Friday, October 26, 2012

Her, Him, Me

Darkness Poem
(Irene McKinney)

Have you had enough darkness yet?
No, I haven't had enough darkness.
Have you had enough fire?

Enough wind and rain?
Enough black ink?
Ask me again, later.

Have you had enough sugar?
Enough salt? No.

I haven't had enough salt.
Are you finished with wringing your hands?

Finished with spiders and silks 
And creatures of glamour?
Probably not.

Winsome looks?
Pity? Never.

I feel pity right now
For everyone who got broken,
Including me. Pity feels

Like a sore and swollen heart
Leaking blood and tears
So hot they sting.

Imagine that. Stay there.
Have you had enough wind?
No. Enough earth? No.

Enough water? No, not nearly enough.
Enough dirt to walk on?

No. Never, never.


(Robert Louis Stevenson)

Then the bright lamp is carried in, 
The sunless hours again begin; 
O'er all without, in field and lane, 
The haunted night returns again. 

Now we behold the embers flee 
About the firelit hearth; and see 
Our faces painted as we pass, 
Like pictures, on the window glass. 

Must we to bed indeed? Well then, 
Let us arise and go like men, 
And face with an undaunted tread 
The long black passage up to bed. 

Farewell, O brother, sister, sire! 
O pleasant party round the fire! 
The songs you sing, the tales you tell, 
Till far to-morrow, fare you well! 


Wee but Still

Sometimes you have nothing to say but you speak anyway. I empty everything out. Thank you, coffee, green smoothie, my fountain pen. 

Stanzas from Irene and Robert Louis blow me up inside. A poet I am not, but a poem, maybe. That must be why the beauty of their words plucks strings inside of me. Music. 

I need to walk toward the sun. Politely ask it to fill my barren spaces, to make things grow and live inside me. Plant them beside and within the melody please.

(Sometimes the words won’t come. Or they will but are few. I offer what I have. Remind myself this is not perfection. It is a process, a journey.)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

*The One That Got Away*

Once upon a time I had friends, best friends. But after we graduated high school God cast us far and wide. He flicked his wrist hard and we scattered like so many Pick Up Sticks. None of us touched after that, not geographically anyway. Hefty phone bills and first jobs out of college widened the distance between us, and eventually, marriages and babies. So then what? We had to find new gal pals. But it had gotten harder. Since we weren't spring chickens anymore.  Since everyone we met was so daggone busy. Even so, we didn’t have a choice, did we?


“Do you wanna be best friends? Just you and me? Do ya, do ya? Huh, huh?” 
 I didn’t answer right away. Didn’t look at her either. Instead I fiddled with the snaps on my daughter’s onesie. Pretended to give my friend privacy while she nursed her baby. Her question surprised me. Made me feel claustrophobic. Like if I said yes, it would be me and her in a Jif jar with a lid on and a cotton ball soaked in nail polish remover. 
I turned away slightly and cupped my hand to push air in my mouth.  And then she moved. Far away.


“Guess what?” my best-friend-first-through-twelfth-grade said when I answered the phone. “I have unlimited long distance calling now. We can talk like, every day.” 
And we did for awhile. Till I blew it. We got in this tiff, of all things, about her religion and my faith. When she said that one thing just so, I was pretty sure it was over. I heard the word never come out of my mouth even though my personal philosophy is never say never. 
She fell silent and Iwatched our friendship, like an egg, roll across a surface that wasn’t level, but tilted ever so slightly downhill. 


Soon after, I met another woman, at my son's pre-school. She had the best cheekbones ever but something shadowed her. All the time. One day I figured out what it was—fear. Eventually I got used to it—her scaredy-cat aura. And actually, it seemed to lessen the more we hung out.
 As our kids got taller, we grew closer. At one point though, in my mind, I pretended to be a traffic cop. I extended my arm, flexed at the wrist. Stop. Don’t come any closer. ‘Cause I don’t think we have enough in common. 
See, she didn’t paint her nails, wear lipgloss, or love shoes. I could tell her anything but somehow that didn't seem like enough. We telephoned and emailed a whole lot, but I knew even if she didn’t, that I’d put SaranWrap around my heart.
She moved away, just for a year, but still . . . 

               A     L   O   N   E   (L   Y)    N E   S   S

The just-you-and-me gal visited the other day. We sat side by side on the sofa. 
You’re more like me than anyone I know, I said inside my head.
 I grinned as my kids laughed with hers. Only thing is,  you don’t wear mascara.
 She hugged me as we stood beside her car. “It’s like I never left.”
I stepped back and nodded. Waved as they drove away.  Ask me that question again. I’ll say yes this time.


When we found out my pa-in-law had super bad cancer, I phoned my best friend from childhood.
“Tell me all that stuff you do again,” I said. “The natural, organic, herbal, and homeopathic stuff.” 
I nodded. “Really.”
And she did. Things got better after that. In fact, we're almost back to the place we were before. There’s still a creek that divides the lands of my belief and hers, but after six years, the bridge is coming along nicely. 


I threw a welcome-home-unload-the-U-Haul party when my one friend moved back. Despite phone calls, emails, and texts (and not having enough in common), I missed her. A whole lot. As I walked up her driveway I wondered if she’d be able to tell the difference in me.  How the SaranWrap around my heart had disappeared.

Friday, October 12, 2012

R.I.P. Dell

Dell Desktop

Sadness and woe!
Yesterday my computer died.
My go-to computer dudes are trying rescue my files from the harddrive.
Until that is accomplished (and my files reinstalled on a new machine),
I won't be posting anything here on the blog.
Check back next Friday. Lord willing, I will be back at it by then.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Out of the Box

I lay in bed that night with Mac’s gun box heavy on my chest, the frayed strips of old percale sheets still intact, a cloth cross over my heart. I picked a spot on the ceiling and addressed it.
            “Help. Please.”
            Remarkably, I got a few hours sleep. The green numbers on my clock radio glowed 2:36 when I heard a door open slowly, carefully, somewhere in the house. Inside me, my heart bulged, made my skin feel tight. My eyes stung. Dang it! I need more time! 
            I heaved myself up, the gun case solid against me. I peeked out the window beside my bed. My eyes bridged the seven feet between my house and the Macs.’ I squinted at their Venetian blinds. They formed a solid white wall. I whimpered.
            Nothing stirred outside except the rain that was starting to fall. It had been so long since we’d had rain. A stair creaked and I clenched every part of me. I let go of the box and winced as it thudded against my thighs. I picked it up and shook it close to my ear. Felt and heard the weapon’s weight slide left, then right, inside the box. 
            In the moonlight I focused on the cloth bow and whispered
            “Maybe just seeing the gun’ll make him stop. I mean really, I don’t have to kill him. I can just point it at him. Shoot him in the leg if I have to.” The thought of his maroon blood creeping across my beloved pink and green tulip-basket quilt, staining it forever, gave me pause. “Or, I can do what I always do. Roll on my side. Squeeze my eyes shut. Pretend to sleep.”
            I gulped nothing and rapid-blinked tears. Wished tonight was tomorrow. Then it occurred to me: if I don’t stop it this time, the bad thing’ll go on forever and I—
            I gritted my teeth. Balanced the box on my knees, pinched the end of one of the strips. Waited. I focused on my doorknob. The shine of the moon was so bright, surely I’d be able to see the knob twist. Then I'd yank the cloth strip. Flip the latch, fling the box open. Ready, aim—
            I held my hand in front of my face. Even in the half light, I could see my fingers were a blur. Oh, no! What if my gun hand shakes so bad I miss his leg and kill him? Think! What else? What else can I do? I tore at my thumb nail with my teeth. Then I knew. 
          I shoved the gun box off my lap. Tossed back the covers and tiptoe-ran the eight or nine feet to my parents’ bedroom. I barreled through the door and bent over their bed. Pounded the mattress between them.
            “Wake up! Make him stop! Now!”
            As I watched my parents climb out of their separate slumbers, somewhere in the house I heard a door shut slowly, carefully.
Gracie's eyes never left my face as I told my story. Tears leapt from her chin to her lap where her hands worried a hankie.
            “You did wonderfully, Pet," she said when I finished. She gathered me into her arms and spoke against my shoulder. "I’m so proud of you, so glad for you.”
            I melted against her and wept for what seemed like forever. All the while, she poked through my hair with her age-dry fingers, releasing every tangle.
            “Go home and fetch the box,” she said finally. “We’ll have pie when you get back.”
            After we ate, licked our plates, and put our dishes in the sink, Gracie led the way to the living room. She patted the spot beside her on the sofa.
            “Have a seat,” she said. “Bring the box.”
            After I settled beside her she told me to open it. I tugged at the rag ribbon and drew it away. Undid the little brass latch. When I lifted the lid, I gasped. There was no gun. Instead, there was a glass pie plate and an index card that turned out to be Gracie’s secret recipe for strawberry rhubarb pie. Underneath that was my dresser cloth, the one she said I’d need some day.
            I shut my mouth and faced Gracie, eyes wide. “It’s not a . . . ”
            Gracie nodded, smiled slightly. “I know. Mac came up with the plan. I hoped it might work, prayed it would. Oh, how I prayed. Thank God it did.”
            I held my ribs tight and grinned. “Mac saved me,” I said. “I thought it would be you, but him saving me from beyond the grave? That’s really cool, don’t you think?”   

Monday, October 1, 2012

What Mac Left Behind

I always thought it would be Gracie who’d rescue me from my childhood nemesis—not a monster under my bed, but one beside it, in it. I was wrong.
            Big Mac passed while we were on vacation. We’d left for Myrtle Beach at six in the morning on a Saturday. Mac departed this world not twenty four hours later. Gracie had no way of contacting us so Mac was eulogized and buried without us, without me.
            When I found out, I sobbed myself to hiccups knowing I hadn’t said goodbye to him, hadn’t asked him to swing me around one more time, had never worked up the nerve to tell him . . . Not to mention Gracie’d lost the love of her life. I gnawed my nails down to the quick knowing my best friend in the whole world had lost her husband of sixty one years and I hadn’t been there for her.
            On Monday Gracie was marvelously collected when she described his death.
            “He never woke up,” she said. “Had his hands folded over his chest as if he knew.”
            She dabbed under my nose with a lavender handkerchief. “Now, Pet, don’t grieve so. He had a wonderful life and where he is now, it’s even better. Plus we’ll see him—”
            She stopped herself but I knew the word she’d nipped off: soon. My heart stuttered as the thought of being alone in the world settled on and around me. Gracie smoothed the front of her dark dress. That’s when I noticed the pile of spent hankies on the end table and realized despite her brave demeanor, she was not without her own sorrow.
            “He left you something,” she said. When she held out her hand, I noticed it was trembling. “Come.”
            Gracie led me upstairs and down the hall to the other side of the house. When she opened the last door on the left, Big Mac’s Old Spice aroma embraced me. I took in the room—dark woods, white chenille bedspread, Mac’s pocket knife, wallet, and mustard-colored change pouch on the dresser.
            The closet door was cracked. Inside hung the navy blue suit Mac wore to church every Sunday. I turned with my face bunched up.
            “What’d you bury him in?”
            “His other suit. The black one he wore when we got married.”
            That fact tore fresh tears from me. Gracie pressed her handkerchief into my hand before she entered Mac’s closet. She stood on tiptoe to reach the top shelf. When she faced me again, she held a wooden box. I stiffened. I knew that box. I'd helped Mac build it. For his gun.
It wasn’t a big gun, just a .22. Mac had showed me how to use it in March when he took me to Gideon Woods to shoot pop cans off fence posts. The box was tied with a bow like a present, with the same strips of cloth Mac and I used to stake up tomato plants each summer.
            Gracie pressed the case toward me. “He wanted you to have it.”
            My eyes bugged. I pushed against it. “No way! Shouldn’t you keep it? Since you’re all alone now?”
            Gracie set the gun on Mac’s dresser. “Don’t worry about me, Pet. I have a little something of my own.”
            We stood there for a little while, quiet, both of us sniffling off and on. I tried to manage a complete breath but it seemed impossible. I missed Mac so. Hated the knowledge that I’d never see him again.  
            After a few minutes Gracie encased my hands in hers, peered deep into my eyes with her cornflower blue ones.
            “Mac knew, Pet,” she whispered. “We both did.”
            Immediately I felt the blood in my face drain away. Even so, I wanted to grin. They knew? Really? Then I scowled. If they knew, why didn’t— I made my eyes small to focus like microscopes so I could see inside her, to make sure we shared the same thought.
            “That’s why he wanted you to have this,” Gracie said. “Keep it under your bed, or in it. Use it when the time is right.”
            I slumped. They did know. I glanced over at the dresser. Imagined the gun in my hand. Pictured pointing it at a human being, someone I knew, and squeezing—
            My eyes fluttered open. “But what if—”
            She circled my waist with her arms, joined her fingers together over my hip to form a solid fence around me.
            “Shhh. You’ll know what to do,” she said. “What did Mac tell you when he taught you to shoot this spring?”
            “He said the gun is my friend, my equalizer. What’d he mean by that, Gracie?” I pressed on. “And he said make sure I understand the repercussions of using it or not using it. When I’m in danger." 
            Gracie tilted her head. “He said all that?”
            I nodded. Gracie let go of me and stepped away. “Well, then. I reckon you’re ready. Do what you have to do, Pet. I’ll be praying for you.”
            She was headed out of the room when I asked the question I’d wanted to ask for ages.
            “Gracie? Can’t you just talk to my—”
            Gracie sagged in the doorway before she turned.
            “Oh, sweet girl, I tried. I did. Your mom . . .” The corner of Gracie’s left eye crinkled. “Is she all right? Is she on some kind of medication?”
            I squeezed my eyes shut. Pictured the kitchen counter with its array of orangey-gold bottles beside the sink.
            I nodded. “Lots.”  I smashed my nose with my palm to stop its burning.
            “And your daddy’s not home much, is he?”
            I finally lifted the gun case. Crushed it against my chest until the corner made me wince.
            “Even when he is, he isn’t.”
            Gracie wrung her hands. “I’m so sorry, Pet,” she said. “Tonight though, things’re gonna change. Right?”


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