The land

The land where my brother is buried
next to him my father
next to him my grandfather
grandmother
and one day my mother:
is sacred.

Haunting and hoping at once
my feet are stuck to the ground
then my knees
my forehead.
I bow close to the ground and examine all that grows from it.

Wild mosses and weeds next to
shrubs planted by the still-living, the mourners.

My eyes lift. I see that I am actually quite high.
We buried them on a mountain. Yes.

Poetry is my portable sacred ground,
a space to lay all that lives and dies in me.
I lay it there so that I need not carry it anymore; or
because I cannot carry it anymore.
or: because when it is on the pages, I can see
just exactly what it was I carried
and how.

Ashes, I will become ashes,
scattered here, lighter than air
and then: it will be me who is carried.
high – carried high.

 

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Drawing the Tummy

As the third anniversary of my dad’s passing approaches, I share this poem written just days after his death. It is an account of how my children processed their new reality without grandaddy Jimmy. The most poignant moments were the moments with them: telling them the truth, holding space for their sadness and questions and love and truth. 

Drawing the Tummy

Grandaddy is dead.
I told them, he died.  I’m so sorry.

One son threw up.
Yes, I thought.  That is how this feels.

Details, mom.  How?

Middle of the night.  Up to get decaf coffee and pee.
Grandma held the coffee for him so it wouldn’t spill.
He collapsed.  Stiff, he fell to the floor.
Grandma spilled the coffee.

She called the helpers and they came.
She called me.  I went.

His heart had stopped beating, the heart they had just fixed.
Something was wrong that couldn’t be mended.
Tired, worked so hard, finished.

All of our bodies will stop one day.

I’m glad he was home.
I’m glad we were near.

The kids made papers for his casket—for him to carry to the other side.
Older son wrote a note.  Younger son drew a picture.

Note from older son: Funeral logistics.
We will have a funeral.  I will go.
You will be in a casket.
A church, a graveside, dress up clothes.

Picture from younger son:  The scene.
A birds-eye view of the bedroom and how he imagined it looked.
A bed.  Grandaddy. Blood splattered.  No coffee.

“Is it OK to draw the tummy?”

How does he know that even in our final scene we may not want to look as fat as we really are?
How does he know this?

“Yes, son.”  It is ok to draw the tummy.
To tell the truth.

We tucked those papers in, sent him away.
Dotted lavender on his head, on the place that had ached so badly.

I looked at his face.  Last time.

March 2016