No Lexicon

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

There exists no lexicon

For the echoes of emptiness here–

Where the azaleas bloom

Purple, pink, and white,

While dusty looking

Lavender sends up

Multiple spikes,

As roses yield up

Open, thirsting mouths

To the sky.

Though the soil here

Nourishes color and green

Growing things,

While life appears

Apparently abundant,

Although neighbors smile and wave,

The soil remains absent of truth, of meaning,

Of love—of a spirit—of a soul.

No lexicon exists for the emptiness

Echoing throughout the soil

In this place.

 

My Mother’s Stories

Image courtesy of Pinterest

I do not care if my daughter

forgets all my empty stories

of blank cityscapes,

of colorless times,

of limping struggles.

 

My daughter must remember–

remember, keep alive

stories of her grandmother,

stories of lineage, of place, of era,

of strength in women, in family,

of struggle containing meaning

like Jacob’s struggle by the river—

stories living in her DNA,

strengthening the helix of her history.

 

She must remember,

pass on to her progeny with pride

in her spirit living, not here in this place,

in this dusty Lonestar state,

but among those mountains

bathed in stained glass colors

at sunrise and sunset,

or smeared gauzy blue at noon,

or at times, shrouded in grieving fog.

 

So many times, I have watched my daughter sleeping,

a toddler she seems still at twenty-three–

I marvel at how that can be–

Her lips parted just a bit, slightly swollen in sleep,

her lashes long, thick, and dark against her cheek,

so like her grandmother’s lashes,

a trait I did not inherit,

her breathing whispers youthful innocence,

her tousled hair that of a child wearied from play–                                                

And I— I believe I see some ghost umbilical cord stretching

from her, leaving the house, and could I travel it,

follow it—I know where it should lead me–

a black cinder block house on stilts somewhere

miles outside Charleston, West Virginia—

so far up into the mountains

that as we drove the one time I saw it

I felt tilted back as if for

a rocket take off to some distant star—

my aunt’s eyes send a flood down the valleys of her face,

my mother gasping at sight of that tall cinder block house,

narrow and black with four small windows in the front,

unfriendly and uninviting it appears to me,

as it stands in the dirt yard

with a single clothesline, tires,

some chickens pecking the dirt around the stilts,

contrasting the lush green mountain top

touching the sky behind it.

My recalcitrant 13-year-old self thinks–

How the fuck does someone build

a cinder block house on stilts like that? 

And black?  Why black? 

This is where the ghost umbilical cord

leaving my daughter leads me,

this place, this link to the earth—

to the spirit within this earth

where her grandmother,

my mother grew,

nurtured by the dirt, the green mountain tops,

the harshness of poverty in harsh times,

coal mines and cave ins, winter fevers,

spring forest escapes from ideas

of death and survival.

 

Where I too am linked,

bound even as I struggled

to free myself for so many years.

Now, at this age, I know it was this spirit, this link,

that poured its strength into me

when I needed it though my youth

scrubbed me of the wisdom to recognize it.

 

My daughter must know her grandmother’s stories,

of how hope lived in an election during the Great Depression,

her great-grandfather forbid even his wife to take a switch

to of one his children on the day of FDR’s election,

of how death can be heard walking the floors of empty rooms

when the family gathers round a dying toddler,

of how potato sack dresses itch,

of how her great-grandfather built the cinder block house

after a snow melt flood washed away the wood house

and nearly killing himself thinking he had lost his family,

of how to hunt rabbits and skin them,

of how squirrel tastes better than possum,

of how to hold your head when you

ask the company store man for credit,

of how grief over the death of twin toddlers

can turn your mother silent

of how your father explains the death of children

kills a mother’s heart,

of how an orange for Christmas is the greatest of all treasure,

of how it is tedious work to darn socks,

of how joyful it feels to go without shoes in the summer,

of how rich and important you can feel

when new shoes arrive in the fall,

of how when a boy asks to escort you home from church,

you better not walk more than six feet in front of your mother,  

of how to watch for your shoeless mother walking home

in the snow from the Post Office in Charleston because

you know she only wears her shoes to church to keep them good,

and how to warm her feet so she doesn’t lose anymore toes—

 

All these stories and more,

my daughter must know

must remember,

breathe and bleed life

in the telling of them to her children

for they are woven, a tapestry,

double helix patterned within us,

our earthen souls.

 

 

 

 

 

Masquerade as Spring

Image is my own taken at Houston Arboretum

Leaves half dead brown
half living green dappled
with the gold of hope,
sparkling, dangle from the tree
as if life clutched within
holds a secret 
on this wonderful warm winter
afternoon—
masquerading as a spring day--
joyous—these leaves
reflecting light like crystals
of a fancy chandelier--
yet the leaves,
fragile as they are,
will fall upon the forest floor
with tomorrow’s cold winds
which they cannot withstand
and my heart, like the leaves—
not green enough
to withstand
assaulting winter
but today, today—
chooses to clutch 
at the hope
in this masquerade of spring.

Seven Years of Visits to the Garden

image is my own

Each new year brings 
Now this garden grief
Nourished by regret

Each year, this day, here—
Standing, kneeling, sitting—I
Spend tears, words, wishes

All meaningless now,
In the barren garden grief
Flowers never bloom

Seven years gone now--
Nothing roots, though it has tried,
In the garden grief inside

When the Familiar Dies

Image courtesy of TheSpruce.com

She walks to the end

of dark uncurling days

at the edge of the earth,

witnesses the new day

split open–

petals soft,

beautiful.

She’d give it to herself

could it be contained,

arranged within some vase,

held within her hands,

that cannot hold

such flowering strength.

She breathes in hope,

taking it deep into her lungs

where oxygen mingles

with blood and becomes one—

a seed took root in the moment

as all things familiar to her die.

 


The Gift of Mercy

Image courtesy of Pinterest

The jigsaw puzzle of mercy

fell to pieces today.

 

The dogs saw it crumble,

alerting me before I could

gather, prepare, ready–

anything—

For this, this seeming simple thing.

 

The dogs ran, back hair bristled—

I ran after,

yelling, yanked their collars—

the dogs listened, stood back, panting.

All the construction of houses around us stopped

it seemed for a moment—

for a moment only us—

the four of us—

my two dogs, one on each side of me,

standing back, as they’d been told,

me, and the small bird now in my hands.

 

I had not stopped to grab anything—

no gloves, no towel—

had not thought of viruses, bacteria—

this bird was still alive—

limp, though nothing seemed broken,

yet its eyes wild.

I held it lightly,

thinking it stunned

it would surely fly off—

just stunned is all–I thought—

just a moment,

give it a moment, it would fly.

It had to fly.

By God, this ordinary grayish brown bird,

shaking, breathing hard in my hands, had to fly.

The bird closed its eyes—

It would not fly—

I knew it then—

 

I would have to gift it– mercy,

and so did what needed done—

Broke its neck in two.

 

No. No. It doesn’t help to know

I put an end to its suffering.

 

But I learned mercy makes for easy talk,

yet it is a suffering thing to do.

 

Dying Magnolia Tree

Image is my own
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—

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.


An Autumnal Baptism

Image is my own

Caught in the evening downpour,
I am washed clean of summer.
Summer’s red rock, red dirt dreams
Sluiced from me with this autumnal drenching.

Morning greets me with a cool hand
Of sunshine upon my brow.
Autumn whispers of a harvest
Under skies of bluest topaz.

A clear, clean, honest reaping
In days yet to be had.

Dream No More

Image is my own

https://godoggocafe.com/2021/08/31/tuesday-writing-prompt-challenge-august-31-2021/

Todays prompt: “waterfall wishes”

She will never fall to earth again
After soaring among the stars,
The planets a blur. No.

No.  She will never swim 
In the deepest oceans,
Cavorting with dolphins and whales.  No.

No.  Never will her soul fly,
Brushing shoulders with angels,
Their wings touching upon her face.  No.

No.  Never these things.
Never these dangerous things again.
Never allowing illusions to gain sway.  No.

No.  She will plant her feet firmly in the ground.
Her heart cemented in her chest.  Yes.

Yes. That once mighty waterfall
Has slowed to a trickle
As there no longer exist
Any waterfall wishes.

Gems of Dawn and Sunset

Image is my own

 

If I could gather a handful of dawn and a handful of sunset,

I’d cut and polish each handful into gems

                       For you to keep,

To take out and wear as you would wish,

For there are no stones of value containing beauty enough

To give you but these that are not true stone—

 

Yes, a handful of sunset,

A handful of dawn—

Their beauty ever constant,

Yet ever changing—

Daily renewed—

The only things containing beauty enough

For you.