Originally written for Sammi Scribbles Weekend Writing Challenge- Using Question in exactly 84 words but I didn’t get back to edit it down until today.
Questions hang in the air
Like heavy coastal fog
On cool autumn mornings
Eternal questions of humanity:
All the whys, the wonderings--
Never answered prayers--
Laying pressed between the
Pages of a book like brown,
Having lost their sentiment.
Speak the differences
Among roses, weeds, wildflowers—
For inconsequential questions.
Could sense of counting
Out the hours be sliced
Like blood, blooming meat
To find truth absolute
Like high priestesses of old,
Scry the answer
In a blood filled bowl?
The widow colors the sky
The ground, the trees,
The winds with cold and heat
Of all that cannot be spoken,
Of spirits tethered to stone.
You may never know she is there.
She may wear the red nose.
She may laugh with you.
She may hold out her hands to help.
All so you are not overwhelmed by her presence.
She hides within her weeds.
Sometimes she hides within the willows.
She may smell of pomegranates
Or roses at midnight,
The scents betray her presence.
But you will not see her arms and hands
Covered in thorns and trickling with blood,
The tears of her body, dripping away,
Speaking in tongues no one can understand,
As she stands alone.
She sees history through a broken prism
Of her words never strong enough to bind
Love to prayers weighted with magic enough
To fly straight to God’s ear, to be heard,
To be answered, to raise flowers of miracles.
In the end, the widow is left,
Singing colors of grief.
When all the praise singers have left her
In the muddy soil leavings of wicked tongues,
Gone on to daily lives, the day to day,
The widow stands,
Singing colors of grief,
Covered in thorns.
The magnolia tree is dead or dying
Said the experts at the nursery
Which planted it.
No green leaves hang upon it,
Only these brittle, brown things
Cling to its limbs still.
The experts give me two things,
Free of charge of course,
To try to resuscitate my magnolia.
The experts tell me everything to do
Over the next eight weeks,
But not to worry, if it all doesn’t work,
The tree will be replaced. It’s guaranteed.
A guarantee I never thought I’d need.
I did everything right:
Watering and fertilizing,
Watering and fertilizing,
Factoring in all the rain—
Yet here it stands dead or dying
In this place you never knew.
Like with you, in the place you knew,
I did everything I knew to do—
Replace the cooking pots and pans with stainless,
Only organic foods, red wine the only alcohol,
Broke all the cigarettes in two,
Quit my job to care for you—
Until the fourth time it returned,
Spread to the lungs and liver,
You wanted your cigarettes and alcohol back.
How could I argue? Say no to that?
Yet even then—
I found you cigarettes with no additives, organic tobacco too.
Until January, our magnolia bloomed as you lay dying,
When at midnight a storm blew through,
Minutes later, you died
And the magnolia shed its blooms.
So here now, in this new place,
I planted a magnolia in memory
Of what was, what was not,
Of what could have been, should have been,
Of what would have been
If I possessed the magic to shape shift
Into the one you most wanted.
And now, this tree in this new place
Stands dead or dying.
But I will do as the experts say:
Spray from top to bottom for disease,
Shock the roots every other week
Until mid- November, hoping to bring it back,
Bring it back from the edge of death.
If I can’t, the nursery will replace it
With another magnolia tree.
Yet I must think on that.
In this place, in this soil, perhaps
A magnolia is not meant to be.
I may ask them to replace it
With a different tree.
For it could be,
That here and now,
Magnolias are no longer meant for me.
With ramshackle shards
Of heart, soul, self
Falling away like the browned petals
Of a long-wilted bouquet,
We create a riotous noise
In ramshackle attempts
To find some connection.
Lumbering, awkward attempts
At reaching out to touch once again,
To replace, to freshen
The brown wilted and missing parts
With new bouquets of spring
Whose stems sit in eternally
Fresh, clean waters.
We dream of a life lived
No longer ramshackle,
With no long-wilted bouquets
Of a past to haunt with falling petals,
But a life returning whole,
To move without noise
Through the world once again.
Pulled my anchor from this harbor Years ago. Yet the current pulls me back, Some irritant speck, Yet to yield a pearl, In the soul, Some rough edged Needless need chafes away Until confession is made And a pilgrimage to graves Must be paid—
There is no why to this– This steel wrought laundry list To be run down and checked through
A visit, a meal eaten At the landmark restaurant, Where new owners chiseled hieroglyphics over a history of years when the landmark lived across A narrow brick paved street And my family lived upstairs, Erasing my mother’s sacrifice Of bloody fetal tissue, My fraternal twin, On the bathroom floor there While I hung on to be born. But such bloody sacrifice Doesn’t sell cheeseburgers, Greek salads, and over easy eggs, A fairytale of family ownership- Sells well and makes for spots On reality television shows.
A drive by the childhood home, Sentimentality at its highest, Revisit the torture chamber It became— A wooden yardstick and when it broke, A metal one I had to buy to be taken Across my back by a drunken mother Until the skin broke open to bleed. . Why the drive by? Who the hell knows? When all I’d like to see Is it all disappear—
Then the statue of Christ In Hopkins Hospital lobby, a must see. Where I stood as a teen Confessing the darkest Thing upon my soul— A part of me wishing My mother had died In that surgery of fifteen hours The other part thanking Jesus she had lived.
Then the graves, To place some flowers, Talk a bit to the air, Turn my soul inside out To find it dusty and dirty again. We can think our souls clean Until turning them inside out— That is where we find the grime Of all the living done.
I visit my brothers, The man who was my real father, Then on to the man I thought was, And then my mother, The saint she was, The monster she became. At her grave, my soul aches the most, Tweezing thorns left from her old rose bushes and my own, Turning itself inside out, Leaving all the grime and dirt behind, Or so it feels.
Then on to visit with what is left of the living. And though, I love the living, There is little, so little– To charm me into staying. But the currents, the tides Of some blood element, Like an ancient memory, Bring me back From time to time.
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