Tag Archives: transcendence

Rain for Remembrance, a poem

illustration rain for remembrance II

Rain

The woman sits up all night, listening to it rain.  The woman  has often sat up all night waiting for one thing or another to either leave or arrive: bandaged fingers, whooping cough, her own lookalike grandchildren.  When she can, she sleeps next to her dying mother in the king-sized bed; she bangs her own shins on the high rails, climbing in.  Her arms and hands are able to lift the wasted body of her dying mother with amazing ease.

She watches & waters the great rack of African violets in the living room; grows wheat grass for her mother’s cat.  Other times, she sits in a high-backed wooden chair, needlepointing forests in wool, chain-smoking for hours.  Her mother will die very soon; then the daughter will put on her navy dress with a large, elaborate organdy collar and fail to draw a deep breath for several days.  The woman’s several brothers and their children will fly in from all over the country, and flower offerings will dwarf the grave itself.

After the burial, the woman will pack all sorts of mementoes into her mother’s old cedar “hope” chest:  yearbooks, diaries, photographs, diplomas, invitations, programs, baby booties, baby spoons, baby cups, even a rather grisly alligator purse, complete with the head, legs, tail & feet and sharp black claws.  When she has nightmares, more often now, she sits up all night, her fluffy gray tabby queen on her lap like a hot-water bottle.  The cat’s purring leads the woman away from the perilous mountain passes & rocky cliffsides inside her head and back to level ground, so she can help her mother die properly.  That is what proper love looks like, she thinks.

 

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Pretty Young Women, Playing A Game, a very short story

Pretty Young Women, Playing A Game

The stupid party game I suggested that night was called “the worst moment of your life.” A half-dozen of us were playing, sitting cross-legged in a circle on the floor. The prettiest, Kelly, resembled a long-past period of fashion, with her trembling dusty-yellow curls, her sharp little chin — her eyes were bright blue, her frame delicate. We had been up all night; the sun was close to rising, but the birds hadn’t started their relentless cheerful, spell-breaking noise.

Kelly didn’t want to play at first, but the rest of us insisted, figuring what? That not making head cheerleader was her life’s worst tragedy? That’s what happens again and again to women like her, they try to explain why they don’t want to talk about it… but no one listens.

The second prettiest one, Vicki, was pale and fleshy, moving with a clumsy, yet charming, slowness that made the rest of us wonder if it was an act… or could she really be that dumb? Across the undersides of her velvety forearms gleamed a network of thin white scars… the baby she’d left at her mother’s that night was not her husband’s. Mistakes get made; the child’s father was never heard from again.

Oh, but now Vicki wanted to get remarried so badly it made every other woman in the room flush with embarrassment just hearing her mention her latest lover’s name. We knew because of the kid that wasn’t his he would never agree to marry her; but she was so beautiful… scars, sad eyes and all… that he couldn’t say no to what she offered up nightly.

So, after being pushed & pushed & pushed & pushed & pushed into participating, Kelly narrated the worst moment of her life. Her twin sister was in the middle of a divorce. We never knew she HAD a sister. A few days before Christmas, the estranged husband called — he had lots of presents for the kids. She agreed to meet him at a gas station down the street. The only thing he gave her was three bullets — one in the spleen, one in the right lung, one in the throat.

“At least he had the decency to shoot himself too,” Kelly says sobbing. “How does marriage turn into murder?” The rest of us watched tears plop out of her eyes like clear glass pearls; we heard the birds finally, blessedly, began to chatter, bringing relentless life back into the world.

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For Celibate Lovers Everywhere, a poem

for celibate lovers everywhere

For Celibate Lovers Everywhere

Leo was almost seven feet tall; his skin, dusty
brown as baker’s chocolate, his fawnlike eyes liquid,
shining, his manner shy and delicate.  I fell in love

with his polite voice that first night he came calling,
carrying his stack of Hindu texts in a wicker basket —
we were eating pizza, loaded with greasy sausage;

he looked down at us in my small dark room, polite, curious.
He spoke with a strange hesitation, his tone oval and clear
as the notes of a heavy iron bell.  He had been a monk

for years, wearing spotless but wrinkled saffron robes,
his head shaved except for one small tattered tuft
on the high, vulnerable peak of bone at the back of his scalp.

His hand was leathery, dry, smooth, like an expensive saddle.
It was embarrassing how I always wondered about his desires
for sex, wondering does he lie awake at night, thinking

about the bodies of women?  If so, what an awful shame,
for the way Leo moves, bowing his tall, elegant frame
through every narrow doorway, bespeaks a gentleness

with flesh, a respect for the gift of skin, the clarity
of nerves.  What a waste, I always think, but he’s given
his life over completely to his god.  His father was

disappointed when Leo gave up basketball; his long,
long palms still curve around in the air when he speaks,
as if reminding his body of what it once loved to do.

One day, I could tell he wanted me too, though only for an hour.
We walked the temple farm’s hot green fields, inspecting sacred cattle
together.  The dirt path circled around a lake, then wandered away

from the main house; next to a thicket of velvety cattails the same color
as Leo’s skin, we sat together on a stone bench, the surface gritty,
cold against the back of my knees.  I couldn’t look in his eyes.

I smelled the thick, wet breeze off the lake, and the wind ruffled
his gauzy robes.  I heard the snap of cloth against his lean calves;
his toes long and spidery, the nails thickened, blunt in his

canvas sandals.  His hand brushed mine on the bench – no accident.
But he had been celibate for nearly twenty years, and I would not
willingly be the cause of his release on that sad day, or any other.

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