Burying the Dead

Just not this year

I didn’t think it would happen this year. Not that I thought I wouldn’t think about it, I just hoped it would come and go before I realized it.

But then the Christmas lights went up, and the ghosts came down.

And there I was- standing in the middle of the store, trapped between boxes of stuffing and cans of cranberry sauce that towered over displays of pumpkin pie- sinking to my knees, watching them die…one by one by one.

But we weren’t going to do this again, remember? That was the deal. I just had to make it through one more Thanksgiving and one more Christmas, and then next year would be happy. This year would be happy.

But it was too late. The countdown had begun, your ghosts unleashed, and we were going straight to hell…

Back to the accident.

But this year, it’s more than just the memory of it. It’s now morphed into this fucked up source of shame. I mean, honestly, it’s been three years, and they’re dead, and I’m not. It’s time to move on.

And then shame turns to guilt. Because what kind of person could just dismiss it and move on? And then comes rage, because I keep ending up in this horrible place. And I don’t want to write about it anymore.

But every night, they find their way in, under the covers and into my head, seizing my thoughts, ravaging my sleep, demanding words in exchange for peace.

And the hope, maybe next year, they’ll let me bury the dead.

It’s always the same scene that haunts me. But, it’s not of the accident. It’s a memory I’ve never had, in a place I’ve never seen.

I have no idea what his house looked like or how big his family was, or if he even celebrated Thanksgiving. But that’s where I go, to his living room- his family seated around a long table, lined with white porcelain plates, matching bowls and platters, all strategically placed around an elegant flower arrangement, candles on either side.

A younger version of him, maybe his little brother, strains to grab the bowl of stuffing his mom is passing to him, both reaching across the empty space between them, the one she always sets, where he no longer sits.

The Persistence of Time

Dalí’s clocks came to mind,
As I studied you from the side.
The way your head tilted back,
Pouring down your spine.

On my knees, shivering
Staring at my phone,
Pulling up blades of grass,
One by one by one.

The silence, deafening,
Now drenched in blood,
No one was going to call,
No one was going to come.

Could you taste it, the smell:
Charred rubber and gas?
Could you feel it, the injustice…

I was holding my breath, while you were taking your last.

 

persistenceofmemory1931

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The same place she always sits, that’s always set,- scene isn’t any less tragic. have been all the trees piling up ont or  feeling in my sto

This time it was the apple, but I’ll keep trying.

I received a request for something a bit more substantial than “just a quote,” and another for something more, “I don’t know, about butterflies or what you did in Australia. Something happy.”

Right, okay. Butterflies. Happy…

So I sat down, opened up a new document, and took a bite of my apple…

Mushy apples, wet peanut butter, cigarette smoke.
Caged animals, plastic straws, tree stumps.
Distended bellies, oppressed souls, false hope.

Hiccups, parking tickets, splintered wood.
Sirens, screeching brakes, raised fists.
Apathy, the sound of pain, someday I should…

You deserve the best, cold feet, flights home.
Broken promises, resignation, empty words.
Rainy days, sleeping alone…waking up alone.

Starting over one more time, one more time.

I’ll try again next week…or maybe the next.

IMG-1223

Okay, here is my offering to make up for the absence of butterflies. The thing that always feeds my soul, even after the mushiest of apples.

The Butterfly Effect…or Just Great F*cking Writers

Edward Lorenz and the Discovery of the Butterfly Effect

“It used to be thought that the events that changed the world were things like big bombs, maniac politicians, huge earthquakes, or vast population movements, but it has now been realized that this is a very old-fashioned view held by people totally out of touch with modern thought. The things that change the world, according to Chaos theory, are the tiny things. A butterfly flaps its wings in the Amazonian jungle, and subsequently a storm ravages half of Europe.”
                                                    — from Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

If you’ve been following ‘the challenge’ initiated last week, you hopefully experienced the magic that happens when people break out of their comfort zones and inspire others to do the same.

If you missed out on some of the action, Tanya, our Incurable Dreamer, summed it up perfectly in “the losing of my poetry virginity

Last week, she [that’s me] wrote a poem [inspired by George Ella Lyon’ original ‘Where I’m From’], and what has transpired since then has been nothing short of extraordinary.

The poem she wrote was inspired by a prompt – Where I’m From.

Her idea was to post it on her blog and challenge someone to write a poem about where they are from, and then hopefully they too would pass it forward. Well, that is what she did, and that is exactly what happened. She challenged Tom who challenged Wulf who challenged Susan who challenged Bojana.

Inspired by Brooke’s words, Brad and  LLY1205 didn’t even wait to be challenged, they both just got right to it and wrote and posted their poems.”

ws_The_Butterfly_Effect_1600x1200.jpg

                                                                                                                          * image from http://thebutterflyeffect.org/

This wasn’t a competition, by any means. But we were all nervous to try something that isn’t exactly our strong suit. Even our celebrated poets expressed some anxiety about presenting their piece. I suppose it’s because we are all following the same model- one that requires us to reveal some of the most intimate parts of our stories- and create something on the heels of the previous person who blew us away…

But no pressure…really.

So, back to the whole butterfly thing. Yes, I will acknowledge that I set this in motion…flapping my wings if you will. But, as Edward Lorenz, creator of the chaos theory postulates: (Cool article discussing the butterfly effect here)

“Subject to the conditions of uniqueness, continuity, and boundedness … a central trajectory, which in a certain sense is free of transient properties, is unstable if it is nonperiodic. A noncentral trajectory … is not uniformly stable if it is nonperiodic, and if it is stable at all, its very stability is one of its transient properties, which tends to die out as time progresses. In view of the impossibility of measuring initial conditions precisely, and thereby distinguishing between a central trajectory and a nearby noncentral trajectory, all nonperiodic trajectories are effectively unstable from the point of view of practical prediction.”

Simply stated, the noncentral trajectory of my challenge was effectively unstable and wouldn’t have unfolded the way it did if you all had let it die out

Okay, enough of that. In short, it was not I who accepted the challenge and wrote something brilliant enough to inspire the next person, who wrote something brilliant enough to inspire the next person…

Maybe I did initiate a breeze. But you all gave it the momentum necessary to make the next person’s words take flight, compelling them to dig deeper and soar to heights that took our writers and readers by storm and left us all spinning. 

So Tanya, thank you for finishing off this whirlwind week of words with such grace, depth and courage. And thanks to the rest of you brave souls who gave us an enchanting glimpse intowhere you are from.

Life-is-poetry-that

See where Mirian, from Out an’ About takes us next…

The Lion’s Lair & A Challenge

Okay, a break from soulmates. I received an unexpected, much-needed gift this week and got to spend a couple of hours with my writing teacher, Miss Lisa Jones.

I discovered Lisa when I was in a coffee shop doing research for my upcoming trip to the Congo. I was thinking I should learn how to write so I could share my experience with friends and family, looked up from my computer and there was her flyer posted on the community board. I was sitting next to her within a couple of weeks.

Four years later, now a self-declared writer, I got to revisit the process of trying to follow her prompts and find the courage to read what I came up with (which is never what I want it to be) out loud to a room full of strangers. It’s terrifying and exhilarating and always sends me soaring way outside my comfort zone.

Poetry. I kinda hate it. I don’t know how to do it, and I always feel like I’m imitating Dr. Suess.

So, of course, our first prompt was a poem. I’ll share it with you and what I came up with (which I think sounds like a darker, more jaded version of Dr. Suess).

Okay, so a challenge: I’m gonna pass this off to one of you, and if you are up for it, I would love to see your version, your story.

When you post, or if you prefer to pass, send to on to someone you think might want to experiment with it.

The first victim, if he so chooses, is Tom being Tom. :o)

My version of Lyon’s original:

Where I’m From: The Lion’s Lair

I am from pigtails, teddy bears, things tied in bows
From cow pastures, barbed wire, dry, dusty roads
From Vodka bottles buried
beneath dirty clothes

I’m from TV dinners, pudding pops, sweetened ice tea
From silence, shame, and muffled screams
From two best friends
only I could see

I am from weeping willows, bare feet, Fourth of July
From Bible study, train tracks, the cicadas’ cry
From climbing trees, scraped up knees
chasing fireflies

I’m from dreaming of anyplace but here
From invented fairytales and judgmental stares
From her inevitable return
from the lion’s lair

I am from faded photographs of faces unknown
From a wild heart with a gypsy’s soul
From an untethered spirit
that can never let go

Where I’m From

~ George Ella Lyon
I am from clothespins,
from Clorox and carbon tetrachloride.
I am from the dirt under the back porch.
(Black, glistening
it tasted like beets.)
I am from the forsythia bush,
the Dutch elm
whose long gone limbs I remember as if they were my own.

I’m from fudge and eyeglasses,
from Imogene and Alafair.
I’m from the know-it-alls
and the pass-it-ons,
from perk up and pipe down.
I’m from He restoreth my soul
with a cottonball lamb
and ten verses I can say myself.

I’m from Artemus and Billie’s Branch,
fried corn and strong coffee.
From the finger my grandfather lost
to the auger
the eye my father shut to keep his sight.

Under my bed was a dress box
spilling old pictures,
a sift of lost faces
to drift beneath my dreams.
I am from those moments–
snapped before I budded–
leaf-fall from the family tree

 

IMG_7886

Searching for Words, Finding Hope

I’ve lost them, my words.

Well, that’s not entirely accurate. I know where they are. They’re in my head, racing around at a dizzying pace.

They spend the day building up momentum for the seemingly endless night ahead- unleashing with a force that is as deafening as it is despotic.

And they’re tired and pissed and terrified that they’ll be trapped in there forever.

As am I.

I first blamed their retreat on the holidays. Maybe I was just depressed. Or maybe it was because I was editing other people’s words all day and I didn’t have the energy to come up with my own.

Or maybe I was actually never a writer at all. Maybe it was just a phase or a lifeline to keep me from drifting off to a point from which I couldn’t return.

I tried to exercise patience. I decided, if I couldn’t write, I would spend my time learning how to write instead.

Terrible idea. Everything I read only confirmed it: I have no idea what I’m doing.

Technique, imagery, character development, piecing together a plot? Yeah, I haven’t really been doing any of that. I’ve just been trying to keep my protagonist from falling apart.

Although I did discover that I at least have the five essential elements of ‘a story’ in place: all the characters are ready to go, I have an interesting mix of settings to work with, my plot is established, and there’s most definitely a conflict… in desperate need of a resolution.

It’s that last one, however, the resolution part, that’s the problem. I was sure this whole mess would be resolved by now. Or at least enough of it that any real threat of another maelstrom taking me down was minimal.

But it’s been a year. And things are still so fucking messy. And it still feels bizarre to laugh. And making it through the day without fighting back tears at some point feels equally bizarre.

I push through it. I make sure to smile and do what it takes to distract everyone from noticing what feels like a gaping hole in my chest. But I’m tired, and now, it seems even my words are failing me.

I do, of course, have good days, quite a few in fact. But when they happen, I find myself looking over my shoulder, waiting for disappointment to catch back up with me. It seems I can’t keep ahead of it. And for the first time in my life, I’m wondering if I ever will.

orange.blossoms

But it finally hit me last night, why they’ve been trapped. I was walking home, mad at myself for forgetting my gloves and wishing I could better embrace this whole ‘no car’ thing. I was just about to dart across the street to beat the approaching cars when something made me stop.

I turned around to retrace my steps and breathed in as deeply as I could, feeling the cold air scraping against my lungs. But nothing.

I realized how ridiculous it was and turned around to head home, then stopped again. There it was.

The smell of orange blossoms.

I closed my eyes.

and felt the uneven cobblestone beneath my feetI gathered up the bottom of my dress to better navigate my way through the crowd, seizing every opportunity to forge ahead without slamming into one of the orange trees lining the street. Flamenco music spilled out of every bar- all packed with locals sipping on manzanilla as they made their way to Feria.

An old man stopped, smiled and tipped his hat as I walked by. His words- infused with the sweet smell of orange blossoms- trailed behind me…

“Ahh, las maravillas de Sevilla’.   (Ah, the wonders of Sevilla)

Adorable+kids+dressed+in+flamenco+dresses+-+Feria+De+Abril,+Seville

I looked around for the source, tilting my head back to study the tree sprawled out above me. Fluorescent lights clung to its thin, rigid branches, turning them an ashen shade of brown that rendered any sign of life impossible.

Reality set back in and the only thing I could smell fumes coming from the cars behind me. The relentless heaviness that’s been lodged in my chest resumed its place, extinguishing any trace of what had taken me back to a time when desperation seemed impossible.

So this is why I’ve lost my words. Not because a resolution hasn’t surfaced yet, but because I’m starting to believe one never will. I’m starting to lose hope.

When I smelled the scent of orange blossoms, when I thought back to Sevilla, I got the same feeling I do when I see the first tiny buds appear on the trees after a long winter. Or when I’m walking down the street in a far-off country- foreign words, enchanting music and exotic smells swirling around me. Or when I see the person I love light up when I walk in the room.

Those moments when I want to take everything in all at once, feel it as deeply as I can, and savor the magic of it all.

But going to Spain isn’t an option right now and it feels like it never will be. And green is nowhere to be seen. And the thought of ever falling in love again feels impossible.

Hope is powerful. As opposed to its dark cousin, despair, which paralyzes us, hope energizes and mobilizes us. Beyond that, hope affects those around us, lifting them as well as us.
~ Joseph Nowinski, Ph.D.

The thing is, I don’t write just for me. And I had convinced myself when I got to the other side of this, I could maybe be a source of hope for those who had lost it.

But that was when still had hope, when I still truly believed all that would remain at this point would be a scar- a substantial one to be sure- but the pain would be a distant memory.

Despair is not what I thought would be commanding my thoughts, keeping me up at night and stealing my words. And despair is not what I want to elicit with my words.

I waited for a break in the traffic and darted across the street, landing on the patch of grass underneath my favorite tree.

He had been the highlight of my walk in the fall, greeting me each morning with a new display of colors that were more enchanting than the day before. But now he was stripped bare. He looked cold and lifeless. He looked desperate.

This morning I made it a point to stop again and give him the benefit of daylight.

He didn’t look lifeless at all. He looked strong and peaceful.

And I realized, he isn’t bare. He’s covered in leaves that are growing just beneath the surface, building up the momentum they need to unleash with a force that will allow them to flourish.

They are there and have been all along, full of hope and wonder. I just can’t see them yet…but they are there.

buds

“My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry; to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return.” ~ Maya Angelou

I hate you because I love you (Elephant Journal)

Screen Shot 2018-01-13 at 11.54.06 AM

I hate to inundate you with hate here, but I had no idea this was published in Elephant Journal back in August. I hate you because I love you

Promise, no more hating after this!!! (And god, the picture is a bit dramatic… no say in that department!)

Why we should Stop Trying to Piece Back Together a Shattered Heart (Elephant Journal)

Seems shattered hearts are the latest trend. Don’t fall for it…utterly overrated.

Why we shouldn’t stop trying to piece back together a shattered heart