Category Archives: poetry

Fishing

There’s a fishing pole in the rafters
out on the front porch of this house on the river
He bought it one day, convinced it would quiet the chaos
Give him some zen
A fly rod, dancing the line out over the water
Enticing bass
He tied a few flies. I wouldn’t know
If they’re any good. But he was proud of
Those lures.
He only went a couple of times. The zen didn’t happen
The calm didn’t come
But he had one perfect day on the water
With his dad, casting the line
Casting, dancing, searching
One day is something, at least
The rod stays with the house.
It’s where it belongs. Here in this haven that was his cage
His safety net
His noose.

flyfishing

TLD

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Friday the 13th

“It’s marked as deceased. No one can do anything with it.”

Those words, overheard just now, they

hurt. Sorrow welled up and

out of my throat.

I covered my face so

my husband wouldn’t hear, wouldn’t

know, because those words hadn’t hit him

The way they hit me.

 

Two nights ago, a phone call from Texas:

“I’m calling for Christofer J. DeFino,

About a car he just asked about online.”

“He’s gone three years now. It couldn’t have been him.”

“I’m sorry, so sorry.”

My husband said it was our boy pulling a prank, letting us know

he’s still around to do so. I feared someone using

his name,

his identity.

That’s where we are, now. Him and me,

He and I,

Us.

“It’s marked as deceased. No one can do anything with it.”

Social Security, moments ago, assured my husband on the phone.

Upstairs, writing at my computer, I broke

into silent tears. He’ll read this and

He’ll know, silent will no longer

be silent.

They’re here, on this page, screaming.

~TLD

images

 

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Less

It doesn’t happen as often now,

those moments rolling

into tidal waves.

When they do, they hit harder

knock me

to my knees

hands clutching at my throat

trying

to keep air in my lungs.

*

It doesn’t happen as often now

those dreams of visiting

in familiar places.

When they do, I know

you’re not

really there

just the wishing in my head

flying

free as you are.

*

It’ll never not happen,

I’ve tried

to fit those moments

those dreams

into memories of who you were

in your best times

even in your worst.

I’ve tried being grateful

for the time I had,

that your pain is done,

about your next adventure.

I try and I try, and sometimes

succeed, and yet,

there are those moments.

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Looking Out the Window on a Rainy Day

*1*

It is ingrained in our DNA. Hide pain

so we don’t get eaten, picked out

of the herd, sent to

the bottom of the pack. Primitive instinct

at the core, always evolving.

*chorus*

We don’t want you to know.

We don’t want to see it in your face,

behind your eyes every time

you look at us. We don’t want conversations to stop,

or fall away when our subject is touched.

Eyes averted and cheeks pink, tongues stammering into silence.

We don’t want to be There but by the grace of god go I! 

In your hearts and in your minds. But we are.

We are. Compassion and pity are so difficult to tell apart.

*3*
We don’t want you to know, to hate

those we love, who cause us pain, and so we hide

what they do from you. We want

them to have a place in your heart when the chaos is over.

If it’s ever over. Sometimes it never is.

Fractals growing ever inward, ever outward.

*repeat chorus*

*4*

We hide our pain to spare ourselves, to spare

you the sometimes silent, sometimes shouted fury, to spare

us both pretending condolences don’t infuriate as much as

the blame, the co-dependent tags, the if-only-you-hads.

It all results in the same unavoidable circle.

You can’t do right. You can’t do wrong.

And so we hide behind smiles, behind tears, behind our own

averted eyes and pink cheeks and stammering tongues.

“I’m so sorry,” you say.

“Thank you,” say we.

Today, it may be just right. Tomorrow?

Maybe not.

*repeat chorus*

*5*

You don’t want to see our truth; trust me on that

You want us to hide; trust me on that.

Trust me. Trust me. Never trust me.

Pain hidden is an ugly thing, hideous, snarling

It’s contradictory and mean, pitiful and powerful.

Without an outlet, it’s deadly. This is mine, all

Mine. Borrow it if you need to, I give it freely, but don’t

worry it away from me. Don’t make me go silent. Don’t force me

to hide.

*repeat chorus*

maxresdefault

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Kapowie

I don’t even know the words I’m trying to find,

sitting here staring at the cursor blinking.

All my babies are sick, I wrote in a text

just yesterday. I hesitated over that line, that

simple line. All my babies. All

my babies.

Not all.

I couldn’t take it back and insert living 

in between my and babies. It was too crude

too…just too. Many things. Real and

raw, and simple and true. All

my babies.  All

three of them, not four. All

the ones left for me to aw, honey!

over their sniffles and sneezes, their relationship highs

and job lows, their new puppies and upcoming trips and

huge steps into all their tomorrows, like buying a house,

or a car, or a new brand of peanut butter.

*

There’s too much space between last time and next one,

That next one possibly the final burst of endorphins

released into my dying brain, or that wished for beyond of all beyonds

where a tunnel of light gives way to beloved ghosts, waiting.

It seems like too much wishing, and yet I will

on the off chance it happens to be the truth

And he’s waiting for me. They are. All of them, but mostly

him. Open arms (if arms we have) and brilliant smile

(if teeth are such a thing, lips curled up and over to flash in eyes once violet blue) falling-04

I’ll fall into them, and fall and fall and forever fall,

until the missing words fill in.

~TLD

 

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Conversating

Your name rolls through my head, thunder

and wind; the gentle downpour after

My boy. My boy. My beautiful son.

Why did you…why didn’t you…?

I didn’t mean to go; I just didn’t want to stay.

‘Why’ is your name, without the gentle rain.

*

I fought too much

I fought too hard

I fought futile battles time would never ease.

You could have. You did. Over and over again.

You were stronger.

No. I wasn’t. And that’s the fact you can’t–

Won’t grasp. You hold up my mirror to those few

ideal years. Golden boy. King of the world. Anything

mine for the asking. The taking.

But it was a lie. The one you wanted to believe

I did too. I swear. But the other me was real. The one who thought.

The one who knew. The one who hid his fight behind a

smile. The one who fought for others

because the fight inside raged on. He was the one you wanted me to be,

And that made it all the worse.

It isn’t true. I wanted you. I wanted the best

version of you, whatever that was. You had so much to give–

I had nothing left…

You were only twenty-five!

And ancient beyond counting years.

Pain wears a body down. Exhausts the mind.

I know! I know! Don’t you think I know?

I watched you, every day. I took you to doctors.

I rubbed your leg. I dissected every cue into

every possibility. Until I didn’t.

And that should tell you something, shouldn’t it?

I don’t like what it says.

*

I didn’t mean to go. I just couldn’t stay.

When given my choice, I left everything behind 

including you. Your worry. Your tears. Your love.

The bad, and the good. Sweet dreams, Turtle.

Sweet dreams.

*

I dreamed my eldest daughter

was a teenager again,

tasked with buying cookies for a party. She chose

lemon, and lime, tomato and basil flavored,

in the box store where dinosaurs wrought havoc

among the patrons.

There had been a bridge, and a gate

between their world and ours.

Someone had opened the gate. download

Someone had let them in.

While my daughter and I bought cookies

in a past that never was.

~TLD

 

 

 

 

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Strange Dreaming

Sometime between Wednesday and Thursday, I dreameddownload

my house was under siege.

I walked beside Hyppolita, discussing tactics

While burly men in furs and leather

Put out fires on my roof.

*

Sometime between Thursday and Friday, I dreamed

my father, and my grandfather (dead these many years)

walked side by side in the woods behind my house,

along the river, chatting and watching my grandson swim

close to the bank. Every once in a while,

Dad pulled William back from going too far. William, for his part

only laughed.

*

Sometime between Friday and Saturday, I dreamed

Chris was being held in a church, down on the Green.

The same church he used to attend AA meetings in.

They were holding him for execution,

because he’d overdosed. How ironic, that lethal injection.

Why? I screamed outside. Why are you doing this to him?

*

In the early hours of Saturday morning, I woke

confused, bolting out of bed so I could get to the church

before they killed my son. It took a few minutes

between sleep and awake

to realize I was still in bed,

in the early hours of a Saturday,

of this after, not the before.

*

I saw Wonder Woman on Wednesday

My grandson on Tuesday

On June 22, my son will be gone a full two years.

How the brain mashes up the everyday with

its inner-workings. How marvelous.

How utterly extraordinary.

 

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Another Beach Week, Another Mother’s Day

VAB

Dollbaby Week is always the first week in May. It has been so for fifteen years. Fifteen years. It’s hard to believe that first trip to Bald Head Island was in 2002. There are ten of us now, sometimes eleven. Only two of us from that original week still head to the beach every year, and two more from year two. Some dolls have only been coming a couple of years. Some five, six, seven…it doesn’t matter. Once a doll, always a doll.

The week is sublime, restorative, and full. We count the days down starting the minute we leave the beach (347 days as I write this,) and yet we’re ready to go home when it’s over. Being together is all the more cherished because our time is brief.

2015 was the first time I went to Virginia Beach in many, many years that I didn’t go with my heart in my throat. Things were all-around good. We’d survived addiction’s turmoil as a family, and had come out a bit scarred but definitely on the other side. Chris was out on his own, working a job he loved, doing well, it seemed. The cycle of chaos that typically poised to spiral out of control every spring wasn’t hanging over my head. I went to Virginia Beach secure in the knowledge no doom would fall while I was gone.

I was wrong. Only I didn’t know it.

It had been building, but Mother’s Day 2015 started Christofer’s last downward spiral that ended–finally, completely–on Father’s Day. These “holidays” will never pass without that knowledge, those thoughts. I came home from Virginia Beach this year, last year, facing Mother’s Day, and the countdown to my son’s last days. I hope, in time, it isn’t as raw; I know it will never be blissfully, bittersweetly overlooked.

I have never been a huge fan of Mother’s Day. I’m a mother. I have a mother. My daughter is a mother. How does one celebrate Mother’s Day without disappointing someone, right? Forgoing the day was not a huge sacrifice for me to begin with. Now, I’m glad to ignore it completely. It doesn’t change the bookended countdown, or the knowledge of it, but it does remove some of the emphasis. My kids celebrate me every day, with phone calls and texts and messages on Facebook. I don’t need a day to know I’m loved.

Now I sit here at my desk, absorbing Dollbaby Week in my mind, my heart, while trying to be at peace with the rest that comes at me this time of year. Leaving it all here on this page helps me do that, even while it makes it seem as if I need consoling, or a Xanax. I don’t. Honest. It’s because I have a place to put it all that I don’t. It makes me wonder how people who don’t write (or paint or make music…) manage to uncrowd their heads, unburden their hearts.

We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers
And sitting by desolate streams;—
World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems.

With wonderful deathless ditties,
we build up the world’s great cities.
And out of a fabulous story,
we fashion an empire’s glory.
One man, with a dream, at pleasure
shall go forth and conquer a crown.
And three, with a new song’s measure
can trample an empire down.

We, in the ages lying,
in the buried past of the Earth,
built Nineveh with our sighing
and Babel itself with our mirth.
And o’erthrew them with prophesying
to the old of the New World’s worth.
For each age is a dream that is dying,
or one that is coming to birth.

~Arthur O’Shaughnessy

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Refrigerator Tiles in Virginia Beach

I burn strange and silent words,

free of the memory manacle

certain to expose that holy rhythm,

the electric dance

imagined by my ghost.

Between dream end and story seed,

I howl genius,

whisper a precious curse

of truth bleeding time

from mind and bone and sleep.

TLD

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It’s not that I think I could have saved you;

I’m not that much of a fool, or an

Optimist. Saving you was up to you, and

you fought really hard, but failed.

Or maybe death was your final success, in

freeing yourself of all the chains

binding you, holding you down, holding you back.

My failure isn’t not saving your twenty-five year old self

My failure happened ten years before, when you were

too young to know how wrong things could go;

when you depended upon me to make the right choices,

to know the right things, to

set the horror right. I tried. I was the one who was supposed to know

everything. And I didn’t.

**

If I could go back in time (I’ve thought of this a lot. Fool that I am)

I’d go back to that day, ten years prior, when I got to the school

and found you on the ground (the irony doesn’t escape me)

One leg a full half-foot shorter than the other. I leaned over you,

I smiled and stroked your face. “It’s going to be fine, sweetheart.”

The ambulance was on its way. It was a dislocation,

so much better than a break, right?

But it wasn’t, and it wasn’t. It was so much worse.

Too many hours lost. Too much damage done. Two percent chance of saving

that leg. That damned leg.

This what I’d change–I’d tell them to take it off.

What they left caused it all. I’m ninety-eight percent convinced.

It would have been done. Over. And only the rebuilding.

A new life you would have made without the constant drag

of all that pain,

that became pain-killers that didn’t work,

that fed all the sorrow of losing who you’d been,

that became so much anxiety,

that became a speeding train always barreling down,

that became “please someone save me!” That became

heroin.

This is what I’d change, if I could. But I can’t. Maybe,

in some postulated, parallel reality, I told them,

“Take the leg.” Not in this reality.

I lost you then, and didn’t even know, I, who was supposed to know

everything.

 

 

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