Tag Archives: Grief

going up the hill to the house, we

 

going up the hill to the house, we
saw flowers that she loved, and picked them
black eyed susans, sweet williams, daisies, columbine.
we gripped them in our plump warm hands.
by the time we made it, panting,
having stopped for toads and all the small things,
we presented them to her half-wilted.
“ragweed gives me allergies” she would say, plucking one of them out.
the rest would go in a vase of honor on the kitchen table
a small token of each others’ love.

going down the hill to the creek, we
see flowers that she loved, and pluck them
dandelions, sweet williams, violets, asters.
at the bottom trickles clear water
over mossy gray rocks
and we tip her ashes in.
they are white
like her hair
pure white
like her devotion
white like the sugar in her blood
white
like the angels she adored.
they swirl the water opaque
atop it we scatter the flowers
a painter’s palette of Missouri colors
blackberry, butter yellow, sap green, slate.

the sandy ashes sink.
it takes a full hour for them to wisp away
grain by grain into the gentle landscape.
we’re used to waiting for her.
no matter how we tried to rush,
she always did move slowly,
tasting her fine wine time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

I knew a man

 

I knew a man,
though not very well.
A nice man
now dead
from pneumonia.

We were all looking sideways at S——
with her regrowing cancer hair
but death came at us
from an unexpected direction.
I wasn’t even aware he was sick
until Friday.

On Saturday
I cut off the tip of my finger.
It’s not often I am afraid
but I was
truly
afraid.
I pressed my finger into my palm to stem the bleeding.
It felt deformed. Too short, too flat.
I didn’t want to know what it looked like.

A reminder of my mortality
too close
too close.

On Monday
we get the office email.
He has died. We grieve his passing.
The office is quiet
with heavy atmosphere.

Somebody has set
a vase of flowers
outside his office door.
They have been placed there
very gently
by honoring hands,
sad hands.

We need
to honor the dead.
We decorate their haunts.
We create ceremonies.
We save mementos.
We tell stories.

I only knew this man by sight.
Another office worker
someone who helped grease the cogs
of our mutual machine.
We might wave or nod.
He had a habit
of muttering to himself
funny, quirky things.
I would pick up snatches of his internal dialog
when I walked by.
How well did he know me?

My finger is stiff with scab.
I worry at it, clean it, unwrap it, rewrap it.
It will have to last me
a few years longer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

Still There

 

Anthony touched the pendant around his neck. It had been made for a girl, but he kept it under his shirt and nobody seemed to notice.

He felt the reassuring carved pattern. It was still there.

Last month he had almost left it at a friend’s house after using her shower. When he’d noticed it missing, he felt physically ill. Fortunately his friend had found it. She gave it back to him without questions. She hadn’t needed an explanation. She knew.

He rubbed his thumb over the pattern. It was wearing flat already from his constant fidgeting with it. He had to stop or it would break. He sighed. He couldn’t wear the necklace forever. It wouldn’t last. It was just a cheap dollar store necklace.

He could follow her.

He watched the blood pulse in his wrists. He felt the thumping of his heart. He relished the feeling of his active brain and functional, painless eyeballs.

She wouldn’t have wanted him to.

Tink.

The charm fell off of the necklace, and he caught it in his absently fiddling fingers without thinking. He fished it out of his shirt and examined it.

Bright red flowers. The small plastic loop which connected it to the chain had finally torn through.

He would never be able to repair it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

Pancakes Only

 

I’m not sure whether this is good or not, but here it is anyway. I don’t know, I can’t focus and should not have attempted to edit this today. I wrote this when I woke up after a dream about a ghost, and there’s nary a ghost in it, but there sure are a lot of pancakes.

It’s either very sweet, very disjointed, or fine… or not fine. Maybe it’s just my head that’s disjointed.

 


 

 

Babbo Babbino was a round man, full of Italian cheer. He spent most of his time running the diner on 21, so when his family went to his funeral, they were shocked to find another family there, already grieving.

Momma was a shy, withdrawn woman, not an Italian but a WASP. She saw the family, swallowed all her feelings, and nodded formally at them.

“A funeral is not the place to fight, Marcia,” she warned her daughter.

So Marcia didn’t fight. But she studied this extra family during the eulogy, steaming. Had they known about her family? They didn’t look surprised. The other woman held her head defiant, straight, wearing her scarlet letter like a point of pride, another Italian by the look of her. As for her daughter, she looked embarrassed to be here. There was high color on her cheeks. She clearly hadn’t wanted to come to this. She was very pretty. Prettier than Marcia, with pure bold Italian features and jet black hair which held a high gloss. Marcia had inherited her mother’s mousy brown, thin, soft, impossible hair, which frazzled at the mere mention of humidity. Had they spoken Italian together with her father?

She hated them so much.

After the funeral, her mother went to speak to them. They both began the conversation looking scared and tense, but before long her mother cracked a smile at something she’d said. They had found common ground. The woman, encouraged, commenced to tell her story after story about Babbo. Soon they were chatting like old school friends.

Her mother turned to call her over but was startled by Marcia’s glare. Her voice caught and fell. Marcia gave each one of them an acid look and stormed to her car.

She drove angry, not thinking, and surprised herself by coming to a stop at the diner. Well… work always did help when she was troubled. So she unlocked the door, ensuring the sign stayed flipped to closed. Nobody would come anyway. All the regulars were at the funeral.

Pancakes. That was all she wanted to make right now. Pancakes always helped.

She whipped together the batter (always from scratch as her father had taught her) in their biggest bowl, and started frying.

The bubbles settled into the top of the first pancake, and she flipped it. It was a little bit too pale.

He always loved her pancakes. She could never make them perfect every time, as he did. But he ate them and he laughed his generous laugh. And at what point in his day would he go visit the other family? Did he make pancakes for her, too? Did he call her his little chef? Did he laugh when she folded one of them in half, or sprayed batter on the floor?

Thinking back, he had spent more than a few nights away from home. Momma had always shrugged it off as business trips, and Marcia had believed her, never thinking to question it. Momma must have always known, or at least suspected. This was why she had taken their presence at the funeral so well.

A pancake was burning.

She wasn’t cooking well. All this was pointless without someone to feed. She had too many pancakes, and needed to share.

She went out, flipped the sign, and taped up an extra handwritten notice which said, “pancakes only today!”

Now that there was the prospect of customers, things were different. She focused, cleaned up, started the coffee, set out the bacon and sausage and blueberries, whipped together more batter.

Customers slowly streamed in. It was a slow day, which was good since she was alone and had a lot of work to do.

“Just pancakes today,” she called as each customer came in.

Nobody minded. And she lost herself in the pancakes, the orders, the change, the pouring coffee, the frying bacon, and the heaps of fresh, golden, perfect pancakes. There was nothing but food in her brain for several hours, and life settled into perfect mundanity. As she navigated around the kitchen, she could hear the clanking spatulas and hissing grills, and layered behind that, imperceptible to all but her, the sound of Babbo’s song and laugh. She found herself humming one of his songs.

Until the bell rang, and in walked the other mother and daughter. Marcia froze in her work and hid, watching them from behind the shelves. The mother seemed to have been here before, but the daughter looked around the diner with piercing curiosity.

The daughter had never been to the diner.

Never been to the diner?

Marcia thought of the long hours she’d spent with her dad, learning how to cook. The waiting tables, the sound of his clatter and singing in the kitchen. Imagining him without this diner as a backdrop, her memories came up surprisingly empty. What kind of a Babbo did they even know? How could they possibly have a complete picture of him without knowing this diner?

“Pancakes only,” she said. She eyed the daughter… no, her younger sister. “I could use some help.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

Being There

 

My friend wants to see me.

I’m sad, she says. Someone has died.

I’m here for you, I say.

Of course I’m not there.

I’m 150 miles away.

You can come by, I say.

She drives all the way here.

I consider making her brownies

But I’m too tired even for box mix

Having had a headache all day.

She comes in

Brings me chocolate.

I give her hugs

I give her a clean bed

I give her little else.

I feel useless.

We don’t have much time to talk

She has to get up early.

I wish I could do more

Even when she feels like this

She has made all the effort

She has brought me gifts

She

has blessed

me

On her sad day.

 

Maybe it’s nice to spoil someone else

Maybe it helps.

At least that’s what I’m telling myself.

Sometimes I forget

How generous she is.

How I am often the selfish one

When she is around.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

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