Thursday, December 30, 2010

Louise Erdrich Reruns: Advice to Myself & Grief

Young Marion, 24 years young, on Lake Bistineau

I love these poems so much, I'm going to repost them. I posted them early this year, in January. I was just reading the comments from Renee and reminiscing about how terribly fragile life is. Blessings---


Advice to Myself
By Louise Erdrich

Leave the dishes.
Let the celery rot in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator
and an earthen scum harden on the kitchen floor.
Leave the black crumbs in the bottom of the toaster.
Throw the cracked bowl out and don't patch the cup.
Don't patch anything. Don't mend. Buy safety pins.
Don't even sew on a button.
Let the wind have its way, then the earth
that invades as dust and then the dead
foaming up in gray rolls underneath the couch.
Talk to them. Tell them they are welcome.
Don't keep all the pieces of the puzzles
or the doll's tiny shoes in pairs, don't worry
who uses whose toothbrush or if anything
matches, at all.
Except one word to another. Or a thought.
Pursue the authentic-decide first
what is authentic,
then go after it with all your heart.
Your heart, that place
you don't even think of cleaning out.
That closet stuffed with savage mementos.
Don't sort the paper clips from screws from saved baby teeth
or worry if we're all eating cereal for dinner
again. Don't answer the telephone, ever,
or weep over anything at all that breaks.
Pink molds will grow within those sealed cartons
in the refrigerator. Accept new forms of life
and talk to the dead
who drift in though the screened windows, who collect
patiently on the tops of food jars and books.
Recycle the mail, don't read it, don't read anything
except what destroys
the insulation between yourself and your experience
or what pulls down or what strikes at or what shatters
this ruse you call necessity.

~From: "Original Fire: New and Selected Poems", page 149


By Louise Erdrich

Sometimes you have to take your own hand
as though you were a lost child
and bring yourself stumbling
home over twisted ice.

Whiteness drifts over your house.
A page of warm light
falls steady from the open door.

Here is your bed, folded open.
Lie down, lie down, let the blue snow cover you.

"But words are things, and a small drop of ink, falling like dew upon a thought, produces that which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think." ~Lord Byron


Monday, December 27, 2010

The Three Oddest Words by Wislawa Szymborska

I miss the dragonflies.  One of my blue summer pals on my foot.

The Three Oddest Words
By Wislawa Szymborska

When I pronounce the word Future,
the first syllable already belongs to the past.

When I pronounce the word Silence,
I destroy it.

When I pronounce the word Nothing,
I make something no non-being can hold.

~Translated by S. Baranczak & C. Cavanagh


We had a wonderful Christmas.  It was cold and damp, but our daughter, April, had a big fire going in her fireplace.  It got so warm inside we had to open the windows to cool off.  She cooked an amazing meal of beef brisket, chicken & dressing, giblet gravy, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, dirt cake and pecan pie.  I made my sweet potato souffle.  (The dirt cake is topped with crushed Oreos....hence the name).  Everything was delicious and delightful.  Both of my girls are fabulous cooks.  April painted me a magnificent, huge oil painting of a woman with a dragonfly hovering in front of her face.  I'll post pics of it later this week.  My other daughter, Sarah, called from Chattanooga wild with excitement early on Christmas morning.  "Mama, it's SNOWING!"  Having been raised here in Louisiana where we seldom get snow, she still gets excited at every snowfall.  But the fact that they got their first snowfall on Christmas was especially sweet and special. 

The grand-ones, Mary Mace and Warner, grabbed the phone and told me what Santa brought them and I could feel their joy through the phone.  Warner, who's 4 years old, got his first 'big boy' bicycle.  Mary Mace turned 7 on Christmas Eve and I sent her 4 books about fairies, one a magnificent pop-up with flowers and fairies hidden in the blooms.  When we visited at Thanksgiving, I told her about a fairy circle of mushrooms I found in my backyard years ago.  She was enthralled and said, "Grammy, do you really, really believe in fairies?"  I assured her that I did and she gave me a sparkling grin and said, "I didn't even know grownups believed stuff like that!"  Oh, the joys of childhood!!  I must've been a really good girl this year because Santa brought me my dream gift, a Canon Rebel camera which I've wanted for years.  It's my version of a diamond ring.  Tee-Hee.  I'd rather have photos than diamonds any old day.

I hope each and every one of you had a wonderful holiday, filled with love and family.

Wishing you all love, joy and peace,


"Every man [and woman] should be born again on the first day of January. Start with a fresh page. Take up one hole more in the buckle if necessary, or let down one, according to circumstances; but on the first of January let every man gird himself once more, with his face to the front, and take no interest in the things that were and are past." ~Henry Ward Beecher

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Christmas Carol by G. K. Chesterton & Entrance by Rainer Maria Rilke

Christmas Eve Sunrise in Louisiana


A Christmas Carol
by G. K. Chesterton

The Christ-child lay on Mary's lap,
His hair was like a light.
(O weary, weary were the world,
But here is all alright.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary's breast
His hair was like a star.
(O stern and cunning are the kings,
But here the true hearts are.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary's heart,
His hair was like a fire.
(O weary, weary is the world,
But here the world's desire.)

The Christ-child stood on Mary's knee,
His hair was like a crown,
And all the flowers looked up at Him,
And all the stars looked down.


By Rainer Maria Rilke

Whoever you are: step out of doors tonight,
out of the room that lets you feel secure.
Infinity is open to your sight.
Whoever you are.
With eyes that have forgotten how to see
from viewing things already too well-known,
lift up into the dark a huge, black tree
and  put it in the heavens:  tall, alone.
And you have made the world and all you see.
It ripens like the words still in your mouth.
And when at last you comprehend its truth,
then close your eyes and gently set it free.

Translated by Dana Gioia

Can you see the Cardinal hiding among my ornaments?

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas.  I love and appreciate you!



"Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time." ~Laura Ingalls Wilder


Thursday, December 23, 2010

O Taste and See by Denise Levertov & Let Evening Come by Jane Kenyon

"Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him." ~Psalm 34:8

In loving memory of Jacquie, our Renee's beloved sister who died today.

O Taste and See
By Denise Levertov

The world is
not with us enough
O taste and see

the subway Bible poster said,
meaning The Lord, meaning
if anything all that lives
to the imagination’s tongue,

grief, mercy, language,
tangerine, weather, to
breathe them, bite,
savor, chew, swallow, transform

into our flesh our
deaths, crossing the street, plum, quince,
living in the orchard and being

hungry, and plucking
the fruit.


Let Evening Come
By Jane Kenyon

Let the light of late afternoon
shine through chinks in the barn, moving
up the bales as the sun moves down.

Let the cricket take up chafing
as a woman takes up her needles
and her yarn. Let evening come.

Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned
in long grass. Let the stars appear
and the moon disclose her silver horn.

Let the fox go back to its sandy den.
Let the wind die down. Let the shed
go black inside. Let evening come.

To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop
in the oats, to air in the lung
let evening come.

Let it come, as it will, and don't
be afraid. God does not leave us
comfortless, so let evening come.


May you all have a blessed Christmas, filled with love, family and friends.


"Remember, this December, that love weighs more than gold."

Friday, December 17, 2010

Waiting for Christmas

My cats have taken all the candy out of our candy dishes to bat around the house, tried to topple the tree (which I anchored to the wall with fishing line) and undecorated our Cypress in the front yard by climbing it and knocking off the balls, one by one.  Sigh.  But they're oh, so entertaining.  Happy Holidays!  ~Marion


If What You're Waiting for is Christmas
By David Devine

If what you're waiting for is Christmas
You don't need me to tell you so
If you've been looking for somebody
You might not have that far to go

See how the candle dances
With all the shadows on the wall
If what you're waiting for is Christmas
It might be coming after all

Sometimes I feel so tired
Sometimes I feel so blue
I'm just going thru the motions
Of almost anything I do

But guess I'm getting better
Even I'm a bit surprised
When I see my own reflection
In a dark haired angel's eyes

Maybe all that really matters
Try to feel the mystery
Found in people left abandoned
Burning, blooming poetry

If for miracles you hunger
You might see a few come true
If what you're waiting for is Christmas
It might be waiting there for you.

From: "The Light of the Morning: Light Rhymes for Hard Times"

Candle light by Marion

Monday, December 13, 2010

Taking Off Emily Dickinson's Clothes by Billy Collins and Three Poems by Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson's grave at West Cemetery, Amherst, Massachusetts
Born:  12/19/1830 -  Died:  5/15/1886
Emily wrote around 1,800 poems in her lifetime.


I love Billy Collins and own all of his books, but I don't include a lot of his poetry here because it's all over the web---he's that popular. But this poem does me in (slays me, as Terresa of the fiery hair often says) every single time I read it. 

In the last verse of his poem, Mr. Collins alludes to three of Emily Dickinson's most famous poems and you can't really understand the poem without having read them, so I also include them after his poem for your pure reading delight.  Enjoy!!!!  Love & Blessings,  ~Marion


Taking Off Emily Dickinson's Clothes
By Billy Collins

First, her tippet made of tulle,
easily lifted off her shoulders and laid
on the back of a wooden chair.

And her bonnet,
the bow undone with a light forward pull.

Then the long white dress, a more
complicated matter with mother-of-pearl
buttons down the back,
so tiny and numerous that it takes forever
before my hands can part the fabric,
like a swimmer's dividing water,
and slip inside.

You will want to know
that she was standing
by an open window in an upstairs bedroom,
motionless, a little wide-eyed,
looking out at the orchard below,
the white dress puddled at her feet
on the wide-board, hardwood floor.

The complexity of women's undergarments
in nineteenth-century America
is not to be waved off,
and I proceeded like a polar explorer
through clips, clasps, and moorings,
catches, straps, and whalebone stays,
sailing toward the iceberg of her nakedness.

Later, I wrote in a notebook
it was like riding a swan into the night,
but, of course, I cannot tell you everything -
the way she closed her eyes to the orchard,
how her hair tumbled free of its pins,
how there were sudden dashes
whenever we spoke.

What I can tell you is
it was terribly quiet in Amherst
that Sabbath afternoon,
nothing but a carriage passing the house,
a fly buzzing in a windowpane.
So I could plainly hear her inhale
when I undid the very top
hook-and-eye fastener of her corset

and I could hear her sigh when finally it was unloosed,
the way some readers sigh when they realize
that Hope has feathers,
that reason is a plank,
that life is a loaded gun
that looks right at you with a yellow eye.


By Emily Dickinson

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune--without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.


I Felt a Funeral In My Brain
By Emily Dickinson

I felt a funeral in my brain,
And mourners, to and fro,
Kept treading, treading, till it seemed
That sense was breaking through.

And when they all were seated,
A service like a drum
Kept beating, beating, till I thought
My mind was going numb.

And then I heard them lift a box,
And creak across my soul
With those same boots of lead,
Then space began to toll

As all the heavens were a bell,
And Being but an ear,
And I and silence some strange race,
Wrecked, solitary, here.

And then a plank in reason, broke,
And I dropped down and down--
And hit a world at every plunge,
And finished knowing--then--


My Life Has Stood--A Loaded Gun
By Emily Dickinson

My Life had stood - a Loaded Gun -
In Corners - till a Day
The Owner passed - identified -
And carried Me away -
And now We roam in Sovereign Woods -
And now We hunt the Doe -
And every time I speak for Him -
The Mountains straight reply -

And do I smile, such cordial light
Upon the Valley glow -
It is as a Vesuvian face
Had let its pleasure through -

And when at Night - Our good Day done -
I guard My Master's Head -
'Tis better than the Eider-Duck's
Deep Pillow - to have shared -

To foe of His - I'm deadly foe -
None stir the second time -
On whom I lay a Yellow Eye -
Or an emphatic Thumb -

Though I than He - may longer live
He longer must - than I -
For I have but the power to kill,
Without--the power to die--


"It is the job of poetry to clean up our word-clogged reality by creating silences around things." ~Stephen Mallarme


"Taking Off Emily Dickinson's Clothes" by Billy Collins is from this PRIMO anthology, "Staying Alive:  Real Poems forUnreal Times", pages 250, 251

If you're in need of a book that overflows with poems/poets, then I highly recommend this amazing anthology.  My copy is dog-earred, highlighted and worn from much wear.


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Winter Trees by Marion

Ghost of a Moon By Marion

Winter Trees
By Marion

The trees are all bare tonight,
their gangly limbs,
bony-fingered arrows
pointing to the ghostly full moon
shining luminously overhead
casting murky shadows
on the frozen ground.

Unearthly they seem---
like beings from another realm,
vulnerable and naked,
yet sure of who they are---
watched over
by the stars.

"Us sing and dance, make faces and give flower bouquets, trying to be loved. You ever notice that trees do everything to git attention we do, except walk?" ~Alice Walker, The Color Purple, 1982
"I like trees because they seem more resigned to the way they have to live than other things do." ~Willa Cather, 1913

Thursday, December 9, 2010

In The Art Gallery By Susan Browne

'December's Blushing Rose' by Marion

In the Art Gallery
By Susan Browne

The painting of flowers
next to the painting of flames,
and I remember that time, years ago,
when the psychiatrist said, "You feel too much,
you are too sensitive, take these,"
giving me a bottle of pills.  I took them
to the beach, watched light become flame
on the water, and along the ragged cliffs,
small flowers like blue stars,
the world a painting
I couldn't live in.
I opened the bottle, then put it down,
pills spilling on the sand.
Waves carried the flames
and didn't mind the burning,
the arising from and disappearing
into the vastness.  I swam,
let the waves take me,
then treaded water, looking at the sky,
a silver tray full
of the most beautiful nothing.
I swam back, the water was black,
I could sink beyond caring,
but I wanted to live,
to be there
with the beauty and the burning
and let it be too much.

From:  "Buddha's Dogs" by Susan Browne, page 59

Support Poets.  Buy Poetry!!


"Poetry, like the moon, does not advertise anything." ~William Blissett


"Your prayer can be poetry, and poetry can be your prayer". ~Terri Guillemets


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Thinking of Death: John Lennon and Elizabeth Edwards

'Fading December Zinnia' by Marion

Where were you when John Lennon died on this date in 1980? 

Warning:  I'm Southern and I just can't tell a simple, straightforward story, so bear with me if I drift off course and take the long way around, okay?

We lived in a house on Lake Bistineau across the street from Mama that year.  (I say 'that year' because we moved over 30 times before we settled down here and bought a house around 1990.)  The house was practically in the lake---water on two sides.  I loved it because I'm a crab, a water sign.  I often fished from the back porch or right behind the house in a little flat-bottom boat we borrowed from neighbors.  I remember catching over 30 White Perch (Crappie or sac-au-lait, as they call them in south Louisiana) one day with my long cane pole from that rickety little wooden porch.  I used worms I'd dug up in the front yard for bait.  The fish kept coming so fast I had to divide those worms into thirds to keep my hook baited.  I have to say that's the most fun I've ever had fishing.  I cleaned the fish with an old spoon and we ate White Perch for a week, happy to have it because it's the best tasting fish on earth next to Bass, of course, and I know my fish, having been raised by a professional fisherman. 

I spent as much time on the Red River as I did in school as a kid, both on the banks and in a boat with my Uncle Warner checking his nets or running his trot lines or on a sandbar playing.  I was the baby of the family and he would only let me go fishing with him and not the older kids.  I was his favorite.  He called me skinny minnie and my nieces and nephews still call me Aunt Minnie.  I can't tell you how awesome it was to read Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn (which I did about ten times starting when I was six years old...the only of Daddy's hundreds of books I'd managed to keep was a complete set of Mark Twain), then to run over the levee across the road and head for the River with a pack of kids to play and swing on the thick vines that hung from the trees in a spot we called Monkey Jungle.  I became Tom Sawyer.  Screw that prissy Becky Thatcher.  I wanted to be either Tom or Huck every time we played by the River.  Even though my relatives were drunks, they were pretty responsible drunks.  As anyone who's been around drinkers knows, there's mean drunks and there's nice, responsible drunks (not an oxymoron, trust me).  Thankfully, my aunt and uncle were the latter.  My stepfather was the former, but that's a whole 'nother story.

In 1980, I kept a hoe by the front door (inside) to kill water moccasins.  I killed 6 the year we lived there and hung their corpses over a nearby barbed wire fence just like Aunt Mace taught me.  My husband thought I was a crazy woman, wielding that hoe like an Amazon warrior.  I'd often open the front door and HELLO!  there would be a snake coiled on my little concrete stoop.  (Aunt Mace taught us as young children to keep a hoe handy to kill the chicken snakes that often worried the chickens.  Our chore was to gather eggs from the chicken house.  We gathered eggs fearlessly, hoe in hand as wise country big deal.) 

My daughters were 6 and 1 in 1980, so I didn't have mercy for reptiles like I do now.  (Now, I let them live, but I still keep a nice, sharp hoe in my shed....habit).  That fateful day John Lennon died, I was in bed recovering from amoebic dysentery (the whole family got it and we never discovered where it came from...the doctor asked us which foreign country we'd been traveling in....I told him the only foreign country I'd ever visited was the one in my head) and listening to the radio when the DJ interrupted the music and said, "John Lennon is dead."  I was 26 years old and knew, for some reason, that my childhood was now irretrievably lost, (don't we all---those of us with crazy childhoods---somehow wish, deep inside, for a do-over?) and that this moment would forever divide time:  before John died and after.  One of the Beatles was dead.  I cried like a baby.  If you were a child or teen in the 1960's, the Beatles were a part of the soundtrack of your life.  My oldest sister and all of her friends had all their records and I still know the words to all their hits.  Yes, suddenly, I felt old.  And here I sit 30 years later.  My, how time flies.

My prayers go out to the family of the fierce and lovely Elizabeth Edwards who lost her brave battle with breast cancer yesterday.  What a strong, beautiful woman she was!  She reminded me of our Renee, who I think of almost every day.  I'm so sorry that she didn't get to see her small children grown.  Every mothers' prayer from those first birth contractions is, "Dear God, please just let me see my children grown."  I'm really sorry she lost her valiant fight so soon.  I know she's with her beloved Wade, her son who died at age 16.  She lived her life courageously in spite of the most horrifying tragedies:  death, cancer, betrayal....  Yes, she was a true, classy Southern Lady who we should all emulate.

Live your life every moment of every day.  I leave you with a poem.  Blessings,  ~Marion


A Prayer That Will Be Answered
by Anna Kamienska

Lord let me suffer much
and then die

Let me walk through silence
and leave nothing behind not even fear

Make the world continue
let the ocean kiss the sand just as before

Let the grass stay green
so that the frogs can hide in it

so that someone can bury his face in it
and sob out his love

Make the day rise brightly
as if there were no more pain

And let my poem stand clear as a windowpane
bumped by a bumblebee's head

From:  "A Book of Luminous Things" an anthology of international poetry edited by Czeslaw Milosz, translated from the Polish by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanaugh


"The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time." ~Mark Twain


"People do not die for us immediately, but remain bathed in a sort of aura of life which bears no relation to true immortality but through which they continue to occupy our thoughts in the same way as when they were alive. It is as though they were traveling abroad." ~Marcel Proust


Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me.
The Carriage held but just ourselves
And Immortality...  ~Emily Dickinson


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Winter Angel

'Winter Angel' by Marion

At the Arraignment
By Debra  Spencer

The courtroom walls are bare and the prisoner wears
a plastic bracelet, like in a hospital. Jesus stands beside him.
The bailiff hands the prisoner a clipboard and he puts his
thumbprint on the sheet of white paper. The judge asks,

What is your monthly income? A hundred dollars.
How do you support yourself? As a carpenter, odd jobs.
Where are you living? My friend's garage.
What sort of vehicle do you drive? I take the bus.
How do you plead? Not guilty. The judge sets bail
and a date for the prisoner's trial, calls for the interpreter
so he may speak to the next prisoners.
In a good month I eat, the third one tells him.
In a bad month I break the law.

The judge sighs. The prisoners
are led back to jail with a clink of chains.
Jesus goes with them. More prisoners
are brought before the judge.

Jesus returns and leans against the wall near us,
gazing around the courtroom. The interpreter reads a book.
The bailiff, weighed down by his gun, stands
with arms folded, alert and watchful.
We are only spectators, careful to speak
in low voices. We are so many. If we—make a sound,
the bailiff turns toward us, looking stern.

The judge sets bail and dates for other trials,
bringing his gavel down like a little axe.
Jesus turns to us. If you won't help them, he says
then do this for me. Dress in silks and jewels,
and then go naked. Be stoic, and then be prodigal.
Lead exemplary lives, then go down into prison
and be bound in chains. Which of us has never broken a law?
I died for you-a desperate extravagance, even for me.
If you can't be merciful, at least be bold.

The judge gets up to leave.

The stern bailiff cries, All rise.

From:  "Good Poems For Hard Times" selected and introduced by Garrison Keillor


I believe in God and in Jesus and that Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ.  It's not politically correct nowadays to say that, but I don't give a shit.  I'm a believer.  I've had miracles in my life and I've seen miracles in the lives of those around me.  I believe in prayer and have seen too many prayers answered to count.  At one low point in my life I prayed for toilet paper and got it.  Of course, I never TOLD anybody we didn't have any toilet paper.  But the Bible said to pray believing and I prayed and believed and received.  I was living with two kids on a few hundred dollars a month and going to a vo-tech school, yet I tithed every penny I received because I wanted to please God.  The preacher even laughed at the tiny checks I faithfully gave monthly, but in a friendly way.  I had great faith at the time I was the poorest materially.  I was spiritually rich and never wanted for anything.  My husband and I were separated at the time. I believed Isaiah 54:5 which says, "For thy Maker is thine husband; the LORD of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called."  I thought of God as my spiritual husband, my provider.  I read the Bible cover to cover when I was 12 years old and it stuck with me.  I still read it often.  It's the greatest Book ever written, bar none.

Oh, about the TP:  A very old Christian lady at the small country church we attended told me years later this story before we moved away:  "Sweetheart" she said, "I was the one what put that toilet paper in the back seat of your car during the church service.  I was down on my knees praying the same night you must've been praying for your needs and God put it on my heart to go buy a big package of toilet paper for you, so I did."   This woman was blind, in her 80's and the most spiritual person I've ever met.  I still miss her and that little country church. 

Be bold.  Be yourself.  Don't ever apologize for who you are.

Love & Blessings,



"A man can no more diminish God's glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, 'darkness' on the walls of his cell." ~C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain


"The soul can split the sky in two and let the face of God shine through." ~Edna St. Vincent Millay


If There Is No God
By Czeslaw Milosz

If there is no God,
Not everything is permitted to man.
He is still his brother's keeper
And he is not permitted to sadden his brother
By saying there is no God.

From:  "Second Space", new poems by Czeslaw Milosz, Page 5 (Winner of the Nobel Prize)


Saturday, December 4, 2010

My Christmas Ghosts and Some Great Poems

"In the Palm of Your Hand, The Poet's Portable Workshop" by Steve Kowit


"The poet Dylan Thomas defined poetry as 'the rhythmic, inevitably narrative, movement from an overclothed blindness to a naked vision.'"  ~From:  "In the Palm of Your Hand" by Steve Kowit, page 11

The Tooth Fairy
by Dorianne Laux

They brushed a quarter with glue
and glitter, slipped in on bare
feet, and without waking me
painted rows of delicate gold
footprints on my sheets with a love
so quiet, I still can't hear it.

My mother must have been
a beauty then, sitting
at the kitchen table with him,
a warm breeze lifting her
embroidered curtains, waiting
for me to fall asleep.

It's harder to believe
the years that followed, the palms
curled into fists, a floor
of broken dishes, her chainsmoking
through long silences, him
punching holes in his walls.

I can still remember her print
dresses, his checkered Taxi, the day
I found her in the closet
with a paring knife, the night
he kicked my sister in the ribs.

He lives alone in Oregon now, dying
of a rare bone disease.
His face stippled gray, his ankles
clotted beneath wool socks.

She's a nurse on the graveyard shift,
Comes home mornings and calls me,
Drinks her dark beer and goes to bed.

And I still wonder how they did it, slipped
that quarter under my pillow, made those
perfect footprints...

Whenever I visit her, I ask again.
"I don't know," she says, rocking, closing
her eyes. "We were as surprised as you."


I Like My Own Poems
by Jack Grapes

I like my own poems
I quote from them
from time to time
saying, "A poet once said,"
and then follow up
with a line or two
from one of my own poems
appropriate to the event.
How those lines sing!
All that wisdom and beauty!
Why it tickles my ass
off its spine.
"Why those lines are mine!"
I say
and Jesus, what a bang
I get out of it.

I like the ideas in them,
my poems,
ideas that hit home.
They speak to me.
I mean, I understand
what the hell
the damn poet's
talking about.
"Why I've been there,
the same thing," I shout,
and Christ! What a shot it is,
a shot.

And hey,
The words!
I can hardly stand it.
Words sure do not fail
this guy, I say.
From some world
only he knows
he bangs the bong,
but I can feel it
in the wood,
in the wood of the word,
rising to its form
in the world.
"Now, you gotta be good
to do that!" I say
and damn! It just shakes
my heart,
you know?

~From:  "In the Palm of Your Hand", pages 44, 45


My Christmas Ghosts, or, My Last Best Christmas

Christmas is coming and I try to get into the spirit of it all, I do.  I try, but every year, no matter how determined I am to not be sad, the old, familiar sadness comes and settles over me like a cloud.  Not a good, puffy, light cloud, but a dark, obsidian cloud.  My father died in late November when I was 6 years old and Mama sat me and my two older sisters in the front row at the grave and I sat there horrified as they lowered my Daddy's body into the cold, hard ground.  Yes, bad dreams followed.  (I'd dream I was running down the hall of our old home and something horrifying was chasing me.  There was broken glass on the floor, I was barefoot, and I could only run in slow motion.  A terrifying dream for a small child.) 

We went to live with Mama's sister and her family on their farm, my Aunt Mace and Uncle Warner.  Their two children were grown.  We had one good uncle was a carpenter and fisherman...and he caught an 80 pound Catfish that year in the Red River and I got what I'd asked Santa for:  a beautiful, tall bride doll and my first purse.  (Remember bride dolls?)  It was the last best Christmas of my life.  I was in the second grade. 

The following year Aunt Mace's son and his family were driving home for Christmas (they lived out of state) and were hit head-on and killed by a drunk driver in Meridian, Mississippi.  Their son, daughter-in-law and two children all died in the horrific car wreck.  We attended two double funerals the week before Christmas:  the mother and her one month old infant son, Ronnie, and the father and his 2 year old daughter, Bitty Bess the following day.  My four cousins were all dead.  My Daddy was dead.  I developed a supreme fear of death and had recurring nightmares for years.  I began to get up every night to check my mother's breathing to make sure she was alive...Aunt Mace and Uncle Warner had taken Mama and her three girls in, yet they lost their son and his family.  It just didn't seem fair.  Then life got even harder.  Their only other child, Linda, died in childbirth a couple of years later.  Another funeral and a motherless infant.  For the remainder of my childhood, the adults all pretty much stayed drunk.  And now, looking back, I can't say as I blame them much although it wasn't much fun at the time.  I think that's why I don't drink.  Too many drunks in my childhood.  I don't know how they kept on living and breathing after such monumental tragedy.

They're my Christmas ghosts, these dead relatives from my childhood.  They haunt me annually and I often wonder what life would have been like had they lived.  I can't not think of them.  Mama used to say, "I hate Christmas!" every year.  I guess it sank into my subconscious.  I don't hate Christmas, but I could use a good Exorcist if any of you know of one.




"The past is never dead. It's not even past." ~William Faulkner


The past is not a package one can lay away. ~Emily Dickinson


"The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there." ~Lesley P. Hartley, The Go-Between, 1953