Category Archives: family

Don’t Look Now

Sun angles through the maple branches
with a glare that signals winter. The coming

He looks at his face in the mirror
and sees an old man. He holds the glass
with his only working
hand, the left.

She banged on the sink as
if calling a classroom or courtroom
to order. No one in attendance.

He went fishing. He flew places, drove
places, hiked and paddled to pristine trout
streams in the Rockies. Pilgrimages requiring
two working hands, two working legs.
The time before. How is it possible to
feel nostalgia for someone else’s life?

They stick her on one end of
the trio for the photo though
she is the middle child. An irrevocable status.

He cannot be bought.
She cannot be reversed.
He cannot waste any more time.
He has all the time in the world.
She has lost her grace.
He has lost mobility.
She gains nothing in grief.
He gains nothing in grief.

One son photographs great plumes
of smoke over I-70. The other
sails in the Pacific with roommates.
Wearing crocs with socks?

Her brother casts for trout in his mind.
No twitching muscular recall.
Better to remember
than to contemplate the future.

One of them thinks out loud: I better
lock up the morphine. The other one
points out: a handful of Tylenol
and anti-depressants does as well.

She can’t remember her mother’s face
but the laugh is as fresh as the
morning’s breakfast. A cackle.
A smoker’s gurgle. A Leo’s burst
of joy and drama.

She grew up in a house with
scrap paper galore and crayons dumped
into shoe boxes. Creativity a
given, an irrevocable status.

Now she has to check California
fire maps, often. Colorado, too.

In the woods, mushrooms grow.
In the woods, dogs pee and dig.
In the woods, she makes a lonely
pilgrimage, without grace —
an irrevocable status?

She ties up her hair. Hates it
up. Hates it down.

November will be bleak.
December even more so.
The question is: how bleak?

He leans back. Even that
requires an aide and a motor.

She pulls a face in the
mirror and now remembers
her mother – the jaw line revised
by surgery, the hair bleached
blonde – a certain smug determination.

She, the daughter, is full of doubt,
something her mother never understood.

She lifts his dead right hand
and is shocked, not at its
swollen lifelessness, but at how
much the freckled skin resembles her father’s.

She applies cream to his calves, little scabs
on the backsides. She recalls the staples
running like a zipper up her father’s leg
where they removed veins to install
in his heart.

Her brother’s heart is not at
issue. It’s a peony splash
of blood mid-brain. An
interruption of signals. Language comes
back, syllable by syllable. Much
rejoicing when he at last spits out
the year of his birth.

He’s outlived their father by seven
years. She’s outlived their mother
by one. Three more months before
she outlives her sister. 54, 62, 64.

And so, when she spread the red silk
out on the work table, it called up
death – the one true thing. How
the dog barked!

The cloth was right where she remembered
putting it — a surprise, for often
memory and placement do not line
up. Forgetting
an irrevocable status.

Onto the cloth go the Magician’s
tools: a pewter jug for cups, a piece
of driftwood for wands, a
pair of scissors for swords, and an
amethyst geode for pentacles.

But, so what? There’s that doubt.

Later she places a bone bleached by the sun
right in the center of the red silk. The marrow
exposed. It’s settled! We are
the only creatures
who know that we will die.

She has no fear of red. No loathing. There were red
cloth dolls, red cloth skies, red cloth villages, cloth
poppies, and red paper accents. Some reds
neutral, others carrying the weight of remembrance
or the badge of predation.

A red hoodie calls to mind a film
set in Venice — do you know the one?
Donald Sutherland goes to Italy, a man
bereft, his child recently dead. He chases a little
figure in a red slicker through the ancient
city — over bridges and around
stone edifices. He thinks it’s
his daughter. Is she not dead?

When at last they meet, it
is not at all as expected. Under the red hood:
a small person, not even a child, and he
greets the grieving father not with rejoicing, but
with Death. He slices open
his pursuer’s throat in a single swipe.

So the tourist thought he went after his beloved,
but chased, as it turns out,
his own death. We can go years chasing
after our own destruction, convincing ourselves otherwise.
“Don’t Look Now.” Death, the one true thing.

Love and hope and redemption are true, too,
as are the ties that bind,
the reverent hands that uplift, the heart that
floods with gratitude. But they are variable, all.
Don’t look now – death is coming for you! It is
the one true thing. But
do not shudder or sweat, it just is
another way of saying, you’re alive.

Sunday in pix

Someone likes my heating pad. And no wonder, temps have dropped here. I get to wear my Deb Lacativa scarf for our walk around the lake this morning.

Yesterday: gourd-shopping and mouse revival. Watched Borat II.

I’ve shortened her arms (pipe cleaners cut with wire cutters) and given her an orange scarf (pix coming).

My brother will be transported back to Los Angeles either on Friday or Monday. With California covid19 cases spiking into the 6,000’s, it’ll be a while before we venture West, but it will be so much better for him to be closer to home. The light. And once he gets home: his dogs.

Single digits, folks! Nine days until the election.


Today my brother is being transferred to a rehab facility. In a pique of helplessness, I ordered him a diffuser and some jasmine oil — to elevate his mood? When what he needs are electrical stimulators or computer driven exercise devices?

His impatience to GET ON WITH IT will serve him well and it may not necessarily shorten the length of his recovery. So much remains up in the air.

Listening to old Tippet interview with Vincent Harding on dog walk. A few takeaways:

  • To label the justice movement as one centering on “civil rights” is to fall very short of MLK Jr’s vision of the “beloved community.”
  • Stories are essential
  • We need to seek out our wise elders

The commotion of limb removal next door, believe it or not, refreshes my grief at Michelle’s passing. Even tho she lived in Manhattan and I dwell in a leafy suburb, we both frequently felt assaulted by noise. My commiserator in chief. I still can’t believe she’s gone.

Re-reading passages from Virginia Woolf’s diaries this week, a little light bulb went on. Here’s my insight: Jude Hill has a distinctly Woolfian sensibility and that may be why I felt so instantly drawn to her. Listen:

  • All I mean to make is a note of a curious state of mind.
  • My theory being the actual event practically does not exist — nor time either.
  • I wrote this partly in order to slip the burden of writing narrative
  • I want to sort out all the ideas that have accumulated in me.

The complete collection of Woolf’s novels got away from me at some point. I regret that. Reading her in college was like opening a door to myself. Big time.

Confession: I once took a pack of colored pencils to a copy of The Waves and appropriately highlighted all the color words. I’m sure I had a reason.

Interestingly, I now prefer more “straight up” narratives. A product of aging no doubt. Ask me if I care.

British crime novels, it is!

No really, I’m working my way through Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brody series.

Sibling insurance questions call. Redux.

Dark and rainy Sunday

I fled to the basement. Power sanders, power saws, and illegal gas-powered leaf blowers were insufficiently blocked by my special head phones.

But then I had fun. I actually forgot what it’s like to get lost down there. Put together one collage — it speaks to memory and Saharan dust (even if those are Asian elephants. Are they Asian elephants?) — and added to an old crab quilt. The addition of indigo dyed moons will, I think, make it gift worthy.

Thank you for all your kind sentiments yesterday. K is writing an obituary and cleaning out the gutters and switching out the water in the fish tank and marking out the circle for our new patio. Acting like his Dad, in other words. His father cleaned the gutters well into his 80’s.

Light always enhances

Look what the addition of Deb’s hand dyed fabrics did to the formerly pedestrian patchwork (below).

Pieced it up yesterday and did some cleaning today.

Do you think it was needed?

I’ll sign off with this blast from the past — taken during a visit to a Wolf Preserve up in Ipswich. Both boys were so blonde back then! K was always good about getting us camping or hiking or fishing — such a gift to the boys and something both carried into adulthood.

PS Go buy some stamps!