Not Old Enough

Turbulent Life

I won’t mourn you while you’re still here making choices;

choices of where you’ll breathe last when the time comes

decisions that are yours, and only yours, to make. Always.

I will, however, laugh with you until you can’t any more.

I will support your choices, defending your life at its last.

You’re not old enough to go, but I know that’s not up to us.

I won’t mourn you while you’re here, but I will love you,

my friend, brother to my sister-in-heart, brother of my brother.

Holy Water

pitcher

I have a Baptist church pitcher of holy water on my counter

I don’t know how many Sunday’s it witnessed

(Can I get an amen, brothers and sisters?!),

but I celebrate the holy water it gives and they gave me.

The preacher arrived bearing a coffee cup filled with good will

opening their church home to me with an invitation

I accepted.

I didn’t accept because they were giving me something

I did, wanting to find a church home, with loving heart

Sunday arrived as did the parishioner to cart me to redemption

There I sat in a church so big, cold, overly puritanical

The ceilings dripped chandeliers over the congregation

I sat through the service where the nice people smiled nicely

I sat through bible study which didn’t feel much like home

I hugged while exchanging pleasantries

with a half-promise to return and a Baptist pitcher in hand.

About a week later, the pastor, accompanied by a scary believer

showed up just in time to help unload my chicken coop.

We shared our views where we sent one another away in love.

But I think of them every Sunday when I nurture my plants

as well as every night when I set the coffee pot with holy water

Historic Healing

The sugar cookie pink dogwood sprinkles bridal paths;

creating instant asphalt chapels.

The scent of innocence found in clover and black walnuts

admire the buttercups, grape hyacinths, and forget-me-nots

I inhale the pastel afternoon of 72 degrees, skirt weather

rising sun peeking the treetops looking for reflections

The yellow skin blanket warms the earth,

nurturing the robins, crows, and a fashionable pair of bluebirds.

In the dark margarine yellow window boxes,

purple pansies assort themselves presentably.

There are four square pillars looking like an estate;

updated but settled into a routine of security.

A squeal of young girls holding a picnic at the curbside

interacting by taking turns instead of having a leader.

They worked in tandem, familiar with their abilities.

A nap in a hammock sounds incredibly plausible, but

I return to the silence of a squeaky cat and gentle spirit

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

Blazing Bonfire

I’m watching the orange hat man in the red flannel shirt and black gloves drink beer and toss corn hole.

His game partner is more pale of skin, wearing Lions jacket and a black hat. I suspect he is a Ryan or Chad, possibly a Todd.

The lattice fence behind them holds the picket porch at arm’s length.

A burst of laughter erupts. Orange hat guy has the orange bag that he curls in circles in his hand.

When he releases the bag at the top of the arch, his hand is like a painting in a city-scape for urban happiness.

A smolder plumes lightly with the breeze that precedes the storm threatening the evening hours.

Flap-flap hat and baseball cap are covering up the fire or adding up a larger stash.

Orange hat guy lights up a smoke. He has…HOLY BLAZES of black smoke and Christmas trees!

They’re all watching it burn. The pine tar smoke rises thick with quick and danger because the speed changed.

They’re up by the garage where I sometimes pass at night.

They’re pouring more gas. I’m slightly afraid of the large tree within wind distance from their need to burn.

Flap-flap hat guy is smoking a cigarette. He has a mustache. He reminds me of my brother and his friends before the military.

Baseball hat guy wears his brim forward and sports a full beard and mustache set neatly trimmed. Probably married.

Corn hole continues. Black and orange teams throw up-handed and across board.

Black hat dude just pissed by the garage with his back to me. His shoulders shook as he finished.

Orange hat dude paraded through the back yard with a baby in pink jacket and red polka dot dress. She flew above the fence.

Victory at Home

I was standing on Fulton street waiting for the Number 15 to take me to the corner near my home. The wind was brisk with an occasional chill, but the lifting of the hood of my sweatshirt over my head blocked most of it. This particular stop homes three buses headed out and about town. It feels quite familiar as all three round the corner coming out of the transfer station down by Van Andel Arena. I switch feet. I look across to Veteran’s Park where I danced with wild abandon at a Thursday night drum circle held after the Jazz concert at Ah-Nab-Awen park. The Main Library is behind that. I spent hours of research in those rooms. Everything I was looking at seemed familiar, but with a dream-like quality.

I came to the conclusion that I was but a drop in the puddle in their eyes, but in mine, I was so much bigger.

When I moved away from West Michigan in 1989, I had no idea who I was; broken, discouraged, full of lamentations. I had no direction or purpose. I molded myself into the ideals that I believed I was supposed to be. I became a fair wife, a devout church goer, a preacher of God’s love, a model citizen in every way. I provided Christmas for impoverished children, took them on camping trips, advocated for their protection always seeking approval from outside sources. I was miserable.

After the loss of Jordan, I began rethinking my life and the choices that had brought me to a point where I could no longer stay. My marriage was a disaster, my friends were there but they were all much younger than I so their freedoms were different. I still had no idea who I was or what I wanted to be or do. At 25 years old, I decided to find out who that woman looking back at me in the mirror was. I left everything behind. I cut ties with family, friends, acquaintances, and moved back to a small studio apartment in Kentwood. I married again but it crumbled basically from day one. I moved around the country for about a year, using Greyhound as my means of travel.

By the time I ended up in Arizona I was a disaster. I married for a third time. I found a group of friends that, for the first time, not only saw me for who I am, but encouraged me to be everything I was meant to be. I felt like a toddler whose parents delight in the antics of the little one, but at the same time, I was an adult. I radiated humor and enthusiasm. I decided I was strong enough to move, so I did. I moved across the country again to Tennessee where I lived with my father for a brief time. He was a miserable human being that rejected me just as fast as he embraced me. It was constant mixed messages from him which led to uncertainty and instability.

I found God living in a little church tucked away behind a natural shade of trees. I was told to go there and I’m glad I obeyed. It was like coming home. It was the first group of collective people that not only appreciated my wildness, but saught me out for companionship, help, and entertainment. I imagine it’s what being a rockstar feels like. What’s even cooler is that I adored every one of them right back. I couldn’t help it. I’d waited my whole life to know what it was to be me. I learned it at their knee. It was the most difficult day when I had to say goodbye to them and return to my hometown of Grand Rapids.

Only, it wasn’t my Grand Rapids.

It wasn’t the place where the broken little girl made up ridiculous fantasies of being the President of the United States or curing cancer with a brightly colored cardboard box and a stick found on the playground. This wasn’t the city where I dealt with childhood tragedies with self destructive behaviors. Nothing was the same, including the absence of the monsters that didn’t live under my bed but were under the same roofs as me. The dark secrets were held up to the light until their power whimpered into submission.

This city doesnt know me, power in my words, body thick with laughter, hair demonstrably wild, my secrets laid open to the beauty of rainbows once forbidden from my fingertips. This city is unaware that within its limits, there is a woman with courage as deep as a wristcutters truth, but as furious as a hurricane battering abusers with education. Grand Rapids has yet to understand that I, that had all along existed but had been nearly crushed by history, rose up to find my feet.

I’m standing in the middle of Division and Fulton in my mind, screaming with laughter at the pure wickedness of possibilities to be reached. This may not be my Grand Rapids, but it is my home.