Piece by piece.
I woke up at 2 a.m. for no reason except nerves. I read, writhed, pondered weird pains in my body. I watched the windows of the door, each screw making their rounds, peeking in, watching my body waste here with a pulse. A deputy walked by, ducked down and slid some postcards under my door. I’d finally started fading when I saw the blur of him stop outside the door and send the mail through. I reached for my glasses and looked at the postcards. My sister had gone to a store somewhere and had two postcards made, one with Angel and one with Diablo. Angel was on her back looking up at me, her little paws curled into her chest, her smile. The other was Diablo, in the back seat of the van, both of the photos were from my facebook page. Seeing Angel made me stand from the bed, my bare feet on the cold floor in my boxers, in the cold of this place. I stepped over to the wall and pressed my back against it, let the cold punish me for not being there when she died. I slid down to the concrete and stared at the photo. I ran my finger down her blaze, adorable and white, running down her forehead and snout, her eyes so loving. “Angel.” Tears hit the card. I held it and cried, then I sobbed. I grabbed the one of Diablo from the slab. I flipped them over. She wrote that she thought I could use some friendly faces to keep me company. I set their faces on the floor in front of me. I hadn’t seen their faces in months. I’d never see Angel again. And I knew I’d never see Diablo again, I sensed it. I looked at his eyes, one blue, one half blue, his short fur I could never escape, his movie star smile. I kissed the postcards and held them over my heart. I sat there and bawled. I wanted to scream but I couldn’t, I couldn’t give this place my rage, I wouldn’t let the hacks know I was in pain. I stared at the postcards here, in a jail cell, my bare back frozen against the wall, my heart dead in the eyes of my little girl, dead in the memory of Diablo. I sat here and cried until I was out of tears, and I had to stuff the postcards into my legal mail so I wouldn’t look at them. I dressed and sat on the edge of the slab without blinking. The screws walked by and I sat here, I sat here and I wanted to bring death to so many people.
I watched the cell become brightened at 5 a.m. A stark brightness, a dead brightness that is nothing short of sterilizing. I watched the zombies walk by the door for meds and razors and breakfast, and at 9 a.m. I was sitting in the day room watching the outside and it was bad today, more than depressing, Helena, much more. Four guys sat at the table to my left talking about Camaros, a Chevelle one of them had and lost, a ’66. Outside nine jumpsuits walked the concrete, Mexicans in threes twice, Mexicans in twos and one speed freak. I went back to the cell and stayed here all day and night. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t do anything but think about what used to be.
Please, Release Me
Parents have lots of endearing nicknames for their kids: Budgie, Smoojie, Jellybean… For occasions when their children are being needy, I’ve heard parents call them Velcro, The Warden, The Cling-On… And during those especially trying times: The Barnacle or The Hemorrhoid (always said with love, of course). In our house, you would be known as Whiny Clingman or Grumpus Minutus.
As a tyke, whenever my Sonny Boy was feeling codependent, he’d stand in front of me with his arms raised, saying, “I hold you, Mommy?” This meant, “Pick me up.” I know what you’re thinking: how cute! Yes. It was cute…for the first seven thousand times. After that, as I’d try to cook the food, launder the laundry, or tend to our younger child, it would become a tad less darling.
If I couldn’t pick him up right away, he would swiftly transform from Whiny Clingman to Grumpus Minutus – turning me into Grumpus Minimus or Grumpus Maximus, depending on my hormone levels.
Sonny Boy would often wait for the most inopportune time to require cuddling – usually when I’d have his little sister, Peaches, on the changing table. I would have to bend down, raise my ointment-covered hands like a surgeon, press my head against Peaches to keep her from rolling off the table and hug Sonny Boy with my knees and elbows. Try it sometime. It’s a herniated disk waiting to happen. He would come from out of nowhere, like a toddler ninja, and insist on human contact. So stealth. One time, I didn’t even know he was standing right behind me until he squeaked, “I hold you, Mommy!” Nearly jumping out of my skin, I jerked, flinging diaper rash goop onto the ceiling and alarming the daylights out of poor Peaches. The result? Two disgruntled customers.
Now before you judge my Sonny Boy as demanding, let me tell you, he was the ideal child. A delight! Cheerful and sweet 99% of the time! He loved to sit quietly and look through his books or play with his toys for hours on end. That’s why I’d feel especially guilty if I couldn’t hold him at the precise instant he needed some extra attention.
Whenever I could, I’d scoop him into my arms, and squeeze him with just the right amount of squish. I’d nuzzle his sweet ample cheeks, and whisper, “Sometimes you love too much, my little man.” And then we would laugh and he’d kiss me. It was our little joke.
This all happened nearly two decades ago which, in parent years, was yesterday. It’s an age-old cliché, but truer than true: time passes faster than you ever thought possible. These days, Sonny Boy is nearly a foot taller than I, so I’m grateful he hasn’t asked me to pick him up recently. But he hasn’t asked for hugs either. If only.
Very soon, we will drop Sonny Boy off at college for the first time. We live in New York. His college is deep in Pennsylvania, so it’s practically Kentucky (or Pennsyltucky, as the locals call it). Being a six-hour car ride away, it may as well be in another galaxy.
I have already warned him that I might be embarrassing on move-in day. I’m pretty sure there will be tears. I already wept at orientation, and I wasn’t alone. It happened when the bursar spoke to all of us parents about college loans and financing. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
But move-in day is sure to be worse. I will hide behind my huge Jackie O sunglasses. I’ll probably tear up on the ride there, but as soon as our wheels hit the campus, I will begin the “ugly cry.” I will try to be brave while meeting his RA and put on a jolly façade as I’m being introduced to his roommate. By then, however, my nose will be red, my eyes will be puffy and I will be fooling no one.
When it’s time to say good-bye, he will walk us to our car. He will hug me and, if I’m lucky, he’ll kiss my cheek. Hubby and I will drive away, leaving him behind. In that twinkling of an eye, I will have to let him go, for real. And this will cause me considerable pain because, my name is Whiny Clingman, and sometimes I love too much.
For Joseph, Whom I Will Never Forget
is a part of life,
and I've grown
to being the one
But now that you've
said your piece,
I been tripping over
my own two feet,
table's been turned
completely upside down;
For it's not me
will be the one
but I know not the strength
of a force stretched
to it's breaking point,
reaching for something
beyond my grasp.
I knew what I had
before it ever
but I'm going
to miss you
all the same.
I've grown accustomed
to my heart's
but one doesn't
heal so quickly
if what was once full
is now beyond repair.
that could be replaced;
I have known no loss
as the thought of
nine years old.
She looked at me,
her eyes narrowed
"I just wanted-"
She turned away.
Five minutes later
she turned back.
"I missed you"
"New school year"
"Last year of
"I'll miss our school"
"I wonder if
it will be
as hard as
everyone says it
"I hope not."
"You have a girlfriend"
I looked at
She was as red as
She looked away.
"I love you"
"Let's go to
"I wonder if
She took in a
"We can do this"
"I hope so."
"How are you doing"
"I need to tell you
I said again.
Her eyes brimmed
She broke off.
"I... Need you."
she took a
"Are you okay"
She ate her
and threw it up
into the bucket.
"You aren't fat"
"My dad died"
She looked down
at her shoes.
She sounded broken
she sounded hollow.
"I want to..."
"I want to die"
"You have to
stay with me
She looked away.
she still threw up
"It's the last year
of high school"
"Aren't you excited"
"I miss you"
She glanced at me.
"The real you"
"Not the shell
She looked away.
"Give her back to me"
She wore a black hoodie
and black jeans
and sadness written
upon her face.
"But it doesn't
I advised her.
Before the next
she was gone.
They said again.
She was gone.
Love of my life.
I curled up into
a small ball
I hugged her
If Losses Could Speak, This One Would Scream into My Ear
She's gone, and I'm here.
In my sorrow I now walk.
From this pain grows fear.
Emotions rage like a storm.
She was beautiful.
Why didn't she believe it?
She felt pitiful.
So she looked down the barrel.
And time just seems to stand still.
And I am left so broken.
First true love.
Today was just a normal day. I woke him up with a sweet soft kiss upon his forehead. I whisper in his ear, "it's time to get up baby." He looks over at me with a smile on his face. "I hate getting up, but I love waking up to your beautiful face everyday." I begin to feel my face getting red. He's always so good at making me blush. It makes me wonder if he says certain things just to make me blush.
He gets up and starts getting ready for work. I've already made his coffee and packed his lunch. He comes up behind me and kisses my neck. Turns me around and gives me a deep dark passionate kiss upon my lips. My knees begin to buckle and I quickly stop the kiss before it leads to anything else. I kiss him once more and tell him, "now get to work handsome." He moans,"Ohhh do I have to?!" Winks at me and whispers in my ear, "just wait until I get home." I giggle and he laughs too.
I stand at the front door and watch him get into his big old ford truck. I wave frantically at him and he waves back.
I close the door and am ready for the day to take me away until he comes back home. I begin doing laundry,dishes, and cleaning the kitchen. The house phone rings and I decide not to answer it, since I have cleaner all over my hands. The phone rings again. I thought, well this person is persistent. I wipe my hands off on a dish cloth and walk towards the phone.
I answer, "hello."
A woman's voice is on the other end. "Hello, may I please speak to Virginia Blooch."
"This is her speaking."
"Ma'am I have some bad news for you."
My heart instantly sinks.
I try to talk, but words aren't coming out. I finally mutter out,"yes?"
"Ma'am today your husband was working in the coal mines and there was a bad explosion and the mines caved in. All of the men working lost their lives. I am sorry."
My eyes are full of tears and I don't say anything to the lady, I just hang up the phone.
I instantly fall to the floor. I can't breath, I can't move. I am in denial. No, James will be walking in the door around 6 tonight. I sat by the door for hours waiting and waiting. He never came. I stopped waiting for him around 11pm. I made my way to bed. I couldn't sleep though. My pillow was soaked with tears. My thoughts were scattered throughout the night.
I rethink about the days before today. I just found out that I was pregnant. I was waiting until the weekend to tell him the good news. All of a sudden, thinking about this seems like such bad news. I can't raise a child without James. I can't go on without James. How will I survive without him? Financially,mentally,emotionally,physically. I begin crying again.
Around 4am I made my final decision. Which was to kill myself. I never thought about killing myself before. I grew up in a church and know that it is morally wrong to do so. That I'll spend eternity in hell, but this life now is pure hell.
I find a thick rope and a chair. My heart is pounding frantically because I know my mind is made up and I'm not turning back. What do I have to turn back to? I quickly tie the rope around the sturdy pipe running along the ceiling. I begin to wrap the rope around my neck. Without even thinking, I kick the chair out from underneath me.
Sharp pain around my neck.
Gasping for breath.
Moving my body around, but no relief.
Everything's turning black.
I didn't get home until 7am. I was so thankful that I was late to work yesterday. When I arrived to work it was so much chaos. I dug through the ground trying to find bodies. Bodies of my family, my friends, my fellow workers. Their family deserved that. I know Virginia would want to have my body if anything bad ever happened to me. I keep thanking God that I'm alive and that I'll be able to go home to my amazing wife.
I dug and dug until I physically couldn't anymore. I decide to retire for the day and head back home. I need a hug from Virginia. I need her to tell me everything will be okay.
I drive up the driveway and feel a sigh of relief. I am finally home. I don't even grab my lunch box. I just run inside. "Virginia, where are you?" I walk into our bedroom to see her limp body hanging from the ceiling pipe. I am in disbelief. I let out a loud scream, "why???!!!" I pull her down and hold her cold lifeless body in my arms.
She was beautiful. She was a belly full of burgers, or chicken wings, or fruits and vegetables when she thought he needed some balance. She was brown hair and doe’s eyes, wrapped in a long black trench that was always wrapped tight. He knew she had curves underneath, but it seemed unholy to ponder them. Sacrilegious. Pissing on a statue of Mother Theresa.
It was clockwork. Every evening before her shift she came to him. A vision in heels and lightly applied makeup. She didn’t belong where he was. She’d tarnish her wings, he knew, walking down his alley. His buddies, all booze and days-old stubble, all newspaper stuffed in their shoes, shot her lecherous looks. He loathed them. He was one of them and he loathed them, like a man hating his own face.
The food was always fresh, always warm. She came rain or shine. She came in sleet and hail. Sometimes she’d stay a while, chat a while. He knew her name was Susan, but that never sunk in. She was more than that. She was bigger. She was surely something divine, and whenever she spoke to him he felt the urge to grovel at her feet.
Then one day she stopped coming. Despite what some might think, his heart dropped because she wasn’t there, not because he didn’t get the food. Something came up, he told himself. Something important had kept her away. He didn’t resent her. He was sure she’d be there the next day.
Or the next.
Or the next.
It was the headline that told him. The headline inside the glass box, glaring out at the world. Her picture there, smiling, her hair down around her soft face. He spent precious change on that picture, on that paper. He pulled it out and stumbled down the street, fingers gauging into the passionless ink. A stripper, they’d said. Had an unruly customer. He strangled her to death. Such a pity, such a pity, such a pity. With each and every word he could see the subtext. She deserved it. She was a whore. Served her right for putting herself on display. A decent girl would have been more careful.
She danced with the devil now.
They all wore black at the funeral. Their faces were the same, like the faces in the alley, passive with glazed eyes. They were bored. Bored at the speeches, bored as the Priest told them to Hail Mary and raised his hands towards the stained glass. Their noses wrinkled. They smelled him, infringing on their perfume, rot against the frankincense. Their heads swiveled as one as he walked down the aisle. The Priest with his glaring eyes clenched his fist around his rosary beads.
This is a private occasion.
This is for friends and family.
I am her friend. I am her brother.
I must ask you to leave.
It is my right to pay respects.
The casket was open. She was Snow White, innocent and pure, victim of the bite from a cursed apple. The world had crammed that poison down her throat. It did not understand beauty. It did not understand kindness.
They whispered behind him. Called him a lover. Tittered that she must have fucked him out of money. Fucked him dry.
White noise. He laid his flowers down beneath her folded hands. Wild flowers, the roots still showing, spreading over her chest as though they would move deep and give life. They didn’t. He stared, and brushed her hair aside to kiss her brow.
And the angel went back home again.
The Truest Colors of Silence
They always told me it was golden but I never bought that
I saw how poorly the shimmer was painted on and watched as it peeled away
Silence has so many more layers than they convinced us to believe
First it glows amber under the metallic façade, amber like a fossilized fly of forgotten times
It fades to brown like your eyes, dark and deep, holding back lies you never dared speak to me
Brown burns and soon Silence is gray, ashes of memories you decided to delete
Ashes soon age into white, white with faint hints of blue like the sky, yes, the same sky that you once told me was the limits of our love
And then the sky darkens as the Sun burns oranges, hot pinks, bleeding reds, reds like the anger I allowed to consume me when you abandoned me, left me alone for my mind to devour me in hatred and malice and what-ifs and maybes and whys
That red, so hot hot HOT like the blood pulsing through my head my chest my hands, oh my bleeding hands burning from papercuts that will never stop pouring RED staining edges of the paper smearing all over the pens I use to write out these truest colors of your Silence, knowing that you'll never answer my pleas to return to me
You are silent, thus you silence me
Man, could I run. Dad was quick too, ran the mile in 4.32 when he was 13. No training at all. The track coaches were all over him until he took up power lifting instead. "Why didn't you run, dad?" I'd pester him as a kid. "You were so fast!" He'd shake his head, and keep moving lumber off his planer to stack in neat rows. "It wasn't anything special, I could just run forever and never get tired. And I was tired of being so damn skinny."
I knew the feeling. Tall for my age and lanky as hell, I ate up ground like my feet were starving. My hair was long and I let it blow out behind me like a cape. Didn't ever look over my shoulder, just knew I was in front of the world, flying.
One morning I woke up gasping for breath. I thought it was a nightmare and waited for my heart to slow down. Walked downstairs and nearly passed out. We drove to the hospital a few hours later and took the elevator for the first time.
Of course I wasn't thinking about anything besides what the hell was wrong with me. Bad cold maybe, asthma, worst case. But congestive heart failure? At 10?
Time for a Funeral
There's no room for a funeral here
Too much to do and so little care
The kids need feeding
And the water needs heating
And that all costs some money
There's no room for a funeral here
No time to mourn loved ones, dear
The clothes need branding
Gluttony's so demanding
And all that you'll owe is your youth
There's no room for a funeral here
Pasted smiles show so much cheer
The company's still growing
And there's no pausing, no slowing
And all that it costs is your soul