when the night comes

Some days

I can fool myself into thinking

I’m alright.

A walk outside,

A giggle or a conversation,

Pleasant distractions.

Two or three moments

Strung together

That do not wound me.

False confidence, as I think

Perhaps it’s not so bad,

This new life.

Maybe I can live it.

When

Suddenly, quietly,

Like a fox slipping through

The fence at dusk

It comes…

Creeping into me,

Cyphening the light from

My chest and the love

From my bones

I am destroyed

As

Ever so slowly

(Yet somehow all at once)

I die, I die, I die.

 

J’ai du vague à l’âme

Je suis prest pour apprendre le francais.

That’s what I was going to say when I called. We had so many conversations about having those conversations in French if I wanted to try.  I did want to try, of course, but I was embarrassed at how bad I might be and I didn’t want to be bad – in front of you – at something we both loved so much.  Sounds stupid now.  I’d give anything to rewind a couple of weeks and chat with you in your native tongue.

I know people see me drowning in this and they think, “what’s the big deal?  Everyone has lost a grandmother.”  They only think that because they don’t know who you were, who we were.  I won’t attempt to write that here, because I think it would be impossible, but I have gathered a few thoughts to keep for myself.

When other people hear the term “Iron Lady” they probably think of Margaret Thatcher.  Maybe some younger, stupid ones think of the Statue of Liberty.  I always think of you.  Strong and unyielding, a real force of nature.  A woman who would plunge her hands into scalding hot water because that was the best way to wash dishes, walk 15 miles in a day without complaint (and in fact, prefer it to driving), the woman who caught me by my hair and pulled me up when I slipped and fell off an actual cliff.

Having grandchildren softens a person, and I think it made you – as Goldilocks would say – “just right”.  I hear stories about you being conservative with your praise but with me, you gave it so freely.  I felt empowered by your true and steady belief in me.  You were my compass, my North Star, encouraging me to try new things and have adventures.  At the same time, you were an anchor, helping me feel safe in knowing that I always had a home to go back to.  A refuge.

To be known, seen, understood – and to have that revelation of understanding DEEPEN love, not repulse it – is something I have only ever felt from you and Bonpapa.  You did not tolerate me, you did not chastise me, your love was based on nothing that might be taken away or failed.  It simply was.  I could sit next to you and FEEL the love radiate from you. I know that in thousands of instances, you made a conscious choice to see and speak to only the good in me.

You were otherworldly.  We both knew it.  Your psychic dreams, your knowing.  Remember when you called to ask me if I was pregnant?  I lied to you, but you had known.  When you realized I had similar gifts, you pointed to me and said I was witchy like your grandmother but the sparkle in your eye and half-grin on your lips always betrayed how much you liked that about me, related to it.  I wasn’t like her, I was like you.

A tri-lingual translator for the allies who lost her home and family’s title in the war, lost her beloved father at 9, ate grass sometimes to survive and cursed the Germans frequently.  An athlete and raven-haired beauty queen who held every man’s heart in the palm of her hands.  Coy, coquettish, playful, talented, quick-witted, smart.  Strong.  Unyielding.  Unashamed.  Different.  Proud. I didn’t meet this young enchanting version of you but I could see her in your eyes, hear her in your voice.

The version I met was still a beauty, still playful. She had a radio in the kitchen playing Lionel Ritchie while she cooked.  She took me to the symphony and the ballet so I would have a love for the arts.  She made French bread every Sunday after mass, always pointing out that it wasn’t perfect because the “American” ingredients aren’t the same. She took my brother and me to France – twice – so that we could understand and appreciate her history and our own.

There was nothing you could not do, my fiesty fearless conqueror princess.  Not many people know what a magnificent woman you were.  There should be books written about you, epic movies made.  They wouldn’t do you justice but you deserve them.

My sister, the mother of my heart, my partner in crime.  The first – maybe only – person I really wanted to tell about returning to Paris because I knew that you wouldn’t just listen, you would understand. You wouldn’t just understand, you would feel.  Describing that day, when I turned and saw the Eiffel Tower with the sun rising behind it and I wept, we wept together.  I felt happy to have someone to share that with, and a little sad because I knew that some part of that sadness in you stemmed from knowing you would never get to see your beloved France again.  My heart ached for you.

I hope that you are there now.  I hope that you and Bonpapa are together, traveling as you liked to do,  laughing, free.  I hope that being all-knowing hasn’t changed your opinion of me.  I hope that you can feel my love and see my heartbreak and be honored by it.  I hope that you are already planning when you might visit me in a dream.

My whole life changed in a moment.  My reality shifted.  This is the biggest, the most profound loss, and that is why I am drowning in it.  If you are the thing I held myself up to, defined myself with, what am I now?  I am empty, floating, directionless.  I am filled with guilt that I didn’t call you when my intuition provoked me.  I am filled with sorrow that by the time I got to you, you couldn’t speak to me or laugh with me.

I will miss all the secret things that I have not written here.  I will cling to the memories of my childhood, which you built around me from scraps my parents left lying around and your own beautiful love and strong will.  I will be grateful every day of my life for every day of yours.  I will do my best to love my children the way you showed me, and to travel with them and talk to them like grown-ups and empower them.  We will eat pastry for breakfast and send postcards to ourselves and I promise to speak French with them.  I will wear dresses for no reason and rings on all my fingers and I will stop apologizing for who I am.

Je t’aime beaucoup, my beautiful flower.  My soul cries out to yours in separation. I will count the days until we meet again.  xoxo bisous I love you, Bonmama.  Beaucoup beaucoup.

 

DFW

That story –

The one about David Foster Wallace

Winning a prestigious award months after

Stepping into the abyss,

Believing he and his life and his work

Were worthless…

I don’t know if it’s true but

It comes to mind a lot.

I started reading him after I heard that story.

Talented, raw, stunningly gifted.

I am full of rage today

White-hot flame that accompanies

Grief of this magnitude

I’m pissed that my life hasn’t gone anywhere

Embarrassed that you probably

Aren’t proud

And I am ready to be done with

All this bullshit

So. Much. Bullshit.

Maybe I’ll never amount to anything?

That’s where it seems to be headed

All these talented people around me

Some are horrible, liars and cheats who

Got ahead

Some are authentic and totally

Deserve success.

They are my peers.

Am I the exception that proves this rule?

I work and wait and hope and believe

And nothing happens.

I feel stuck here, unloved, ordinary.

And I’m angry you are gone

Angry at life

Angry at death

Angry.

I’m no David Foster Wallace but

I think about him a lot these days.

Eulogy [prologue]

It was one of the most intimate moments we’d ever shared.

I forget what I was in line for.  I guess I had tuned out all the other people.  I do that sometimes – the noise and the buzzing feeling I get in social situations lead me to focus on something else, something smaller, less loud.  Staring at a penny that looked like it might be glued to the ground by my foot, hands in my pockets, I waited in the line.

All of a sudden someone brushed up against me.  Not like when a stranger passes by and grazes an elbow, more like when you back yourself into a wall.  Only this time the wall had backed into me.  Someone was behind me, someone big.  I could feel them, their warmth covered me like a blanket.  Hands – rougher than mine and calloused – slid into my pockets behind my own.  A head rested itself on my shoulder.  I could feel a bit of stubble on the side of my face, hot breath next to my cheek.

It was sweet, not salacious.  It was familiar, and I knew it was you without having to turn around.  What I didn’t know was why it was you.  Why were you there, standing in line with me – with me and in the middle of all these other people?  It didn’t make any sense, and I thought about questioning it but stopped myself.  It didn’t need to make sense.  I’d ask questions later.  For now, I just wanted to stand here staring at a glued-down penny, your big rough hands nestled behind mine in the deep pockets of my overalls, your head on my shoulder.

We didn’t talk. The line didn’t move.  The wind didn’t blow, the birds didn’t sing.  Nothing happened and at the same time, everything happened. We stood there together, me with you and you with me, hands in pockets.

A millisecond later I was startled awake by the loud creaking of my bedroom windowsill.  These windows get to complaining whenever there’s a thunderstorm like the one tonight. It’s hot and raining heavy and the wood is moving around under the pressure.

I smiled at the absurdity of that moment.

A finger-snap ago I had been happy, in a sunny place feeling warm and secure, and just as I’d begun to thank my lucky stars or guardian angels or whoever was in charge of this sort of thing, I had been jerked back.  Back to a cold lonely bedroom on a rainy night, back to lonely insecure darkness. Back to what was real.

It was one of the most intimate moments we’d ever shared, and it was a dream.

This is the nature of us.

 

Flava Flave Out

A woman I know is getting divorced.  Well, her husband is divorcing from her.  He blindsided her after 20 years together, 16 of them wedded. I am angry for her and I am sad for her but more than that I am excited for her and hopeful for what she will be without him.

I know divorce is hard, but I think regret is harder.

Today I took a nap and I had a dream that the girl he (the husband) has been cheating on her with (because of course, he is) was insanely tall and predictably vapid with platinum blonde hair in a harshly-parted pixie cut. She was, despite her stature and chiseled features somehow not at all model-like or beautiful, and she appeared to work as an attendant at some kind of water park.

I woke up smiling because I would be endlessly amused if this is accurate. I hope it is.

I hope this human Scooby-Doo left his gorgeous, articulate RN wife, who is soon to have her PhD in Psychology, who is also a brilliant painter, journalist, and radio personality, for a thinner, less-worn (for now) albeit easily as difficult to understand when she speaks [even though English is her first language] version of mid-2000s Brigitte Nielsen.

He deserves that.  He deserves at least that.

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I guess all the good ones are taken.

 

Novel

I just completed my 10th book of the year.  I’m really just writing this post to remember some things that “stabbed me in the front”, like a true friend does. [That’s Oscar Wilde]

The book is Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid.  These are only excerpts from the last 130 pages or so, as only today did I have the presence of mind to mark things that struck me as exceptional or true or painful or noteworthy.

daisyvintage

Daisy: Here’s a lesson for everybody, take it from me.  Handsome men who tell you what you want to hear are almost always liars.

Graham: But music is never about music.  If it was, we’d be writing songs about guitars.  But we don’t. We write songs about women.  Women will crush you, you know?  I suppose everybody hurts everybody, but women always seem to get back up, you ever notice that?  Women are always still standing.

Billy: …and I’m trying to put the morning out of my head. But I’m losing my mind because… well it was complicated, obviously.  And then, you know what I realized? It wasn’t very important. How I felt about Daisy.  History is what you did, [emphasis mine] not what you almost did, not what you thought about doing.

Daisy: Songs are about how it felt, not the facts. Did he do anything wrong? Who cares! Who cares! I hurt. So I wrote about it.

Billy: …and I stood there next to him and my brain went, “I could push him in”.  And that terrified the hell out of me.  I didn’t want to push him in, I would never push him in but… it scared me that the only thing between this moment of calm and the biggest tragedy of my life was me choosing not to do it.  That really tripped me out, that everyone’s life was that precarious. … That’s something that has always scared me. And that’s how it felt being around Daisy Jones.

Daisy: I wish someone had told me that love isn’t torture.  Because I thought love was this thing that was supposed to tear you in two and leave you heartbroken and make your heart race in the worst way. I thought love was bombs and tears and blood. … I thought love was war. … I didn’t know it was supposed to be peace.

Billy: Some people will never stop being themselves. And you think that drives you crazy but it is the very thing you will think about when they are gone.  When you don’t have them in your life anymore.

Billy:  We were two halves. We were the same. In that way that you’re only the same with a few other people.

Daisy: I can’t think of any two things that make you quite as self-absorbed as addiction and heartbreak. I had a selfish heart.

Billy: It became so perfectly clear to me that I had been holding on tightly to the possibility. The possibility of Daisy.  And suddenly, I was having a very hard time with the idea of letting that go.  Of saying, “Never.”

Camilla: You know what I decided a long time ago?  I decided I don’t need perfect love and I don’t need a perfect husband … I want mine. I want my love, my husband, my kids, my life. … Things don’t have to be perfect to be strong.

Graham: It’s the ones who never loved you enough who come to you when you can’t sleep.

Why Aren’t There More Love Poems

Why aren’t there more love poems

About Grandmothers?

Epic hero’s journey tales recounting

Their fantastic feats?

My Bonmama is nearly 93.

Once she was of noble blood, a beauty queen

Raven hair, dark eyes, sharp wit.

She is trilingual, a WWII military translator

An immigrant, a mother of 5, an entrepreneur

In short,

She moved mountains with her bare hands

(Usually before breakfast.)

Later in her life,

After raising all her children

Building a business

Assimilating into a foreign culture

Earning retirement,

She raised two more kids.

Not half-heartedly, not begrudgingly

But with love, enthusiasm, and candor.

My grandmother is my mother.

She is my very best girlfriend.

She is extraordinary.

Every time I talk to her I feel home

(In the way that only her home has ever felt)

She gave me culture, humor, and grit

She is my beacon and my true North.

And I’m sitting here after a long late chat

Wondering why no one writes love poems

About Grandmothers

My Bonmama has loved me more honestly

More enduringly, more enthusiastically

Than any other, and in return I have

Tried to treasure her, honor and humor her

Though nothing could repay her for

Her heart

Which I know I hold in my hands

Perhaps the challenge is in articulating

The greatness of a woman unprecedented

Unparalleled

There are no sufficient words to express

All that she has been and continues to be

For me.

And so no poems are written here,

No songs are sung

She is otherworldly.

Too dear for this kind of thing

I’ll keep it to myself, then.

I’ll keep it between us –

Where it has always been.

Conditioned

Lady and the Tramp

Is the first time

I remember being told

That the guy

(From the wrong side of the tracks)

Has a heart of Gold.

 

Next was Johnny Castle –

(A classic example)

of

The nobility of blind love.

And I think about them and

I wonder:

If this is why my mom went under

So many times?

 

The guy who would drink

And pull her around

(by her hair)

With all his affairs –

He nearly broke her.

 

And the man she married (twice)

He played so nice,

Smiling, and smiling,

Snorted our inheritance.

(At least he never hit us.)

 

We moved so much,

New schools, new houses

(Mouses)

That big wooden mansion

The creaky door

Frigid nights lying on a cold floor

Crying.

 

Is this love or is this dying?

Why do they feel the same?

 

I write about love so much,

(And inside me it’s all twisted)

An abstract, a theory

Sewn together with earthworms

And memories that feel like

Delusions.

 

What I have learned,

What I have earned

Is at least the certainty

That

 

Love does not mean pain,

It doesn’t scream or steal or lie

And many times

You can love someone and

Still walk away

Because it’s wrong –

(The side of the tracks you’re on,)

And no one is singing

There is no happy ending,

So you go.

 

(So I go.)

 

Maybe I Am

If I was a voodoo priestess

(Maybe I am, maybe I am)

I’d keep your tongue in a jar

Your eyes on a shelf

Your heart buried in the yard

Behind my house.

Loretta’s Lines

 

Every time

I climb up

In your truck

You spin the wheel

Around

And we’re driving down

This same old dirt road

But

Darlin’ don’t you know?

I’m not going that way.

 

I already had a past

With you

Now I want a future, too.

So do you think that you can

Stop reminiscing?

I feel like

You’re missing

A version of me that’s long gone

And I’m not really the one

Just a fantasy

You’re holding on

Too tightly

And I know

I will let you down,

So just turn around and

Let me out

 

Remember when you said

I was heaven sent?

I should have

Taken the hint

It’s not making

Any sense,

Driving down to

That same old dead end,

The one that takes us

To yesterday

and

I already told you, babe

I’m not going that way.

 

I’ll hop out here

And hitch my way

I promise, it’s ok

I’ll find my way

And hey –

 

When you wake up

In the morning

And the day is dawning

You’re wondering where

I am

Baby, believe me

I still care,

I do.

I love you.

 

I’m just not going that way.