sugar is smoking

Today’s poem is by Jason Schneiderman (anyone else LOVE that last name?) which I received from poets.org from their Poem-A-Day email. By now I guess you shouldn’t be surprised that it’s about death (since that seems to be a common event I keep writing and posting about) but this piece stuck out to me in its simplicity. It definitely makes you reflect on any unhealthy–but enjoyable–habits you may have. Here it is! Enjoy 🙂

smoking

it’s amazing how death
is always around the corner,
or not even so far away
as that, hiding in the little pleasures
that some of us would go
so far as to say
are the only things
keeping us alive

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Sitting Shiva

Although I’m not Jewish, I have friends and family who are and have heard a little bit about sitting shiva after someone passes away. In all honesty, I wish all rituals concerning death were like sitting shiva, which includes burying the deceased individual and for the next seven days friends and family visit the grieving family in order to provide comfort and support. I think this ritual creates a safe environment for grieving friends and family to mourn the loss of their loved one with others, rather than mourn all alone. I’m no expert on sitting shiva so if anyone would like to provide any more information–or correct me!– I’d love to hear from you 🙂 

This piece was inspired by the prompt: the appearance of compassion. Enjoy.

shiva

I didn’t know what to do.
She was so visibly shaken
and
upset;
but I felt
empty-handed.

As we sat next to
one another
on her couch,
the yellow light
cast a shadow
upon her face
and I noticed
tears falling steadily into
her lap.

She seemed
so separated
from everyone else
in the house.
Surrounded by
familiar faces,
yet
so
alone.

Slowly,
gently,
I took my hand
and placed it upon hers.

She looked at me,
her eyes
watery and searching,
yet
thankful.

Even more carefully,
I lifted my arm
from my side
and wrapped it around
her shoulders.

I pulled her closer
and as she wept,
her head gravitated toward
my chest
as I brushed her hair
out of her face
and
wiped the tears from her
cheeks–
only
when I felt
brave enough.

I didn’t let go.

Eventually, her breathing,
still labored,
slowed down
and the tears became
infrequent.

She began speaking,
saying things I
did not
expect
and didn’t know
how to respond to;
but I
still held her
close.

I listened patiently,
and even when she
finally
fell silent
I still didn’t let go
because

neither did she.

I’m afraid of death

Every day I get a poem sent to my email address from the website http://www.poets.org. If you love poetry and would also like to get a poem sent to you every day, definitely check it out! Today’s poem is by Kathleen Ossip and I hope you like it as much as I did. It’s hard to admit that one day we will all die and it’s something I know I am scared about. I think admitting this fear is the first step to overcoming it. Enjoy. 

old_clock

I’m afraid of death
because it inflates
the definition
of what a person
is, or love, until
they become the same,
love, the beloved,
immaterial.

I’m afraid of death
because it invents
a different kind of
time, a stopped clock
that can’t be reset,
only repurchased,
an antiquity.

I’m afraid of death,
the magician who
makes vanish and who
makes odd things appear
in odd places–your
name engraves itself
on a stranger’s chest
in letters of char.

Amidst the Rubble

rubble2

I’m still standing here,
amidst the rubble.
Looking around, I see familiar faces.
I see everyone who I thought were stronger,
more capable, and
wiser,
than me.

But here I am.
The only one left.

Betrayed,
abandoned,
and thrown into the line of fire,
I rest my eyes on your face.
For a split second I am
relieved.
Only to be overwhelmed
by a wave of
pain
and
fear.

Without you
I am lost.

You were supposed to be standing
beside me,
victorious.
But somehow we were separated.
I couldn’t protect you.
And now, you’re gone.

I look away,
hoping
to find someone else for help,
hoping,
that when I look back at you,
you’ll be smiling up at me–
that twinkle in your eyes
letting me know
it’s still you and me.
You’re still here.
“You’ll always be mine.”

Turning back,
there is no smile
to greet me.
No twinkle in your eyes,
to speak words we never said.

I fall to the ground,
helpless,
not victorious at all,

reaching for your hand.

reaching hands

Happy Birthday Dad

I’m reblogging this piece again because today is my dad’s birthday. I wrote this poem for him four years ago for his 54th birthday. Today he would’ve been 58.

Abigail and Dad Birthday

As a kid you weren’t always there for me
but you came when I needed you to be.
A move would never come easy to us
but we muddled though it all with small fuss.
You were finally there for everything
from summer, to fall, through winter and spring.
And even now that things have changed so much
I’ll always be there for a hand to touch.
I guess I know the place where I feel best
and that’s next to you, where I’m truly blessed.
When we’re in the car with music playing,
song after song, our arrival delaying,
the sun shining brightly on our faces,
trees pass by, seeing so many places.
No words are spoken but we’re both content
knowing where we’re going and where we went.
We’re a team, always and forever, Dad.
Everything will be okay, don’t be sad.
Together we’ll get through it all I know
because we’re a team, forever we’ll grow.

Purity

I’ve been working on some new poems lately so until they’re ready to be published I’ve got another Billy Collins poem for you. It reflects the writing process that we all go through in a unique and beautiful way. It’s got a little mature content so not recommended for younger audiences (although I don’t think any of my readers are children, but just in case!) 

Typewriter_keys-300x240

My favorite time to write is in the late afternoon,
weekdays, particularly Wednesdays.
This is how I got about it:
I take a fresh pot of tea into my study and close the door.
Then I remove my clothes and leave them in a pile
as if I had melted to death and my legacy consisted of only
a white shirt, a pair of pants and a pot of cold tea.

Then I remove my flesh and hang it over a chair.
I slide if off my bones like a silken garment.
I do this so that what I write will be pure,
completely rinsed of the carnal,
uncontaminated by the preoccupations of the body.

Finally I remove each of my organs and arrange them
on a small table near the window.
I do not want to hear their ancient rhythms
when I am trying to tap out my own drumbeat.

Now I sit down at the desk, ready to begin.
I am entirely pure: nothing but a skeleton at a typewriter.

I should mention that sometimes I leave my penis on.
I find it difficult to ignore the temptation.
Then I am a skeleton with a penis at a typewriter.
In this condition I write extraordinary love poems,
most of them exploiting the connection between sex
and death.

I am concentration itself: I exist in a universe
where there is nothing but sex, death, and typewriting.

After a spell of this I remove my penis too.
Then I am all skull and bones typing into the afternoon.
Just the absolute essentials, no flounces.
Now I write only about death, most classical of themes
in language light as the air between my ribs.

Afterward, I reward myself by going for a drive at sunset.
I replace my organs and slip back into my flesh
and clothes. Then I back the car out of the garage
and speed through woods on winding country roads,
passing stone walls, farmhouses, and frozen ponds,
all perfectly arranged like words in a famous sonnet.

Nightclub

One of my all-time favorite poems by the wonderful Billy Collins

Nightclub sax

You are so beautiful and I am a fool
to be in love with you
is a theme that keeps coming up
in songs and poems.
There seems to be no room for variation.
I have never heard anyone sing
I am so beautiful
and you are a fool to be in love with me,
even though this notion has surely
crossed the minds of women and men alike.
You are so beautiful, too bad you are a fool
is another one you don’t hear.
Or, you are a fool to consider me beautiful.
That one you will never hear, guaranteed.

For no particular reason this afternoon
I am listening to Johnny Hartman
whose dark voice can curl around
the concepts of love, beauty, and foolishness
like no one else’s can.
It feels like smoke curling up from a cigarette
someone left burning on a baby grand piano
around three o’clock in the morning;
smoke that billows up into the bright lights
while out there in the darkness
some of the beautiful fools have gathered
around little tables to listen,
some with their eyes closed,
others leaning forward into the music
as if it were holding them up,
or twirling the loose ice in a glass,
slipping by degrees into a rhythmic dream.
Yes, there is all this foolish beauty,
borne beyond midnight,
that has no desire to go home,
especially now when everyone in the room
is watching the large man with the tenor sax
that hangs from his neck like a golden fish.
He moves forward to the edge of the stage
and hands the instrument down to me
and nods that I should play.
So I put the mouthpiece to my lips
and blow into it with all my living breath.
We are all so foolish,
my long bebop solo begins by saying,
so damn foolish
we have become beautiful without even knowing it.