A Year of Firsts

This is a time for lasts, as we say goodbye,

but this is also a time for intensely real firsts.

A time when the reflection upon our own mortality

comes to the forefront, peeled away into puddles of grief.

The firsts that haunt the memories

are those that ask, “How can the birds be singing?

Why does the traffic keep moving?

Don’t they realize my world just stopped?”

Like a delicate flower praying in amber

First, there are the beginnings found only at the ends,

then there are the lasts that can only be found

looking in the rear view mirror

as the year of firsts steps forward

begins.

When it first comes home that there isn’t any

physical shell to go sit with,

to hold hands with,

or look into their eyes on this day or any more other days,

the comprehension of our provisional lives

settles like “dust-we-meant-to-get-to-until-things-changed.”

The sound of their breathing or their laughter

has begun to fade and yet, they show up

unexpectedly fully present as echos of last being.

What they don’t warn anyone about

are the May 4ths, the June 13ths, and the October 27ths.

The ordinary, every day chores laden heavily

with surprisingly unpredictable waves

The first meal alone, knowing they aren’t there.

Using the last of the coffee you bought

on your last shopping trip when you didn’t know;

While there was still hope you would shop again.

Packing the clothes they used to wear catching

a whiff of their cologne

that sparked the memory of their hugs.

The realization that along with your firsts,

you also experienced unwittingly, your lasts.

All of the things that seemed so mundane,

ordinary when they were around,

even through challenges,

suddenly become

…absent.

And although they never leave us

their love woven into our cloak of shared life,

everything seems suddenly out of sync;

off kilter; out of phase,

unraveled.

When we think of the deaths of our people

The ones we knew inside and out,

We brace ourselves for the celebrations

because we’ll go through the motions

We’ll go through the first motions of knowing

with all of our people, but one, we’ll be grieving.

Whispering ‘Bless their hearts” reverently,

We’ll be eating funeral sandwiches,

served in hushed tones after the nice service.

We’ll make motions of Christmas, Thanksgiving,

their birthday, your birthday, and the first anniversaries.

It’s the days of confetti we go to like holy sacraments

feeling gawked at and sacrificial; awkwardly naked.

But smiling politely with a discreet exit

helps to survive through the first holidays.

This is a time for new beginnings, letting go of goodbyes

but this is also a time for honoring that which has been before

A time when the reflection upon our own mortality

comes to the forefront, inspired by the love

which brought blessings and comfort throughout the years.

May peace be granted to you as it has been to My loved one

Home at Kawphy Hill

My favorite part of my home is if you stand

at the bottom of my kitchen steps

looking towards the front door at around 8PM

when the traffic returns home from their workday

my disco ball chandelier confetti’s my foyer

with dance party festivities.

My favorite part of my home is

if you sit on my back deck under my ancient oak

while the chickens are bathing in the dirt or

scratching where my Hosta’s used to grow and bloom

you can hear St. Thomas on one side, 4th Reformed

greeting midday with their church bells

My favorite part of my home is

if it rains, any amount at all, the basement

because of the slope of our just under quarter acre,

floods rudely sopping the carpet

but not the floor unless it’s a ridiculous amount

which you’d know nothing about here.

A favorite part of my home is found,

almost as much and as frequently,

as the obligatory Kawphy

served in: brewed, pour-over, cappuccino, or Keurig,

because one type isn’t enough when you love it,

are the multitude of teas that can be brought to life

nearly as instantly as the hot pot can boil.

My favorite place in my home is my mailbox.

I feel like “Walking on Sunshine” knowing maybe…

That today might be the day that one of several

who write me frequently may have done so.

They never fail to lift my spirits, bring me joy,

remind me that I matter in the great white north,

in the deep rainy south, in the breezy southwest,

No matter what or where, I am uplifted in their love.

My second favorite part of my mailbox is the flag.

When I see it up, then down, knowing maybe…

they will also know they are loved by me unequivocally.

Another favorite part of my home is my studio

It is my place of solace and solitude

where I can stretch my head and heart

to write whimsical or paint darkness.

I can embrace the mood of muse intimately

without pride or caution as she warms me thickly.

But what I love more than any of those things,

what gives me purpose to breathe life into the walls,

to shovel out the walk for the fourth time today,

to sort the recycling and the trash every Wednesday night

are my family.

Punky the Chihuhua, Herbie the turtle,

Louise, Fifty, Julie, Roy, and Maude the chickens,

(Two of which are indoor and wear diapers)

Our pet Human, Will, that I found on a street corner,

guitar strapped to his back as he headed out to busk

one freezing sunny snowy Sunday morning a couple of years ago.

Back then, he asked for a warm place to sleep for the night,

he’s never left and I don’t want him to, neither does Ben.

Without Ben the Great or me, we aren’t the we,

that make our Home at Kawphy Hill

Holydays

Grey skies are a time to create

A time when promises are made

Rainy days are for remembering

that love, light, and God will return.

These are the days for hope and puddled reflections.

Sunny days hold obligations

forcing outdoor commitments

“If the weather’s nice…”

Sunny days are for rejoicing,

loving uninhibited, singing praise,

gratitude for the days of rest.

Cloak of Life

I.

When I was first born, swaddled in a blanket was I

with a white cotton diaper wrapped four corner

pinned with non-fancy pink or yellow ducks (Don’t pin the baby)

plastic pants singing to my cooing grandparents.

I was cloaked in the life of infantile adoration

II.

In most neighborhoods, much like yours or yours

there is a coming of age where you must decide

the grade of sheets you wished to slumber upon

Prison grade? Military Grade? Dorm Grade? Or

Hand-me-down childhood covered in favorite cartoons?

Cloaked in hope and ambition!

III.

When you lay your head upon your lover’s breast

Thump-Thump! Thump-Thump! Thump-Thump!

Dreaming awake together of chronological success

House-Car-Kids! House-Car-Kids! House-Car-Kids!

D-d-divorce! (Like a trumpet)

Grow Old! (Like a lighthouse horn)

Remarry (Like “Jane, his Wife” from the Jetsons)

Don’t Worry, Die Happy (Like Bobby McFerrin who is inspiring AF)

Cloaked in life’s chaotic awe inspiring wonder (Like you)

IV.

The final shroud laid

body of dust beneath

Charon has been paid

tormented bequeathed

A soul’s end masquerade

buried in frozen heath

Grieve the mother’s serenade

laying the cloak of life’s wreath.

Lady Diane

The icy wail bit deep into the bones

reassuring, in a way, eternally

that there was no one else as alone

standing glacial; uncertainly

the clump of frigid earth thrown

on consecrated soul made saintly

Final words to me are known,

“I love you! I love you, Mary!” stated plainly

For you the martyr’s flag will be flown

Ever loving, in slumber’s peace ever held gently.

Winter Mile

There are roads to travel that go on for quite a while

but there are none that go on for quite as long as that

of a Winter Mile

When the light has wrung the last drop from dark beguiled,

there are none quite as somber bespoke as that

of a Winter Mile

Warmest sleep of children deep in coverlet dreaming wild

no safer haven of a lover’s wish be true than that

of a Winter Mile

The Winter Baby

These Are My People: Lydia Khandro

Dried brown leaves and gray branches of solemn cycle

ignite to become golden lakes of wild hip-deep depths

The Blue Ridge Mother bears twice the ritual witness

standing cool, wrapped in the garment of her ancestor,

cradling her Divinity with skirts raising winds of power.

Her hair halos with the light of life, love, and nurturing.

She is the Great Mother bearing her Winter-born in holiness