Friday, February 27, 2009

Made my day

I’ve been meaning to do it for weeks. Write to Elizabeth Alexander. She’s the woman who wrote and read the poem “Praise Song for the Day” at Obama’s inauguration. It was a wonderful poem. It really was. I can’t imagine having to come up with something like that. A poem to be heard by the entire world.

Today, finally, I wrote to her, emailed. She’s a Yale professor so it wasn’t hard to find her email address. I wrote to her that I liked her poem. Short and to the point. She doesn’t know me so there really wasn’t much more to say. And then I hit send and went back to my day. Within a few minutes I had a reply. From Elizabeth Alexander herself.

“thank you very much.”

She didn’t have to do that. I wasn’t expecting a reply. But it was nice. And it made my day.

There are good people in the world. You just have to seek them out.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


At first I saw it like a train. One of those tiny kinds that kids can ride. Going round and round a rickety set of tracks. The scenery the same every time. A succession of mistakes, missteps, misfortunes all gathering speed and becoming one.

And then I saw it like a Ferris wheel. Turning, stopping, lifting, dropping. The view from the top spectacular. The air soft and warm, like the fuzzy stomach of a puppy; like the velvety ears of a newborn lamb; like a down-filled pillow at the end of the day. Comfortable in an exciting kind of way.

But now I think it’s more like water or mercury or anything that can flow. Seeking out every nook and crevice. So many places to go. Like poetry. Like satiny words that go on forever. Like billowy rhymes that never stop. Wandering through a museum of my deepest emotions, a tourist, awestruck. A quiet song. A gentle touch. The slightest breeze from butterfly wings. Watching the minutes spark like matches. Each flame dying only to give life to the next.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Going in circles

When I first picked it out, I couldn’t wait to wear it. So pretty, shiny. I loved what it represented. Not alone anymore. A part of something, someone. Happy, content, complete. It just felt right.

And then, over time, it faded. Like all things do. Slightly, sadly, inevitably. Like everything does.

I took it off one day and it stayed off. For seven years. In a drawer. Out of sight. Out of mind. As everything around me faded away. And nothing felt right.

And then one day I was searching. For something. And there is was. Still pretty, still shiny. And I put it back on. To see how it would feel. To see if it would feel like it used to. And something told me it was time. To say goodbye; to say hello. To remember what was real and accept what could never be. To make things right.

Until today.

Once again the end has lead me back to the beginning.

Friday, February 20, 2009


I think my wings are transparent enough. For me to be a swan. And strong enough, to take me away from all of this. So that I might gain a new perspective. That bird’s eye view we all crave. But I suspect the sky would dismiss me in tiny breezes. Like skipping stones across a pond. Sputtering, then gone.

Minutes turn into years when I’m made to wait like this. People I may only know for a little while and still I need proof. Monsters in damp basements, quizzing the darkness. Ghosts in stale attics, searching for their chains. The beauty of any lie is how hard it tries to protect me. Taking off my gloves to touch the glass. Only to discover it’s never been there.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


The conversation went something like this:

AG: Are you close to your parents?
Me: No.

AG: Wow, that’s too bad. My parents are like everything to me.
Me: My mother emails every now and then, just fluff.

AG: Fluff?
Me: You know, the weather, stuff she did, the weather.

AG: Oh. Is your dad still alive?
Me: I guess.

AG: You don’t know?
Me: I haven’t spoken to him in over 10 years. I think my mother would have told me if he had died. Right after the weather.

AG: God, I hope so. That’s kinda sad.
Me: Yeah, everything kind of broke when I was six and never got put back together.

AG: Oh. You mean your parents got divorced?
Me: Oh, I wish.

More than ever

I’ve been listening to this radio station from New York City. I really miss NYC. I can’t remember the last time I was there. I’m not a city person, but here’s something about that city. Like running into an old friend you haven’t seen in years. I suspect I may have lived there in a past life. Maybe I grew up there, died there. Maybe I never left there. Because I had no desire to. Because it was home. And now it’s just a place I visit. And miss.

Missing someone or someplace is a strange feeling. Sometimes it’s a good feeling. And it makes you feel all warm inside. Sometimes it’s a bad feeling that makes you shiver and stomp your feet and wrap your arms around yourself. Because no one else is going to. No one that matters. No one that you miss.

Sometimes a certain place or person will remind you of another place or person. And for a moment, you’re actually there. You’re actually with them. But then something makes you snap out of it. Like a slap or a bang. Something tells you this isn’t real. And then you’re back to missing, you're back to shivering, more than ever.

I really miss him. I guess I always will. I wish there was a radio station that could trick my brain into believing. That we could run into each other on a sidewalk. So I could see him smile. Hear him laugh. That half grin that said everything was going to be alright. I wish he was in a place I could visit.

But he’s not. And so I do the best I can with memories and old photos and find little reminders of him in other people. Until I feel that slap. Or hear that bang. And something tells me this isn’t real. And then I’m back to missing him. More than ever.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


It’s easier to pretend that she doesn’t exist. When he mentions her, and he always does. Or that she’s someone else. An ex, or a friend or a relative. A part of his life. A piece of the puzzle that makes him whole. But a piece that he could live without, if he had to. If it ever came to that.

It’s easier to pretend that she’ll never know. That a secret the size of the Atlantic Ocean can fit in the palm of my hand and stay there. That we could dream of forever without it having to be such a fairy tale.

It’s easier to pretend that he’s lying. When he says he’s happy. With his life with her. That he thinks it’s what I want to hear. Because it’s simpler that way. And somehow, it makes him a better person.

It’s easier to pretend I’ll be able to walk away. When all of this falls apart. That we’ll all just forgive. And forget.

Friday, February 13, 2009


Not all wishes are meant to be heard by the stars. It’s not like they really care. If we confide in them or not. Some just wake up old memories; others lull them back to sleep. Like trying to give away what isn’t even mine. It’s best to just keep it folded up in my back pocket.

Different reasons for different secrets. Sometimes we’re lovers, sometimes friends. Eyes blaming each other for what we cannot say. In the way short words can be heavy on a page like that.

I brace myself for the love in his touch. But find it easier to breathe when I pretend that this just might be real.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

What I get for thinking

I keep thinking that this is a good thing. Like dessert after a meal. Like watching the sunset after a long day. That’s what I’ve come to believe. That no one’s every going to get hurt. That these feelings are just little ladders that will never take me very far.

But the truth is that it’s all just lies. Little bedtime stories I tell myself at the end of the day. So I’ll be able to sleep. So I’ll be able to live with myself. Because the truth is that love is so close I could strangle it.

Monday, February 9, 2009

My impending breakdown

Sometimes I daydream old memories and imagine he was there. Next to me, his hand in mine. Through the worst and the best. Building a life together. Believing everything would be okay, and maybe it would have been. If he’d been there.

But he wasn’t, and he isn’t. And he never really can be. Like ice cubes or snow or anything that can melt or fade away.

And I'd write of this, the pain I feel, if only I could move my hand. But I’m so tired with the weight of it all. So tired with being unable to say what I need to say.

So instead, I’ll just memorize it. Learn it inside and out like a foreign language. As if my words were sparkles of color in his eyes. Commit it all to paper at a later date. To be filed away and lost with the rest of my drivel. To be found again, when I've forgotten what it was like.

No different

It’s how I used to feel. When I’d wake up, unsure of where I was. Who I was. My mouth dry, my head pounding, my stomach in knots. Hoping for just one moment, that I might die. Right then and there. Because death might at least show some mercy.

And then I’d breathe, deep, several times. Until it all came into focus. Until I could hear my heart beating and the sound of birds and life outside. Until my brain began craving the very thing that was making me hate my life. Such a vicious circle, it was. Was.

Why I thought sobriety would make life any different, I don’t know. It’s still there, no different. Worse in some ways. Circling, like vultures or hyenas. Just waiting for me to stumble. Everything sharp and jagged and edgy. Having to watch my steps, my words, my thoughts.

I reach, but there’s nothing there. Nothing that can take those edges off. Nothing soft or smooth. Everything so ragged, raw, bruised and bleeding.

It’s how I used to feel.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Is it worth it?

It’s warmer now, but I’m afraid to remove these gloves. I’m afraid to let these numb fingers feel again. Sometimes feeling hardly seems relevant, when pain is all there is. Too much for too long, like eating ice cream too fast. Maybe the headache is worth it in the long run. But the scavengers of loneliness run off with whatever pleasure there was.

This place, that place, the world - it doesn’t really matter. It’s always dark and all the same that way. I think it makes it easier, not seeing. Not knowing what isn’t there. Pretending that it might be just around the corner still.

Moments pounding on the door, demanding to be let in. Running away before I can even get up to see who’s there. Just temporary, like all good things. A mysterious blip on the radar like uncharted islands in the Bermuda triangle. Like thinking the man I dream about ever dreams about me.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


His desire nuzzled against my thigh. My skin both hot and cold and anticipating. The rhythm, the rock, the waves, the crash. And I feel the warmth of the blanket and fingertips and humid breath on my neck. As we tangle and tense and release. Our hands, our hearts, our murmured exchanges. Bare feet on bare feet. Hands on hips and shoulders and grasping and stroking and finding hardness and softness. Peaks and valleys, endless sighs and moans. Darkness and light and the hint of a thunderstorm as we take and give and toss and roll. And time stands still. Just for us.

His hands, his eyes, the hair on his chest; his skin on my skin. His palm slides through the dampness that covers me like fine mist from head to toe. As his mouth takes possession of first one then the other engorged little bud. His lips, his tongue, my fingers digging into the muscles on his back as the pulse and ache and longing retreats to the shadowy places that cannot touch me here. Like the first time. So good, so full, so deep. So lost in the words rolling around in my head. Like tumbling through space and landing in pillows and silk and feather beds. A full moon splashing its magic across hollows and curves. As my thighs grip his thighs, and hands caress cheeks and shoulders, and dip and fly and hover and find any place I can to pull him closer.

He is thrust and parry and lunge and point and I surrender to the thought of belonging. A shiver, a shudder, a tremble as earthquakes fold and unfold between us, under us, around us. The tumbling, rumbling, numbing kind that spread out in all directions. As hands clench and grab and pull. As hips pitch and roll and ride the swell of the moment. The smell of rain on hot pavement and musk and honey as the room spins and tips and swings. Like a pendulum. Back and forth and I can’t help but watch and feel and think that I will soon be hypnotized by the movement. As muscles tighten and flex and strain and let go and we both believe whatever it is we are going to believe. About each other and this moment; our clothes in a careless pile on the floor. Soft secrets no longer hidden.

Then all is quiet and still and slack, his weight upon me. The stubble of his cheek against my neck. A breeze through the cotton curtains. Across wet skin and passion and the pull of slumber. My one hand stroking the damp curls at the base of his next. Breath steadied, bottom lip parted, he is nothing now if not a little boy in repose. My other hand on the small of his back. Marking X on a map. Blazing a trail across a landscape of rolling hills and dales.

How I never tire of basking in this warm crush of affection.

Everyone dies

Count back three rows. See the woman on the left holding a baby? That baby is my grandmother. All those other people are relatives of some kind. Distant relatives, but still relatives. And most of them, probably all of them, are dead. Because everyone dies. (Click on the photo to see everyone.)

My grandmother died last year, in May. She was 90.

When I was a kid, a little kid, I lived with her and my grandfather for awhile. They had a dairy farm and some sheep and a few pigs. Chickens, dogs and cats. No horses because my grandfather didn’t like horses. I loved the barn. I loved the smell of the hay and the cows. I loved finding kittens everywhere.

My grandfather died in 1983. My grandmother lived pretty much alone on the farm up until a few months before she died. I say pretty much because my one uncle, her youngest son, lived with her for awhile and when he got married, him and his wife built a house on the property. And when they had a child, grandmother got to babysit.

She never learned to drive. She could grow and can almost anything. She was very smart. She was rarely ever sick. She married my grandfather at age 16 and never even considered getting married again. He was her one true love. From 1983 until 2007, she spent her days thinking about him, waiting for the day when she would see him again. Grandma believed in heaven and all that and I’d like to think that she and grandpa are back together again.

In 2004, grandma started to get old. She said to me once, “Don’t ever get old.” She started falling, couldn’t do stairs very well, had trouble reaching for things. She broke a few bones in some falls, but she came back. I wouldn’t say she bounced back, but she came back and stayed in her home until home alone wasn’t safe anymore.

In 2007 my uncle put my grandmother in an old folk’s home. It wasn’t a bad place, but it was sad. She didn’t like it there. She had no friends. I visited her a few times, but it killed me to see her there. She kept saying, “I just want to go back home.”

In December of that year, my aunt and uncle took her back home for Christmas. I didn’t go. I could have, but I didn’t. The old farm just wasn’t what it used to be. The house had grown old, like grandma. The barn was starting to fall down. My aunt liked horses and there were horses everywhere. Horses in the bottom of my grandfather’s barn. Where the cows used to be.

In February I paid one last visit to my Grandmother. Her once sharp mind was starting to go. She still hated the home and the people and the fact that she was old. When I went to leave I hugged her, told her I loved her and knew I would never see her again.

In April, pneumonia spread throughout the home. A visitor had brought it in. Many of the residents got sick including my grandmother. She was a tough old lady and hated hospitals, but she was very sick and knew she had to go.

She stayed in the hospital for three days. I’m glad it was only three days. My aunt and uncle and cousin were with her. She didn’t die alone. But she died. Everyone dies. She was old and tired and the pneumonia offered her a way out. It was time. I’d like to think my grandfather was there. That he helped her out of bed and up the stairs to heaven. That her legs were strong and her mind was sharp and that she didn’t feel old anymore.

I thought about my grandmother this morning. As I was making the bed and getting ready for work; memories of being a kid on the farm popped into my head. The smell of the farm, grandma in the kitchen baking cookies. Somehow there were always cookies. I thought about her and how tough life must have been. How I should have visited more often.

“Everyone is always so busy,” she used to say. Because everyone was. Too busy to visit, too busy to call.

90 years seems like a long time until someone dies.

This morning it finally hit me. My grandmother is gone.

I don’t believe in heaven or hell or any of that crazy stuff, but grandma did and if the afterlife is nothing more than what we believe, then that is where she is. Back home on the farm. The way it looked when I was a kid. And my grandfather is haying the fields. And grandma is young and strong and in the kitchen. Baking cookies for when the grandkids come to visit.

In the afterlife, I hope I visit grandma a lot more.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The hard part

Too many steps or not enough. Either way I can’t get there. Not from here. It’s not what’s absent that makes the wolves howl at the hole in my heart. It’s not what’s missing or lost. It’s what gets left behind. It’s what never goes away.

The problem is that I’m always so ready to lose. Always prepared for that screeching halt, for the sound of breaking glass. Always so unprepared to win, whatever the prize might be, that I nearly trip right over it.

So sure I have nothing to share, nothing to give. Just plenty to sacrifice. It's easy to find someone to love. The hard part is in finding someone who can love you back.

Monday, February 2, 2009


“Until you get bored with me,” he says. And I assure him that will never happen. Because I know that’s what he wants to hear. And because for the moment, it’s true. My head on his chest, hearing his heart beat. Love’s pendulum reciting its poetry just for me. A little blush to go with my whisper.

I pretend we know each other better than we do. Covering up the yawns of who I once was. His smile is his only betrayal as the silence considers what's next for us. Harmless little monsters that life has pulled from our weaknesses. Puddles losing battle with the sun.

He pretends to be more into me than he is. As if his life isn’t the only thing he can't control. The future isn't ahead of us. It's right here. In every touch that only makes me want more.

Scattered memories

Time just keeps pushing its way through that swinging door. I’m not even trying to stop it anymore. It seems kind of pointless anyway. Thinking I can pile enough memories in the doorway to keep it from leaving. But memories are pretty light and not the best things for making barricades with. And if time really wants to leave, all it has to do it flap its wings, and I’ll spend days picking up all those scattered memories.


Hollow, empty, like a bottomless well that someone has just tossed a rock into. Waiting for the sound of it hitting something, but there will be no sound. Like that long drive home that seems to take forever, until I am home. And then it’s like the drive never happened.

These are just feelings, just emotions. Everyone has them. Dangled like a plastic carrot in front of me. My stomach only growls because it doesn't know any better.