: the sky’s a deep, headstrong blue, and the sunlight pours through

the open living-room windows because the heat’s on too high in here and I can’t turn it off.
For weeks now, driving, or dropping a bag of groceries in the street, the bag breaking,

I’ve been thinking: This is what the living do. And yesterday, hurrying along those
wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my coffee down my wrist and sleeve,

I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush: This is it.
Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What you called that yearning.

What you finally gave up. We want the spring to come and the winter to pass. We want
whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss—we want more and more and then more of it.

But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass,
say, the window of the corner video store, and I’m gripped by a cherishing so deep

for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I’m speechless:
I am living. I remember you.

Goodnight Johnny. I love you.

“I just sit by and let you fight your secret war”

flawed, but indisputable

wpid-20150829_110911-01.jpega man

He tries to feel
for promises
he wants to,
but knows he’ll never keep

He goes alone
in clever words
and tells himself this
is enough,
even as his own words’ hollow ringings
must be drowned inside
his own false laughter.

His beating heart for frozen smiles,
long since traded in;
and if he’s fast enough,
he will not notice
the odd old beat
from within
his hidden chest.

His mirthful eyes, intelligent
and sadly beautiful to watch
see all that need compassion,
but who in turn
will show him none,
and will forsake those who would show him any.

and sometimes
very briefly,
in those eyes
there is the boy
who never did grow up
who, when he looks at you
the frozen mirth is gone,
and standing there
is just the man,
flawed,
but indisputable.

For less lofty poems click here or here or here. I also have a woman poem, but that’s for another day.

small stories

“Go to your bosom; Knock there, and ask your heart what it doth know” Measure for Measure Act 2, Scene 2, lines 36-37 artwork by Jhenai Mootz

I came alone.

the first time, since.
I came alone. today,
the first time
since we were
we, and from my corner
I watched,
us, side by side,
legs touching, and ankles entwined
telling each the small stories,
telling the small stories that
made up our days.
opening,
and then offering
little bits of ourselves,
to each other.
opening,
sometimes slowly,
the little
bits of ourselves,
carefully
removing a brick,
maybe two, from the walls.
a brick, maybe two
from the walls we had built,
and for a time, putting them down,
entwining our stories,
the small stories that made up our days.

Sun fills the doorway, fills
the doorway,
and I see you,
I see you walk in, the sun
glinting
off of those sunglasses
you wore.
I look from your eyes
to your smile
and I tell you my small stories,
the small stories that make up
my day,
the ones left unfinished
and now,
you tell me your stories, your
small stories, once again
entwining our stories,
entwining,
our stories
once again.

Sun fills the doorway
the doorway that’s empty, and
a brick, maybe two, still
wait on the floor, the space
they once held in my life,
the space,
they once held,
still lies open.

Sun fills the doorway
the doorway that’s empty, and
a brick, maybe two, remain
on the floor
I hold my small stories
in one hand, lie the stories
one hand that lies open, a hand
that lies open as I
walk out the door.

dear me

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Dear me,

Get up.
Place your feet on the floor,
one after the other.
Breath.
Stand. Walk. Wash your face.
Get up.
Rise and Shine.

Get up.
This is not over.
You are not over,
you are only just beginning.
There are no fat ladies singing,
the credits have not rolled
your movie has only just started.
You have words to write.
There are breezes lifting kites, blowing leaves
that need to be noticed;
there are songs
that need to be heard.

Get up.
Drag your pen across paper.
Write (dammit). Write despite of your broken hand,
in spite of the lifeless fingers.
Write (dammit)
with your teeth if you have to.
Get the words out.
Write about fire, stars, water,
Just write (dammit).

Stand.
Defy gravity.
Do not give them your power.
Do not give
One. More. Moment to those
who called your hopes and fears drama that they didn’t have time for.
Do not.
Do not make yourself small for other’s comfort.
Stand. Defy gravity, even as it pulls you to the earth.
Stand. Inhale. Exhale. Shine.
Be yourself,
your messy, dramatic, beautifully flawed, your lovable self.
Just be.

Stand.
You are who you love,
You are not who loves you.
Define yourself.
On a cool night walk to the beach and make a fire
burn the letters. Take
the card you have clung to and
burn it.
Give them to the fire.
Burn them all
Get up. Look up. Walk away.
Look at the stars, borrow as much light as you need.
Listen to the waves.
Walk into the arms of your friends.
Let go. Let go.
Let the rest go.

Shine.
Walk into your garden and
plant a new seed.
Stand. Shine. Watch it grow,
watch it defy gravity.
Pull the weeds.
Burn them. Burn every last weed
(like the card, like the words, let go, let go, let go)
every weed
that would choke your seed, steal its light,
hinder its growth.
The world will tell you to stop,
to dim your light.
Do not.
There are people that need more light.
Make extra.

Shine.
Feast
on chocolate, on love, on every moment of your life.
Breath.
Deeper than you’ve ever dared.
Stand.
Place your feet on the floor,
one after the other.
Walk.
Walk into darkness, into nothing and
trust each step you take.
Save your own life. One breath,
one step, one word, one seed
at a time.

Dear me,
There is no other moment.
There is only right now.
Live.
Right now.
Get up. Stand. Walk. Shine.
Be that which is you, and only you.
You are enough.
You are what you love.
You are.
Start there.
Breath.

well adjusted

SAMSUNGIt’s been a challenging week. The details I’ll leave for another time. I can be, very occasionally, a ‘well adjusted and functioning adult’ but more often than not I’m a ‘flying by the seat of my pants making this stuff up as I go along’ kind of person. I have some healthy coping mechanisms, like yoga, art, wonderful friends, and music, and I have some not so healthy coping mechanisms, like not eating, not making the bed, talking to inanimate objects.

Here are my top 10(ish), or maybe 15 coping mechanisms for the last week, in no order what so ever:

  • took out a live wasp’s nest, with a bat, during the day when they were around, it was a Lieutenant Dan kinda moment
  • allowed myself to chew off exactly 1 fingernail, my left pinkie, it looks dreadful, I’m only allowed to chew another when my pinkie grows back
  • curled up on my couch with my daughter, ate pie and ice cream and watched animated movies (The Incredibles and Wreak It Ralph), cried in a somewhat dignified manner
  • curled up on a friend’s couch and watched movies (Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, Sliding Doors), cried in a rather undignified manner (waterproof mascara that can hold it’s own through a hot yoga class crumbles and runs down your face if you cry long enough, especially the undignified type of crying)
  • reached out to friends, cried, and laughed and made horribly inappropriate jokes (inappropriate humour being a major coping mechanism)
  • made art, did not cry on the art (involved quick tissue reflexes)
  • talked to my steering wheel, cried on my steering wheel, sung to my steering wheel, drummed on my steering wheel; my steering wheel knows all my secrets
  • talked to my dog, talked to my cat, my fish, my garden, the lizard, but not the snake, the snake doesn’t listen
  • sang and hummed to myself, a lot, I mean for hours, I think the dog liked it, but it’s so hard to tell with him
  • didn’t make the bed for 3 whole days, also picked clothes out of the dryer instead of folding and putting them away
  • did yoga, got sweaty and breathed deeply, felt MUCH better afterwards
  • various forms of retail therapy –  expensive yoga pants that make my ass look fabulous, little balls to roll away the tension in my neck, dark chocolate with cherries, so far….
  • narrowed my diet to pie (now gone), toast, coffee, and the odd bowl of cereal (lost 5 pounds, I do not recommend this diet)
  • played sudoko on my phone for extended periods of time (which I justify as a exercise for my brain)
  • poetry, lots of poetry, because I’m a word nerd – a small sample of poems below

I will live, have lived through worse, so I’m pretty confident “this too shall pass”, but I keep wondering when will I finally become that elusive “adult” who has all this junk figured out. The one who can balance a cheque book (who knows where the damn check book is), plan a menu that doesn’t involve the microwave or popcorn, gracefully juggle work/family/life/the universe and everything, always have clothes on the right way out, has a happy well adjusted marriage, never puts their foot in their mouth for weeks at a time, or overreacts in dramatic and super embarrassing ways, and never ever has orphaned socks? You know that mythical creature known as the well adjusted, mature adult. I’ve heard of them, even think I’ve spotted a few, but ultimately those ones turn out to be just as flawed as the rest of us.

And so it goes.

Life, crammed full of messy, undignified, embarrassing, humbling, glorious and sacred moments, full of enough sorrow for us to appreciate joy, and enough ugliness for us to appreciate beauty, and gratitude, because in the end it’s a beautiful world, full of kindness and love.

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crappy picture, but I made this

swinging

Swung for love,
flung in-between
sound earth and sky’s embrace
green willows as my garland.

My sadness, in degrees does soar away,
and whispers back again.
My heart belonging
to faraway horizons.
Time so briefly spent in tumbling clouds
divides more wide than from tides to moon,
but still my flight will not wait
for breath
or sight
as I swing from sorrow
and back again.
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made this too

sound

do not think
that you can
know me
for I am only
one heart
beating
in a world
too full
with sound.

Enough
Enough. These few words are enough.
If not these words, this breath.
If not this breath, this sitting here.

This opening to the life
we have refused
again and again
until now.
Until now

– David Whyte, Where Many Rivers Meet

The Guest-House

This being human is a guest-house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you
out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

– Say I Am You: Poetry Interspersed with Stories of Rumi and Shams, Translated by John Moyne and Coleman Barks, Maypop, 1994.

Love After Love

The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you have ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

– Derek Walcott, Collected Poems 1948-1984, New York, Farrar Straus Giroux, 1986.

The Waking

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.
We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me, so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.

  • Theodore Roethke

Weathering

me with quote

Weathering

Literally thin-skinned, I suppose, my face
catches the wind off the snow-line and flushes
with a flush that will never wholly settle. Well:
that was a metropolitan vanity,
wanting to look young for ever, to pass.

I was never a pre-Raphaelite beauty
nor anything but pretty enough to satisfy
men who need to be seen with passable women.
But now that I am in love with a place
which doesn’t care how I look, or if I’m happy,

happy is how I look, and that’s all.
My hair will grow grey in any case,
my nails chip and flake, my waist thicken,
and the years work all their usual changes.
If my face is to be weather-beaten as well

that’s little enough lost, a fair bargain
for a year among the lakes and fells, when simply
to look out of my window at the high pass
makes me indifferent to mirrors and to what
my soul may wear over its new complexion.

–Fleur Adcock

I love this poem, and one day I hope to have that time among the lakes.

Perhaps even more now that I am weathering. My hair is going grey, my waist thickened, and my face, while never pretty, is showing the years in various lines and wrinkles.

I was never a pre-Raphaelite beauty
nor anything but pretty enough to satisfy
men who need to be seen with passable women.

That’s me. Never the attractive, pretty, or sought after one. I’m at peace with being somewhat plain (except for the unruly hair), there are worse things, much worse things. Perhaps I’ll be the type of woman who looks fabulous at 70, but a life of being average looking, a life of more than a few difficulties has given me some insights.

  • Eat the damn cake, because you know, it’s cake.
  • Hug people and tell them they matter, because people do matter, and often need to reminded of this.
  • Hold on to what you love. Let go of what hurts you. Seems easy enough. Still working on this one.
  • There are no knights in shining armor, you have to rescue yourself. I used to dream of being rescued, of someone loving me like Neruda wrote in his poems, now I’m okay with reading his poetry to myself, and taking care of myself.
  • What other people think of you is none of your business, so try not to care so much about that. Still working on this one too.
  • Every day alive is a gift, don’t waste it. It’s been 14 years and 2 days since my friend Cathy died. My friend with three kids the same ages as mine. Every year I get with my kids is icing, is precious. Every spring, every holiday, every damn day. I try not to forget this.
  • There is such a thing as a free lunch. Sometimes you get the lunch, and sometimes you give someone the lunch. That’s how life works.
  • Kindness, it really is the new black. It goes with everything.
  • When things get uncomfortable, try not to reach for the first, or second, or third distraction. When you feel rotten, feel rotten, don’t wallow, but don’t push it down and pretend it doesn’t exist. Lean into it, and when you’re ready let it go. Lean on your friends, and let them lean on you. It’s how we all get by, with a little help from our friends.

It’s not a huge amount of knowledge, but it’s what’s I’ve got right now. I think maybe if I had had an easier time of it, if I was ever seen as beautiful, or wealthy or any number of things, that I might not have had my ego kicked into the dirt enough times to soften it, to soften me, to weather me. This is a good thing I tell myself when I look in the mirror and see every single year on my face, around my waist, on my belly and on my thighs, and I then I channel Anne Lamott as best I can

“Your problem is how you are going to spend this one and precious life you have been issued. Whether you’re going to spend it trying to look good and creating the illusion that you have power over circumstances, or whether you are going to taste it, enjoy it and find out the truth about who you are.”
― Anne Lamott

So, another year older, and I’m still walking and breathing. I’m happy, most of the time, and grateful, so very grateful for what I do have.

old poems

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Over 9 years ago I stopped drinking. It’s not something I advertise, but it’s not something I actively try to hide either. The disease runs in my family. I am alive, and on most days well, only because I found a way to stop.

I used to write poetry. I used to write quite a lot of poetry, and today for many reasons I dusted off writing from around 10 years ago, from one of the most difficult times of my life. If there was a way I could take what I’ve learned, box it up and give to people I love I would do it. I can’t. I can only pray and hope, and continue to take care of my own sobriety. Someone told me when you quit drinking you feel better, you feel pain better, joy, love, sorrow, you feel everything that you had been drinking not to feel. It can be overwhelming. Most of the poems are about that, about feeling better.

I don’t know why I moved away from poetry, and started using more words to write blog posts instead. Poetry is much harder, maybe that’s why.

Here are some, in no relevant order, because organization of anything creative still is challenging for me. Most are free verse, a few are cinquains, one of the very few forms of poetry I had any proficiency with.

blackness

a diving spotted loon
to which the surging waves arouse no wonder,
a soaring mateless seagull beneath
grave misting clouds,
a pair of blackest crows
in deliberate and dark discourse,
and the early morning chorus of birds
I have not met,
here are my early morning companions

this morning,
my last morning here.

and this I ponder wrapped in heavy woolen
drinking strong coffee
made stronger still with Jamison’s

I ponder these birds
the burden of their sky
the profundity of their black waves
their universal harmony

and when the drizzle mixes with the rising surge
the loon dives again and does not return for me
the crows take their argument to distant trees
and the seagull glides so low under
the weeping
clouds – I cannot breathe to watch

I am alone
with their water and thoughtful stones
the unspoken rain
and within my silence
with the blunt smell of cold
and the raw touch of
grey horizon light

in the untraveled blackened depths
under which
I will always lie.

fish hooks

Sober,
I have not known this face
reborn in palest newborn skin
translucent, and
tissue thin
all my nerves unclothed
disgraced, at their own nakedness

I do not know how to use these hands

a flesh of weeping grief
from savage shredded tracks
the tiny fish hooks sliced
and pierced
with their
sharpened razor points

of grief and joy and hate and fear of love
and of despair

I have never heard my voice
still they dig
minute barbs grasping
my unprotected soul
wrenching out my
heart
for all to see
tearing open my
eyes
so I must look

at the person I do not know.

river

Has there always been such green
all and each
so richly saturated
with this chromatic life,
these leaves, spirits within living stories,
twisting over
and around
and in between
each and one another
in their lilting seduction of
wind and sun?

did they do this yesterday?
did they flicker in this coquettish glee
inside my footfalls
sun tickling tenderly
each surface – so thoughtfully webbed-
while in their turn they reached
to lick the honeyed beams
along this muddied path
to water’s edge.
I walk to sense the flowing strength
flirting within twinkling beams
and to caress,
between reflective ripples,
smooth slippery stones
filled with energy.
will there always be
such life?

ecstasy

I would let go
but for the colour.
still,

I like to sneak to the edge
and dig my fingernails into stone
and ponder
the relief of falling
the ecstasy in shattering bones, the
liberation of seeping blood. but

when I crawl back
it is for the shade
of your tears.

unforgiven

who do I imagine I am?
breath?
thought?

in a place
where ten year old
bulldozers tear down
one hundred year old trees
in this place where
house sized wood chippers
vomit green onto
clear cut ground

bare foot in the grass
the rain will not
baptize me

my finger waits
for the drop that
could forgive me.

bones

far away
I am this night
as blackness swallows day
sweet, my grief
rests in the folding
black from bloodless red,
lay my bones,
my lonely love
lay my bones
and heart of clay

silences

I have not
always shown
me, as I am.
not in open, worn
these ragged
clothes.
let sun and rain
peel away my
raw, and
bloodied flesh.
and so,
I sometimes pause,
to wonder
at the silences.​

for you

for you
I would wrench
thunderclouds from rapture
accept their jagged burning rage
weep till there is no rain
and scream out all your agony
until my heart disintegrates
in thunder

for you
I would dry dew’s tears
from each and every
green and glistened blade

for you
I am salt
and I whisper
through your hands

crying

I cry for what I cannot save

for the dying roadside bird
bloodied under blackened wheels

for the frightened child
held down
learning how a secret’s kept

I cry for
young veins punctured
with poisoned needles

I cry for pain
I feel screaming inside you
that fills all of me
that I cannot take away

for the sickness
that I comfort
but cannot heal

I cry for all that’s broken
that I cannot fix

and some days
I cry
for me.

cold sleep

no stars
weep abandon
as our discarded die
disappeared in foul rooms, cold tears
dried wine.

claws

fear strolls
on soft bear’s paws
hushed growling, calmly tastes
decides – and stretching sharpest claws
carves me.

cut me

I hate
the sky’s fading
touch – etched within my heart
take the words from me – cut them all
away

him

there was a time
he could not
release me

that was
before

now his
ever restless feet
carry him away

a broken toy
stepped on, crumbled – yet
walking still
a stranger
that I tried to stand before

uncovered
as only myself
a broken, walking doll

he is
not a boy, but
a man, terrified of the ghosts
in my eyes
of the unsayable
that slices through my rooms

he is close
and he is untouchable

in a way
that cuts through me

alone with his beauty
his pain
his cruelty
his anger, and
his love

an embrace unfelt
laid cold
upon my soul.

Like I said, I used to write poems. There are more here.

sleep

Danae-1908

pretending, I arrange
pillows, I arrange and
I imagine
the space
you would fill, your
breath’s rhythm, your
mouth’s heat
by my shoulder,
in my hair, the
movement on my hip of
a single finger tracing
my pale skin.
I imagine
the causal tangle
of our legs.
and then
I close my eyes,
lean into you,
and sleep.