Thursday, April 24, 2014

After your leaving

The days spin silently
and I am vacuous
in their wake
mindful of the practice
of living
but bereft 
I was not aware 
the depth of
minor rituals
and how our speaking them
to each other
pulled taut
at my sacred spaces
hemming me in
behind and before

The morning sun
falls flat 
stretching just long enough
to find the dirt smear
on the tile
I rub it halfheartedly with my toe
but nothing changes

I heard about the hummingbirds
how they have returned
seeking nectar 
how they eat just enough
to fuel their flight
each minute

So I retrieved the feeders
their red bases 
faded from so many days
in the sun
and I filled them to the brim
sweet and dripping
A small but mighty

The land of the living
is full of such sacraments
Soon I will walk
Until then
I will just gaze upon my


Monday, April 14, 2014

On the passing of my mother

She is from a white clapboard house with a wraparound porch, claw foot tub and Dove soap smack in the middle of Macon, Georgia.
From the streets of Madison and Carling, up and down Coleman Hill, where she walked to Whittle School and the Public Library, and boldly asked for a library card at the age of 5.
She is from playing under fig and pear trees, soft scented pines and shiny leaf magnolias, red clay staining her bare feet and the smell of paper mills filling her nostrils.
She is from Berry and Sallie Belle, Wiley, Sister, Doris, Roger and Jimmy.
She is from strong as oxen Shero aunts who farmed cotton and worked in pants plants in Wrightsville, Georgia.
She is from the Depression and Tuberculosis and a family that took in folks who were down on their luck. From fish on Friday and First Street Methodist.
She is from picnics on Stone Mountain, Finchers BBQ, NuWay hotdogs and LaVista Catfish.
She is from poise lessons and perfect posture and words dripping honey sweet from her mouth.
She is from a hair-brained idea involving a midnight double date rendezvous to Aiken, SC, a half drunk justice of the peace, and a 4th of July celebration that included one very busy rotating fan.
She is from moves to Indianapolis, Indiana and then St. Louis, Missouri that took her from her beloved South.
She is from north of the Mason Dixon line where she took it upon herself to soften the edges of every nasal accent in the Midwest.
She is from bacon grease on the back of the stove and dog bowls at the back door
and champagne bottles that toasted births all lined up in a row. She is from Boston Ferns and summer deck parties.
From coffee and cherry chip birthday cake and hands that smelled like onions.
She is from chuck roast in the electric skillet, onion soup mix brisket, Jello salads, massive pots of spaghetti, liver and onions, green enchiladas, asparagus disguised as green bean casserole, sweet tea and Hallelujah banana bread.
She is from “I love you a bushel and a peck” and “Gimme some sugar” and, perhaps most famously,  “Tim Smothers, you will nevah, nevah, evah drive that Aspen Station Wagon again!”
She is from Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass, the Johnny Mathis Christmas album, Dionne Warwick, George Carlin, Flip Wilson, Bill Cosby, Cheech and Chong, Fiddler on the Roof, James Taylor and that Classical Music in the background.
She is from You Are My Sunshine and Everything Is Going to be Alright.
She is from “To Thine Own Self Be True” and “It’s Your Mama.” From “All Is Well” and “It Is What It Is Grandma” and “Live Well, Laugh Often, Love Much.”
She is from dancing jitterbugs across linoleum floors and slapping her knee at every guffaw.
She is from birthday cards and notes in school lunches and throwing kisses and standing at the door until your car was out of sight.
From “psspsspsspss” and “chum on” and “doodlebug” and “Honey Bob.”
And forever and ever and ever, she will always be from shooting stars and fireworks and every smile shared by those that loved her best.


There you have it. The world as we have known it, all the days of our lives. We were molded and shaped and created from that celestial brew of whimsy and joy and strength.
We have never known ourselves or our world without our mother in it.  I am here, my brothers and sisters are here, because of her.  We are who we are, because of her.

Our mother was a curator of a welcome life.
To live in the orbit of our mother was to always be invited, received, entertained, accepted.
But perhaps above all, to have known my mother was to have been loved.
Her life was a lesson in loving.
What she taught us all was to always run hard after love. In all circumstances, by every means necessary, even when we screw things up or we do the exact right thing--we need love to be what is standing between us and everyone else. When love is what we choose to weave in among the fibers and snags of our everyday life, when love gilds the edges of tired joy or stretches across the chasms of unspoken fears then we become Love lived on purpose and that breathes life and one can catch glimpses of glory come down.

In the wake of my mom’s death, we are sad, yes. We feel carved out and empty and the truth of what we are left with actually aches in ways deep and long, yes.
But this, too, is also true:
There is still life, despite the loss.  There is still love in the world, despite the severing.  There is still light, despite the darkness.

And that gives me hope.

Because, if it is true, that we are who we are because of our mother...
then it means that this whole dance, all of the goodness and light spun dizzy with all of the defiance and angst, all of the ways that we continually fall down and help pick each other up, all of the beautiful and mundane, the fascinating and the trivial, the whole and the half?

It's part of us too, now, tucked away in the obvious and secret places, planted in soil made rich with her love and care for us.

It is through loving and singing with our own children or grandchildren, by partnering with kindred souls or living alongside people that challenge us...all of it ripples on and on and on.... people are continually made and remade because we are in their lives...which means that our mother lives on.

And I pray that one day, when the pictures are pulled out and the chronology of our becoming is on display, the one thing that will have leaked out all over, dripping from the corners of our eyes and the edges of our smiles, is the amazing truth...

that we were loved by her.