On this day fourteen years ago, my mother died in the back room of the house we opened and closed our lives in. When it was all over, the pine trees stood in the front of the house, reaching, heavy, immobile in the terrible heat.
I want to say the sun was setting because I am certain it was. How could it not? How could it be any other way at the end of everything. I want to say it was dinner time.
But then, suddenly, somehow, it wasn’t.
It was supposed to be something else, it was supposed to be a different time. A longer time. A time so much farther off that we shouldn’t have been able to see it. Let alone hear it in the ringing in our ears as dishes were done. Prayers were prayed. Let alone touch it, here at the center of the heart in our trembling hands.
We will be back, we whispered to her just moments before she made her departure from us forever. Forever, arriving and departing, at dinnertime.
But there would be no eating, for there was no time any of us could understand. No breaking of bread, no explanation, no dinner. Time. There would be tear stains searing down the skin which covered the numbness. There would be I am so sorry, there would be drinking late into the night on the back deck, voices, both familiar and unfamiliar, in the darkness, as she was taken away.
Taken away from us.
Grief moves through you, in and out of each of the shattered windows in your soul, like wind, empty, hollow, invisible, whistling.
Looking for something it cannot name, it cannot find, it cannot see.
Click play to hear me speak it, read below for transcript. I’m here. You’re here. This is it for now. I’m thinking of you. Please stay safe…..
So hey there. I don’t know what to say except that I wanted to write a fantasy fiction prose piece but what kept coming to the front of my mind and heart instead was to just say hello to you and tell you I am thinking of you and I hope you are okay. Over the years I have written for so many different reasons. I have written and published two books of poetry and prose for people who like dark stuff, and witchy stuff, and spiritual stuff, uplifting and mind bending and inspiring stuff. I have written multiple blogs, some about art, some about business, some about teaching and learning and social media and all kinds of things. I am interested in so many things, I like sharing so many things. As my tastes change, I have changed my content, my audience has changed. Been through some changes. And people read my works for so very many different reasons. To express, move through, explore or experience love, pain, regret, abuse, fear, dreams, hopes, grief, sex, erotica, fantasy, fiction, non-fiction, what have you. So many many things, for so many reasons.
And up until today, up until this very moment I thought I knew what I wanted to do which was keep writing and reading and sharing as I always have, these short pieces that have brought you into my little wild orbit. Stuff that makes us think and feel and sweat and beg and cry and dig deep down into our bones. And I do still want to do all that. But today as I sit here listening to the wind howling outside my writing room window, and watch the little pink petals falling off of brand new spring flowery trees, I cannot help but think that this pandemic is changing all of us on some very fundamental level. Nothing feels the way it used to feel. What felt right before feels all distorted now. And it’s this weird time where we are forced indoors, afraid to go outside and for good reason. The world has not ever seen anything like this. We have not experienced anything like this ever before. All day wondering what the fuck is life, what the fuck are we gonna do now, and after this is over. When will this be over, right like when. Nobody knows.
And I have no answers. All I know is I couldn’t write anything but this right now and I think it is because I am usually the first person to check out of this world and fantasize or imagine or tell stories about alternate lives, random experiences. But there is no getting away from myself on this day. In this moment I am so very present, so confused and angry and afraid and hopeful and scattered and suspended somewhere between the coffee hours and the wine hours and I am not sure exactly what to write for you. What to say for you. What to offer for you to feel a little better, a little bit like there’s a candle for you here in the dark.
I like to write so we can feel the things no one in our regular life lets us feel. I can’t help but think that people who write and share like we do do it because this is the only place, or one of the very few places, on the planet where we can be ourselves without labels or judgments or explaining ourselves to anybody. I don’t normally just riff but today, I can’t help it. This was the only thing that felt real and tangible to me. To say I’m here, and I’m glad you are here, and I am sending you every heartfelt wish for health and safety and the preciousness of sanity in this absolute world gone absolute mad. Please take good care of yourself and the ones you hold dear. I am thinking of you. I am hopeful that I can get my head on straight soon and be able to write some prose that you will enjoy. Meanwhile, feel free to scroll through what is here, there is some written stuff, some audio stuff, there is my book Luminae on Amazon which I honestly do not know if it will ship right now physically but there is the Kindle version you could download if you’d like. Maybe if I make another one of these random pandemic fire side chats, I could read from my book a little bit for you, share some stuff from it, tell you why it is called Luminae, what kind of mood it is, why I wrote it, that kind of thing.
I don’t know. I’m here. I’m trying to take this all in and figure a way through. Just like you are doing. I salute you in your creative endeavors right now. It’s funny – well not really funny, but – it’s funny because before this crisis hit, very few people in the “real world” gave quiet time, or artistic endeavors, or writing or poetry the time of day. They thought art was a silly side bar after thought. But now, look. Now, watch and see. The artists are so important in times like these. So maybe that’s all for today. Let’s just be gentle and humble and honest and if we can, let’s just go make some good art.
As the tired voices fade from my blurred memory of yet another day gone by, I can hear the traffic sifting below my window. Pouring a glass of wine, I remember a poet who used to think I was quite something special and then just as quickly lost interest and moved on. We float in and out of lives and nothing sticks, nothing at all except random flashes of light across an empty bedroom wall. Even the silence comes and goes unless you hold onto it with everything you’ve got to keep the demons at bay. I write about things which matter to me but I don’t really know in the grand scheme of things what good it is beyond soothing my nerves. Or igniting them. Writing is strange that way, you never quite know if it’s the beginning or the end, the matchstick or the spark. Shuffling through a stack of books on my writing room floor, I come upon, perhaps rather eerily, Ariel, a most devastating, sinister, and gripping collection of poetry by Sylvia Plath. I must have read it a hundred times. How could a creature so cold spin poetry that scorches the skin with every syllable, every breath between beats black as a raven’s wing hung suspended from the ceiling. Plath died on this day fifty seven years ago. Gone almost twice as long as she was here, a tortured soul to be sure. Still her words reach from the grave and grip you hard by your throat, stare down the whites of your eyes. Even after all this time, the maps of terror are the same in the human heart. We recognize them in the purple lines of our veins, the grooves in our brains where the fears settle in. I wonder why we fixate upon those who end it all at their own hands. You think those who write are telling you everything but I guess even, try as we might to come clean or climb our way out of the darkness through the words, there are some things which even the most gifted writer cannot tear from their burdened chest. Cannot break free of the claws in the marrow of the bones. Some hauntings are too bitter, too malformed, disfigured, to convey outright. Wrapping a blanket around me tight, the air coming in through my window is suddenly chilled with winter even though all day it felt more like a springtime February, a sweetness threatening to bloom before nature was ready. Ill prepared. Awkward, and out of place.
“In any case, you are always there, Tremulous breath at the end of my line, Curve of water upleaping To my water rod, dazzling and grateful, Touching and sucking.”
He was a small trusting creature and went down easily after she first injected the sedative and then the final drug which would cause his swollen heart to stop. It was over in less than a minute and something about the efficiency at the very end clutched at my own heartstrings in a strange sort of twisting of relief and anguish. Grief is a swift thief I suppose, at once seizing upon all of your senses and choking your breath in its stiff hands. His heart, in every way imaginable, was too big. The tiny tri-color spaniel adored each and every human, animal, and living creature he ever made contact with. He just loved. Without question or concern. His gentleness would often break me into a million pieces for the innocence of such a kind of affection. The world is cruel and uncaring in so many ways but in the presence of this little dog all you knew was to cherish and be cherished. Cavaliers are known to have physically enlarged hearts which makes them very prone to dying from complications of the disease they carry from birth. I guess you could say in that way we knew it was coming. His heart was too wide and too tall and wouldn’t stop expanding, eventually straining his every breath until he couldn’t take the pressure any longer. He would have endured it until he exploded. He would have done anything, trusted anyone. His whole life he was gentle as a lamb. Handsome and affectionate beyond. It is hard to let go of a presence as wrenchingly kind as Shamus was. There is a hole, a void which is the purity only sadness can contain. I put his paw print impressions on the mantle over the fireplace, nestle them among candles and mini pumpkins. In the past I might have thought that was a silly thing someone would do, but sometimes small things feel more important than grand things do and maybe there are secrets only an animal can make you understand. As I look out across the autumn sky on the first morning in eleven years without the little furry guy at my feet, staring up at me with his gigantic brown puppy eyes, the wild geese are soaring like an arrowhead of dark shadows toward a destination far off over the hills. They cry out, and then they are gone. There is a part of me which is leaving and I can feel it and it is the color of pain. The air hovers cold and stationary over the invisible boundary between autumn and winter. Life and death. Season upon season. You can taste the snow on your tongue even before it begins its quiet descent into the empty streets. He was born on Friday the thirteenth and died on black Friday. I wore black, head to toe. Our little unlucky lucky charm. Don’t worry, he won’t feel anything, the doctor said, looking at me with kind round saucer eyes. And yet up until that final moment, for his entire life I believe he felt everything. And he deemed all of it good.