What’s Left to Say

From the recesses

of your clouded mind

there are things

you always find.

You retrieve these things

that I wish you would let pass

into a history

that will disappear

when the book is burned.

You apologize

for whatever it is

that makes all

“not right between us.”

And I tell you,

“there is nothing to be sorry for.”

This life has punished you enough.

I will bear the burden

of all that was

that we wish wasn’t.

I will set the book ablaze

and let the smoke

like memory

fade.

And us

and all that was

and is today,

that is my burden to bear.

It is something you cannot share.

You are too frail.

Your shoulders

too weak.

If it is comfort that you seek

from me,

I am here.

We are okay.

There is nothing to apologize for.

There is nothing left to say

other than

I love you.

 

 

 

 

 

Old Shoes

Old Shoes

In my twenties I had a strange paradoxical relationship with time and the notion of aging, so I engaged in preemptive measures to avoid something that I was certain would never come.   I was a dancer living in a rat infested apartment on the lower east side of Manhattan.  I was broke, but somehow I managed to have enough money for cigarettes and anti-wrinkle cream.  I thought I would live forever (hence my lack of concern regarding my smoking habit as it related to my health), and, if I were to live forever, I had to stave off the ravages of smoking (as they related to my skin) because, hell, no matter how old I was, I had damn well look good.  Of course, my idea of looking good at a ripe old age had nothing to do with aging gracefully and everything to do with preserving my twenty-two year old body so that it remained exactly as it was for eternity.

During those years, I was greatly inspired by my dance mistress.  No, she had not discovered the secret of immortality, but she certainly knew how to age gracefully.  At the time she was in her eighties and still teaching class and running her well respected contemporary dance company.  At her advanced age, she was still beautiful.  Her hair, dyed the same jet-black color it was in her youth, contrasted sharply with her ivory skin.  She was an elegant bohemian, living across from NYU in a dilapidated building.  She resided on the fifth floor which served as both her home and rehearsal space for her dance company and school. When she taught lessons, she didn’t stand in front of the mirror, cane in hand, and bark commands- she demonstrated.  She danced-carefully, gracefully.  And I would be remiss not to mention that she was as kind as she was beautiful.  She called herself a Catholic Buddhist and introduced me to yoga.  It was in her space that dance became a transcendental experience and I learned what it meant to be in spirit.  It seemed that she would live forever…and she almost did, passing away in 2014 at the age of 97.  Unfortunately, I had walked away from dance long before her passing, and, when the curtain fell on my life as a dancer, so too did my belief in immortality.  But a long life…I still trusted in that.

It wasn’t just my dance mistress that led me to believe that life would be long.  Three of my great-grandmothers also lived well into their nineties, and my grandmothers would make it to their mid-eighties. Even as I entered my forties, I was pretty convinced that I had plenty of time.  I still continued to dream about what I would be when I grew up, making plans to one day go back to choreographing dances or writing the great American novel, or, being monumentally immature, both.  Then the winter of 2014 came and everything changed.

I suppose a little backstory is in order.  Both of my parents were diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.  My father was diagnosed ten years ago, shortly after the birth of my son.  My mother received her diagnoses three years later when I was pregnant with my daughter.  Some of us were never fully convinced that what my mother suffered from was in fact Parkinson’s.  Her lifelong battle with the world to be the sickest, most suffering, most ill-treated person in existence, had us skeptics, thinking, hoping, that, perhaps, her illness might be a bit psychosomatic.  Anyway, over the past few years, my mother also began showing signs of dementia, and this past winter she took a sudden and shockingly severe turn for the worse and fell into a downward spiral, rendering her incompetent and landing her in a nursing home at the age of sixty-nine.  Of course, the extreme stress of situation exacerbated my father’s Parkinson’s symptoms.  And, suddenly, I realized that life might not be as long as I thought it would.  Suddenly I  began looking at myself differently.  I was not a kid.  I was a woman in my forties.  I began to see the signs of age on my face, feel it’s gnarly crooked hand tugging on my body, making all the movements I did with ease in my youth, not so easy anymore.  I began to feel crushed by the heavy burden of stress and sadness over the loss of my mother as I knew her, over the loss of life as we knew it, over the loss my children suffered, for, until last January, they saw my parents, who lived five minutes down the road, on an almost daily basis.   Our already small family had become even smaller, and life became dark.

Over the past year, I have found myself making mathematical calculations and thinking thoughts like,  “Let’s see.  Mom is twenty-seven years older than me.  That means that when she was my age now I was fifteen years old.  But it doesn’t feel like I was fifteen so very long ago. Shit.  That went by really quickly.  What if I only have twenty-seven more years?  That would bring me to 69.  Twenty-seven years isn’t enough.”  How lovely, these persistent thoughts are.

Fixated on the relentless, merciless tick of the clock, not wanting anything to pass too quickly, I also found myself clinging.  Clinging to moments. Clinging to things that I thought would somehow keep time from slipping away-paper with my children’s scribbles, clothes my children had outgrown, toys my children were no longer interested in playing with.  Anything really that related to my children-the great loves of my life-because, as we know, they grow up; they leave. All good things must come to an end, and ends arrive far too soon.  Save everything.  Make things last.  Make things stay.  That was my subconscious philosophy.

So the new year arrived and I found myself, after all this saving, faced with the daunting task of cleaning out our shoe closet-a task I had been avoiding for what are now very obvious reasons, but, given that the door would no longer close, I had no choice other than to begin.  I had to purge it of all old, worn out and outgrown items. So I opened the door fully and took a long look. I felt like I couldn’t breathe.  Anyone familiar with panic attacks knows the sensation of a rapid heart beat and shallow breathe.  And then the lump in the throat, the heat rising to the face, the ears.  Fuck. No.  This is getting done.  I chocked it all in.  Forced all that surge of emotion back down into the pit of my gut and set to work.  I told myself I felt nothing.  I grabbed old, dirty sneakers, and tossed them in the trash.  I beat back images of my kids playing in those shoes.  I dismissed very specific memories that would lurch into my mind of my little ones dressed in those very items I now discarded.  I refused to acknowledge any feeling of loss.  I coldly carried out my mission…until I picked up those Minnie Mouse shoes. My daughter’s Minnie Mouse shoes.  I couldn’t.  I wouldn’t.  For a million reasons and for no particular reason. Those I put away for safe keeping.  I have my limits.

And so here we are.  2016.  Clean closet.  Only new shoes-except for the Minnie Mouse shoes.  Those I will keep.  Someday, when I am very, very  old (hopefully), I will take those shoes out of the box they are now in and feel joy-joy over happy times, for a life well lived.  There should be no sadness in happy memories.

So here’s to you.  Here’s to life.  May it be long.  May it be happy.  Let us walk in light, not in the shadows cast by others, by the past. Let’s preserve our memories in our minds and store a  very precious few in our basements. Let’s throw on a pair of new shoes and dance on and on and ……………..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Does the tree…?

Does the tree mourn the loss of her leaves?

As each begins to dry and shrivel, does she ache with the anticipation of what is to come?

Does the tree shed a tear for each leaf that drops from her limbs?

Does the tree weep as she stands naked and cold, towering over the remains

of all that once was,

all that will no longer be,

all that will dissolve to dust?

Does the tree, stripped bare, feel the cold shock of fear, knowing she is no longer who she was?

Does the tree tremble with the thought that, perhaps, this time, she will not survive the winter?

Does the tree mourn the loss of herself?

Late Autumn Visit to an Old New England Home

The quaint New England village

in mid-October.

Antique shops, country stores.

White-steepled churches

set against the backdrop

of fall’s spectacular display

of crimson and gold foliage.

And the old New England home.

Her porch adorned with cornstalks and pumpkins.

Her flowerbeds full of yellow and rust-colored mums.

Arrogantly she stands.

She knows her admirers.

How they delight in her unassuming

beauty.

So simple.

Tasteful.

Smart.

She leaves her admirers to wonder

whether she is listed in the registry

of historic homes.

No one

not even she

acknowledges that her charms will fade

with the dropping of the leaves.

*

Be patient.

Wait a bit.

Four weeks perhaps.

Then visit again.

This time

go on in.

Meet her.

Push open the door that doesn’t quite want to give.

She’s not easy, you know.

Hear the creak of the plank floor as you step inside.

Smell the mothballs

and the scent of doorknobs

touched too many times

by so many hands

that the odor

that’s permeated their surfaces

can never be removed.

Smell the faint aroma

of dried out pot roasts

from dinners that stole away days.

Feel the lifeless still

of 4:00

on a Sunday afternoon

in November.

Sit in the chair by the window

and see the world

from that filmy view.

The gray sky.

The skeleton trees.

Now, turn your gaze back inside

and watch the dust

dance

in the late autumn sun

that streaks tauntingly through the glass.

And watch

as a single particle

settles itself atop one of the many knickknacks

that sits lazily

upon the mantel.

Hear the clock.

Each tick

reminding you

of how very long

a day can be.

In the sickening stillness

feel the unbearable loneliness.

Catch your breath.

Breathe in deeply.

Push the air past

the knot

in your throat.

As you sit, feel the house.

The weight

of her past.

So close, really.

What’s 200 years?

Certainly not enough time

for the departed

to resign themselves

to their fate.

The House Next Door

The hill

Four houses

Forest behind

Fields ahead

A dead end

The horizon

A prison

That place

Autumn

Dead leaves

Bare trees

My mother

Speaking in tongues

The flames of hell

The flame of the spirit

Secrets and stories

Legends of the dead

Bones in the woods

Sounds in the night

An insomniac child

Wide awake

Midnight rapping on the door

Something crashing to the floor

The dog atop the stairs

Snarling

The house next door

Looming

Once inside

A cavernous red room

A feeling of doom

Something wrong

Innocence knows

A dry fountain in back

Some toads

Chirping of crickets

Honking of geese

The noisy silence of death

The song to which demons dance

Peaking in windows

Smashing down gates

The song of that place

On the hill

Where the Warden’s house stood.

*

Just the other night

I visited that house

In my dream

The red room

The living room

The basement door

I saw it all

All that dwelled there then

All that dwells there now

In my dreams

Of that house

On that hill

In that place

Where dead leaves fall

in the eerie silence

of a haunted past

OCD

Lead paint is on my windows.

Asbestos is in my walls.

I fear this house will kill me.

My home is my enemy.

*

Asbestos is in my walls.

Are there toxic particles in the air?

My home is my enemy.

I do not think that I am safe here.

*

There are toxic particles in the air.

Are those paint chips on the floor?

I know that I am not safe here.

There is lead dust everywhere.

*

There are paint chips on the floor.

Is everything contaminated?

There is lead dust everywhere.

I must wipe it all away.

*

Everything is contaminated.

Lead paint is falling from my windows.

I can’t wipe it all away.

I know this house will kill me.

Aftermath

You built your city upon a whim.

And long your city stood.

And long your obedient subjects served their capricious queen

with bent knees and bowed heads

and humble hearts.

Until

one day

you tore your city down

revealing the truth:

monuments

thought built of stone

were made of feathers.

Your temple

all those long years

balanced upon nothing more

than dust.

Now

after sifting through the rubble of your kingdom

of our past

we see

that which was always there…

nothing.

Now

in this barren space

we must decide what to do.

So, tell me,

what are we to do

in the aftermath

of you?

Moonlight Message to You

Let no one’s will eclipse your spirit

If one should dare to tread upon you

Let there be war, and do not fear it

Know the red fire burns within you too

*

If one should dare to tread upon you

Arm yourself with Artemis’s bow

Know the red fire burns within you too

You are a warrior; hunt down your foe

*

Arm yourself with Artemis’s bow

Protect yourself with fury’s strong shield

You are a warrior; hunt down your foe

To no one’s will shall you ever yield

*

Protect yourself with fury’s strong shield

Gather the strength of this crimson moon

To no one’s will shall you ever yield

Know, your time to reign is coming soon

*

Gather the strength of this crimson moon

Let no one’s will eclipse your spirit

Know, your time to reign is coming soon

Let there be war and do not fear it

Death in Ten Minutes

“I will die in ten minutes,” she said.

Dead fish eyes –

wide.

Skin-

pulled tight, like a plastic doll.

“Actually,”

she corrected herself,

“I died this morning.”

“No, no,”

I replied.

Impatient.

“You are not dead

because I am not dead.

Here I am

here

sitting with you

here

in the sunlight.”

“Well then, get a priest.

He can save me…and you.”

And I thought-

you’re dead

here

in Hell

and I’m alive-at least I’m fairly certain I’m alive-

here

in life.

Fuck getting a priest.

Fuck this.

I’ll save my strength.

Here-this Hell- Life- Limbo

Your hereafter

My moment

Is it really all that bad?

Just sitting here-

you

me

in the sunlight

dead

and alive?

I guess it’s all just a matter of perspective.

It’s always been just a matter of perspective.

“Happy Birthday,” I said as I took my leave

the bitter sting of irony

and sadness

assuring me that I was correct.

I was not dead.

I was very much alive.