I had occasion the other day when someone said, “the holidays are usually the hardest,” to respond, “For most people, yes, but it doesn’t bother me.” I have reflected on my glibness and wondered if that’s why, ever since, he has placed himself so center, as if to say, “Really? You’re not troubled just a little?” Here we all are (most of us), preparing to gather with family and friends, to celebrate according to our traditions. It’s a time when we try to include everyone. Sometimes we run ourselves ragged, catching a few hours with this family member, fighting traffic and avoiding holiday accidents (drunk revelers), just so we can give a hug and laugh a little.
And that’s good. Laughter is. But then we notice a tinny quality in our own voice and that’s when the missing person’s absence pushes us against the wall, even years later. We’ve had no choice but to accommodate, but we’re not “over it” and the trite “closure” they keep talking about is more to satisfy a narrative than to describe reality. The wound doesn’t close, though we may go months with the seeping so subtle we don’t notice until all of the sudden the pool is full and flooding behind our eyes.
That is one way we fool ourselves, the glib wave of the hand–but it should be a warning, anytime our answer comes so fast and easy: get ready for big dose of humbling.
More reflective now, I am missing being able to see and touch two sons. In the next 10 days, I will love (and touch and laugh with) my oldest and our two granddaughters and my family. But I will honor the sadness that comes when we’re supposed to gather all the ones we love into our wide embrace and can’t. I will stop saying, it doesn’t bother me.
So this poem is for that. It’s a modified ghazal, “Ghazal by a Thread.” If you’re listening, given them a hug.
I wrote this poem to mark the way we continue to see a beloved who has died–in other people, in the way someone walks or the shape of a jaw. It’s been seven years and I still turn back, just to be sure, when someone has caught my eye for some little thing that reminds me of him. In that moment the possibility of him rushes back. In “Minor Chord,” I wanted to start with the idea of “if” (if only) to try to express the longing that comes whenever we see someone who shares that little piece of him–that gesture–and how this merging of stranger with beloved is like the merging of song and painting.
Recently, my students in SRSC 525 Place and the Problem of Healing, submitted their self-portraits, designed as woodcuts using black and white paper, most of them. They then photographed their design and shared it using Voice Thread (my class is online, so this gave us the opportunity to step off the page for awhile and listen to others’ narratives). They were all so wonderful I wish I could share them here. Two of them featured trees and roots as part of the design, and they reminded me of my own “tree forms” poems, so I told them I wanted to share one of them, the one recorded below, “When I Fall.” I haven’t read or thought of this poem for awhile, so it pleased me that other elements of my students’ self-portraits came up–stars, for instance, and mountains, and stepping stones, or in this case a path that was once the tree.
Since I haven’t posted on my blog for awhile (which makes it seem as if I don’t care about poetry anymore). . . . sad face . . . I am back, if briefly, with this:
Browsing Fb this morning, I saw the following meme posted by my friend Betsy. I thought, “Yes!” and then “Tree Forms”! And then decided to share this poem, in praise of the story trees tell, and in appreciation for Ram Dass’s good decision to see everyone as a tree…..Here’s the meme, then the reading. Thanks! Here’s the reading of “The Story They Tell Is Our Story.” I appreciate the excuse to read it and at the same time to share this so-true quotation of Ram Dass.
Last week, we covered a gable vent with wire mesh, our attempt to keep another family of birds from nesting in our attic crawl space. This is at the front of the house. I see from the upstairs bathroom window at the back of the house that another avian family has put down roots in the eaves, where an opening between two pieces of siding offers up a kind of private doorway. Bits of twig poke through and when the parents arrive with a flutter of braking tail feathers, the otherwise timid scrabbling sound goes wild. Within a week, the sweet little peeps are hearty shouts. “You’re back! Finally! Me first! Where’s mine?!”
So, it seems like a good occasion to share a reading of one of the poems in Seeking, called “Someone Else’s Offspring.” I hope you enjoy it.
Welcome to my blog. I’m focusing for now on my upcoming collection of poetry, Seeking the Other Side. I hope you are a lover of good poetry, and that you might find an interest in mine! I’ve got a tab for Poetry, where you can read reviews for the collection and for my chapbook, Tree Forms. I may slide an occasional poem for you to listen to, if you have time.