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Posts Tagged ‘vignette’

Grief is not a constant thing.

Grief is the unwanted houseguest, the itinerant acquaintance who shows up without notice or invitation, steamer trunk standing behind him as he smiles, his obvious intention: to settle in for an extended stay.

When he arrives, I cannot send him away, much as I want to. He is here, and he will stay. So I make up the bed in the spare room, put out fresh linens, and prepare myself to meet daily the constant sadness that has taken up residence in my home.

But it is not constant, this sadness, this Grief.

In the mornings, Grief, still in his dressing gown of paisleyed silk, shuffles into the room, inclines his head discreetly in my direction, moves to an unoccupied chair, and unfolds the day’s newspaper, sipping creamed coffee as he reads.

In the afternoons, Grief wanders the house, inspecting artwork, photographs, the spines of books, the memorabilia of my life. If the weather is fine, he might venture out for a turn in the garden or to sun himself on the porch.

In the evenings, Grief may enjoy a cognac and a pipe near the hearth, or take a book and a glass of port over to the chair beneath the reading lamp.

Grief is like this much of the time. Quiet, unobtrusive, there are spans when I almost forget that he is there, when life seems normal, but then the rustle of his broadsheet or the sandy whisper of a turned page reminds me: Grief still haunts these rooms.

But Grief is not always so reserved.

On occasion, Grief will clear his throat, breaking the silence between us. The paper will fold, the book’s page will be marked, the teacup will clink home in its saucer, and Grief will turn and look at me with an intensity that demands my attention.

“Remember when . . . ?” he might start, or “I wonder why . . .” he’ll begin, and to that he will attach an anecdote about the one who has passed, the death that brought him to my doorstep. The memory he relates might be a happy one, albeit scorched by loss, or it might be of an angry moment that I would rather forget. It might even be a hidden truth, now unveiled, that reveals unknown realities that add confusion to my pain. Insistent, Grief relates these thoughts to me, whether I want to hear them or not, and in so doing, he brings into razor-edged focus the unhealed wound, the lacuna that can never be repaired.

Grief acknowledges the pain he causes. He furrows his brow and nods as if in sympathy, but ultimately he is unaffected by my anguish, unmoved by my feelings. Day or night, at random moments, consistently inconstant, Grief interrupts my thoughts, my work, my dreams, with reminders of loss and recollections of a life extinguished.

But Grief has visited here before.

As with previous visits, I know that, in time, Grief will begin to leave me alone. His strolls out on the grounds will lengthen. He will take meals in his room. He may even enjoy the occasional trip to the countryside.

As the days and weeks that form the months pass by, the timbre of his recollections will change as well, softening as the seasons dilute and cleanse our discourse of its harsher notes, leaving me with memories that are infused with less pain and greater fondness.

Eventually, Grief will find a place of his own and move out, perhaps across town. He will continue to pop in for a quick visit, around a birthday or the holidays, and we will chat and reminisce and raise a glass to the loved one I lost.

And thus we will continue, Grief and I, until I myself am at an end, when Grief will pack up his steamer trunk and take memories of me to someone new.

. . .

 

 

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224 Words

224 words 
are not enough 
to hold your complexity 
to describe your life 
to tell your story 

224 words 
discretely categorized 
these on education and profession 
those on the passions that fired your mind 
cannot suffice 

I could write novels 
stories and essays
odes and sonnets 
vignettes and epigrams 
and still not compass 
all you were 
to me 
to any of us 

224 words 
cannot scratch the surface 
of the sadness and pain 
that in the end 
consumed you but 

224 words
are all that fit 
into the columned inches 
to tell the world 
you are gone 

 

. . .

 

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For decades now, a ginger-haired girl has lived near us. Not the same girl, mind you. We’ve lived in three places in the past thirty years and, at each address, a ginger-haired girl has lived a few houses down, across the street, or around the corner. There has only been one such girl living near us at any particular time, as if there is some sort of limit on how many redheads a neighborhood can sustain.

I’ve never spoken to any of these girls, aside from chitchat about costumes on Hallowe’en night, but nevertheless, I’ve gleaned something about their character, their personality.

When we lived up in Richmond Beach, there was the young redhead who we only saw as she ran by our house. I never, ever saw her walk. She only ran, a blur of that grew ever taller as the years went by. To school, from school, out to meet friends, coming home from play. Run, run, run, faster each year, as her legs grew longer and her speed increased.

She is Energy. Vitality. Eagerness.

For the past dozen years or so, there’s a girl with wild, ginger hair who lives behind us. From our kitchen window I can see the swing set in her yard and a day does not go by where I do not see her out there, kicking her way, to and fro, through the upended arc. She swings rain or shine, heat or cold. Her hair, once left wild, has now been tamed by Beats headphones. It is her haven there, alone on that swing.

She is Focus. Solitude. Diffidence.

And then there was the little girl who lived across the street for a few years. Vivacious and vocal, she was a true individual, as full of questions and unpredictability as only a seven-year old can be.

There is one day I remember clearly. It was December, closing in on Christmas, and it had snowed, just a few inches, just enough to give the world that magical, unsullied patina. I was on the treadmill, listening to McCreary’s “Passacaglia,” a serene piece for strings in 3/4 time, and I noticed our redheaded neighbor out in her yard, walking with a friend. The two girls were bundled up, wearing swing coats and knitted caps. The redhead’s parents had put up, along with the strings of lights along the eaves, a giant inflatable snowman on their lawn. The snowman, with carrot nose and top hat, rocked gently in the breeze.

The two girls, hand in mittened hand, walked across the snowy lawn and up to the snowman. They stopped a few feet from his round belly, both looking up at his face. It was an idyllic picture, and the music made a perfect soundtrack.

Until the ginger-haired girl, this sweet, inquisitive tyke, stepped up to the inflated giant, and began kicking the crap out of him. Her friend clapped her hands and ran forward to join the assault. Together, the two girls kicked and kicked, little boots punishing, snow flying. The snowman wobbled under their attack, reeling side to side against his guy wires. The girls continued the onslaught and the snowman began to sag, one side crumpling, his painted smile belying the tragedy as he slowly sank down onto the trampled snow until only his top hat remained upright.

Hand in hand once more, the girls walked up to the house and went inside, leaving me stunned, gaping, caught between laughter and mild horror, as the passacaglia finished.

She is Chaos. Complexity. Unrepentance.

Redheads. Go figger.

k

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Evening shadows
gather beneath the cedars.
Beyond the garden fence
the dogs stir and pace
preparing for the nightly trespass.

Trooping into my garden
the raccoons are confident
unfazed by snapping teeth
beyond the fenceline.

Full-throated threats
voice present frustration.
Irregular
urgent
they disquiet my peace.

The interlopers
unperturbed
disappear into the gloaming.
The dogs
with disconsolate growls
return to their beds.

Night draws the shades.
Trees sigh in the easy breeze.
The moon rises
small and bright
limning dark conifers.

Far off
a distant siren
rouses the sentries.
One lifts her muzzle toward
dark clarity
issues a low, rising note.

Her partner joins
adding contrapuntal lines
to calm, focused song.
They take a breath.
A new verse begins.

The mournful howls
echo memories
of pack
of wild
of ancient blood.
Unhurried
restrained
they salve my soul.

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Iris in RainI kneel in the dripping ivy. A trowel in one hand, my other is deep in the soil, searching for the dandelion’s root. The root twists and writhes beneath my fingers, wet and tough, unwilling.

The rain taps across my hat’s felted brim, caresses my steaming back with its cool touch. The spring day is cold, but my work keeps me warm.

The bite of woodsmoke reaches me. I lift my nose and scent the air. My breath comes out a mist.

I grimace as digits plunge farther down into the black loam. The earth envelopes my hand, its serenity infuses me, my worries leach away.

I am the root, now. I am the plant. I am the garden.

k

Pine Pollen

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GakuI once knew a girl.

She was beautiful, with happy eyes and apple cheeks and long, black hair. She was quick to smile, her eyes turning into crescents, her laugh quiet and shy, like a secret. She was quiet, like me, and thoughtful, unafraid of deeper questions. She played the violin, not very well, but well enough to enjoy the challenge, the process, and the camaraderie of the shared anguish of second violins. From my seat in the viola section, we would share a glance, a wink.

She was kind. When I told her of my growing affections, she suggested we take a different course. I decided my life was better with her in it, and agreed. We remained friends, wrote letters, flirted without romance, talked of life, of dreams, of the future.

In time, though, our paths diverged. Other loves and other dreams led us both away from our hometown. Our letters grew infrequent, then stopped.

Decades passed.

Then, a note. An email. Is that you? Do you remember me? (more…)

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