How to Fix a Valve

Image by Amorphisss on DeviantArt.com
How to fix this leaky valve?
First, a mild little
Drip…drip…drip
But it’s worn just a bit more
To a moderate
Drip, drip, drip
And on so it goes to bleed out
A smidgen here and there,
Muttering and stuttering
About things it could once contain.
Nothing a spritz of WD can’t fix.
Maybe some plumber’s tape round the edge
To help the seal when it should close.
Maybe some solder to narrow the band?
Or use the iron to apply that stitching stuff
To hold a hem or two?
 
Or perhaps,
              Just rip it from my chest.
              Throw it to the flames.
              Watch it shrivel, turning black
              And then to ash.
              Who knows? I may be rewarded
              With a bird of feathered flame,
              Clutching in its talons a burning heart
              To place inside my chest.
 
Or, if not, I could use the ash
To mark my empty breast
With an X.

My Toddler Sleeping

I watch you,

My daughter, my little one,

Sleeping in the middle of the night,

Such innocence,

The face of a toddler,

Dark, long lashes resting on your cheeks,

Mouth slightly agape, full lips sleep swollen.

Yes, the face of a toddler still,

Washed clean of makeup,

The worldly expressions of an adulthood

You were so eager to grasp, to snatch

As if it were the golden ring.

Now, at twenty-one, you’ve decided

I am not so bad.

Perhaps it was all a mother/daughter thing.

In the morning, I’ll wake you.

We’ll go about daily things.

But for now, for now,

I’ll watch my toddler sleeping.

Next time– Get a Dog

pexels-photo dog
You should have gotten yourself a dog.
              No, really.  I mean it.  Instead of chasing me
              Until you caught me.
What you thought you’d found,
When you found me—
And that’s what you wanted me to be—
              A rescued dog—
                             Full of gratitude and loyalty for the perceived rescue.
                             With no record or memory of previous owners,
                                           Ah, an extremely important part.
                             A wagging tail at every word or look from you.
                             Sitting at attention, waiting patiently for you.
                             Desperate for any command you should happen to give.
                             Dutifully complying with each command, each wish
                                           You should ever express.
                             No friends, no family, no loves.  No needs
                                           Other than you and to serve you.
 
That is what you wanted
That is what you needed—
              In your own words—
                             To be my number one at all times.
                             After all, no one would love me better.
                             No one would give me a better home,
                             As you so lovingly liked to remind me.
                            
 
Next time get a dog.
She’ll feed your ego better.

Dreaming of You

Medusa

Image from lostgirlmyths.wikia.com

I dreamed of you the other night.
A dream in color and complete.
We both know I rarely remember dreams.
But this one I awoke from—fresh
With that it felt so real feeling.
Imagine my surprise
when I realized
this dream hadn’t dripped from reality.

We sat, it seemed, at some café
In Dallas or Houston,
Or perhaps, we were strolling
The streets of Provincetown,
Walking across the Golden Gate,
Hiking some trail up a Colorado mountain,
Riding the subway of Manhattan,
Driving the traffic jams of Baltimore or
Los Angeles. Perhaps, we watched the whales
Out on the Pacific or maybe it was the Atlantic.
For in the dream, the background shifted like
A chalk drawing on the pavement in a rainstorm,
The colors bleeding, fading, sliding into one another
The way we used to do.

The place doesn’t matter, in the grand scheme
And all, of any such dream.
You talked away as you always did,
Leaving me no room to breathe
Or even catch enough air to say a word,
Squeezing the freedom from my soul.
Your eyes glowed, shining sapphires with no rain.
Your golden bleached hair blowing wild in dream wind.
Your words twisted, tangled in on themselves,
Doing a contortionist’s dance,
Snaking their way into my ears and on toward
The inner working of my heart and brain,
Slithering under the door to my soul.

Once there, your words tried to bite away,
Injecting some poison into my heart, my brain, my soul
To twist me into saying all the things
You wanted me to say–
All the things your ego needed—

Like that oppressive August afternoon
When you argued nonsense to get me to say
I was to blame and beg to stay.
I never knew a slither of words
Could slide and twirl so many ways
like those ribbons of a gymnast, circling this way and that.
As you saw a snaking pattern wasn’t working so well,
I watched your frustration rise.
Your back straightened even more so.
Your eyes narrow almost microscopically,
Your thin lips disappear completely.

I woke then, laughing.
I think I startled my dog.
I laughed again—
To think the last few days I had been missing you—
To think I had once thought you beautiful as a goddess–
Even wrote Botticelli and Byron got it wrong.
Now I see Medusa
When I think of you.
It’s a bloody wonder I, myself, am not stone,
But the well of my hope is another matter.

The Friction of Salt

 

woman at sea

Image from Shutterstock

 

Pieces of her broke in the waves,
Searching for wildness
In this place she always went to be alone.
She walked along this shore a thousand times
In the dawn and the dusk
As if they were quantities unknown,
And thus, in them, she could discover some truth,
Some faith, some charity, some hope for herself.
Who knew? It had worked before.
She’d walk toward the town with something—
Some small bit piece replenished.

Besides–
She’d always heard salt was healing,
So she figured she’d rub it in her wounds.
But bloody red and raw
She walks still wounded, broken,
Along the wildness,
Yet not touching it.
Freedom elusive.
She can not find what she lost.
Her wounds chains,
Binding her still
To things she knew illusions.
She waits for the friction of salt
To rub away the chains.
She walks toward the seals in the surf
And on toward the whales in the deep,
Searching for truth or faith or charity
In the wildness of the sea.

 

The Garden

I gave you all my roses,
The many colors I had.
Cut them all from the bushes.
I knew there would be no more,
And I cut them for you.

The last few dozen blooms
I cut them down for you.
The bushes are dead now.

They will bud no more.
I double, triple checked.
The limbs snap crisply in dryness,
Easily between my weakened hands.
No supple green within.
A single snap finishes each limb.
And so finishes each bush.

I am done, a gardener
With nothing left to tend.

Definition of a Wife or a Valentine to My Wife

This piece came to me after reading a thread in a lesbian political group on Facebook. The thread was not about marriage or what you call your spouse but made in a conversation about a political topic. The comment was not argumentative, really it was rather simply stated that this woman would not call her partner, were they to ever marry, her wife since the term “wife” was part of the language of the patriarchy. I filtered this comment through my experience. You see, my late wife warned me before she died that her family would turn their backs on me no matter how supportive they seemed presently because they did not see our relationship as being equal to a heterosexual one, our love was “less than.” She said they would do this even though they had participated in our wedding. I was convinced they would not. Her prediction came true. They did see our relationship as less than, and based on their actions, I believe they would have taken everything from me if I hadn’t had that marriage license. Let’s face it, some in straight society will never want us to have rights or see us as equal. But some will eventually see our love, our grief, our struggles in the same light as their own if we use their language, their terms. Language is how we define and compare experiences. Language is our filter. My wife was my wife. No other term conveys the struggles, the grief, and the love contained in the time we had.

We all wanted the equality of marriage.
Yet some struggle with the titles and terms.
To say wife brings images of June Cleaver,
Perfectly coifed, perfectly applied makeup,
Wearing pearls as she cleans and cooks.
To say wife embraces the chains of the patriarchy,
At least, some say.

If we embrace the equality of marriage,
And not the trappings of a wedding,
What is the definition of a wife?
What does it mean to be a wife?

Doing the daily things to keep a home going
That’s what a wife means.
Yes, it means the cooking, cleaning, laundry,
And more. Sometimes it means staying
When you feel like walking out.
Even before the government says
It is legal to call
Your wife your wife–
It means pulling yourself together
After you hear your wife has stage four ovarian cancer,
So you can be the one to break the news
When she wakes from the anesthesia
Of an emergency surgery.

That’s what it means to be a wife.

When a month later,
Late at night,
After another surgery,
Your wife turns her frightened eyes to you
And says that she doesn’t want chemo
Unless you are home to care for her.
Your choice—your career or her chance at life.
You resign the next day.

That’s the definition of a wife.

And so, it goes—
Surgeries and chemo—
But a prognosis of eighteen months
Turns into nearly five years—
In those years,
The Supreme Court says
You can finally call each other wife.
And marry to make it so.
Your daughter, thrilled,
Speaks eloquently about the love
Between the two of you encompassing her,
Protecting her.
You both cry. Neither of you had any idea
What the thirteen-year-old would say
When she stood to speak.
You kiss your wife’s bald head as she bows it
To wipe tears away.

That’s what it means to be a wife.

And then, very near the end,
You find them among
A mass of papers and bills
Your wife had run rampant through.
Hotel receipts. Hotel receipts
When you thought she had gone
To the casino with a friend.
You watch your wife sleep peacefully.
Heavy doses of morphine now.
Rarely does she wake. When she does,
She is thirsty and hungry.
She is wasting away.
Skin over a skeleton.
If she eats or drinks,
She vomits green bile
And the pain is like nothing
You’ve ever seen.
There will be no confrontation
Over hotel receipts.
So, she had another fling
With her high school flame,
A woman she first loved,
A woman who, for spite,
Married her husband
On your wife’s birthday.
Yes, your wife turned selfish this last
Year. Some dying turn generous and
Some turn selfish.
But you couldn’t deny the logic.
Afterall, your wife was the one dying,
As she was to always remind you.
You shred the hotel receipts.
Your daughter should never find them.
It would destroy her to know this.
And then you feel it.
Something is chiseled out of you,
Sharp edges remain.
Your wife cries out.
You run to the bedroom.
She has fallen and shit herself.
You get her up and to the bathroom.
You clean and bathe her.
Get her back into the bed.
She begs you for enough morphine to end it.
When you tell her you can’t do that,
She calls you a selfish bitch.
You give what’s prescribed by hospice.
She sleeps and so do you.

That’s the definition of a wife.

Hospice increases the morphine dose and strength.
To be given hourly.
The nurse wants to know if you want a nurse
Around the clock.
You say your wife said no.
She said she didn’t want that.
You honor every wish she had.

That’s what it means to be a wife.

For five days she does not wake.
For five days you do not sleep.
Energy drinks and coffee are your magic elixirs.
You administer the morphine as the hospice nurse instructed.
You know what they are having you do.
Slowly, slowly, this increased strength and hourly dose
Is killing your wife, shutting down her organs.

Yes, it is a mercy.
She couldn’t drink or eat.
The hospice nurse visits every day.
She says the pulse is weak in your wife’s ankles.
24 to 48 hours at the most she says on day four.
The nurse clasps your shoulder on the way out.

That’s the definition of a wife.

Your wife mutters,
“I’m sorry, so sorry.”
Three times before
Midnight of the fifth day.
You do not know to whom
Or for what your wife apologizes.
Her words have no reference point
And never will.
Your daughter comes home
From a friend’s birthday party
At ten o’clock.
She checks on you and your wife.
“I’m sorry, so sorry,”
Your wife mutters for the last time.
Your daughter asks why she’s saying that.
You say you don’t know.
The rain starts. It’s pouring down.
Eleven o’clock– a dose of morphine.
The rain hasn’t stopped.
Midnight. Your daughter checks to see if you need anything.
You ask her to make a pot of coffee.
Another dose of morphine.
You swipe your wife’s lips with a sponge
To keep them moist.
As you are rinsing the oral syringe,
You hear the breath, the rattle.
You walk to the bed.
Place your hand on your wife’s chest.
It is still. No rise. No fall. Still.
Your head falls upon your hand.
Your daughter comes in and asks
What is wrong. You tell her it is over. Done.
She places her hand next to yours.
She feels the stillness.
She screams no.
And runs to her room,
Slamming her door
As if it would shut out
Time and death.

That’s what it means to be a wife.

You call your wife’s parents next,
The hospice nurse after them,
The funeral director is called last.
You endure the parents
Because you can’t imagine their pain.
They must bury a child.
The nurse certifies the death and tosses
The drugs and leaves. She handles it all
Efficiently. Then the funeral director arrives.

It is still pouring rain.
They wait patiently in the hall.
The parents leave.
You ask your daughter if she wants a moment
To say good-bye.
She takes it, telling you she’d like to be alone with your wife.
You wait patiently with the funeral director and the assistant
In the hallway.
Something hollow settles in your chest.
Your daughter leaves the bedroom
And you take your turn.
Your wife is gone.
You stroke her forehead.
Take her hand.
It is over. It is done.
Five years of grieving,
Losing pieces of your lives together,
Watching plans melt away,
Watching the woman you love disappear
As the cancer spread to the brain
And behavior became irrational,
Accusing, and you became the
Whipping post for all the things lost,
All the things your wife felt slipping away.
You wonder how much grief there could be left,
How much more could be felt after all this?
You let the funeral director and assistant
Take your wife away. They tell you to look away
And so gently close the door.
She is covered on the gurney when they open the door.
It is still pouring rain
As they take her out the front door and into the hearse.
You close the door. There is much to do.
You drink coffee until sunrise. It stops raining.
You will sleep today, you suppose. Later.
After…After so many things to do…
After the hollowness inside is hollowed out
After the sharp edges wear away
When feeling returns

That’s the definition of a wife.

For better and for worse.
In sickness and in health.
Love and cherish
To have and to hold

This is all of it—
The equality of love.
This is a marriage.
This is the definition, the meaning
Of what it is to be a wife,
And what it can convey of a heart.