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Wednesday, November 23

Sometimes


Sometimes
When I see grief barreling my way,
I turn my back, close my eyes, clench my teeth.
I fill my ears with noise and hope grief won't see me
hiding in all the chaos.

But sometimes,
When I feel its presence,
I sigh and whisper, "okay."
I let it break me for a few minutes or an hour
and then gingerly pick up my pieces and
unload the dishwasher or wipe the counter and

try to live
in the shadow of all that's missing.

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Wednesday, November 2

It's national novel-writing month, so here are a few hastily crafted words I wrote while under the influence of NyQuil.

...

Everything looks better covered in summer night. The newspapers half disintegrating on the sidewalk, the chipping swing set paint, my dull loneliness. The knot in my stomach loosens just a little as warm air wraps around everything like a blanket.
Night music follows me. My steady footsteps, rustling leaves, the distant sounds of cars growing close then growing far. As I walk, I paint descriptions in my head. Trees dripping leaves. Tire swings still echoing shrieking laughter. Shop lights creeping closer. As long as I can remember, I’ve done this. It’s the best way I know to bring the world sharply into focus, turning what I see into words to string about like Christmas lights. Without words, I find my mind floating, floating, floating, a boat without a rudder. It’s nice to float sometimes, but I ache for handfuls of concrete world most days. Breaths escaping like runaway children.
Up ahead, I see the bookstore. I stumbled upon it two nights ago and felt a burst of relief so sharp I almost wept. I’ve lived here three weeks and this bookstore is the closest thing I have to a friend. Before moving, I lived in the same city, same neighborhood, same house for thirteen years. I don’t remember how to make friends. I do remember how to fall soul-first into a good book.
A bell chimes as I open the door. The cashier, a red-headed boy with kind eyes, looks up. “Back so soon?”
I smile. “Live here if I could.”
He nods in a me too way before bending back over a stack of books.
I amble toward the realistic fiction section. Grazing my fingertips across rows of gleaming books, I scan titles, stopping occasionally to thumb through pages for favorite lines. Good lines are like pieces of candy you can suck on whenever you wish.
After working my way through four aisles, her. Toni Morrison. Writing that shakes you alive. Words that suck the air from a room.
I started with Sula last year and remember feeling like I had been knocked dizzy. My pen danced across the pages, underlining line after line. I wanted to guzzle her words. For a month I scrawled a different line from Sula on my wrist each morning. The first:“It is sheer good fortune to miss somebody long before they leave you.” The last: “I don’t want to make somebody else. I want to make myself.” I could have kept going but I let Megan borrow my copy. Plus my wrist had started to bleed purple pen onto my shirts.
After Sula, I read Beloved, Home, and Tar Baby. I’m going to finish all her words this summer. I pull Jazz, Bluest Eyes, and Song of Solomon off the shelf and sit cross legged on the floor. I read the first two pages of each and then place them side by side. I have enough money to buy two, but not three. I reread the first lines. No help. Finally I close my eyes and shuffle them about; without looking, I pick up two. Song of Solomon is the orphan book staring lonely from the floor. “I’m sorry,” I whisper, placing it reverently back on the shelf. “I’ll come back.”
I probably shouldn’t book whisper in a new city where no one knows me, but Song of Solomon just looked so rejected. I think the pages wilted a little when I put them back.

Walking home I notice just how many pieces of the world flew by without my noticing. A blue door, a crooked mailbox, a car plastered in bumper stickers. In my old neighborhood, I played a game with myself. Any time I walked somewhere I’d try to notice something I hadn’t before. You’d think eventually I’d lose after living in the same place for thirteen years, but I never did. Now my eyes catch on everything. Rooftops blinking through missing shingles. Windows framed by peeling yellow paint. Oil stains splattered across driveways like Jackson Pullock pieces.  
I string my surroundings together in fragmented descriptions until I notice, with a shock, that grass gleaming wet belongs to my house.

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Sunday, October 16

Like Your Hands


As the man hands me my change,
I notice that his hands look like your hands,
Before the hospital,
When we were able to hold them,
And you were able to hold us.


And as I collect two quarters and three pennies,
My stomach clenches
And I don’t think I’ll be able to eat the food I just bought
Because his hands look like yours.


And as I drive forward,
I remember that I’m driving into a life sentence of
Constant rememberings, all of them full of you,
And your absence,
And my anger,
And my grief.


And I think, for the thousandth time,
That I can’t wait to talk to you about all of this.
I can’t wait to tell you that I saw hands that looked like yours
And that they made me sad
And I can’t wait for you to tell me
How to live with this
Because you always did have the best answers,
Even if some of them were made up.


I want to ask you how I’m supposed to answer the question,
“How are you?” because my honesty is now laced with leaden heartache.
Does it make me disingenuous to say I’m okay or is the silent caveat I attach in my head enough to make my answer real?


And I can’t wait to hear
What you think about the way I listen to your voicemails and the way my face crumples and becomes a funhouse mirror.
Does it make you feel loved that I miss your voice this much,
Or does it make you sad to see me so broken?
What would you say to me if you saw me curled up on the floor with my phone and your voice and my tears?
Would you tell a joke to make me laugh?
Or would you hold me and agree that
Death is bullshit?


I know you’d hate the way people tell me it happened for a reason,
Because we both know that’s a cheap way for others to feel comfortable with a loss that has made me irrevocably unokay.
If you were here, we’d talk about the things people say because they’re afraid of grief and we’d talk about how they shove their sorrow in a closet with their doubts and their vulnerability and we’d talk about all this
Over bowls of ice cream on Sunday night.
And as we’d clear the dishes you’d say something like,
“But we’re all just people trying to figure things out,”
Because you look for the good in everyone,
Even the people who tell me your sudden death was for a reason.
You’d find some love even for them,
Because you’re so good at loving and living and being human,
Which is why this all makes me so angry.


Dad, how am I supposed to live,
When the hands handing me change
Look like your hands
But aren’t.

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Tuesday, September 20



Golden tears,
The price and reward of love,
Are memories cloaked in grief,
Shining as they
                           f
                                a
                                      l
                                           l

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Saturday, August 27

Their touches should burn one another, but-

my joy and grief hold hands, marching through moments like unexpected best friends. 

"Together," they whisper. "Together."

Sunday, August 21

Not That Girl

I recoil when people touch my shoulder, 
whisper, "I'm so sorry."

I want to tell them to take it back because
I am not that girl.

I am not the girl who lost her dad.

I can't be. 

The girl collecting a thousand sad stares, the girl with pocketfuls of ache, is carrying a burden with which I can't lock eyes.

For to look is to crumble.





And I already crumbled yesterday.

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Tuesday, July 12

Dear Dad


I can’t stand that all the stories I’ll want to tell you
Will have to be whispered to the sky
Instead of into your ear


And I can’t stand that when I wrap myself in blankets of memory,
Comfort is followed by sorrow, love by missing.


And I can’t stand that I know the answer to,
“Can humans run out of tears?”
Because I googled it twice.


And I can’t stand that I had to write your obituary 30 years too soon,
And I can’t stand that I wrote it in past tense.


And I can’t stand that Alan and Laura
Is just Laura now,
And that just Laura had to buy a casket and cemetery plot,
And had to fall asleep
In a bed that’s now too big.


And I can’t stand that you won’t get to hold my children,
To toss them in the air,
And read their favorite children’s books.


And I can’t stand that my children won’t know
How it feels to be loved by you,
As I am loved by you.


And I can’t stand that you aren’t going to call
As you edit photos,
Hoping, instead of music, to listen to the sounds of your family,
Because you loved nothing more.


But, Dad, I hope you know that I would feel all of this pain,
Over and over again,
Just to have you as my dad for even one day.

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