Micropoetry Monday: The Writer’s Life

Writer's Life

The Shutterfly Edition

The young reporter’s first job
was editing the obituaries.
For the elderly,
they were celebrations of life;
for the young,
they were a mourning
for all the life
they could have lived.

Paige Bookbinder wasn’t much of a public speaker
(privately, she rocked it),
but the words she put to paper
would endure longer
than the voice in which she spoke them.
Learning to overcome her fear of speaking
in front of a group of any size
would enrich her life now,
even as the words she’d leave behind
for others to read in their own minds
would ensure her legacy.

Her authorship had once meant something,
but when she worked for the one
who only cared if she was the subject,
she realized that she had to write something
so great,
someone else would be compelled
to write about it.

Field of Daydreams

Her dad saw it as paying her respects;
for him & her mother’s mother,
the daughter went,
but never alone,
for she paid her respects every day
she continued to be someone
her mother would respect.
She didn’t need to see Mom’s name on a slab
to remember her,
for those who tended the graves of the fallen—
whether in combat
or long after they had honorably served—
honored the stones of the dead
that appeared to burst
from the gums of the earth
like teeth,
so polished & white,
the enamel worn off in places.
Some markers had crosses,
others, stars of David;
some had infinity symbols,
for belief in infinite beginnings,
others, atomic symbols,
for belief in a finite end;
innumerable other symbols
of faith or unfaith were unfamiliar to her,
though she took comfort in knowing
that in this hallowed ground,
these men & women,
despite who they served,
were equal because of what they served.

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.

Micropoetry Monday: Stranger Things

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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.

Micropoetry Monday: The Writer’s Life

Writer's Life

The Shutterfly Edition

She left so many pieces of herself behind,
that even as the memory of her body faded,
new memories of her spirit—
as she was at the time of her death—
were made.

Every day,
she posted pieces of her history
& her imagination,
the two converging like rivers on a map,
so that no one knew what was true
& what wasn’t.

When the calligrapher met the typist,
a war of words ensued—
a war where Functionality trounced Beauty in speed & legibility,
but Beauty trounced Functionality in artistry & forgery.

Truth is its own magic: A Mother’s Day message

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When you’re a mom, some of the things that come out of your mouth may sound strange:  “Don’t chew on Jesus,” “Will you just hurry up and poop?”, and “Stop putting chicken on your head!”, are some of my greatest hits.

As I was getting my daughter ready for bed the other night, thinking about what I wanted to read to her (praying she wouldn’t mention Minnie, as in The Mouse), the Beatitudes of Jesus came to mind.  I realized then that I’ve spent so much time reading and singing to her and teaching her the things she will need to know to get on here–like letters and numbers, saying “thank you” and not littering–that I hadn’t focused much on the religious part of her education.

Thinking back, that’s exactly how my parents raised me.  For them, church was something you needed if you were an ass.

When I was in high school in the nineties, a lot of kids were self-proclaimed “Jesus freaks,” wearing “True Love Waits” rings and WWJD bracelets.  There was a lot of talk about the rapture and born-again virginity.  Church was their social life, Praise and Worship music their vibe.  Some of them even carried their Bibles around at school.  

Just as Felicity (remember that WB show?) followed a boy to college, I, a freshman, followed a senior boy to his church.  One evening, after service had ended, we sat in a pew as he led me through the salvation prayer, and I was like, “That’s it?  Are you sure? It’s that easy?”

I had been expecting a feeling–a total transformation like Saul’s to Paul–and now I wonder when Jesus told Doubting Thomas that (and I paraphrase) blessed are they who don’t see but believe, that “see” could also apply to “feel.”

Four years later, I joined the Mormon Church.  All the good feelings I had expected to feel when I had gotten saved, I felt then, but who isn’t going to feel good when they’re around so many friendly people who open their hearts and homes?  Even though it’s been years since I sent my name to Salt Lake to be expunged (er, removed) from the records, I will admit that the Church made me a more spiritual person.

In the Church, I was taught that the glory of God is intelligence and yet, according to these same people, for those who had mental challenges, the devil could not touch them. 

To my understanding, a lack of mental capacity (e.g. intelligence) saved a soul.  It seems contradictory, and yet, it somehow makes sense to me.

As I gaze upon my child, I see that light and intelligence.  She knows so much more than she communicates, which can be frustrating, but I have learned to overcome the need to explain why she is the way she is to people who don’t know her–to explain why she doesn’t respond when people ask her her name–but then, I have had several people who’ve taken one look at her and ask if she’s autistic.

I may never know how much she understands, but I do know that I will teach her everything I know and believe, whether it’s that adverbs are the enemy of good writing or that respect doesn’t have to be earned but it can be lost.  (You don’t disrespect people until they “earn” your respect.)

I’ve striven so much to give her a magical childhood through imagination and storytelling.  (Children’s author, Nancy Tillman, is a master at this.)  Nearly every night, since my mom passed from this earth, I ask my daughter to tell Grandma “good-night” and “I love you” and to blow her a kiss.  And then I seemingly catch that kiss in midair, letting her open my hand and take it; sometimes I place my palm on the crown of her head–a blessing from Heaven.

Of course, I don’t really know how things work up there, but part of parenting, for me, has always been teaching truths with just a pinch of magic.

C.S. Lewis did that very thing with his Narnia series, just as I will someday do with mine.

One More Memory

Betty Slide 13

If I had just one more memory–
one more moment stretched into years
(with light years between the seconds)–
I would have so much to show-and-tell you.
Does that not sound like a little child?

Your presence
hovers
in the absence
of space and time
as you observe Hannah’s progression,
listen to my stories,
and see this, your daughter,
in the collegiate green cap and gown,
having remade herself into the ungraven image
she’s always wanted to be.

We share memories of you at the table;
I like to imagine you hear us
every time we speak your name.
We have no complaints.

Dad still carries your driver’s license in his wallet;
there are never enough pictures.
We say, “That’s a Mom joke!”
(when the joke is truly terrible)
or “Remember when Mom ..?”

Dad still calls you Mom;
I call you Grandma.
“Say ‘Good-night, Grandma,’”
I tell my daughter,
“blow her a kiss to heaven.”
It’s a kiss strong enough
to shatter
plaster
ceilings,
to defy
gravity.
I catch the one you send back
and plant it on her cheek.

We call you what our children call you.
You wanted Dad to call you Betty more.
Your mother always called you Betty Ann.
You liked the names Carolyn and Elise.
You dug up the roots of the family tree
to give me mine.

She is…she was…
it is just “Grandpa’s house” now,
but the contact still reads “Mom and Dad’s”
in my phone.
I will never change it.

We remember your goulash–
the only thing you knew how to make–
even though we weren’t even Hungarian.
Still aren’t.

We just are.

Micropoetry Monday: Social Media

She was one vacation picture away from losing her job,
he, one tweet away from losing his career,
& so they chose to be judged by their actions
rather than their thoughts.

She scrolled down her friend list,
unfriending those she had never known,
but who had been watching her life more than she ever knew.

It took a body hours to die in Earth space,
but years to die in cyberspace,
for families kept the social media accounts
of their loved ones alive,
hoping one of their messages would reach
Heaven.

Her son’s Facebook page–
deactivated after his death by his wife–
was like an erasure of the man she had loved
longer than his wife ever would.

They each lived a double life,
sharing a secondary one.
They each had a spouse,
who knew not what their other half did,
for their lovemaking
was merely the tapping of keys.

The Burial Underground

Twined with rusting links resembling
tarnished jewelry,
wrapped like a mummy in white sheets,
like a goddess of ancient Greece,
a woman resides in the Lochness Lagoon—
an artifact of a domestic goddess
who identified with being a mermaid.
Her legs are tied together,
even as her hands reach upward,
unbound by wood or satin,
or the complexities of life.

In life, he imprisoned her;
in death, he set her free,
for there is no grave with his name on it
attached to hers.
She is free to remain alive in the hearts
of those who still love her above.

The water plunders her flesh,
even as it preserves her bones,
in this twilight zone
known as Davy Jones’s Locker.