One remembrance

We dropped down into Denver, the lights below, the wisps of cloud and snow, a funny time of year to visit. A time you wouldn’t unless you had to, the passing of my brother-in-law Chip, a celebration of life at the house with memory boards, family and friends. The kids gathered round the kitchen island, ordering out Chinese, buffet style with paper plates and napkins. The strange feel in the air, all of us trying to make the best of it, happy to be together but for our circumstances. In the morning, that slate blue wintry sky like the paintings from the southwest hung around the house. Patches of snow on the neighbor’s roofs still, icy bands along the streets. The sun rising slow, a hot white ember in a stew of cold and gray, this day we remember Chip.

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Sunday night with the tree

When we mounted it, the tree stood perfectly the first time. The trunk was too wide for the screws in the base though, and Dawn had to run out and get a new one. This will be the base for the ages, I said. In the first week it drank about three quarts a day. It filled the entryway with the scent of fresh pine. The lights gave a soft glow and the glass ornaments a sparkle. More and more the kids were less and less interested in the decorating but they still gathered round, still had some pep brought on by the decorations and the music. I had to rework a project plan as the sun went down and the timer triggered the ceramic lights outside. I came down and lay on the sofa with a beer while Dawn laced the lights around and started with the ornaments. I hung a handful myself and repositioned some that had already been hung. With Thanksgiving so late it seemed to compress Christmas, the two bumping into each other awkwardly at the door, not supposed to see each other passing. Both clocks ticked opposite each other with the tree in the middle. And I wondered what it thought of all this ornamentation and fuss: this cruel ending. One month you’re center stage, the next you’re kicked to the curb for the Boy Scouts, hauled off in a truck.

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Their home

They walked down a path that led to the house by a lilac bush and a lamppost, where he’d buried his first cat. It was no longer their house anymore, it was their home, the new people who bought it. He drifted off, remembering that first house: the look of the light coming through the kitchen that overlooked the alley, the plumber’s little parking lot. The color of the wood floors, original, old wood. Wide floor boards. Coved ceilings, nice bright light. House plants, a patterned rug. This is where they’d started their family, when it was their home. He lay in bed drifting off to the sound of the kids in the driveway, they had just returned home. It was cold, coming on December, and they were still kids. And he was still young for a time too. He thought about running the generator to keep the battery from going, and thought about getting a tree. There was nothing but sun today. And all the life they had to live still, in their home.


Image by Albert Neuhuys, ‘A peasant family at lunch,’ 1895

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Thanks giving

And then for a time it is just the sound of the dog licking an empty bowl

I’ve turned out all the lights so the coming dawn can fill every room

and why do we say, “I’m filled with loss”

when loss is an absence

should it be more,

“the loss reveals how big the empty space is in me”

and that’s what fills us,

a reminder of what once was

how life would never truly reveal itself

until maybe the end:

what makes it so peculiar, so wondrous,

its mystery reserved for a day we’d see it as an accumulation

of indescribable pain and beauty

cut like a diamond with all its facets and angles of light —

I give thanks now for the space it has made in my heart,

for the weight in what I have

and stand to lose,

for the gratitude that grows with age,

and all that waits

to reveal itself.

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One decision of many

Charlotte held her fork with the kind of grip you’d use to plunge a dagger into a vampire, the way she drew down on her cake. It was almost a year since the two of us had gone out to dinner, a restaurant I’d first been to on 9/11 with Dawn. We all needed to get out and be with other people that night, to get away from our TV’s. My boss drove me home and we’d stopped at a gas station because he collected newspapers with headlines of major events like that. We’d all drawn straws to determine who would stay late, and I drew the shortest one. Continue reading

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My old man pose

I ate last night’s dinner

for breakfast, wild mushrooms

in bone broth. I sat by myself

in the nook chewing,

contemplating the day.

It passed without report.

In the middle of the night

the moon made the fog

look like a stony broth,

like we were all just

floating in the soup

with our legs dangling,

no floor.

I got back into bed,

let out a hearty yawn

and thought, I must look

like my old man now:

“old age.”

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Poem for the days

They don’t matter, most of the days.

Don’t matter because we squander

them the same as water down

the drain thinking there will

always be more. The ones

we remember are for good or bad

reasons but the truth is,

most days are really both.

Most days are a mix, same

as a whole life,

water from the tap

drawn from a source unseen.

Drink.

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