TRIUMPH OF SPIRIT IN LOVE, NATURE & ART

Posts tagged “loss

The Breath of Love

 

Until I can connect with my Muse again and develop a New York City aesthetic that connects with Spirit I rely on revising old writing and photographs…

I awaken to moonlight– it is at that particular slant that lights up the front yard at 3 AM.  What really has awakened me is my husband’s breathing.  It is labored like he has just run up a flight of stairs.  At times I awaken because I do not hear his breath and some alarm goes off in my head to check him.  And if I can not hear him breathing I put my hand lightly on his chest so as not to wake him to see if I can feel the his heart beating.  Feeling it pulsing in my hand I am reassured once more.  I am not alone in this.  My sister-in-law confides in me that she wakes up at night to listen to my brother to see if he is still breathing.  My first-grade friend says much the same.  She does a breathing check on her husband.  Our husbands are relatively well.  They have diabetes, heavy smoking and drinking, a delicate frame among them, but they are not on death’s door so far as we know.  And yet we are plagued by morbid fears.

In the wee hours of morning fears loom large.  My husband’s heartbeat, a mere flutter, seems so delicate.  I am reassured that it is beating just as I am reassured that he is breathing.  But the breath itself is so fragile.  It scares me awe-fully– the fragility of the breath, the fine line between breathing and cessation of breath.

I prowl the house.  Through the skylight the stars beam brightly along with a shining half moon.  A clear day tomorrow.  But it is already tomorrow.  It is so still my ears hum.  My husband, who knows so many interesting things, tells me the humming I hear is the sound of the nervous system.  Our bodies hold such mystery.

I look out the window, now hearing my neighbor’s dogs barking quietly.  I look for coyote thinking that is what they are barking at, but see nothing.  The moonlit grass on the lawn is whitish silver, looking almost as if it had snowed, and the water in the marsh sparkles in the moonlight.  The deep woods behind are pitch dark, the home of many a creature. Nothing stirs.  It is too early for the birds.  The house across the way is always dark; it is up for sale.  And in the other direction, at this hour, no lights shine in the driveway of the house down the road.

I am reminded of a line from a poem by Tagore “Faith is the bird that feels the light when the dawn is still dark.”  I am at my most faithless at 3 AM.

Along with the supreme beauty of Tagore’s thoughts, a frivolous line from an old song runs through my head: “There ought to be a moonlight savings time…” and the line continues so there would be more time for loving.  But moonlight in the middle of the night also brings with it intense dreads.

Now chilled I finally go back to bed. An owl hoots in the distance– a reassuring sound.  My husband is breathing freely now.  His body is warm in the bed and I am filled with love for him as he lays in a heap, so trustingly in the arms of sleep.  Our marriage a wonder.  Unexpected.  An endless source of ever increasing love brimming not only with joy but also the dread of loss.  Perhaps all wives check their husbands for breathing.  Perhaps there is an army of women out there prowling the wee hours of the night, at times by moonlight, checking on their husbands, their children, their animals to see that they all have that breath of life flowing.

“There is one way of breathing that is shameful and constricted. Then, there’s another way: a breath of love that takes you all the way to infinity.”  Rumi said that.  And it is breath of love that I must master.

 

 


R.I.P. “Rabbit” with Love, Mouse

My friend
My friend with cancer
My friend
My friend who had chemo
Three runs of chemo
Radiation
Two surgeries
My friend who was cured
Whose cancer had gone
My friend who was cured
Who wanted to write a book
Who wrote to me often
Who listened to me with Heart
My friend
Where did he go?
Why did he die?
Why when he was starting anew
With his wife who stood by him
Helped him when he was sick
Why did he die?
I want to know
Where did he go?
I want to know if the chemo
Killed him
Chemo
It did not help my father,
My mother, my brother
My best friend
I thought I was wrong
I thought this time it helped my friend
Yes, it helped him alright
It killed him!
Why did he have to die?
Why?
My friend, “Rabbit,” Rest in Peace
Love forever, Mouse

 

 


Tyranny of Mind

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4AM
and you a warm lump
under the covers
of Morpheus

Me wide awake
eyes moist with tears
I write
lest I forget
the vulnerability of you
yesterday

lest one day
you ARE no longer
a day of dread
so locked into desire
for your presence am I
fearful of the future
lest it tears me from you
or me from you

Not yet awake

to the wisdom
of the sages and the ages
to live forever in the present

“Until death do us part”

The import of those words
have begun to resound
with a fierce vengeance
now decades later

The treasure of you
multiplies like the loaves and fishes

I fear a famine
not of food
but of your presence

I try to hold each wrinkled emotion
on your face
in a forever place
lest you be torn from me

The specter of loss
hangs over me
haunting our life together

And yesterday
when you cried
when you disguised your tears
with embarrassed laughter
your eyes dripped diamonds,
sparkling as they fell
in response to mine

I crying because
there will never be
a “happily ever after”
at our age
sure as shooting
death will come
and rip us asunder

Perhaps our love
will be born again
in Samsara
but it is a “perhaps”
without a guarantee

My faith is faint

My heart shudders
and flutters
under the threat
of separation
as you lay
a lump of warmth
in the land of Nod

Our love a fairy tale
in a fierce steely reality
of endings.

“Unless we can discover that basic ground of goodness in our own lives, we cannot hope to improve the lives of others.”
Chogyam Trungpa


“My Eyes are Leaking”

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The world a watery blur

one less source of joy and laughter

on this ailing earth

a delight to so many

in so many ways

“My eyes are leaking”

(Robin Williams as the alien on “Mork and Mindy”)


The Reign of Pain

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Tears,years, fears, pain, pane, rain, car, far, are you there, somewhere?

I can’t hear you.  I can’t see you.  I can’t feel you.  Any more.

Why did you have to die?  Why did you have to go?

Your kids bleed for you, you know.

Your wife aches for you, you know.

I pine for you, you know.

Your absence is our has been.

Attachment our sin.

And in this reign

of pain we fail

we ail

each in our own ways.

It may be a thin veil

 that divides our souls but

why then does it feel like an iron curtain

 creating the great divide

between our being and your nothingness?

(Written for the three year anniversary of my brother’s death.)


Good Friday Prayer

In death, decay

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blurred tears

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yet the promise of new life

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Overloaded Circuits: a Poem for World Bipolar Day, March 30, 2014

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I’m in somnia

with jackhammer brain

a buzzing mind

a humming with emotions

thoughts and pictures

memories of joys

lost to death

spirits close to my heart

seemingly worlds away

guilt, loss and happiness

sickness and death

as well as

breathtaking beauty

a bedfellow with

gnawing worries

and gnashing nerves

fleeting images from films and

music playing at high speed

in the library of my mind

voices of today, yesterday and

fears of tomorrow

vying for an ear

asking me to listen

to them all

all at once

a cacophony of sounds

in the humming silence

of the specter-filled

haunting darkness

with fearsome death dangling

its loathsome threats

before my darting eyes

afraid not for myself

but of losing him

as he lies beside me

breathing noises

breeding worry, sorry

dashing thoughts of love, passion, doubts

a scarily-still lump beside

insomniac-hyper-racing-mind

manic me

finally arising out of

maudlin months

of dismal darkness

and deep, dark despair

when death smelled sweet to me

*

I get out of bed

to lay my face

upon the windowsill

to gaze at the mystery sky

full of twinkling stars

glittering to the rhythms

of the pulsing universe

my only hope for some

semblance of somnolence

my only chance for peace.

For info on my Bipolar memoir, please see: http://www.independentauthornetwork.com/ellen-stockdale-wolfe.html


Cowboys and the “Dallas Buyer’s Club”

About three minutes into “Dallas Buyers Club” I just knew I was going to love it.  Well, I more than loved it. I absolutely adored it and watched it twice. Why? Apart from being a highly meaningful piece of art with political overtones with which I concur, here was a film about the cowboy in my life. My brother.
*
No, my brother didn’t die of AIDS or HIV. He was not a drug addict and he was as straight as they come. I was the one with the homosexual experiences in my family.  My brother didn’t even die of cirrhosis of the liver, though God knows he drank enough. No, my brother died of lung cancer at age 57.
*
Let me back up and give a synopsis of the film from Wikipedia for those of you who are not familiar with it: ‘”Dallas Buyers Club” is a 2013 American biographical drama film, directed by Jean-Marc Vallée and written by Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack. Matthew McConaughey stars as the real-life AIDS patient Ron Woodroof, who smuggled unapproved pharmaceutical drugs into Texas when he found them effective at improving his symptoms, distributing them to fellow sufferers by establishing the “Dallas Buyers Club” while facing opposition from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).”
*
Like Woodroof, Tony was a hard drinking, hard-living, tough-as-nails cowboy who worked on thoroughbred horse farms for awhile as a groom. He got into trouble from time to time but he was blessed with a good, big heart. And, unlike Ron he lived long enough to turn his life around and live an exemplary life I cannot begin to touch.  He married, settled down, became a wheelchair artisan and adopted three kids. He wound up doing volunteer work, too, therapeutic riding with handicapped kids. Things Ron might have done had he had the chance. Ron has a line in the film where he talks about wanting a family. But he died too young.
*
So did Tony. His cowboy life in Michigan was cut short when he was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer at age 54.  He was given 4 months to live. Dead set on fighting and aiming to win, he had chemo and radiation.  I sent him doo-rags when his hair fell out. I did Reiki on him.  And he did his God-damnedest to stay alive. All for his kids. He dropped down to 90 pounds, walked and looked like a dark-skinned, Latino Ron Woodroof at his most emaciated. It was heartbreaking to see this once rugged, handsome cowboy wearing long sleeves in the middle of a blistering summer so as not to scare people with his stick-insect arms.
*
Damn, the movie had guts! Power, too, in spades. Just like Ron Woodroof and his beautiful transvestite partner in business, Rayon. Just like my brother, and just like so many fighting for their lives.  Ron outlived the 30 day sentence the doctors gave him when he was first diagnosed HIV, and he lived some seven more years.  Tony lived three years after the initial prediction of four months. Chemo was hell for one week out of the month followed by three relatively good weeks. Relative is the word here. Tony told me time and again he was doing all this for the kids.
*
The Rons, the Rayons and the Tonys of the world– they are the unknown, unsung heroes of daily life. Ron Woodroof became famous  thanks to the producers, writers, actors and all who made this movie jump from the page to the screen to brilliant, vibrant life.  I thank them for telling the stories of Ron and Rayon. Stories that needed desperately to be told. Ron Woodroof made good in his own hustling way. So did my brother.
*
It was great seeing Tony again, even if only in metaphor. I cried plenty from the get-go and again the second time around, but even aside from my brother, would have anyhow. The characters, the movie was THAT poignant, counterpointed by humor, too. What a fantastic whirlwind of a life was portrayed in this outstanding, almost phantasmagorical film.

Tom Attwater Is Dying. His Daughter Might Die, Too. The Letter He Left For Her Is Unforgettable.

To see a video of Tom reading this letter, click on:

http://kindnessblog.com/2014/02/20/tom-attwater-dying-of-cancer-reads-the-letter-he-wrote-to-his-daughter-kelli/


Spirits Past and the Mystical Bliss of Horses

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It is almost Christmas, and my birthday, and today I cried reading an old birthday email from my sister.  She signed it “Lisa the Pizza, Tony Baloney and the rest of the gang ‘up there’,” meaning my brother, and my mother and father.

“Tony  Baloney” died two years and a half ago, leaving behind three adopted children whom he adored and who adored him, and a loving wife.  My father and mother died 25 and 20 years ago, as impossible as that seems.  Dad and Mom died this time of year.  And my best friend, Wendi, died shortly after.  All of cancer of some sort or the other.  But they all loved horses.

We now live in Millbrook — horse country.  Horse farms dot the countryside.  My father and mother and Wendi would have adored it.  My brother was the only one to visit Millbrook, coming with his family whom we put  up at a nearby horse ranch. They all  had the time of their lives.  One of my fondest memories of my brother is from that visit.  We are holding hands as he is relaxing after a day of riding with his kids.  He is drinking and smoking (what eventually killed him) and we are taking in the sunset on the porch of the dude ranch.

I love horses, too.  It is in my blood.  Dad played the horses and my brother worked on several racetracks, including Belmont.  Now I abhor horse-racing,  finding it cruel.  My brother had horror stories to tell of how the horses were drugged and run hurting.  I have seen horses being put down– all for a senseless sport.  Dad and I would quarrel about this if he were still alive.

I remember stroking a horse once at a show nearby and the bliss I felt was mystical in a most spiritual way.  I wanted that moment to last forever.  And the happiest I have ever seen my husband was on a moonlit ride we took in a canyon in Arizona on our honeymoon.  Horses bring happiness. My husband knows it. Dad knew it.  Tony knew it, Wendi knew it and to some extent, Mom knew it.

Too old to ride now I pet horses when I can, and admire them as we drive by horse farms.  I photograph them when the spirit moves me.  I ache inside for my parents who would have adored it here in our little barn.  For my brother, the cowboy, as different from me as night and day, but bonded by a deep love and shared losses.  For my friend, Wendi, with whom I shared a not-to-be replicated link of love.  Merry Christmas, Tony Baloney, Mom, Dad, Wendi!

My blessing comes from the love I share with my husband who married me despite my mental illness. It comes, too,  from our spiritual connection to nature. I admire my husband who works with society’s outcasts as a clinical social worker.  My giving is on a much smaller scale– tiny things here and there– online activism and such.  You play the hand you are dealt.

Christmas can be a hard time, and New Year’s, too, and I know there will be the inevitable meltdown into tears over losses of loved ones, over mortality, over our material nature.  And perhaps you will also have your own moment of bleakness.  But I hope that you, too, will be able to touch your bliss at Christmas and find a blossoming hope for the new year.

Blessings of joy to all!!


An Apparition

Apparition

Here one second,

the next, gone,

with traces only in our hearts.

The ephemeral nature

of all life.

Our loved ones,

people and creatures,

here with us

for a pause in eternity

and gone for seeming eons.

            *

It is as the Hindus say

all “Maya,”

a dream of life,

an apparition,

some form of us

awakens one day

somewhere

we know not

when or where or how

right now.


The Spiders’ Secret

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A chill wind blows the yellowing leaves off the trees. They drift down to the ground like giant snowflakes. The air is pregnant with the feel of the coming holidays. Fall has truly come, with the sudden drop in temperatures, a full 10-20 degrees cooler than a few weeks ago. This is the real Fall, no faltering Fall, but a Fall that will guide us appropriately into winter. November appears as a mirror image of March with its vibrant color of decay, while March is the decaying color of about-to-burst-forth Spring.

The birds are at the bird feeder all the time now. They are not stopped by our presence when we come to fill the feeder or blow leaves under it. Nothing stops them. They swoop around the feeder and the surrounding trees like Kamikaze pilots, darting here and there recklessly. The squirrels are in a frenzy as well, stock piling acorns and walnuts which they will retrieve without fail in a month or so in a snow-covered land.

To me, the trees are most beautiful at this time of year, when many of them are bare and a scattering of leaves remain on dark brown branches. The leaves that remain quiver daintily in their precarious positions on the tree limbs. Yet these are the survivors. The other leaves have fallen and gone the way all living things eventually go. Most trees have lost all their leaves and they stand in stark contrast against the blue sky, the stormy sky, the grey sky.  But I find them most beautiful against the night sky, with arms reaching up to the darkness, trying to touch the stars twinkling between the branches, as moonlight dances on their limbs.

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November holds the last glimmer of color. A carpet of yellow lines the woods now– and one can see inside the woods that are so dark and impenetrable in summer. Some forests have carpets of oak leaves– dark brown tan in color. Others are paved with variegated colors– vibrant crimsons against yellows and faded greens and tawny tans. The un-mown lawns are now taken over by the spiders covering the fields.  At precious moments, one can see a world of webs that only appears in a certain slant of sunlight and reveal a silent take-over by the spiders in webs that sparkle secretly, mirroring the infinite web of creation.

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The yellow, brown, and crimson leaves are complemented by the ubiquitous yellow, brown and crimson mums that appear on the roadside near mail boxes, on porches or along driveways. These tough little flowers withstand frosty chills and stand tall throughout most of November– hearty, generous souls, so giving in their colorful, velvety splendor.

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Halloween pumpkins begin to sag a bit or shine with wetness as if encased in glass. They will soon be tossed– pine combs, wreaths and fir swags to take their places, and the season of lights will begin. Anticipation hangs in the air. Autumn seems the fastest season to come and go. I try treasuring each moment, but the minute/hours/days just sift through my fingers like so many grains of sand. Then Christmas/Hanukkah comes and fades in a flash and we are into the Nor’Easter blizzards of January. Another year is gone and a new one has come. Would that we could be in forever in the season of love, but it is also a season of loneliness and loss and darkness. It is good we are defenseless against time.

Now, at Thanksgiving, it is our time to give thanks. Inspired by the Native Americans, let us thank the earth. Let us give thanks to the trees for their constantly changing beauty, to the stars for their piercing presence in the night sky, to the leaves for their inspiring colors, to the sun for its life-giving power.  Let us thank the Spring for its awakening hope, the Summer for its warm, thriving growth, the Fall for its beauteous bounty, to the Winter for a time of renewal.  Let us thank the soon-to-come snow for its hushed, white silence that transforms our world, to all the animals for their pure souls, to our families and friends for their precious love, and, lastly, but mostly, to the Higher Power of our belief for the macrocosm of creation.

Happy Thanksgiving and may you each be blessed with the all-embracing, pervasive, pulsating Love in Nature.


Tempus Fugit

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Poof!

After awaiting September all summer, the month of the Autumnal Equinox came and is almost gone.  I try desperately to stop time, clinging to each day, to no avail.  These next few months, my favorite time of year, go by in a flash, like sand sifting through my fingers.  Poof!  In a flash the trees turn beauteous, with variegated flames of color.  Poof!  The leaves are gone.

First, there is the change in light.  The sun, still hot in mid-September, does not pack the punch it did in July, when one could be outdoors for an hour and come in with a change in skin color. Temperatures cool.  The grass starts to stop growing.  The “blood” of the trees starts to flow back into the trunk, causing leaves to change color. Walnuts, acorns and apples fall.   Butterflies, so rampant outdoors in August, have gone inside the stomach of many a child as they go back to school. Even adults are not immune.  Many feel the flutter of “back-to-school” anxiety come Fall.  Summer vacations are a memory and it is time to “honker down” at work.  Fall offers a new beginning but there is a tinge of anxiety in facing some thing new.

And most of all, Fall is a time of riotous color, when a walk in the woods finds one reveling like a drunk, besotted by the yellow, orange, crimson, russet world which our eyes imbibe like a hefty cocktail.  It is a time when Italian comes to the lips in a loud “Que bella!!”  The green of summer is bucolic and raises the spirit, but the many colors of fall intoxicate.  People start talking of peak color, and leafing becomes the pastime of many.  It is the time to plant bulbs and endlessly rake blowing leaves.

But Fall is a time of melancholia, too. Flowers die.  Reptiles go into hibernation.  Insects die or overwinter.  Songbirds migrate.  Trees eventually loose their leaves.  And the end of the lazy days of summer brings with it shorter days, longer nights, and concomitant depression for those with Seasonal Affective Disorder.  Moments of sobriety seep into intoxication with the new world of color as we may remember loved ones who can no longer share the beauty–who can no longer enjoy those coveted, cooler, crisp days of September when coolness kisses the cheeks.  For autumn is a celebration of endings, too, perhaps best described by the French poet, Guillaume Appollinaire, in his poem Autumn:

“A bowlegged peasant and his ox receding

through the mist slowly through the mist of autumn…

Oh the autumn the autumn has been the death of summer

In the mist there are two gray shapes receding.”

(Click http://www.independentauthornetwork.com/ellen-stockdale-wolfe.html  for information on, and to purchase my Bipolar/Asperger’s memoir.


Abandonata

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Abandoned by life

choked by overgrowth of unkempt green

once upon a time

breathing, seething with energy

steaming with the hot breath of cattle

teaming with the tenuous tenure of life

*

Your body long gone

your loving heart now ashes

your caring now a memory

which nothing can erase

and time cannot erode.

*

How I long for thee

though a mere thin veil

separates your spirit from me

small comfort

when I miss thee mightily.


“Life Goes On”

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“Life Goes On”

*

That’s what Dad always said,

Remember, Tony?

My dear swarthy brother,

dark of skin,

warm of heart,

we shared the same hazel eyes,

a mix of Mom’s Sicilian brown

and Dad’s brilliant blue.

We lived separate lives,

you in Michigan,

me in New York,

you with three adopted children,

me, childless with Ko-ko and Tom.

You weren’t supposed to DIE!

You and I were to be

fellow way-farers

on the road through life.

We were to live parallel lives

and you were supposed to die

when you were old and feeble,

not middle-aged,

in a tortured death!

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

*

“Life goes on.”

*

Today I light a candle

on my altar to you and Mom and Dad

and send you Reiki

like I did while you fought for your life

for two years

after a prognosis of two months.

My heart aches

on this second anniversary

of your death.

*

“Life goes on.”

*

Your wife, your children, and I

cry out for you

but you have moved on to some higher form.

You paid your karmic dues,

with your diagnosis, cancer.

Long before,

you always told me

not to worry,

that you’d live long because

only the good die young.

But you were too good

and you died far too young

and I live on in my little, reclusive life,

Ko-ko no longer here,

just me and Tom.

I should have been the one to go

but the good die young.

*

“And life goes on.”


The Leaf Devoured

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Water droplets magnify

the verdant veins

 through which

the life giving  blood flows

through which

the life giving source

that keeps

giving life

 keeps

life going

despite the wear and tear

of an alien attack

by a catapulting caterpiller

that offers another creature

 a world within world

in which to live.

Despite

bitten tears,

bitter tears,

the leaf will live green

through the summer

and then shrivel to crimson,

life blood draining

and it will cry no more

as it drops dead

from the branch

where it lived

for a few short months.


Two Lips of Forever Love

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He didn’t “get it,

the “loss thing,”

when my aunt died mid-April,

and I lost my second mother.

Didn’t “get it” when I lost my first.

This was not the only time

he was lost in oblivion and

puzzled by my tears.

            *

He didn’t see me hurting

from the loss of my lineage,

and his lack of empathy for my grief

as he made me meet and greet

a friend the next day, as if all was normal.

This time I balked, bolder and older,

and he agreed it was time to ponder

and talk with his mentor.

            *

When he came home

one night days later,

full of hugs of apology,

and tulips on the kitchen counter,

it was a breakthrough for us both.

It took a few days

but what came out

brought tears upon tears.

           *

Not having grown up

with emotional displays

he didn’t “get” the meaning of loss.

With no models of grief

he didn’t know how to feel it himself

nor how to give solace,

not just lip service,

to those who had lost.

          *

 I cried for him.

How very sad, as a child

he didn’t know the love I knew.

He, a sensitive child,

in an icebox family

fraught with frigid emotion,

and warm, deep affection only

from his great-aunt, Dot.

        *

He brought me pink tulips,

flowers of a contrite heart,

and held me close

and kissed me

with lips full of apologies

but I was the one

who felt sorry for him

for the years he knew not love.

*

Twenty-eight years ago

God told me “Love this man,

trust him and have faith in him,

and hold him to your heart.”

Many moons later, I love him light-years

more than the day we met

and in then-unimaginable ways

has our love strove for the stars.

*

He has brought me:

kindness and gentleness,

generosity of spirit,

goodness of heart,

and healing humor.

What I have taught him:

the glories of love

and agony of loss.

        *

From the beginning

the seed of love was sown

for better or worse

deeply within the parched,

but fertile soil of my imperfect heart.

And he has cultivated the growth

of a stalwart, staid evergreen,

amid the blooming two-lips of forever love.


The Line is Dead

She’s finally gone

after fighting for life for

6 months of painful half-life

and multiple causes of death.

               *

Gone is my last link

with Grandma and Grandpa

and happy days in Larchmont,

Grandpa playing the mandolin,

me dancing,

and Grandma cooking

unimaginable treats.

Happy days in Larchmont,

the Larchmont one weekend

Aunt Nina and I revisited

with our respective spouses

and cried tears of nostalgia.

                     *

Aunt Nina died Saturday,

the last of the LaMannas,

the aunt who knit the best-ever

Christmas stockings for

my brother and sister and me

which I still drag out every year.

The aunt who let me

play with her jewelry

in her blue bedroom

in Larchmont

with light that slid in

through the venetian blinds

and danced a jitterbug

atop Renoir prints,

with twin beds

covered in puff-ball bed spreads,

kept so clean by Grandma and

Aunt Nina wanting to sleep

and me pestering her to play.

                    *

Aunt Nina took me home once by taxi,

back to the city I hated

when I was sick.

She nursed me on the ride

And said “hang in there”

and held my hand

as I said to her a month ago

as she lay shriveled into a ghost

of her former self.

          *

Gone are the days

of spaghetti and meatballs,

Arancini and sugar cookies,

wine and mandolin,

chewing gum in the desk,

watching at the windows

with Grandpa, as evening

fell all around.

Days of Big Grandma Castiglione

in her light-filled, white-tiled,

lace-curtained, one-room apartment,

with holy water font

and the smell of steam

in the yellow kitchen.

             *

Gone are the days of

visiting Nina as she raised

her two “adopted angels”

as they were called,

and, who, with my uncle, she crafted

into two magnificent children

and later had four grandchildren

who adored them both.

Larchmont repeated.

            *

Gone are the days of

visiting Aunt Nina in Kent, CT

and later in Danbury,

now much older and

with my husband whom

Aunt Nina and Uncle Ray

welcomed with open arms

and grew to love,

my husband of almost 24 years

who never knew this love as a child

and so does not know its loss.

            *

Gone are the days

of a phone call

every few weeks,

Aunt Nina always seeming

happy to hear my voice as

she exclaimed “Ellen!”

as we talked about problems:

difficulties in the best of marriages

the downhill spiral of my Mom

after Dad died,

Nina giving support while

my husband and I cared for Mom

during her difficult path to death,

Aunt Nina listening to me recount

the downhill spiral of my brother

as he spent 3 years

dying of lung cancer.

And we talked of our

problems with anxiety

and later of her sorrow and fears

as her friends were dying

and she was fighting Parkinson’s,

bravely shouldering through every day.

           *

Gone are the days

of pasta salads and olives

and prosciutto and provolone

as Aunt Nina and Uncle Ray

visited our little barn upstate,

where we laughed and laughed

in the Memorial Days sunshine.

          *

Gone gone gone

my Italian heritage,

the last of my blood elders.

Aunt Nina was there

For 63 years,

All of my life

and all I can do

is cry

and try

to imitate

her admirable character.

For the Lord giveth and

the Lord taketh away

but why such pain

when he taketh away?

          *

Because love grew

year by year

visit by visit

phone call by phone call.

I did thank her,

before the end began,

in a foresightful note,

telling how great an aunt she was.

God put the thought in my head,

and for that I am grateful,

for now it is too late

for now the line is dead.


That Extra Squeeze

P1100919?

Hold your dear ones a little closer today

Give them an extra squeeze as you say goodbye

*

Rejoice in making their breakfasts

and doing their dishes

and mending their socks

or working in a job you hate

to keep them

housed, clothed and fed

For the work you do means

they are still alive

*

The horror of terror

has struck again

on our soil

What is de rigeur

in other countries

has happened here

and shaken us

out of our complacency

Terror “there”

is now terror “here”

*

Hold your dear ones a little closer today

Give them an extra squeeze as you say goodbye

For after yesterday

many cannot

*

And pray for the first responders

and their families

the unhailed heroes of our land

who face bad odds everyday

*

Hold your dear ones a little closer today

Give them your blessing as you say goodbye

For each goodbye could be the last

has always been true

but terrorism has taken that truth

and shoved it in your face

*

Hold your dear ones a little closer today


Swarms

265

The attack

not killer bees

nor locusts

nor hornets

nor any insect

but the contents

of the mind

 

Tied up in knots

not safe

not secure

not strong

not peace

 

Sick with

the plague of fears

negative thoughts

insidious

invidious

poison

killing  joys

bringing tears

of pain

and loss

and grief

 

The swarms cloud the sun

taking away the Light

and all it enraptures

attacking

the very source

of life

Love


Fighting Back Against Death

It was great to see her even though

she teeters precariously on the brink between life and death.

It was great to see her even though

she struggles to talk, highly frustrated that she cannot.

It was great to see her even though

her body is shrunken into the tortured form of a little girl .

It was great to see her even though

she has a feeding tube and is black and blue all over.

It was great to see her even though

we do not know whether she wants to live like this or die,

or which is best.

It was great to see her even though

her suffering is so painful to watch that her highly devoted  husband cannot face it.

It was great to see her even though

once more the future seems bleak and black and I rail against God.

It was great to see her even though, and despite everything,

she cried when she heard we were coming, and she smiled when she saw us,

as we stroked her hair.

It was great to see her, because this may be our last visit

and yet she smiled when we said we’d come back to see her again.

It was great to see her, because even death lurking in the shadows,

cannot snatch away the memory of her happiness to see us.