I imagined the house quiet, after they’d left. I could hear the memory of their voices as they were now, an echo. I could feel my heart pull in the way a hand contracts to a fist, the way a tide recedes as it pulls out, the sound as everything settles down and softens. And all there was was loss for all I didn’t do now. So I called out goodnight and they called back, and when I woke the next morning I rose the same as I did any other day, not knowing any more than the last.

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LGBTQIA, the new strong password

I took Lily to her LGBTQIA support group for kids with mental and behavioral issues, dropped her in the lobby with her phone, then drove to Bellevue for a quiet drink. I sat at the bar with a shrimp cocktail, and that song came on I’ve been listening to in the car, one from the ’80s that seems to be following me around. And I let it take me out of my circumstance, to another time.

On Friday, we celebrated her birthday in Issaquah at the Italian restaurant we’ve been to so many times, for birthdays and random days we felt like going out. And then we watched Bohemian Rhapsody, and all weekend I had Queen songs in my head.

We went to the mall in Bellevue twice, and ran up the credit card on clothes, shoes, a new skateboard for Lily. I bought a new blazer for my business trip to Europe, a couple outfits, and exceeded my budget by 4x. And we crammed into the Asian specialty beverage shop that sells drinks with jellies and rock salt, got a bubble waffle, and found a bench in the mall to share it.

Though it was a beautiful, almost-spring day, I did laundry in the afternoon: and paused over Lily’s orchestra shirt, brought back to the recent scene of her leaving the house to perform in the concert, but unable to proceed to the car, frozen in tears and anxiety: telling her it’s OK, it doesn’t really matter. How moments like this can cut into our self-esteem. And thinking that, leaving the support group with its flags and positive affirmations in the lobby, why it’s so important to accept people who need to feel a part, and how little it takes from us to just accept.

We lost an hour on Sunday and now it feels like early morning, or fall, though we’re tilting southward again, and all the birds are filling into the auditorium waiting for the show to begin.

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Down, down

Down went the day, followed by the sun, the night, the moon which rose just a hair of itself, the kids, then us: the weights on the clock: everything goes down. They talk about the ascension, about what happens “after,” but we all end by going down, lowered, covered, burned and blown across some patch of land or water, pushed down in the bed of somebody else’s past, the survivors, those left with the droll task of our remains. Down. And as it went down, the day, the colors softened and gave a good glow. The clock ticked and the heater fan came on, and blew. And I regarded myself and what I had left, what came before, and looked for the moon, just a hair, but what a nice light it cast in that cold, dark, late winter sky.

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The turning back spot before coming down

When the poem is done I let it take effect on me like a pill slid down my throat, waiting. And when at last you get to the top, when you’ve reached that place to stop and turn back, how does it look, the view? Does the sun touch the tall trees or fill the valley with pink, in the day’s last light? Or have you come at morning, for a last look before breaking camp? When it’s time to turn back, I hope it was all you imagined it to be and fills you with some reward for how hard you worked all your life to get there, for that long journey back down to the start.

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Excavation of self, through rotten banana peels and skin

At last the smell that was really me came to bare, to fully express itself, as a piece of rotten fruit or uneaten meat, table scraps left to bloom in some dark, neglected space. A smell, an essence, of toxins combined with bad habits and bad hygiene. The smoker, the homeless, the mentally ill, the town idiot spiraling out of orbit, fallen to their own crater on some distant moon — and what a feeling of peace in the uncaring, shifting in the underbrush of the early morning licking a sore, hungry, still alive for another day. No dry cleaners or office parking lots here. At last, the real me. Hiding in the shadows with that stilted, startled look of the coyote, untamed. The self is not all it’s cracked up to be, it smells of the earth and ground. It needs to get out and forage. It does best undercover.

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At this time of day, this time of year,

the butterfly glows gold in the window of our den

it’s hung by chains, framed, with dust in the old border

and cobwebs strung to the window’s edge

the butterfly is made from pieces of stained glass cut by my parents in the late 70s

and I was there in the shop with all the colored bits you’d need for lamps in boxes

when they got their supplies

and I remember the smell of the lead from their soldering gun

and the frustration as they toiled over it, their first

and when they separated maybe it was too hard for them to keep

and so it came to me,

and now it’s too hard for me to ever lose.

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I have grown tired from too much poetry and these everyday ironies,

have sunken inwards,

as a spot in our lawn that’s slowly turned to a hole,

now something we’re forced to address,

the frost level come up,

the remains of a great maple felled long ago,

the trunk finally given way to rot,

now just a patch on the ground,

a depression.

The guy said you can just backfill it with dirt.

And how relieved I was,

to finally know the cause.

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