Friday, October 30, 2009

in his name

It's my father's birthday and since he's not here to get to have whatever he wants, I'll take whatever I want on his behalf. So. My request is simple: never use the word "chillaxin" again. That's it.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Dad, where are you?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

beginning to see the light

Perishable, It Said

by Jane Hirshfield

Perishable, it said on the plastic container,
and below, in different ink,
the date to be used by, the last teaspoon consumed.

I found myself looking:
now at the back of each hand,
now inside the knees,
now turning over each foot to look at the sole.

Then at the leaves of the young tomato plants,
then at the arguing jays.

Under the wooden table and lifted stones, looking.
Coffee cups, olives, cheeses,
hunger, sorrow, fears—
these too would certainly vanish, without knowing when.

How suddenly then
the strange happiness took me,
like a man with strong hands and strong mouth,
inside that hour with its perishing perfumes and clashings.

- - -

I read a poem several years back, right before an old friend confided she was going through some difficult heartbreak. I sent the poem, perfect for her, straightaway. Maybe it was from UTNE, maybe from The Atlantic. I sent the original hard copy. And while I can describe the scissors I used to cut it out, the pen I used to write the accompanying note, even the foggy view of the bird sanctuary from the deck of my home where I wrote, I can't remember the name of the poem, not even what line it was. But the poem talked about the way sorrow brings intimate people so much closer together. It was conveyed by metaphor, the image of two people who have rowed out to terrible seas together. Those on shore may have worried for them, learned the narrative of the high sea adventure after the fact. But the journey changed them in a way that only the two of them could appreciate.

And so it is with loss. We're all perishable. That's a universal trial. But survival is incidental. Coping is so personal, so momentary. And the people who have supported me have done so on the spur of the moment, with subtle gestures, consistent space for the subject, or sometimes with sweeping hugs enveloping my sobbing, wracked shell. And this may be difficult to swallow, but one of the mercies of the death of those we love so much is that it reminds us that we'll be gone so soon too. To where, who knows. That's another topic. But I realize I've been focusing so hard on being tough—just carrying on, on waiting for the leaves to change so that I might just move past the summer of my thirty-fifth year—that I could have missed the beauty of being loved and cared for. I could have failed to recognize how generous my community has proven to be, all those that carried me through all this. It's been a hard time of transition. Losing my father has been the hardest thing I've ever endured. I'm desperately sad many times a day. I'm angry at him. I miss him. I remember the unexpected. Yet then I'll go these long spans without thinking of him until the jazz queues up on the shuffle, like a quick strike to the heart. I am getting better at breathing through the biting reminders that absence is different from not-presence.

I guess there's nothing original, nothing that is widely relevant to whatever readers have held out through my quiet spell, in my words about my father. But I will say this. I have gone many places lately for relief. I've traveled into the dark wet shade of the redwoods, through the noisy city, in and out of familiar and warm homes, and out to the very brink of this continent where the Milky Way is visibly alight. And if I have my father, and my grandfather before him, to thank for my full-blown appreciation of every aspect of my life, not only all the great good fortune I've got, but the sadness I carry around with me, that of my friends, the way we may offer each other tender mercies, then several lifetimes of gratitude simply wouldn't do. My love has never been more immense. I feel sentiment has precedence over cynicism from here on out. And there is nothing more noble, redemptive, important, pure, or relevant than love. I intend to give it away and take it in absolutely without reserve all the rest of my days.

This one's for you, Dad. Tommy Dorsey, "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You."