Category Archives: poetry

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 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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Long, slow fade

You were here; you were real.

I have to keep reminding myself.

Over and over. You were here;

you were real. It feels so strange

to know, and yet difficult to grasp.

I see your picture, my handsome son, or

that spot in the upstairs bathroom, the chemical

I can’t remove from the pedestal sink.

“I was here,” it tells me. “Don’t forget.”

Forgetting isn’t possible, but this fade…

This fade is intolerable. It makes the

sorrow hit harder when it comes, after

days of being kindly absent.

How can it be? How can it be!

You were here; you were real.

You were here; you were real.

Child of my body. Being of my blood.

My heart. My everything. And now

you’re gone and fading. Your presence

isn’t as strong upon the world you left behind,

or in dreams still connecting these planes we inhabit.

Until that curtain between sorrow and kindness falls

and you fly at me like bats from a cave

at sunset, in movies, in nature shows on television.

I open my arms and catch all of you I can, but

it’s never enough. I’m not fast enough, strong enough,

clever enough to trap so wild a being, one who

doesn’t want to be caught. You were here;

you were real. You were here;

you were real.

You were here. You were.

Weren’t you?

 

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First Contact

I’ve dreamed of you…

At first, the joy of freedom; and then

the sorrow for the grief you brought segued into

a smile, a nod, a shake of your head

to speak much more than words allow.

Always silent, yet I understood your conflict,

the push and the pull of wanting

to be here and there all at once.

*

Time, that human construct, is nothing.

A way to measure the span between

then and now; between

you breathing your first and

sighing your last; the span that

doesn’t measure in tears but in

click-ticks on a numbered face that become

hours in a day and days in a week,

weeks in months and years; in decades and centuries.

The sun’s path across the sky, chased

by Mother moon.

*

I dreamed of you…

They brought you to me, not your infant self

swaddled and seeking points of reference in your new world; but

fully grown, the man you were when you left.

You smiled at me. I wept my joy and

you held out your arms. You held me against your great chest,

in those strong arms heavy on my shoulders. My ear

pressed and listening for the heartbeat

once a whooshing jump-rope sound; once

a steady thump to reassure me through

the darkest of the dark.

There was only your weight,

your solidity, your smile. My trembling joy.

“Can you stay?” I asked. “Will they let you?”

“Yes, I think so.” But you shook your head, your smile saddened.

You stepped away, back into my brain wishing or the conduit

breaking; the connection unexplained, undiscovered

except in dreaming. The first contact in the span

measured only in tears.

TLD

salvador-dali-melting-clocks

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This Cold January Day

Where are you now? Drifting through

another realm, a plane more suited

to who you are? Truly are, and not who you

were forced to be. The entity of thought,

of indefatigable brilliance. The one

whose darkness mingled and melded inside, yet

never dimmed the light.

*

Were you here at all? I see

your bows displayed on the wall,

the roof you built, covered in snow; I listen

to you sing inside my head, your song leaping synapses,

pulsing in my blood. The blood we shared

for a little while.

I put your boxing gloves on this morning,

to feel where your hands had been, knowing

the sweat still seeped inside. And then

I put them away, in the armoire storing

the blanket that still smells faintly of happier days.

*

Your influence is everywhere, still

helping those you loved, and those who

you never knew, but owe you a debt; because

they’re pain-free, they understand what was

formerly incomprehensible, they know how to soothe

the demons inside. Those demons you never could

vanquish completely. But you taught them.

You showed them how.

*

Sorrow grips me, this cold January day.

I pry its fingers loose, one at a time;

Peel them back like orange skin that leaves

bitter pith behind, the sweetness

still another layer deep.

It cannot swallow me whole.

I must allow its place, its space or

have it implode and hollow me of words, my joy

my solace, and sanity. Sanctity. Sanctuary.

TLD

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That will be me

(Thoughts this morning led this to that. I am in a contemplative mood, nothing more. I don’t want anyone reading this to fear for me. Once again, I thought about keeping this private, for exactly that reason, but I made a promise and I aim to keep it, so this stays public. That alone should put you at ease.)

When you find hair in the drain, whether

black, white or blue, you’ll wonder if it could be;

I tell you now, that will be me.

Bite at the inside of your cheek and feel

a tap on your hand, “Stop that,”

you’ll hear. That will be me.

Whenever you feel the urge to cut your hair

and hear a voice inside your head, “Let it grow,”

it wheedles. That will be me.

And when you see a turtle, or a camel,

in fact or in illustration, you will add a heart to it

and again, that will be me.

 

When words froth at your brain and you feel

the need to catch them,

by heart or by hand;

When you see a dragonfly and call it fairy, a baby dragon

in an anole; when a beam of sunlight becomes a path to another world,

That will be me.

When friends drop by and you need to feed them, when baby monkeys

make you cry; when you smell onions sauteing in olive oil, and fear choking on pudding.

Me, me, they are all me.

 

Such ties don’t break when life does.

They simply change shape and form.

It won’t matter if whatever is left of me once life has spit me out

is riding the ether of some astral plain, Or

simply the echo of what once was, what I was.

It will be me, like it is him.

 

I hear him whistle;

and sing. All the time

I see him smile;

and shake his head.

I feel his joy, and his despair that

share time in his space, even now.

Spirit or memory, there is no cognitive difference when

love is at the core. Love,

and need; love and

the hubris to believe there is

more to existence than life.

~TLD

 

 

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Thoughts, upon waking

I do not in darkness dwell, when daylight holds its sway; but, in the darkness, I do dwell, on all day holds at bay. (~TLD)

sweet-dreams-dreaming-of-snow-white-and-the-seven-dwarves

Strange words to wake to, but I did. I don’t have to wonder why, though. I dream, and I remember my dreams for the most part. There are few nights I don’t go to sleep with Chris on my mind, and wake up to the same. He tends to fill in the space between.

I believe it’s because I do my best not to let the sorrow overwhelm me during the day. That’s not to say it doesn’t hit me, but I’m able to push it gently away, tell it, “Not now.” Then comes the night and pushing it away feels as wrong as it would to push him away. He needs his time on my mind, just like he needed time in my arms, when he was a baby who didn’t like to sleep on his own; or a young man who needed me to make sure he kept breathing through the night.

Day is for missing Scottie, for cherishing the broken ties he needed broken so badly. It’s for feeling Gracie’s excitement in finding her place in the world. It’s to experience Jamie’s babies, her dream career, through her eyes. Day belongs to them. And so, night belongs to Chris.

My newest work-in-progress, Heroically Lost*, is largely about knowing the difference between making choices, and letting the choices get made for us. I’m not sure if I made the choice to let Chris have the night, but I honestly don’t think I could unchoose it either. It’s just the way it happens, and I’m okay with that.

*Heroically Lost comes from a Yeats poem, A Crazed Girl

(Truncated)

…Her soul in division from itself
Climbing, falling She knew not where,
Hiding amid the cargo of a steamship,
Her knee-cap broken, that girl I declare
A beautiful lofty thing, or a thing
Heroically lost, heroically found…

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Tumbling down the rabbit hole…

(This is a weird one. I’m not sure what it even is. Don’t read too much into it.)

My spine stays stiff, arms open wide

My shoulders are boulders, my brain mostly fried

I’m a locket in a pocket

Care to see it? What’s inside?

It’s a heart, and not a picture.

One bleeding as it pumps.

Stand back, watch it bump

disrupted feelings to the ceilings

Hear it tHuMp, ThUmP, ThuMp

Healing reality, the newest casualty

On this train ride in my mind, so unkind

Stay behind, or take this ride to the end

Round the bend, watch me rend

My eyeballs from their sockets.

 

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When you Wish

You were a dream I had once, long ago

When I was young and hopeful and free

of the pain of my past, a new beginning unfolding

And you, the binding of that past to present, to the future

A tiny ball nestled on my chest, breathing baby breaths

I conjured you until you were real,

Pinocchio after all the wishing was done, after

the whale and the sacrifice and a fairy’s magicked compassion

Blond hair and blue eyes, where did you come from

in my swarthy sea of Italians? You always said you were

Viking, a long-ago raider marauding along the coast,

leaving behind the blood that would tumble through time,

through DNA strands and couplings and transatlantic voyages

to show up in my arms, held to my breast, a bundle of baby boy  breathing sweet breaths.

You are a dream again. Now.

Images. Conjurings. Memories true and sometimes blurring

around kinder edges that spare me

sustain me, always skewer me straight through. Sometimes

the pain is exquisite, and sometimes

it’s just pain that I gather in around me because it proves you were real

not some fading wish once made upon stars already gone to dust

as if you were never quiet here to begin with.

~TLD

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