My lessons in listening: To a mother’s final words— Always remember I loved you and was proud Tossed off, too rushed to leave work To get to the hospital, to see her, Always thinking of more days, time. Not thinking all I’d see, Her dead eyes.
To all my dogs– little tells Of cocked heads, whines, barks, The ways of wagging tails, To know what meant what– Hunger, pain, desire to play, A need for love or to go outside. Those I’ve always learned well.
To students, the teens I taught, A puzzle to figure of pieces and placement What each meant for each— The lift of a shoulder, how the eyes met or did not meet mine, The head upon the desk, the work done or not, The things said, not said— To figure needs- Some basic, some not so, Requiring other safety nets, Bruised and broken, Some I could help repair. I knew what to listen for, Almost by instinct, Since I had not been listened to When I was one of them.
To my child, a whirlwind of cries, Hunger, diaper, cold, hot, sick— Each cry different A knowing, animal instinct, Some primal thing beating Inside knew the way Of my infant’s need. When a teen— A different thing, A new species of need, My animal and her animal Had no common language Of smells, signals, or cries In the darkened tunnels We went through.
To my dying wife, my dying wife— So hard to listen to, to understand a language no longer including My daughter or me. Never knowing for whom The last coma spoken words– I’m sorry, so sorry— Were spoken.
Now, I learn the final lesson of listening, A lesson sixty years in the learning,
I know it is no big deal to many of you who use your real names on your blogs. But I have used two pens names since starting this blog shortly after the death of my wife. I was still teaching, and my daughter was still in high school. Although the LGBTQ community has made great strides in being accepted by society, there is still prejudice. Being in education, I still had to be careful. Additionally, much of my writing comes from my experiences. Hence, some of my work centers on my daughter. Therefore, I wanted to protect her privacy as well. However now that I am retired and after lengthy consideration, I have decided to dispense with the pen names I have been using. I changed the domain name a few months ago when the old domain encountered issues with being shared on Facebook. I never did figure that problem out but changing the domain which included my real surname fixed the problem. I believe it was the April Writing Prompt Challenge—I am more than Breath and Bone– from Christine Ray, Brave and Reckless.com, that provided the impetus which spurred me to use my real name. What came out of me for that prompt was a recognition of what my mother and foremothers have done for and given me. I have tried to raise my daughter to be proud of herself, her family, and her two moms. If I hide behind a pen name, am I teaching her pride? Am I doing what my mother and foremothers have done for me? If I hide behind a pen name, am I “holding up the mountains” for her as was done for me? But I needed it to be okay with her. So, I asked her how she felt about it. What if her friends stumble across some of my work? What if they saw something that was about her? She responded with complete honesty and clarity, “Well, Mom. It’s your writing. If they do, they do.” So, with that, my name is Annette Kalandros, and I will be using my real name from this point forward.
I can hide in catacombs of colors and never look to the sky. My blood shed, bled out in tiny droplets of all the years of parting, dripping, draining in the darkness And carried away, scattered to the winds, Leavings upon the ground, seedless seeds, Sprouting up in colorless flowers of summer without colors, Without the dreams of sunlight on their faces, Without fragrance sweet, divinity in scents we can never forget lost. We learn to live with regrets taken, earned, packed away With the mortgage of things within our hearts, within our lifetimes of meaning, Within our trying just one more damn time, Drifting up in clouds of long-ago cigarette smoke. Crush this dried out husk of me, Scatter those particles of dust to the wind And see if colors sprout once that dust settles upon the ground, See if there’s meaning left within their regrets, See if there’s fragrance, some elegance of divinity within a scent To be remembered when there is nothing, Nothing left but this wisp of memory Within your breath. Let go my hand, love. Leave me wrapped in the shroud Of all my days and regrets shared along the way To here, this time of parting. Leave me to hide away In this catacomb of colors.
Could you, would you know the darkness too? Or would you try to erase it as others do? Would you ignore it? Say you wanted it gone? Say your touch should drive away the darkness within? The darkness is there– inside me, it has always been, I need it, need it to be there, just a spot or two. I need it to visit, take a trip with it. Occasionally— ride a night, a day, all the stars at times, sleep and wake with it. It keeps me strong, this steel skeleton of my heart and soul, keeps me whole, makes me who I am. My darkness does not need some antidepressant elixir. My darkness is a shit pile of things, years, and incidents I keep tucked away– a part of me.
Could you, would you know it? Keep it, if given? Or tell me to let it go and get over it like others have? Could you, would you understand how happiness can be had and yet keep the darkness for creating, repairing, reinforcing the steel railings of my spine, my soul, my heart, my mind, my all that I am. Could you, would you understand, without the darkness, I cannot give you all that I am?
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