Answer: never

Jeopardy question: When is it ‘too little, too late’?

In 1989 I met a family that a year later I would become a part of. I had come from a place and family from the mid-west U.S. and was about to enter a very American-European family on the east coast. I was insecure about fitting into a family. Put me in a room with 30-100 strangers and I was the life of the party. Put me in a living room with 15 folks that were about to welcome me as sister, daughter, etc, and I had utter stage fright.

I came from a family where I had not hugged anyone in years, except a side arm hug at the airport and a bear hug from my mother who had longed for that for years herself. I entered a house where every face was kissing me and every arm was hugging me. But I still felt outside. Why?

I didn’t know how to express affection that way. I wanted it, but I was afraid of it. I questioned their motives, I assumed they didn’t accept me. Didn’t like me.

Didn’t get me.

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you do the math

dancing tall in my living room
to George and Elton
(does it really happen
if no-one sees it
like that tree in the forest)
he says sometimes I never go out
(could tell him stories about 1985
when I lived ten years in 12 months)
and I dance and dance

my head full of 1990
(wonderwall,hammer,hit me baby)
one more time-let’s dance as one
I’ll lead this time, you follow
if you still have that notion
that 1+1=1
and 2+1=no end of joy

perhaps we find
a new kind of happy-
ness, wrapped in understanding
and lessons learned
(old flames, new rites of passage)
let’s not forget, and dance to now
(rhianna, poison, blended with
the Beatles, Eagles, and 21 pilots
shaken and stirred)

once I thought it was most crucial
to fly without a net
but I believe
the trick
is
to not let go

***
***

A playlist just for kicks- must say it’s hard to find original Beatles music online, just covers. Also- it feels strange to be this close to 64, oh so much closer than when we first sang it to one another, it felt so far off.

Stroll

path.jpg



Let us take a walk through a particular woods on Long Island in New York. I will show it to you and then you will understand why a set of trees and a narrow stream could mean this much to me. I met my husband on Long Island and had my first child there. I don’t remember anymore what town these woods were in, but  I used to go there often, and usually alone. But even when by myself, I did not find it lonely there. It held that kind of peaceful solitude that you can really embrace.

As you step into the woods, about twenty paces, there is a small stream and a little bridge going over it. You can sit on the bridge and hang your feet over. I sat here countless times. Walking further in, the place is green, lush and cool with many leafy trees and evergreens. The smells are great and the ground is damp, so you can smell that as well. If you stand very still there in the Autumn, you can hear leaves falling from various distances away. My favourite clearing you’ll see as we come to it, is surrounded by several large trees with red leaves, and when they fall, they form a carpet beneath of red and pink.

How sweet it would be to sit in this clearing once more with the leaves falling around me and onto my head, shoulders and lap. When I was here I was in love, and he was in love with me. I remember how that felt to be someone’s whole world. And the day they put my newborn daughter into my arms, I thought I could take on the world myself. I want to feel that again, that feeling of red and pink, and explosions going off overhead, and my head so full of poetry that I thought it would be blown clear off. I’d like to be in love (here) again.

should spring be always
or summer arrive at thought
or autumn’s riches

My list is my own list

 

 

My body is revolting. It is telling me things about the life I have lived and the myriad of ways I have abused it. I am 54. I could easily live 30 more years or more based on my health as I saw it 30 years ago. But now, I get warning signs. I lose friends. Friends younger than I are dying suddenly. I am surrounded by cancer.

Why have I written all these very not-cheerful words? Because we all have a time when we face ourselves. For some it is at 40. For others, 70. For me it was 50, but I ignored it until this past year. I became overly sentimental and mawkish about the smallest details. Everything meant something. A cough, a twinge, a sudden chill.

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Wild flower on asphalt

Agraulis_vanillae_at_Isla_Margarita.jpg

Lying in the middle of prairie flowers and wild
grasses-better than in the road-and how much do I owe
for loss of time money and how much it cost
in the long run. Sometimes we mourn and then find out
we were holding the knife that cut down our past

When we met I was in a shop buying a chicken, writing
a poem on the back of a grocery list. I want that mystique
that kept you coming around. A rose died-so what
you gave it to me-so what. I can buy dozens of flowers
but you-there is just one-you fell asleep on my breast

Our love is not like the others, cool as Eskimo nights
our love is crispy like chalupas – with a creamy center
driving through the days and weeks, trying not to
drown ourselves. I painted you with a touch of noir, making you
over with the look of Bogart I needed to navigate life

I get blue when I see what has become of you
so far from the happy times I barely recognize
the boy from 1989. Did someone do this to you
(did I ) or did you let it happen?
Every happiness flown away like fritillaries

 

*****

The Gulf fritillary or passion butterfly (Agraulis vanillae), photo by The Photographer

bhearts

appreciating mom’s advice when she is gone
seeking out her hug in a pot roast
or a roast turkey
her kindnesses in the garden as the bleeding hearts
reach their peak
the way her laugh rang out
in grey ceilings
her hand reaching to say
peace. be still.

Insufficient

I don’t know what else to say, except I love you, Manchester

*****
I have said nothing to anyone about Brussels. I have been
silent, as I was after Paris. (I should have said something)
(anything)

What is there to say-how much is enough?
(Mumbai, New York City, Cameroon, Boston, Ouagadougou,
Jakarta, Manchester, Tanta, London, San Bernardino,
Istanbul, Oklahoma City, Chicago-
do you have time for a complete listing)

I know that anything I say will be insufficient and vague
in comparison (to the truth)
[put up next to what they need
more than words]

If it were me, if I was there, I imagine
I would be as silent as now, wanting to
scream but instead- zombielike- tidying up
walking through what is mundane and useful
and cleaning up the atrocity of violation.
[(This is not yours. Why
do you insist on breaking it to pieces)
is as close as I have come to words]

Are you not tired of the raging?
I weary of the anger, the pure hate
that does not end
always simmering, sometimes boiling over
yet constantly being refilled, that tank-

What can I say? Who am I? I am your neighbor, weeping for you.
My words feel small. My anger does not feel
sufficient

It wasn’t nice calling me silly

just because
You can’t figure me out
how I could be so hot in your ear
then give you a chill every time you rub me the wrong way
weren’t you the one clinging to your teddy bear
every time the wind changed
If I am to die in the summer
pick me up in your truck
and take me fly fishing
because I never learned to fish
and I will feel I have failed at this life
if I never bait a hook
beyond the figurative
the one I carry with me everywhere
a smirky mouth all painted up red
watching the vampires
that come around during the day
eating up everything holy
they can stuff into the pot- pie
grabbing at something pink and wholesome
and smashing it to bits
taking my pretty little lips
to the dark side of town near the freeway
where love is cheap and
no one is thirsty
and they stand in line for hours
to get a glimpse of the king
I heard was still alive and well
and scalping tickets on Sundays
in front of Our Lady of perpetual coping

Fractures

You are infuriating, he said
(I try, I said)
You drive me wild
(I am wild)
You forget to call
(my heart was calling
I hoped, you had
heard it)

Let’s get away, you said
(I am afraid to fly)
Let’s remember what we
wanted when we started
(I adore you)
I need a break, you say
(you broke me)

You are loud in public
(I wanted you to see me)
You keep to yourself
(it is safer that way)
I adore you
(I feel adored)
I want you
(I wanted you first)

Caught

The screen door is open and I walk in. Jeremy likes it open so I don’t nag anymore. I smell spaghetti. He cooked? I hear his voice and call out to him. He walks out of the den as if he has not heard me, his hand resting at the small of the back of a blonde who looks familiar. Is she Jack’s teacher? I duck around the corner. I want to catch him in the act. I am furious when I see my favourite red pumps dangling from her fingers, as they walk through the kitchen and out the door. He closes and locks it and I run out the side way to watch from around the garage. They take off in -presumably-<em> her</em> burgundy BMW and I grab my bike and hop on, hurrying to keep abreast of where they are headed. They don’t go far, turning off the side entrance of the old arboretum where we used to walk. I am crushed. Why would Jeremy cheat on me?

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