24

Wishing you back to life
Grief holds you hostage

I wait for the dirge to play its sobbing notes of sorrow

I wish away the grief that I don’t want to swallow

And yet I’ll sit with you; your body hollow

Wishing you back to life.

I wail to the moon and stars my gypsy heart defective

My fists beat my chest; no longer your keeper protective

sending morose squalls of melancholic reflective

Wishing you back to life.

The Curtained Room

In a room with one window,

colorful curtains against the dim

holiness was born anew

as a breathy release prayed again

suspended between tender bruises,

indulgent heart, and reflections mirrored

in cultured ceremony, societal grieving,

a confusion of emotional hymns

sung toneless to the dim, enraptured heart

refused warmth or comfort, only respite

in a room with one window.

Today vs 355 Days Ago

Today I watched an emergency vehicle roar

followed by a chorus of five more

the hymn they sang was not for me

but I found myself unable to breathe

I started to panic, filled with fear

as if they were suddenly going to stop here

I wear her shirts and her ashes

as if those would conjure her

breathe, ironically, life back to her

to us

to the moment in time where we were

all of we, together, being happily.

It was a feeling of holy

a feeling of communion

as we broke bread together

The laughter we shared

reciting our ancient tales

filled us faster than food

She just at fifty, me at 49

We’d spent a love-time of life

but never enough time

The chaplain at the hospital said,

on the day Bean really died,

Maybe you were the face of God

she had to see before she could

finally be at peace.”

It was the most comforting words

because I often think of them.

I often think of Bean’s face in that same way,

the face I needed see before she went home

Your friend for life, Bill

Bill Busing was a well respected man in Oak Ridge, TN. Heck, anywhere he went he was thought highly of because of his chemistry knowledge, his humanitarian efforts, and his advocacy for people with mental health issues. He was a positive ask-anyone-about-him type of fellow. Because of this, I don’t want to tell you about that. I’d like to tell you about my friendship with him.

Each Sunday at ORUUC (Oak Ridge Unitarian Universalist Church), I would seek out and find those that needed hugs. It was my thing. Some people, like my dad, for instance, bring candy to church for the wee ones. I brought hugs in abundance. I hugged the old, the young, the feeble, the in-betweens, but I always sought out Bill. Not because I preferred him above others, but because he was born decades but days from my birthday. I felt a special bond with him that I can’t really explain.

When he didn’t show up for church, I’d miss him something awful. When he gave me his phone number so I wouldn’t worry about him, I felt like I’d been given the golden ticket. It wasn’t long before we decided to go for coffee. He seemed both pleased and genuinely surprised to discover that I really did seek his company.

We arranged and met at Starbucks on the Oak Ridge Turnpike. I got there first and I scored the corner seats with a table in between them. When he arrived he insisted on paying because he bought special fund raising cards from the church and he wanted to make sure they got used. I thought that very philanthropic, he thought it very practical.

Coffee in hand, we sat down in the corner and chatted for nearly two hours. We covered topics such as family, life events, careers (mine far shorter and less stellar than his), marriage and faith. He was not one for easy laughter, even with me. But when he did, it was rich and full-bodied and worth the effort to coax it from him. He was quite serious but not really; more like a human paradox (like we all are).

After that initial meeting, we met frequently at different venues around town. Sometimes we’d go to Panera Bread where he’d bring his close friend Cherie with him. It was always a delight to see the two of them interact because she was far more vibrant than he, but he seemed to find her antics amusing. Our conversations never stayed on one topic for very long. We’d cover a gamut of issues from politics to religion. He never shied away from anything. He was a brave conversationalist in that aspect.

Once, after I’d moved away, I had returned for a visit. After I walked him to his car, I hugged him extra tight, his hunched shoulders seemed to melt as he held me warmly.

“Bill, I’m so glad I got a chance to see you again. I want to make you a promise.”

“Oh, you don’t have to promise me anything. It’s okay.” He rebuffed me gently.

“No, really. I want to promise you that as long as I’m able, I’ll write to you every time I get a letter. I won’t forget you.” I said with earnest and sincerity.

“Oh, I thought you were getting serious on me.” He chuckled. “Then I will promise you the same thing. As long as I’m able, I will write you letters.”

From that day on, a card would arrive about once a week, most commonly bi-weekly. I replied as soon as I got one as did he. His favorite way to write letters was on the inside of various greeting cards. He talked about his daughter, Lesley, and his growing concern for her but also his joy that he could have dinner with her during the week. He told me about his adventures with Miss Cherie and the people he helped along the way.

During a particularly rough patch of grief, I wrote to Bill and lamented my despair. “I’m lost. I just feel like giving up some days. I miss my people. I miss my tribe. I miss my home.” Those aren’t the exact words, but they are close. His reply was gentle.

“Knowing grief is just a part of life. It comes and it goes. There is only one way to deal with it, just keep living. Being sad all the time isn’t going to make it better. You have to live. You have a new place to be with your husband and family. Don’t give up when there is life to live.” (again paraphrased).

At that time, I remember just crying harder because he, and people like him, are the very reason I was grieving in the first place. I held on to that March letter, in essence breaking my promise, pondering the words he’d written. By early April I’d decided he was right and I was not going to give up easily. I wrote him a letter telling him as much. I wrote the letter up and sent it out on Monday the 11th of April. He got the letter on the 12th. He passed on the 14th. No letter returned.

As I sit here on the first of January 2017, I think about how many times I’ve cried about giving up in this past year as I’ve battled a scary bout of depression. Even with people I love cheering me on, how he signed his letters is one of the key elements that keep me going. He really did teach me something better than chemistry.

Your friend for life, Bill.

 

Mem’ries

monopolytennessee

The crescent moon tilts slightly

against the indigo sky

through the shadows, I move spritely

with unbidden tears I cry

I trudge the road less traveled

My warmest sweater unraveled

So I shiver in the gath’ring storm,

grief overwhelming, I MUST mourn

As daylight breaks the night

I allow my feet quick purchase in the light

A haven ahead affords me rest

I am given respite at my behest

Home is where I’m going to be

If only my mem’ries weren’t in Tennessee.

Aleppo, Syria

Omran Daqneesh
There is a little child in Aleppo born
Exploding waves of violent storm
Raging fires silently call harm
Yet the tiny child raises no alarm.
Ali Daqneesh
This is our child. Our daughter or our son
Our children have now become only one
Innocence bombed in a dawn of mourning
We heard the cries, refused the warnings.
Now we witness our barren crops dead
Help them! Somebody!
We are not what we said.

The 46 and 1,600

Face Palm

Face Palm

Did you hear my brothers and sisters crying?

Why didn’t you help them when they were dying?

Why did you hand your loyalty to the master?

Why did you close your eyes so much faster?

You are saddened by the forty-six which I get,

But 1,600, abused by power, doesn’t bother you yet?

You carry a weapon, a gun to protect and serve,

I respect that, understand that it’s life you try to preserve.

I do not hate you. I do not wish that misconstrued.

I’m not even angry with you when you don your black and blue.

Did you hear your brothers and sisters crying?

Can you turn your back on unarmed humans dying?

Are you still willing to obey that Master?

Or are you awaiting orders during confrontational disasters?

I am saddened by the forty-six deaths legit,

But I’m more disturbed that 1,600 doesn’t bother you yet.

You carry a weapon, to protect your brothers in blue

I thought it was to protect civilians, people like me, too.

I respect the courage it takes to head out into the streets

Never knowing if your loved ones again you’ll ever meet.

I do not hate you. I do not wish this misconstrued.

I just wish you’d seen my human siblings, like your brothers in the blue.