story by gaslight

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self portrait

you know how
you tell stories

like they’re just
stories
and not really you

like the one where you
were gutted.

that’s just a story
you tell
about a man

you opened to
over and over
until he gutted you, saying
he was just like that, toxic.

just like that, but
still
he couldn’t
lose you.

so you tell a new story
you come back,
again and again
until you tell
your story
by gaslight.

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one of us

It’s always the same funeral home. Maybe they specialize in supporting the families of addicts and alcoholics. Maybe one them is one of us and understands. Maybe, maybe not, but it’s the place we meet when one of us dies.

griefstatueOne of us.

Another one of us has died. We gather together again and stumble through all the things you say when there really is nothing that would make this anything other than horrible and tragic. Prayers, Healing Light, God, Heaven,  At Peace, Better Place, people say these things when they want to provide some comfort, where there is none to be had. There is nothing that is comforting at a time like this. Honestly the only thing that makes sense to say is that This Sucks, It Sucks A Lot, and I’m sorry. We hug each other, cry, hold hands. We laugh too, just a little, sometimes.

Top

This will be the first memorial I’ve been to since my brother’s.  He is at the front of my thoughts today. He is most days, but more so today. I miss him. She will miss her sister. Forty and dead. Somehow this seems worse than forty eight and dead.

Not that you should qualify the degree to which some thing is tragic, but we do just that. Did they have children? How old are the kids? Was it sudden or was it drawn out? How old were they? Were they in love? What were their gifts? Somehow the answers to these questions let us decide relatively how tragic someone’s death is. Then there is the shame or a stigma that can accompany a death from addiction, alcoholism, or mental illness. Sometimes this can let us believe that we can be immune to this kind of death. We cannot. No one is. We know this. It’s why we congregate and reassure each other that we are still okay, that our demons are still in check and that, just for today, we can look at them without needing to hide from or numb  our feelings.

As to the purpose of this pain and heartbreak, I can think of just one, and that is to make you better able to be of service to another person. Ultimately, that is all we can do, service is the thing that gets us out of our own ego centered lives and broadens our vision and our reach.  John’s death has been unspeakably painful, it has been to date the most difficult thing I have experienced. It brought me to my knees, physically and spiritually. It has made me at times, angry, heartbroken, depressed, cynical, and so many more things.  It has also opened me in a way I was not before. Today’s service was excruciating, awash in all the emotions from John’s service and the months following it, but I was also able to be there for a friend and be fully present with the pain she felt.

People die from alcoholism and addiction for many physical reasons, but emotionally a very self centered fear is what takes over their thinking and leads them to their death. Fear of not getting what we desperately want, that we are unlovable, fear that we are unworthy  is often what drives us, what holds us back, what causes us to lash out, to retreat and hide. When we live in fear we don’t really live. When we live in fear we can reach for anything to numb it, to take the unbearable feelings away. Living in fear is dark and scary place. The only way out of it is to do the thing that is the most terrifying, to lean into the fear, to feel it completely, to get really, really uncomfortable, to tell someone of your shame, your fears, to be fulling present as yourself, your flawed, imperfect, messy, shameful self. It is here you realize that you can survive being uncomfortable without constant distractions, that you are worthy of love, that you can be comfortable in your own skin.

TIMG_3274his is not the easy path. Anyone who has walked it wished for an easier, softer way. If there is one, I have not found it. If there was one there would be fewer services like today.

on the hook

I don’t expect to get profound life advice from How I Met Your Mother reruns, but life advice can come from anywhere I suppose.

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Me. Totally On The Hook.

The Urban Dictionary has the following listed under “On The Hook”

A person who is “on the hook” will be overly infatuated with another person. The person who is the desired generally takes little notice (and often complete advantage) of the person who is on the hook.

Often times the person who is on the hook is a back-up.

Signs that you are on the hook:
1) giving foot rubs
2) making mixed tapes/cds/play lists
3) making chocolate cake
4) dropping everything at a moments notice to be with the other person.

Ted: “Lisa came over last night and I gave her a foot rub as we watched a move.”
Marshall: “Are you guys dating now?”
Ted: “No, she is still with her boyfriend, she is just looking for the right time to break the news.”
Marshall: “Dude, you are so on the hook.”
My own signs:
1) being overly infatuated with him
2) he took little notice (and often complete advantage)
3) was his backup / strung along /rebound person
4) giving foot rubs
2) trying to learn Spanish
3) obsessive checking of WhatsApp
4) dropping everything at a moment’s notice to accommodate his whims
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Well damn.
Dammit.
Dammit.
And Dammit All.

ghost

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I love you

I got a call from a ghost today.

The call display said Montana, and  I almost didn’t answer, I don’t know anyone from Montana. The call was from a father that I didn’t know. A father that I will never meet. He told me his son was dead, and for a moment I had to think which dead son is this, which dead child is this about.

Then I understood.

This was Kevin’s father. Kevin who was dead. Kevin, the young man who made a small party my son’s first birthday in Arizona, far away from home. Kevin, who arranged for a decorated ice cream cake and twenty candles. Kevin who ordered pizzas with everything that Graham liked on them. Kevin who took pictures of Graham blowing out the candles and sent them to me because he knew how sad I was about not being there for his birthday. That Kevin who took care of my son when I could not. That Kevin who within six months of the party had relapsed, and shortly after had died.

I had sent his phone a text after he died. More of a prayer in text form. It read something like I’m so very sorry, and thank you. I was so sorry he had died, and still so grateful to him for taking care of my son. I sent it, and like a prayer, I never thought anyone would ever know about it.

I do understand that to his father when he finally got his dead son’s phone that my message would be a mystery. I imagine how many times he must of read it before he worked up the nerve to call me and ask just what I meant texting a dead person.

Today he called and we found out about each other, although we never even exchanged names. I told him that I was so sorry, that his son had been kind to mine, and kind to me, and how much that meant to me. I told him that my son was still alive and still clean and sober. I don’t know that was comforting or painful for him. I think it could be both. Maybe I should  have said in October my brother, John, and many years ago my father, Alan died of the same disease his son did. Maybe, but that’s not the same as a child. Nothing could be that.

He seemed content enough to have his mystery solved and we said goodbye, and then I sat there and cried for all of us, for those who have died, and for those of us who loved them. I cried, because there is nothing else I can do for Kevin, for John, for Alan, for any of the dead ones.

For the families and loved ones left behind, sorry is not ever going to be enough. Sorry can’t heal the kind of pain this is, but is all we can do. We say sorry and we then hold space for someone’s pain. We say sorry and we hold space in our words, in our actions, in our lives, and in our hearts for them. We let them feel their pain without judgement. We surround them in as much love as we can. This is what we do for the living,

because there is nothing more we can do for our dead.

275 days

wp-1468187743004.jpg275 days of saying goodbye. 275 days so far.

We’ve made it through the first month, first Christmas, first Easter, first birthday, the first 9 months.

275 days since they found you lying on your floor. 275 days of imagining you lying there alone.

It started with a phone call, an email and a long drive home to police tape and a stain on your carpet. Days of cleaning and loading parts of you I wanted into my trunk, an obituary and another long drive back. Later a eulogy, a service with your family, your daughters, my daughters, poems, songs, readings, prayers, food, friends family and a goodbye. Another drive.

20160130_122314-01.jpegThen a flight, a Sedona hike with your nephew, a candle and a prayer in The Chapel of the Holy Cross. Another hike, an offering with the same prayer, “I love you Johnny”. I left part of you in Arizona in one of the most sacred places I know. I left your ring, our father’s ring in The 20160130_143710-01.jpegAmitabha Stupa and Peace Park, a place full of love and peace. I left it there wearing your shirt, the sleeves rolled up in the heat.

And this week a drive, a sacred fire, prayers and songs, an offering to the creator in the tradition of the Lakȟóta people. And last night a bamboo leaf, the same prayer, and a candle floating away into the sunset.

 

 

 

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I love you Johnny

layers, like an onion

Me and Shrek (who needs hair when you can have green?), we’ve got layers, and no I’m not a  cake or a parfait, I’m a fecking onion with lots of layers, and sometimes if you peel them back your eyes leak a little, but basically we all want the same thing, to be loved, not to suffer, to feel happy – and to get good and grumpy from time to time.

Shrek: For your information, there’s a lot more to ogres than people think.
Donkey: Example?
Shrek: Example… uh… ogres are like onions!
[holds up an onion, which Donkey sniffs]
Donkey: They stink?
Shrek: Yes… No!
Donkey: Oh, they make you cry?
Shrek: No!
Donkey: Oh, you leave ’em out in the sun, they get all brown, start sproutin’ little white hairs…
Shrek: [peels an onion] NO! Layers. Onions have layers. Ogres have layers… You get it? We both have layers.
[walks off]
Donkey: Oh, you both have LAYERS. Oh. You know, not everybody like onions. CAKE! Everybody loves cake! Cakes have layers!
Shrek: I don’t care what everyone likes! Ogres are not like cakes.
Donkey: You know what ELSE everybody likes? Parfaits! Have you ever met a person, you say, “Let’s get some parfait,” they say, “Hell no, I don’t like no parfait.”? Parfaits are delicious!
Shrek: NO! You dense, irritating, miniature beast of burden! Ogres are like onions! End of story! Bye-bye! See ya later.
Donkey: Parfait’s gotta be the most delicious thing on the whole damn planet!

 

Also I want something safe, and strong and solid, probably not an ogre, but I’m not saying absolutely not. I want a shoulder that I can put my head on when my life feels out of control (generally life is just fine, it’s me who gets lost)  I don’t want to be rescued, not really. I do want something that feels safe.

ImageI feel like a Matryoshka Doll. Layer after layer of a hard wooden, brightly painted shell each covering another inside it with a firm, smooth and solid layer. The biggest with a smile permanently painted on. Life gets difficult? Snap! On goes another smooth, hard, smiling outer layer. People are unkind? Pop, pop on goes a couple of smiling layers. When I’m alone I think about taking off a layer or two, looking at the small doll at the center.

“Beauty comes in many forms–and there is no form more beautiful than you. Just exactly as you are, this minute, right now, without changing a thing…you are beautiful. Beautiful enough to take God’s breath away. You do believe this, don’t you? Oh, you must. You must. How can I believe in my beauty if you don’t believe in yours?” ~ Neale Donald Walsch

Isn’t that great? I need to have it tattooed on my forearm.

I’m rambling.

I grew up learning to gauge other’s emotions and adjust my behaviour accordingly. I hid my own feelings and learned to ignore them. I was told, and believed, that no matter what I did, whatever path I would follow I would never be quite good enough. I could twist, conform and mold myself to make others like me, but really, it would never work. I wore masks, layer after layer of hard, resilient masks, all nesting over another. What I wanted, who I was, what I was passionate about disappeared under the layers.

“The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. You trade in your sense for an act. You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask. There can’t be any large-scale revolution until there’s a personal revolution, on an individual level. It’s got to happen inside first.” ~ Jim Morrison

Inside. Way inside there is that little doll, but the light is dimmed from all the other layers and it’s difficult to see, to feel what she really wants. It’s easier to retreat inside, to not do the work needed to live without the safe, nesting layers. It’s never convenient to do this, there are always more reasons to stay where you are, to stay within the boundaries and roles that have been assigned to you.

Despite this. Despite the layers we all wear, and the roles we all are assigned, despite all of this, we are only meant to be ourselves, that’s all. We, in theory, have the ability to release the pain, to remove the masks and to look into the darker parts of ourselves.

Those who will not slip beneath the surface of the well of grief,
turning downward through its dark waters
to a place we cannot breathe.

Will never know the secret water
from which we drink, cold and clear,
nor find in the darkness, glimmering–
the small, round coins
thrown away by those who wished for something else

– David Whyte

We have been raised to ignore the dark parts of ourselves, the parts about us we don’t like, the parts that we would like to pretend don’t exist. We want the world to see only what is good in us, only the bright shiny outer layer. Except that’s only part of us. The dark and hidden parts, the shattered and broken parts, the really ugly and shameful parts are as important as the bright, shiny and happy parts. Perhaps more important. If you’ve never suffered, you can’t know empathy. A broken heart is more open, feels more, is better able to love.

“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.”   – Leonard Cohen

So what do I want? The same as everyone else, I suppose. I want to be happy, to be free from suffering. How likely is this? That depends I suppose on how attached I get to certain desires, and how open I am to accept and appreciate what I already have. So in the end, I’m okay if Viggo doesn’t show up on horseback, and the firemen don’t show up shirtless looking to rescue me. Well.. mostly okay. I think actually I’m okay with where I am right now. I may even like myself a little more, and maybe I’ll take off a couple of those Matryoshka Doll layers and get to know better the not so shiny and slightly cracked and broken parts of myself, because that is where the light gets in.

faith and a full moon

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Daffodils 

Poems are much smaller than blogs and much more difficult to write.

I used to write quite a lot of them. I’m lazy now, too much instant gratification on Facebook, or perhaps I have simply lost the part of me that could write with precision and grace.

Tonight is March’s full moon. Tonight I am almost through a dark month, a month where I have questioned everything, where my thoughts went to other places even as the earth was waking from a long dark winter. “…sometimes it is necessary to reteach a thing its loveliness ..” Sometimes we forget this completely.

“…The bud
stands for all things,
even for those things that don’t flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;”
– GALWAY KINNELL

 

I used to write about the moon, and my friend Marco wrote this for me (and you wonder why I keep coming back to Latino men, and Irishmen – see below). I read it when I want to remember things about myself I easily forget.

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Laguna de Luna Llena

Suspiros soplan sobre la Luna
luminada laguna

-Luna llena-

-Luna lejos-

-Luna blanca-

-Luna sola-

Hablemos esta noche
De los secretos
Escritos en tu cara;
Las manchas del ayer
Que hoy
Unduladamente son reflectadas
En estas aguas

Cuántos golpes sufriste mi amor
Que todavia sigues luminando
Sobre tierra y nubes

Cuántos amores olbidos
Te han penetrado
Que todavia esperas otro.

Eres terreno sagrado
Donde se sacrifica lagrimas
Y sangre por probar
La vida concentrada;
La angustia deliciosa.

Tu me inspiras…
Tu me inspiras
A cruzar las aguas de la vida;
De la luna llena laguna,
Con suspiros
Y esperanzas
Por amor sincero.

Faith is complicated for me. Part of my proud, stubborn arrogant heritage perhaps, but I reflexively reject things I’m told I must believe. I reject black and white, good and evil as the only options. My world is many shades of grey. Still, I do have faith, somewhere, and it is as complicated and nuanced as the rest of me.

Faith

I want to write about faith,
 about the way the moon rises
  over cold snow, night after night,

faithful even as it fades from fullness,
 slowly becoming that last curving and impossible
  sliver of light before the final darkness.

But I have no faith myself
 I refuse it even the smallest entry.

Let this then, my small poem,
 like a new moon, slender and barely open,
  be the first prayer that opens me to faith.

— David Whyte

 

I wrote this ten years ago, much has changed, but during dark times I get smaller, I sleep more or want to sleep more, and as always I cry in verse.

alive for one week

I am small

I wonder
hear my pulse
see broken glass
want only sleep

I am alive

pretend happiness
feel pain
touch deformity
worry in dreams

I cry in verse

curling within
understanding little
say less
I dream in reds

I try
I hope

I am alive.

hey God,

IMG_7404Hey God,

How are you? I know you have a lot going on, and that in the greater scheme of things I have nothing to complain about, but here I am just the same.

Things are difficult right now. I’m a hot mess. Make that a mess, there is nothing hot about me. It’s been over five months, and I’m more messed up than ever.

I am carrying more than I can, and I’m tired. For the first time in nearly a decade, I wish I was allowed a little oblivion, just now and then. I’m not. I know this, and I’m not going to take that kind of break. I’m going to sit here with all the feelings and lean into them and go through them, just like I know I should, but really I’d rather not.

I’d also prefer that several people would behave differently, that they felt different about me. A complete waste of my time I realize, but here I am yet again. I would love to be loved, even just a little.

I would very much like someone I could lean on. I’m a little worn out taking care of other people. Just one person that I could be this mess in front of and they would be kind and make me tea or something, and not tell me what a disappointment I am, not tell me how I disgust them, that I have a mental disorder and will amount to nothing and end up alone in a little shithole apartment. I give them way too much time in my head, I hear their voices over everything else on days like today.

My girls are wonderful, but it isn’t their job to take care of me. It’s nobody’s job, I have to take of myself, and today I’m tired and just don’t feel much like it.

Anyhow, I’m going to try to put some of this down, or maybe you could take some of the load just for a little while?

thanks for listening.

too busy

20151019_152813-01screenshot_2016-03-06-22-58-25-01.jpegGoogle has been good enough to remind me that your birthday is coming up. There’s a bright red rectangle, with a little picture of birthday cake on my calendar on the top of Tuesday, an “All Day Event”, “John Day’s birthday”. Facebook too doesn’t want me to forget your 48th birthday is coming up this week.

I don’t know how to get rid of either notification. I can’t wait until about 10 am on Tuesday when my phone will send me the notice that I should wish you a Happy Birthday. There doesn’t seem a way to turn these things off.

Thanks, Google! Facebook, you’re awesome, the  absolute best, I mean I might have forgotten to call you and sing happy birthday with the kids like we always do. Except you won’t have a 48th birthday. You won’t have cake, terrible singing (that would be from me and my kids), me making fun of you, your daughters, you won’t have any of this again.

And what do I do? I sit here in wrapped up in your clothes punching the keyboard of my laptop in some vain attempt to find some meaning, some comfort, some anything in this. I’ve got nothing. Absolutely nothing. I want to write something profound and beautiful, but all I have is this huge empty place that is absolutely silent.

“Love is so short, forgetting is so long.” – Pablo Neurda

or as he orginally wrote it “Es tan corto al amor, y es tan largo el olvido”  translated “It is so short to love, and oblivion so long”

It is so short to love, and oblivion so long.

I wish I had loved you better. I wish we had had more time. There is nothing now, no more time. I rethink and replay entire years and the individual seconds that I had you as my brother and know I could have loved you better. I should have done something more to save you. I knew better than anyone what was happening to you. I can never say I didn’t fully understand what was happening. I understood. I felt many of the same things you felt.  We were the same in so many ways, I knew your demons, I shared so many of them, and I still did not save you. I stood still and watch you leave.

The truth is I was too busy saving my own life, too busy with my own demons, too busy trying to save my son. I knew you were leaving, and I watched you go. I should have done more, I should have done something. I just didn’t have anything left in me to save you too, and now it’s too late.

I’m so sorry Johnny.

odd bits with an occasional rhyme

me with quote

Excerpt from Sonnet XXVII by William Shakespeare

I used to think I’d organize my writing into a little book or some such thing, but that seems way too left-brained for today, so here are some scatterings in no particular order, some recent, some older (the sonnet, that one’s old, and I’m still not up to writing another).

August

As a lover, August is patient with her passions
she has none of April’s insecurity or
February’s forged sentimentality
nor will she endure
June’s vanity and boasting.

August bestows her heady scent
in velvet touches –
trailing from her finger tips, you can sense
the summit of summer’s heat
the promise of glorious autumn breezes
all at once upon on your flesh.

Her rudbeckia hued hair feels like a mane of
soft thick silk as lays across
your chest and navel.

You may think she is tamable, she is not.
she is proud and loyal
and most of all – passionate
she might be tamed, but
only by one who suits her.

Within her radiates a heart with the sun’s intensity
once embraced within its fire
you can always know its touch
even during December’s cold indecency.

She would never leave you, but
every year she is abandoned
for brightly coloured leaves
so she has learned to live alone
and hold her passions
deep inside her earth,
till it is her time to briefly love

wpid-20150910_203228.jpgbones

far away
I am this night
as blackness swallows day

sweet, my grief
rests in the folding
black from bloodless red
lay my bones
my lonely love
lay my bones
and heart of clay

coals

softly walking,
the white coals
my falling cloak
aflame

myself, behind me now
in shadow’s
yesterday

swirled by wind,
my ashes
sail away.

FB_IMG_1446961570015wordless

no words drift
between us,
our air
speechless,
embraced in single
blended breath.

breath not for
spoken thoughts; a
tongue moves within
my mouth –
all my poetry is inhaled
then released –
floating down, tangling
my hair,
spilling into your eyes,
where I watch myself,
exposed.

words without voice
caress us
in this space.

New Brunswickalive for one week

I am small

I wonder
hear my pulse
see broken glass
want only sleep

I am alive

pretend happiness
feel pain
touch deformity
worry in dreams

I cry in verse

curling within
understanding little
say less
I dream in reds

I try
I hope

I am alive

and just in case, you thought maybe I only wrote free verse or horribly depressing poetry I present one of my very few, mostly acceptable sonnets

IMG_0010and now for sonnet completely different

Oh damn! I scram, eat ham, spread jam, but Am
Incredibly not in love with Spam.
Nor can I abide a sorry sonnet;
Rather would I suck a festered garget
Then expel an iambic shoe deform’d,
My tongue fen-suck’d to a verse airiform’d.
Cinquain, senyru, haiku – will do, strained brain
Arcane, insane – I shall feign migraine,
Eat a tub a wrathful rotted puttucks,
Or have a flounder damp flog my buttocks;
Instead, may I up fill my toque with puke,
Then spew last two caked lines gobbledygook?
I could pretend, I meant not these words to offend,
And love the form, but tis too late – The End.