No Way Out
and the day before
that son of a bitch
for the third time
but he wouldn’t
he kept rising
to the surface
of sanguine reminders
But this time,
the last time,
as I tied
As I watched
the rope unwind
taking him with it
I became entangled
in the knots
in salty brine
Lick your lips and remember me as burning
Remember me as tongue on thighs
As keratin-ripped hips
As teeth against clavicle
As sacre bleu, spilt
Remember me as screaming
Keep me in your mind as tempest-settled
Forget my deluge
My cataract-rushing rhetoric
You as finale
Gasoline, match to my flits and titters
Tidal wave to my inhale
Gravity against wingless flight
Lick your lips and remember me as
As frenzied, frantic
As gravity against flightless finale
Remember me as faulted
It was almost Christmas. I was pregnant with my first child. My dad was more excited than anyone. He had been asking for a grandchild since my wedding day two years prior. When you gonna give me a grandson? I see a fishing buddy in my future. When we finally did get pregnant, I wasn’t ready, but things don’t always happen when you’re ready. They happen when they are meant to.
Although my husband and I lived in Philadelphia where I was a doctoral candidate at the University of Pennsylvania, classes were done and I had gone to New York to visit my family for the day. Trying to fit in visits to both my dad and my favorite great-aunt, I had decided it would be easier to cancel my lunch date with my dad (he worked in Brooklyn) to spend time with my 89-year-old great-aunt who lived a few blocks from my dad’s apartment. I figured I would surprise him when he got home from work.
When he got home, I was hiding in the kitchen while my stepmother went to the door. He came into the apartment, slowly, shuffling his feet. He said in a despondent voice, “She didn’t come. I told everyone in the office she was coming…”
In that fraction of a second, my heart broke for having hurt him. I hadn’t factored in the possibility of disappointment at my cancelling without saying I would see him later. As a mother now, I realize he had wanted to show off his beautiful baby, pregnant with her own, to his colleagues. I didn’t get it in the moment, though. I figured seeing me would be enough.
As he turned the corner to enter the kitchen, I jumped out and yelled “Surprise,” hoping that would suffice. I think he was thrilled. I tell myself his eyes lit up when he saw me. I can almost see them as well as his smile that only sometimes reached his eyes, but were always full of love.
I don’t remember what we talked about that evening. I wish I could remember the words. I know he rubbed my little belly a lot. He was so happy he was finally going to be a grandpa. I wish I could remember how tightly he held me when I kissed him goodbye and made my way home. I know it was a pleasant moment we shared. I just wish I had known it would be our last.
I was on bedrest within two weeks. Within two months, my dad was retired on disability at age 47 and hospitalized– his body finally succumbing to decades of alcoholism. Four months after that holiday visit, two days before my son entered the world, my father left it.
He never got to meet his fishing buddy.
We never got to say good bye.
You never really think about it. Death, that is. You never notice how quickly it can come and take someone and you never notice who it's marked until they're gone.
When I hugged you that morning, that bright Saturday morning, I didn't think about it being the last time I would hug you. I've always hugged you goodbye. I hugged you goobye when you went to summer camp for the first time even though it was only a fourth of the mile up the road. I hugged you goobye when you went on your first camping trip in Virginia. I hugged you goodbye when you went to college. I hugged you goodbye when you headed back down to college after Christmas. I hugged you goobye at our older brother's graudation and then, for the last time, I hugged you goobye. You were going on a hunting trip to Georgia later that day, literally just hours after I left.
I never thought I would say goodbye to you or anyone in our family so soon. You had only been living for twenty years and in my mind, there was absoloutly no way you were going to die any time soon.
And then I hugged you goodbye for the last time and reality sunk in. No, reality didn't sink in. Sinking is a slow process in which is drips in, bit by bit, slowly bringing you to the realization. No, reality slapped my in the face, making me realize all at once that I would never get to hug you again. It punched me in the gut.
I still remember the way your hug felt. It was warm and safe, soothing and comforting. Promising. Protecting. It wasn't a long hug, the kind I like, but rather six seconds, quick but reassuring.
I hugged someone just a few days ago that was around the same build as you. Their hug was too tight and the others too loose. Not protective enough.Not warm enough, too tall or too short. Too built or too skinny. There is only one hug like yours and it's gone.
I wish I had realized I was hugging you for the last time. I would have hugged you for longer.
We till the soil of ancients
Generations, laid to rest
From whom we are descendants
We breathe their ash and dust
We tread the earth beneath us
Ancestral, hallowed ground
Their blood cries out for justice
Spilled sorrow seeps, resounds
We hope for futures, brighter
Denying truth and past
In hubris, our wills smite her —
“Earth will always last”
One word will spark a fire
Consuming all that’s brass
Her precious gold survives her
The rest, burned up like chaff
gluten free chocolate cake
The last time I ate gluten free chocolate cake was my seventeenth birthday. I laughed as I baked and snapchatted a picture of the crumbly, wheat-less, rather flat looking product to my best friend.
Her name was Sam.
She couldn’t eat gluten and so became the target of the easiest inside joke of our friends. Every box of gluten free cookies, every labeled menu option, instantly found itself the subject of a blurry phone pic showcased in our group chat. She would laugh, roll her eyes, and reply with almond milk directed toward the lactose intolerant unfortunate few.
We had fun that year. Senior year, which despite college applications and AP classes, was also golden and bright and overflowing with love. It was a race against the clock, against graduation, against going off to new lives and inevitably chalking this up to a few old facebook posts and a fond remembrance of laughter.
Far too quickly, it was over. And then we were preparing to split, and she was the first to go, the most permanent as well, moving back to Michigan. And then there were only tearful goodbyes and desperate last hugs and trying to remember her eyes, her smile, her voice, and fingers clasping but slipping away, away, away, gone.
It wasn’t so bad, after the first few days. There was social media, after all, and FaceTime. And soon, we’d all scattered, found ourselves impossibly busy once again, and it wasn’t so bad, but I took it for granted, only wished over and over to talk to her in person.
That winter was cold. Colder for her, though, all the way up north. The ice must have been brutal on the roads, and blacker than the night they were driving in, practically invisible. It was a disaster waiting to happen. And no one’s fault. That’s what they said at least. No one’s fault, no drunk driver, just a cruel trick of fate and no one to blame but the gods. They just kept saying it; no one could have known, could have done much of anything, but that made it worse, not better. I wanted someone to scream at, to hurt, to punish for taking her away from me.
How do you punish a god?
There is no longer a reason for me to get gluten free cake, no reason for me to consider it as an option each year on my birthday, but I’m drawn to it as I walk by, a sharp pain in my chest intensifying with too many painful memories and a longing to be reminded that Sam couldn’t eat gluten at my party, a longing to have that reason to pick up that box with the image of a crumbly, wheat-less, rather flat looking, gluten free chocolate cake.
If I Had Known
I didn’t want to go that Friday. I was angry with my life and arguing with my husband. I was feeling sorry for myself and not in any mood to be helpful to anyone else. When I walked in she was slouched over to one side, unable to pull herself back up. I took a deep breath and walked over to the bed. She had a look of relief on her face when she saw me. I propped her back up and positioned pillows under her arm so she wouldn‘t fall over again. She was so far from the strong sturdy woman who took care of her family on her own when she couldn’t bare the mess she was in anymore. She stood against society to take that stand. She was the one who told me not to cry to force me into reality as a young child. Now, she was so humbled and totally dependent on others.
I reminded her of the new body she would have one day because of her profession of faith. I oftened teased her about dancing a jig on streets of gold. We sat and discussed the end for a few moments. What would happen the day she took her last breath and came into the presence of the LORD. Just then the doctor walked in. He reported her tests looked good and she was improving.
Lunch would be served shortly. She would need someone to cut it up and help her eat. Just as the food arrived another visitor came. I was relieved that someone else was there to help and I could just go home. I gave her a kiss and promised to come after the weekend.
Early Sunday morning I got the call. I heard the words but couldn’t understand. The doctor said she was improving. I listened with unbelief. I was told Saturday morning she decided to remove all support. She said she was tired and wanted to go “home”. She had outlived her siblings and buried two of her own children. The doctor made sure she understood the repercussions of her decision. She did. She held on all day into early Sunday morning while family surrounded her.
Why wasn’t I called? Why didn’t they tell me? I was the closest one to her! She shared intimate things with me that she never spoke to anyone else. People who barely gave her the time of day and said unkind things behind her back were there.
But it didn’t matter. It was too late. She was gone. I wasn’t there to comfort her or say goodbye. I wasn’t there to make jokes and see her smile. I wasn’t there to reassure her that we would see each other again one day or tell her that everything was going to be ok. If I had known it was the last time, I would have told her how brave I thought she was and how much I looked up to her for the woman she was. If I had known it was the last time, I would have told her how much she meant to me, how much I loved her and regretted any disagreements we ever had. I would’ve told her I was sorry for my selfishness and wanted to spend more time with her. If I had only known it was the last time.
La dernière fois.
The two have been around since the beginning of the kingdom’s rise and time of prosperity. They were both given the same powers by the King & Queen of Irph.
But after a little while, one tried to take over the throne. This did not sit well with the other party.
The last time they fought~ the ground violenty trembled and even ripped wide open. Folks had to really be careful and watch their step. Not only that, a massive storm poured down across the land. Never before had there been so much destruction.
The King told the two siblings- ‘‘Let this be the last fight you have. You nearly blew us all to kingdom come.’’ They wanted to take their powers away, but because the other sibling was on their side & told them she would watch over the kingdom, they decided to let them both keep their powers. The Queen said to them— ‘‘this better be the last time we warn you two on how to control your powers.’’
The evil one is currently serving her time in prison. She has a really long sentence.
Good triumphed over evil. Hurray!
So, that’s how their brief story goes. Let’s hope they won’t have to face each other ever again.
"So can it really be anything?" The prisoner asks his executioner meekly.
"Well, there are a few exceptions, of course," The executioner chuckles to himself. "You can't do, like, an all-you-can-eat buffet or any kind of endless-BS, nor something drugged or poisoned that would alter your state of being before the execution. And no, nothing normally inedible is allowed. We don't like folks claiming they will eat an entire bed and take several days just beginning to chew the paint."
The prisoner is silent for a long time, long enough for the executioner to get slightly irritated: "Well, what will it be?"
"I... I can't think of anything..." His voice is hollow, defeated. Something that the executioner has heard for years. Music to his ears.
"In that case," The executioner says, grinning. "it's down to one question: would you like the standard meal, or do you wanna just skip right to the main event."
The prisoner grins back, a bit wider and crazed than the man usually saw. "Who said I want to be over so quickly? I need some time..." His voice grows taut. "I'll just take the standard, sir."
With that, the food is soon served: Medium-rare steak, mashed potatoes, green beans, and a slice of apple pie with vanilla ice cream for dessert. The prisoner savors each and every bite, wondering why his mind had been just so blank when he was talking to his killer.
Maybe it's because I've finally met my match, he thinks, looking down at the shackles on his wrists and ankles. It's been so long since I've been challenged by someone, and now, that's going to be a last of mine too.
He actually feels dread when he finishes that last bite of pie, the first human emotion he's had in a while.
"So this is it," The prisoner whispers to himself, as he is led to the execution room and his tray gets taken away. "My last meal, and now my last moments. I didn't even choose something special..."
But that made him realize: he had brought himself down to earth. Taking the same meal so many others had gotten, despite having done the most unique of crimes.