In memoriam, Richard Allen Clark, August 20, 1929 – April 9th, 2007

Twelve years ago, today’s early morn,
I watched my father die.
An eerie, unsettling event,
an occasion so far removed
from this daughter’s typical realm,
jet-black, deep-set shadows surround its memory,
a bereavement-fog in slow motion.

Together, we waited.
We watched over him
lying there
on that hospice bed,
an awkward encumbrance
taking up space in my childhood living room.

Unsure as to how death would feel,
how it would touch us,
what its impact would be
once it arrived.
We knew it was imminent
yet impossible to fathom.

The night that led us to his passing,
so dark and long and difficult
and yet bittersweet.
Moments of shared grief,
both lovely and frightening,
for they could not
have been known to us
but we welcomed them still.

What else could we do?

I have no words
for any of it.

How to convey the panic
of having nodded off
at his bedside
terrified we’d missed his passing?

How to describe
the bizarre moment
his false teeth fell
away from his clenched jaws,
the hospice nurse’s regret
she’d not removed them in advance?

How might I tell you
of that exquisite moment
of his last gasp
and the unexpected shock
of that long, slow, final exhalation?

How can I explain
what it’s like to see
the undertaker
unceremoniously
zip up my Daddy
in a black, glossy, human trash bag?

Or the anticipated horror
they might slip
on the icy steps
as they carried my father
to the hearse that awaited his body?

Can I ever give voice
to the utter exhaustion,
the new reality
that followed
the pale light
of that early dawn
of his demise —
the surreal relief,
the staggering numbness,
the foreign alteration,
the changed dynamic
of our family forever after?

I don’t know that I can
or even that I should.

Our waiflike 5th grade art teacher
tutors us in sustained
tool-to-medium contact
during the expression
of one’s inner artiste.
She implores us to sketch lines and circles,
patterns and squiggles
hearts, homes, moons and dreams
in one constant, glorious, sweeping motion.

FILL the empty spaces, fill it ALL.
Turn the page over and start again.
Draw. Draw!
There, there and THERE.
And, class
— this is key, she tells us — never lift your pencils.
You and your art must swirl about in a continuous FLOW!

Her fists pierce the air,
arms swoop and flap
like a great winged heron in flight.
Mrs. Haukoo punctuates every word,
she gesticulates for emphasis —
her soul positively on fire —
while we sit there
in awe of this strange woman,
her wild gestures reminiscent
of African tribal ceremonies
we’d seen in grainy B&W films
in the AV room when teachers
were absent, home sick with the flu.

Lackluster skills fail to
mirror creative intent
but soon the paper erupts with
scribbles and flares of my own
native designs.

But when I flip the page over
I struggle as
pencil tip traverses
the slender slice of paper’s edge.

Gaining purchase: impossible.
I seek guidance, frustrated with my ineptitude.

Teacher’s eyes
grow wide
behind her oversized
cat-eye frames.

Silly goose, she teases.
I didn’t mean for you to take it literally.

Coyote lopes toward ancient moon,
sheltered in numinous light
high on the dense chaparral,
brushed in California coastal sage,
ridgeline glowing pinks and purples.

Alpha-male howls at amber orb.
Its clarifying echoes
soothing validation,
precursor of ancestral gold
coursing crimson through veins
flush now with renewed courage.

Actions born of paralysis
Actions born of reckless abandon
Actions born of undue persuasion

Sail your heart on restless currents
Rejoin the day despite every mutiny

Drifts of dirty, graffiti-white snow
sculpted by blizzard winds
beneath an angry winter colossus of grey,
what would thou teach us?

What secrets dost thou hide?

Warmth of spring, her nourishing rains
will wash thou away
yet thy majesty remains
though soon forgotten
until the hot August sun
framed in achingly blue skies
endears us to thy frigid beauty
and cool charms
which we,
ungrateful humans
in the dead of February
fail to appreciate,
we who never quite know
what we want
or require.

Dang.

Can’t think of a thing to say…
I wish I could. I’d like to.
Lying here in my teal-blue flannel jammies
poetry reaching out from the page
connecting with my brain.

Rocking me.
Moving me.
Making an awesome impression.

I want to do that too.

I want to write
powerful words of eloquence
with a touch of grace
humor to boot
wisdom so profound
and so gut-wrenching,
readers will nod their heads
with knowing approval
whenever my name is mentioned
(in reverence)
some fifty-odd years from now
at poetry circles
(slams will have become
oh-so-2017-ish)…

Um.

How am I doing so far?

Seven random images posted the 11th of each month…

1. Desiccated

2. Land Between Two Rivers

3. Yes. It’s Still Winter Here…

4. The Travels of Quinnela Jo Ross

5. Copper Top

6. Mommy’s Little Sweetheart

7. And Now For My Next Trick