For the Man I Saw Die Yesterday

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I’m sorry sending the angels was all I could do

as I knelt in the glass and mud.

Spring won’t come this year.

I didn’t see you until you almost

hit the back corner of my car, almost

took me with you, rolling, scraping, across concrete,

flipping, air dirt air dirt, glass, metal, tree –

almost –

I already knew before my car came to rest on the edge.

Smoke began to rise from your truck, and it was all

so close

so close you were to me, to the tree, to right side up and upside down,

to where you were going,

so close.  I asked them to be with you,

the angels,

when the other voices yelled, “Step back!”

And today what’s left of your almost –

a tire with a white cross and flowers,

but still,

an angel,

so close.

We Talk

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We talk about the way you build wooden boats with your hands,
and the way the sun shines off the water when we canoe across the lake.
And we talk about the snow in the winter and the way the snowflakes fall in the quiet.
We talk about the way that you rode an elephant in Thailand along the side of a cliff,
and the elephant put one foot in front of the other so he kept on the trail,
and the way I went dogsledding in Alaska, felt the dogs pull and heard the trees whisper blue.
We talk about the summers of sun, sand and waves, and how we grew with salt water in our veins. And we talk of our smiles and our failures and the lessons we learned, tomorrow’s plans
and time that we hold in the palm of our hands. We talk until the coffee grows cold and the night grows wings, until the words have words no more, but our eyes keep talking.
We don’t talk about your aneurysm that might kill you tonight, or tomorrow, and we don’t talk about my brain tumor that’s growing as we speak.
We don’t talk about it.

(someone with a brain tumor doesn’t look like that)

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sounds improbable

perhaps made up

even the radiologist

laughed (before):

“everybody thinks

they see a

brain

tumor

on their MRI”

maybe just

for sympathy

or attention, what better

way to make

people feel sorry

for you? really,

who talks about

it? If it was true,

you’d just be silent,

depressed, dying,

figuring out why you,

why YOU? so we’ll

silently nod our heads

in doubtful sympathy,

noting your normal

face, and we’ll keep

our doubts quiet

while

you

are

still

here 

Ending Up Alone

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“I will end up alone he says,” and in the silent pause,

so many doors close. She collects the know before the feel,

cancels the gray-haired couple, arm-in-arm,

rocking late days on the porch of music. Promises

to stay, believe, carry him to night, those are blown away,

stripped like maples’ autumn color, disappear like summer

days. Perhaps he chose alone to spare her in some way.

Though the layer of fallen leaves and torn up plans weighs

deeply through her bones, she carries pieces of him with her.

He will never be alone.

When Mother Gets Angry

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When Mother gets angry, the children are not safe,

clinging to walls that collapse around them, crushing

childhood beneath her wrath.  She roars at us, and throws

our things about, for they mean nothing to Mother

when she is mad.  She’ll unleash torrents, and we will try

to hide, but Mother knows all the hiding places.

She will knock them down or flood them with her rage, until

we are gasping for air, begging Mother to forgive us.

And when she calms again, Mother is nearly silent.

She never apologizes, only watches us through cloudy eyes

as we try to pick up broken pieces of Mother’s fury.

We hold the children and shake, and try to explain, but

we can’t.  Haunted by the cruelty Mother has unleashed

on some, we whisper and hope, and glance up warily.

Do not make Mother angry.

 

 

The Girl in the Purple Dress (for June)

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Her name was June, but she left in May,

before the sunflowers could bloom and ask

for more days.  In the stone church, whispers

spoke of the claim: cancer, a brain tumor.

Stolen summer laid her cold, draped in flowers

taken in their bloom. They would die soon. 

I kept my head bowed, listened for June,

waited for the preaching, sobbing, and hymns to end.

In the front of the church, in a purple dress

with a black bow in her hair, June’s daughter sat;

I knew her well. She looked straight ahead and made

no sound, and that is why I kept my head down.

And when the cars were gone, and I was alone

I wept, and I wept to the church and through June.

The last months of her life, when the brain tumor

grasped and haunted her head, June had changed.

And her daughter, so many days, so many different

colored bows, would tell stories of the crazy things

her mom would do and stay. And it wasn’t June.

It wasn’t your Mom. I cry because we have lost

part of summer, but I weep for her girl in the purple dress,

and the June she remembered as she sat on those steps.

Longing for Lost

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Among the bare trees and ridges
in the last days of the year, 
I tried to get lost. It was nearly dark, 
evening clouds covered the mountain, 
covered me, pulling deeper down 
past mossy fallen oaks and the stream 
that sang of never returning. 
I followed as each path faded, 
until there was none, and no me, 
just blueness and quiet, and I secretly 
hoped no voices would find me to call 
me back.  Late, in the dark and cold, 
there were voices that haunted me 
back, and I shuffled return steps 
with my head down, through the darkness. 
I still long for lost. 

Brain MRI, November 2012

Lie down on the MRI table; they’ll lay a sheet over you

like you’ve already died. And when you begin to shake,

the sheet moves with you in a gentle dance of fear, as they block

your head in, snap the cage around your face. Don’t move,

they say, and you will your body to stop its shake. Your head

is still because they’ve trapped it. The table slides deeper

into the glowing tube, swallowing you up like medical prey, and all

you do is close your eyes, hold your breath, and listen

to the sounds of a machine predicting your future.

Because you are trapped, and scared, cold and alone,

you let your mind go, and it travels back to summer days on the farm,

riding horses, raising lambs, stacking hay bales in the sun,

but it follows with a breath grabbing squeeze, remembering days

of being forgotten, left alone, rejected. You are still shaking.

As the machine scans your brain for tumor growth, your head

scans your mind, for joy and love, for when you listened and grew,

created. But it always follows with the haunt of a face, someone

you hurt, or let go. And you are sorry.

The machine stops its banging for a moment. The mind rests.

And then it begins again. It says sunsets are numbered. Are you living

every one? All of the stories you were meant to engage in are not told.

You have a full heart and a broken brain, and you still have not

written down all of the words. You shake, lift off the table, hover in the air.

You’re looking down on the machine holding your body below. Music.

Floating. Voices. Go where you are needed. Love with all you are.

Be light. Believe. The machine goes still, and they pull you out.

The test is over. You already know the results.

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