I grumble under my breath as I wait for the crusted water kettles to heat on the
Battered wood burning stove. (no quick hot showers in THIS old house)
In deference to it’s silver haired occupants, for once I control my well-sharpened tongue.
They move in rehearsed patterns in the make-do summer kitchen.
Cracked linoleum diamonds of faded gold/green/red ripple in waves
Over the soft wood floor which creaks noisily in protest as they
Follow their well-timed movements.
Their routines are perfect,
Worn sleek by innumerable hours of practice,
Their dining takes on the appearance of a well-polished performance.
She pours water into a ceramic pan in the scarred sink.
Soapy water drips in rivulets over chipped plates and old jelly glasses.
He grabs a dish towel, wipes the plates and places them in the cabinet with one quick motion
while he talks
She washes and wipes and
Their together task complete, they retreat in tandem.
My bath water boils noisily on the sooty stove and interrupts my secret reverie.
As I ease my weary body into the clawfoot tub,
The quiet chorus of their conversation
Comes seeping under my private door,
Washing me over and over with their words.
Suddenly refreshed by the time tested love-sounds,
I become contentedly alive,
And no longer
In the soft evening light he holds the new babe gently in his strong arms and
makes modern male-bonding love sounds.
I remember another father.
His arms were also strong,
His face, too, soft with the glow of first father love.
Fiercely he protected the heir apparent
As he bravely turned and faced the world
Armed only with his warrior's body and college trained white mind.
He believed the damn dream!
Thirty two years ago it was all so very plausible.
Yet I look back over my shoulder
And see the silent sign signs of sadness fraught from fear.
As the glowing light of life began to fade and flicker
For the father and the son.
The torture of the troubled and the turbulent
Took it's terrible toll
Till with one quick shot the torment was over
For the father—
But not the son.
Son of my son
His blood is in you now.
And who knows what shattered strain of family flowing through.
If we could pick the genes apparent
We'd choose wisdom and wit—perhaps even great strength.
But would settle for gentle heart and love of mountains and song.
But not the dreaded heritage (the bad seed?)
The family madness of liquor lust;
As the ancient Israelites did, I would gladly mark my doorway with blood
In order to spare the male child.
Forgive this babe the frailty of his birthright.
Sacrifice once more...
For the beloved son
Of MY beloved son.
I tried to get it all together
I never knew where to put it—
The pristine white box of life tied up in a pretty pink bow.
Then I discovered that no mere container
Could possibly hold together
The myriad aspects of my scattered and sundry being.
So with hot keyboard in hand I
Seek resolution of challenges, choices and chance.
Strife, fear, joy and faith
tumbled together in multi-colored layers
With bright prisms and solemn dark tones
Mingled together in life’s prosaic, mosaic.
Which only I can see—
Unless I lift the lid.
I think of you and I think TALL.
As we danced, the buttons on your shirt front
Pressed circles on my face,
Your angular cheekbones a sharp contrast
To my dimpled softness.
The hormone-sweet smell of youth
Seeped through the starched white cotton of your shirt
As we waltzed carefree and young of heart
To the wedding altar.
We laughed often and joked of
Growing old together.
I was radiant and dizzy with love
You called me your princess in lace veil
And white ruffles.
Through open windows gossamer curtains
Blew freely in the wind.
The white ruffles waved in celebration
As we joined in primal mating on your grandmother's
Four poster bed.
Youthful lust waned as the babies came,
One-two-three robust and red cheeked.
Hell-bent on perfection
I followed modern marriage manuals to the letter.
White ruffles were replaced by blue jeans and aprons.
You never did learn to like tuna in a casserole.
And I never ever said no
To your fumbling hands sneaking the warmth of my body's secrets
Under hidden cover of the night.
Other nights I tuned in for the sound of your truck
Purring home at last in the driveway.
One 2am you covered me with wafting dollar bills
Won in a craps game,
And I wondered what that had to do with the truck business,
But I wasn't going to harp like my mother.
They said she killed my father with a heart attack.
So I said nothing.
Your golden wedding band flew out of the window with a beer can
One blistery winter night
Your fingers were slim and shrunk from the cold
Was it 1987 we celebrated the new year
In the Laundromat?
We toasted new beginnings
Over the water sloshing and the
Whump-whump of tennis shoes in the dryer.
What followed was the first job lost.
(Due to missing company funds I was told.)
T'was not the last.
The spiral hastened
Always accompanied by a Schlitz Tallboy
Gripped tightly in your bony knuckles
Until the cool metal container became indistinguishable
From your hand.
Frantic for a solution,
One night I sent the children away and
Served you steak and wine in unfamiliar candlelight that
Spiked eerie shadows over children's toys and the worn out high chair.
I used all the woman-tricks I knew
To ease the frown in your face.
But I could not compete with the golden liquid brew.
It gave you seductive solace I could not.
I was your judge and jury and
It had become your understanding,
Forever faithless friend.
My Pollyanna smile became a frozen grimace mask...
And I looked for shabby comfort wherever I could.
You never even noticed.
Finally I fled,
Taking our daughters and the tarnished wedding silver.
We become one more divorce statistic.
Dated May 18th.
The last time I saw you,
You sat heavily in our easy chair,
Gray trousers dark-stained and urine-damp.
Your head hung low.
Your watery blue eyes pleaded for help as the coffee cup trembled
In your long slender fingers.
Our children gaped in adolescent horror at the shrunken visage
Of their hero-daddy.
I didn't know what to do!
I couldn't return you to what you had become.
Spending nights in a cold borrowed car
Writing hot checks
Sleeping in a cemetery surrounded by metal vaults and stone pillars.
You surrendered meekly enough as
Our son dressed you up.
I tucked a clean white hanky in your pocket
And sent you home to the first woman who ever loved you.
Safely tucked away in my file cabinet along with car titles,
Life insurance policies, and 20-year roof warranties is
The Coroner's Report.
"Self-Inflicted gunshot wound"
States the ragged piece of paper.
The death notice of white ruffles' dreams is
Dated May 18th.
Today I live in a reasonable world with reality as my companion.
My dreamy dimples have deepened with age
Thank God I no longer need fairy tale heroes.
A pale flag flaps wildly in the winter wind.
White lilacs in the first blush of spring,
Sweet brides of youth with adoring eyes all intrude
White ruffle dreams into my grown-up mind.
The warm body next to me moves closer
In the rustle of the night and
I imperfectly love an imperfect man.
Gratitude bathes me in a rosy glow
As my heart smiles in the night.
I think of me and I know:
I think of you and I pray:
Gasping, my father clutched my hand and cried
"They're coming for me!"
Whether in fear and wonder I know not, even now.
Then he left me, and so began the February thing;
A month in the dead of winter became the dread of winter.
I count the February days, one by one,
As I keep a close watch on those around me,
Fending off the spectre of doom
In the gloomy, gray February days.
My logical mind warns me of illogical thoughts
As I tiptoe through the weeks I chide myself—
How foolish to be superstitious about a month of the year,
Even if it is the shortest and coldest of them all.
Yet my memories remind me of the time I sat for a week
by the side of a friend
As her angel child left her bereft.
Romping in the safety of his yard, he dashed headlong into a pond.
She dragged him by his swollen face out of the shallows
And prayed him to life for one more week.
But February got him.
Sometimes I am distracted by life
Swirling around me in fuzzy edges
And I forget about February
Until my world is stopped short by reality
February always comes.
I sent two friends off in February one year.
Ten days apart, they held court in their final moments,
Loved those around them, then quietly slipped away.
We celebrated their unfulfilled lives with song and drink.
And wept for the days we had lost.
February won again.
A young lad grips on the edge of life
Hoping for one more day
I am rooting for him to make it to March.
March speaks of spring and new life,
Green tendrils blossoming and faint floral scents.
Damp soft ground, seeds bursting ground.
And the promise of full-blown summer harvest.
Still February holds me at bay as the season runs its deadly cycle
And the dark days of winter return to their gloomy task.
They say that promise begins with the pain.
I count the minutes with impatient heart.
Till it has done with me, hold me close.
The dark moon of anguish will be vanquished by the light.
Begone you month of sorrow! Let the warm winds blow
So I can sense the sweet breath of spring.
February is finally...
As you came through the Customs curtain
Jet lagged and bone weary,
I caught my breath and slowly walked your way
With a defined casual air as if meeting a stranger,
Or perhaps a long-lost school chum.
The world around us swished as we made our way to the car and
sped down the highway on the hour-long trek home.
A hurried glance and a clutched handhold betrayed me
And my eyes kept weeping as I brushed the tears away.
I reveled in the strong sound of your voice, Your man-smell and your energy.
In my weary weakness since you'd been gone
The special surge created by the electric charge of
Our souls in harmony had vanished.
I sighed the sigh of pure despair let go
And began to believe again that
I could put away my be-brave face
My so-strong look
And my primal wall of futile self defense.
At last! It was safe.
Our private world was set aright again.
But these soft simple words were all that I could say.
I sure am glad you're home, my love.
So very glad you're home.
Slick green water
Clear as glass
High cliffs soar over in seductive calm.
Tentatively I take a step
Knowing I face the unknown.
My unsure feet quiver, then hit solid ground with a thud!
Foolishly I move ahead, only to slide helplessly to my knees.
My outstretched fingers keep me from crashing onto the
Velvety-moss covered rocks.
“Come Ahead!” My new companions waved.
“It’s easy—just follow us!”
In spastic fearful jolts.
Up and down between slick and stones
My shaking ankles guide my body to a
A solid rock ledge.
At last I am safe!
Secure on my new-found perch
My rapid breathing slows
As tears of relief-sorrow-joy
Flood down my weary face.
I sit very, very still for a long time
Watching the breeze blown ripples on the water
As finger minnows dart nervously to and fro.
As the late summer sun bakes my
Bare arms and legs.
I take a deep sigh of relief.
My heart slowly turns as cold
as the hidden rocks below.
As I peer across the way
And realize I must cross
the path again
through the slick green water clear as glass
Where high cliffs soar over the
Sweetly seductive calm
Of the unknown path ahead.
I didn't want to love you.
I really didn't.
I knew too well the dangers.
If I was rejected it would hurt.
If I was accepted it would hurt even more.
Only the timing was an issue.
So I warned my inner self—Don't get caught! Don't let go!
Protect yourself. Keep the mask on at all times—no matter what.
Yet as trials and tribulations and anger whirred 'round us,
then slowly turned to cautious optimism and creative joy,
You held tight. Very tight.
You became vulnerable.
One person and one smile at a time you tiptoed in
and captured my heart,
And my soul rejoiced in gladness.
How poignant our time shared together became.
I wanted to capture each moment in a bottle and keep it forever.
You enveloped me with your love and gave to me the caring I didn't know I needed.
Now comes the time of farewell.
And the pain of parting slices me like a jagged knife.
Tearing me apart once more,
leaving fragments of my soul with you forever.
I know the path all too well.
My heartsounds cry out in anguish.
I don't want to leave you.
I didn't want to love you.
But I do.
In thanksgiving for my All Saints family.
M.H. MacKenzie—August 29th, 2010.