Below a Hole in the Universe

Mom: Rota, Spain, 1984

For my biggest fan since the day I was born

Who will be there to read the latest story I wrote, however unaccredited?
Who will be there to share my newest find from the bookstore?
Who will be there to listen to me at a poetry reading when Dad cannot?

Who will be there to call, worrying when I haven’t phoned in a couple of days?

Who will be there to binge-watch Big Love with me when I finally have the time?
Who will be there to say, “If I hear that one more time . . .” when I claim I am the Energizer bunny?
Who will be there to keep me company on the deck while Hannah is being a leaf-gathering and nest-making mama bird?

Who will be there to make lame-o “mom jokes” that were only funny in the way that Alice from The Brady Bunch is funny?
Who will be there to give me a reason to pray the car doesn’t break down somewhere because she’s wearing her zebra housecoat?
Who will be there to shake her head at me when I brag about not having tan lines?

Who will be there to yell at Dad about his driving when no one else is in the car?
Who will be there to yell “Be sure to tell them ‘hot fries!’” at Dad while he’s in the drive-through?
Who will be there to yell at Dad when he tries to pull the bait-and-switcheroo with off-brands from the grocery store?
Who will be there to yell at Dad?

Who will be there to eat Dad’s overcooked and underseasoned food?
Who will be there to ask me to get her a cup of ice because she doesn’t know her way around the refrigerator?
Who will be there to try my Grandmother Bernadean’s chocolate roll recipe, when I’ve finally perfected it?

Who will be there to outnumber Dad when he insists he’s right about some obscure fact?
Who will be there to remind Dad on how he’s hardly ever right about anything because he’s as stubborn as a Missouri mule? (We come from the “Show-Him” State, you know.)
Who will be there to ask, “Is there an echo in here?” when my dad and I say the same thing simultaneously, being on the same wavelength and all?

Who will be there to go with me to the World of Coke and the Campbell Peach Festival?
Who will be there to stay with me in the hospital when I am sick while my husband takes care of our daughter?

Who will be there to tell me I am beautiful, just because I am theirs?
Who will be there to tell me about myself, before I remembered myself?
Who will be there to tell me about Dad, before I was a gleam in his eye?

Who will be the proud mama when I finally graduate from college?
Who will be there for the Hannah Boo birthdays yet to be celebrated?
Who will be Grandma to my Hannah Banana?

Who will be the other mother to see me bring my Ryan or Madeleine into the world?
Who will be there to see them not only be good but do good in it?

Who will be you?

There were so many roles you filled
that no one will be able to play
the way you did;
some, no one will be able to play
at all.

There will just be your empty chair,
for you are neither here nor there,
but elsewhere.

Yet the distance between us,
between hello and good-bye,
is simply a wrinkle in time—
a wrinkle that will be ironed out
someday,
after I have lived my life—
the one you taught me to live.

*I read this poem—originally titled “Who Will Be You?”—at a student poetry reading at Pensacola State College in March 2018, one day after my mother, Betty Ann, was buried.

The Last Temptation of Christal Lord

Christal had grown up as the replacement child,
the third of Mr. & Mrs. Lord,
for their first had been taken & given back to God.
When Christal broke that barrier & turned back time
to have a chance to rescue the girl whose death
had given her life—
she saw her own life floating away before her eyes
& drown out of existence.
She thought of all the memories that would be wiped out,
even her very existence,
but in that last second,
she knew it was better to save a life by curing a death,
even if it meant preventing a birth,
& so she pulled the girl whose face she knew
as well as her own,
but whose face had remained frozen at the age of eight,
from the dark waters that now engulfed them both.
Flooding in tandem
with the memories of living in her dead sister’s shadow,
Christal had lived,
in another life & dimension,
in her living sister’s light,
where she was no longer the replacement child,
but the surprise one.

Micropoetry Monday: Opposites

Opposites

The Shutterfly edition

His life was spent seeking absolution,
hers, validation.
She sought
what she needed
through God’s images,
but he,
through God Himself.

He was a hospice worker
who sought to make comfortable the ill
& comfort the well.
She was a pathologist
who only dealt with the cadavers
that she disassembled.
He saw his patients as whole,
even as she saw her “visitors”
as parts of one.
She couldn’t deal with the
grieving family members
any more than he could deal
with the body after the soul
had left it.
Their vocations–
his, a calling,
hers, a trade–
was all the reason why
he came home to an empty,
fifth-floor walk-up,
& she surrounded herself
with the presence of so many
who were so full of life.

Money was the only thing
that ever came between them;
he made not enough,
& she made too much.

Betty Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

A bottle of White Diamonds perfume
next to the last paperback you were reading,
left on your crowded nightstand
with something as completely random
as a piece of junk mail
serving as a bookmark;
a Coca-Cola in the fridge,
half-full—
“an accident waiting to happen,”
as Dad would say;
a half a pack of cigarettes
with the lighter inside,
every book written by Lori Copeland and Kathleen Woodiwiss,
a hutch filled with Coca-Cola memorabilia.
So many reminders
of the things you enjoyed in life
remain,
their disuse telling the story that
even though you don’t live here anymore,
your memory does,
for it is protected from the elements of decay,
even as it is preserved in the minds
of those who knew you best.

Sweet Little Nothings

We're all stories in the end just make it a good one! chocolate

Her life began as a brief birth announcement,
followed by a series of Owen Mills poses,
blurry candids,
& unfocused, jittery videos.
Then there was the grainy color newsprint photo in The Patriot Press
of her holding up a certificate
& wearing a medallion
for placing first
in a Constitution calligraphy contest.
For many years,
that was akin to her 4 touchdowns in 1 game.
She never got a write-up in the arrest records,
for that was a legacy she didn’t want to leave;
rather, she lived up as a subject
for several human-interest stories—
as the girl who sold 6701 Girl Scout cookies
because of a YouTube video
that turned those processed disks
into decadent desserts;
as a college graduate who crowdfunded her way
into creating an endowed scholarship
for creative writers in memory of her sister,
whose memoir, Lessons from Mother Goose,
gained notoriety posthumously;
in her silver-haired, golden years,
as a woman who made old tee shirts
into rag rugs for the homeless,
in memory of the brother she’d lost to addiction,
whose inward riches had turned to outward rags.
And then she finally told her own story
by writing her obituary,
for she always had to have
the last word.

Fiction Friday: Micropoetry from the Book

mormoni

He had been there to see him leave the earth
but not to see him put into it,
& I was angry at the world
that had not magically changed
because someone was no longer in it.

In burying my father,
she had buried, it seemed,
the last facet of her old self.
She had gone from a grieving widow
to a blushing bride-to-be
in the matter of an hour,
& no one from the LDS Church knew
of the quickening of Patrick Nolan’s soul
to the Spirit World.

The first ceremony would be a civil one,
followed by a spiritual one.
Just like everything else,
the marriages of other churches
were the preparatory marriages,
& Mormon marriages,
the sealant.

Because my father had died,
my mother would live as she pleased,
but hadn’t she always?
For if one had already enjoyed the intimacy of marriage
without taking the vows,
then how special could making it legal be?
For what was marriage but a representation
of monotheism—
of being subject to one entity
till the death of oneself or the death
of the other.

I was a hollow vessel
where Mother’s empty words echoed,
taking no delight in what I had dreamt of
for as long as my eyes had beheld
the glory of David Dalton.

Micropoetry Monday: Adult Children

Mom and Dad.JPG

She’d imagined future memories
of taking care of them someday,
for they had taken care of her.
Though her child had made her
want to better herself,
Mom & Dad had made her
into a person who could.

Dad gave me strength,
but Mom gave me resilience
so that I was unbreakable.

As a little girl,
she had looked back
to see her mom,
looking back at her.
As an adult,
it was not behind her,
but above her,
that she looked—
whenever she shared a memory of her
with her own child,
whenever she spoke to the stone
that bore her name like a commandment,
whenever she made Dad proud.
If you weren’t really an adult
till your parents were gone,
she would be happy to be
a child forever.

Micropoetry Monday: Stranger Things

stranger things.jpg

When the fog settled over the Gulf Coast
for days that seemed to run together
like a week of binge-watching,
life was like walking through a dream
in varying filters.
It was that last day in the middle of the night—
before the fog lifted—
that the 3 boys came to her door.
Their frightened faces had been framed
in the frosted oval glass,
& their owlish eyes had looked sickly
in the illumination of the orange streetlight.
They said that the Londoners had taken their parents
& spoiled everything.
She chastised herself for opening the door
so carelessly,
for what if they’d been followed?
And it was when she thought to look back
that she realized her family had disappeared
the second she had opened that door,
just as she was here
because someone else wasn’t.

When he was alive,
she slept to escape him through dreams,
but when he died,
he haunted those dreams,
& she became an insomniac who,
from sleep deprivation,
began to see his reflection in every window
& imagine his presence behind every door.

Famous writers haunted ghostwriters,
cases were tried by the judges perfected in Christ,
& the scientists who’d practiced the healing arts on Earth,
imparted their knowledge from Heaven—
even as those who’d passed on ages before
were able to witness the wonders of humankind
while living in the presence of the wonder of God.
Funerals were truly a celebration of one’s mortal life,
& grief became a thing of the past.
There was no moving on,
for to see & hear their loved ones was enough
to make up for the loss of the other 3 senses;
this new way of life & death helped keep their memory alive,
even as new conversations with the departed
were being had.
Where there had been faith,
there was now knowledge,
save for those who believed that man had never walked the moon.