PHOTO SHOOT

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Remembering,
I fill my soul with the scent
Of the sun-filled Spring day,
And the hours we spent on the little dam
At the end of the pond, watching
The water rush over the wall.

Black with depth and algae,
On the pond side, silver
Sparkling as a thousand coins
On the other,
Its joyful splashing mirrored words
Flowing from our hearts with such ease
Even the silences
Rang with their song.

I used to look at the handfuls of pictures
Your camera clicked off that day,
Searching for a tangible beginning
To a love that burned for years.

But black and white made it flat,
Like the pond, colorless, even in the sun,
And at the end, as we grew apart,
Finally faded, like a mist that meets the day.

Now, after years, and in the absence
Of such tactile souvenirs,
My mind leaps, dancing in the sunlight
Of the time recalled.

I hear again the music of your voice
Mingle with the rush of water,
A smell of dampness and wet leaves,
Carrying the sound into distance.

EAST TO WEST

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Fairy spirits flutter like Miller moths tonight,
Dancing through the house, twenty deep in the kitchen,
I suck them up with the vacuum wand,
But the magical beings only seem to multiply
For each I send to the oblivion of the vacuum dust bag.

They rest, hanging from the ceiling above me,
Climb the wall next to my overstuffed chair,
Bang the sound of water dripping against
The plastic ceiling light, tap, tap, tap,
Migrating early because of drought.

I know what they really are, despite the soft dust
Falling in the air under the lampshade,
Miller moths, indeed, little masters of acrobatics,
Shapeshifting, interdimensional visitors, who,
Wearing brown and tan tree bark designs,
Disappear behind pictures, and plates, and
Along the edges of cabinets.

Even under the mud boots by the front door
I find piles of ten or 15 hiding in safety and
A little bit of damp, they fly out and startle me
When I want to sweep.

My fear of flying bugs darts out, joins them,
A tiny thread of their mad, oscillating spiral upward,
Around, around, at last one good thought comes,
Moths don’t bite, even if they are little spirits
Searching for the mountains, in disguise.

Around, around, I back to my body,
They, up into the afternoon light,
In a few short days they are gone,
The predator vacuum idle again,
Except for the wary path around it,
Taken by the dog.

EDGES

Beautiful Carvings
EDGES

She’s a lily white, suburban New York City raised
Born, bred, socially, politically, educationally correct girl
With a small town, Midwestern-minded bigot mother
Who told her not to play with the Italian girls
Even the ones with doctor/lawyer fathers
Or Democrats, or Episcopalians, either,
And later, she was supposed to stay away from
Bronx boyfriends, Catholics, though her father was one,
Anyone from the north side of the tracks, and on and on,
This day’s whim not tomorrow’s or yesterday’s,
She might have died right there, dried up, ceased, but…

Into that tapestry was woven one hot-tempered Jamaican
Rum-drinking, big-hearted, baby-loving caretaker
Who wasn’t afraid of anything.

The baby and the Jamaican, they formed a bond like concrete,
Like superglue, like Canada geese, and neither spoke Wonder Bread,
Pepperidge Farm White sliced sandwich bread very well,
Refined white table sugar in a silver bowl
The baby climbed up to eat and spill on the mahogany table,
So sweet it burned going down, sat there gurgling in her stomach,
No, instead they spoke a savory stew of grunts and chopped sounds,
Midnight breathy whispers, long-legged night biting language,
Voodoo, incense, bloody things sacrificed and burned,
Love so deep your heart goes out, turns outside in, dancing
Drooling, moonlit darkness, body bugs chewing, pure baby woman love.

That tiny-town, narrow minded woman mother sniffed out that love,
No way jealous, threw out that rum-drinker, said she was a booze thief,
Bigot bottle-marking rum drinker herself, threw out that midnight love,
The dark warm ground the seeds sleep in, damp mud-skin embrace,
So tight it hurts, fills that empty place, out like so much trash, unbagged,
Back to plain saltines and grape jelly, broke that baby’s heart,
Smashed it, sledge-hammer-road-kill-smear broke it, baby
Thinking maybe it was dream-time woman love, all child-sided,
But twenty years later, out of the blue, the darkness, and this is true,
The mother broke down and told her true, a call came in, moonlit,

“HOW’S MY BABY NOW?” the caller asked.

IN MY SON’S ROOM

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In my son’s room
All is quiet except
For the whirr of the ceiling fan.
The breeze creates
A perfect sleeping temperature,
Two teenagers lie still,
His friend on the pull out chair
Topped with curly red hair
Exactly like a sheep’s
Before shearing.
It’s noon and time to get up
But there is something
So quiet and gentle
About the air and their sleep
I can’t quite wake them,
My eyes catch suddenly
Perfect, the fingers and nails
Exactly the length and shape
Of his hand, my brother’s,
My son’s hand lying
On the black sheet
Reaching out
From under the white comforter
Even the knuckles and bones
Exactly the same
As his uncle’s, my brother’s,
Relaxed, a soft stance,
I feel my brother sharply
His presence palpable
Eerie sometimes,
How genetics magically
For a whole timeless moment
Call back the people
Who are dead.

CCG 8/13/06

This is yet another poem I thought I would share with you. I hope you like it!

SUMMER MOTHER

Nice Mom Picture

Tonight the smell of Russian Olive Trees
Scents the soft night air
Heavy, heady, like a strong perfume
It hangs its sweet aroma
For a week or two every June,
Crickets chirp loudly all around
Flowing in on the gentle breeze,
I find myself missing her more this night,
Though nothing tells me why,
Except that summer was a time
I associate more with her,
With her mothering and presence,
Summer evenings at the beach,
When the sun went down
And the moon came up,
When I was a little girl
She’d walk with me by the water,
Or let me swim with her,
We’d sit on the warm rocks
And dry off, waiting for the tide to change,
The sand, so hot in the noonday sun
In the evening was just warm
As we ate our dinner
On a towel tablecloth and paper dishes,
I still see the moonlight
Glittering its silver path
Across the black water,
I hear the splash of little waves
And though I still hear her happy voice,
I fear my memory of it might fade,
So I clutch my summer mother
Young, wearing her straw hat
Fiercely to my heart tonight,
Imprinting all I can of then,
As if reaching back in time,
Stalking the memory of every sense,
Might soften the loss in now.

Yesterday was Mother’s Day. My mother died in April of 2006. I wrote a series of poems around her death, and this is one of my favorites. Though our relationship was often adversarial, there are times when I truly miss her presence. Feel free to let me know what you think. Thanks.

DEER

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Like a deer with her ears spread
And her liquid eyes watching
I stand in the grass ready to spring
My heart remembers the summer sun
And the buzzing of bottle flies
The smell of the cool dirt
And the multicolor wildflowers
My skin twitches; I feel the flick of my tail
I must have shapeshifted
In my sleep again

I wonder what it is she’s seeking
Moving in and out of shadows
On the most delicate of hooves
Cool water hangs in dew on her lips
Yet within my own body I feel
That engine of her deer energy
The quickened heart
The flare of quivering nostrils

With gentle steps I fade
Back into the shadow of leaves and light
If I hold still enough
You won’t see me
Am I a doe or am I a woman
I simply seek communion
I want to talk to God
And unlike the human race
The animals never doubt
Never lose that connection

So I stand in silky fur
Lick my soft wet nose
And watch the shimmer
The air itself vibrates
In the patches of sunlight
As a doe I can hear it clearly
The still, small voice
Of All That Is
As a doe I hear its song.

CCG 9/21/08

This is a poem I found as I was looking through some of my older writings. Thought I’d share it with you. Let me know if you like it!

MESSAGE FROM MARCIA

Iris
Today I’d like to take a little time to talk about my sister. Her name is Marcia. She’s a few years my senior, something that doesn’t matter much now, but made a world of difference when I was growing up. She’s always struck me as more adventurous, more outgoing, and more willing to live in the public eye. She is a stronger, more demanding personality.

She married a brilliant, cultured man from the Middle East. I married someone closer to home. She’s traveled much of the world. I’ve been two far-away places, yes, but that’s it. I went to East Africa when I was 16 and Australia 40 years later. I really didn’t get to know my sibling well as a person until we were both adults, and she returned from California to take up residence in the town in which we grew up. Her husband spent much of his career affiliated with a well-known university’s teaching hospital in New York, Columbia-Presbyterian.

When I was a kid, I loved this mysterious sister a lot. Mysterious because she didn’t seem to be home much. She paid a lot of attention to me when she was, however. We sat on the floor in her room and pretended to fly all over the world on a magic carpet ride. “Now we’re flying over the Atlantic Ocean. Do you see the beautiful moonlight on the water below us? Be careful not to fall off the edge of the rug, but if you lean over there, do you see the whale down below?” she pointed as she talked.

She told me amusing stories of two cats that had marvelous adventures. “This is the story of when Oakey and Bokey flew to the moon,” she would say. “They jumped up and rose high, high up into the night sky, passing the sparkling stars.” She should have written kid’s books about these cats, but never did. I thought she was so smart and funny. But as I said, she wasn’t around much.

She went away to boarding school when I was still little. After that, she spent a couple of years working and living in New York, but shortly moved to California, where she lived for many years.

I used to stand with her in her bathroom and watch her put on makeup. She had long hair which she put up into a French knot, using a mirror which extended out from the wall on a metal arm. Sometimes she put makeup on me. “You have to hold still while I do your eyes. Don’t blink.”

I still remember the sweet scent of her perfume. The water was cold and the soap stung when I wiped makeup off with the rough washcloth. “I’ll never be as beautiful as she is,” I thought.

I would visit her in the middle of the night, climbing into the rush of warm air in the bed with her. “Move over please, Marcia,” I would say, and stay for an hour or so. I liked to watch the play of filtered light from the street light outside as it shone through the leaves of the big Maple tree in front of her windows. It was especially lovely on nights when the wind was blowing. After she fell back asleep, I often went and sat on the window seat and looked out the glass at the porch roof over our front door.

Our father had taught me how to escape from the upstairs in case of a fire. “Climb out and wait for the firemen,” he told me. I thought about sitting out there, on a ramp of scratchy asphalt shingles, waiting for firemen, but never climbed out. I could escape from my room to the same roof by exiting my bathroom.

“Maybe one night I’ll climb out my window and go knock to be let in,” I thought. I never did. It was too hard to take out the screen. Good thing, because she probably would have had a heart attack.

My sister had a collection of beautiful china horses in her room, in a locked cabinet with glass doors. I found the key early on, and would take the horses out and play with them on the floor. Over time I played with all of them. The tiny legs would snap with a resounding “c-r-a-c-k.” I carefully balanced the wounded treasure back up on its shelf, taking out the next, unbroken horse and ruining it, too. I only did this when she was gone for long periods. Maybe I did it because I missed her. “Why on Earth did you do that, Chrisy?” she asked once, but I had no answer. I was never punished, either.

A closet on the third floor held some of her fancy dresses. I thought she must have been so beautiful for school parties when she was a teenager. I remember the dresses were way too big, and then they were too small. Then they disappeared. I am much taller than my sister.

I invited myself to her home in California for spring break when I was a senior in high school. She was married and my nephew was a toddler. He had gotten a ride-on motorcycle for Christmas. It had a handle you could turn to make it make the sound of a Harley engine. “V-R-R-O-O-M-M, V-R-O-O-O-O-M” it went, so realistically, loud as all-get-out. It took some work to turn the short crank.

I put concerted effort into teaching my nephew, Marc, to get his little hand to hold it properly. “No, sweetie, hold it like this, and turn it hard,” I would say. “Good job, Marc!” I’d say when he got it going fast. It was only a few decibels less than real. He and I both thought that was hilarious.

My sister was in a Ph.D. program, and her husband worked long hours. I am sure she was happy when I went back home, but I still feel guilty to this day when I think about the noise I left behind. Maybe she never knew it was me who taught her son to love that crank so much.

My sister bought an old, sprawling Victorian house when she moved back east from California. She ended up calling it the family hotel. Her husband, Rashid’s, huge extended family came from overseas and felt free to stay for weeks. Our mother felt free to stay there, too. I had a little house. My brother had an apartment.

“Mom is arriving next week,” she would warn us. We all descended on my sister and felt free to hang out, including Mom’s friends. Holidays were always at her house, too. Nobody else had the room. She never complained. We were wined and dined for free, over and over. Who thought to stay somewhere else?

One night my husband and I were in a nasty car accident, not so far from where we all lived. My husband broke all five of his lumbar vertebrae, and his kidneys were shot. ”Marcia,” I cried on that middle-of-the-night call, “we’ve been in a car accident and I’m in Jacobi Hospital. Billy’s badly hurt. Can you please come?” Of course she came.

My brother-in-law was high up the ladder of doctors at Columbia-Presbyterian. He was Acting Director of Radiology, a thyroid cancer specialist. He was our go-to person for everything medical. We had him talk by phone to the doctor at Jacobi who was dealing with my husband, a mere resident-in-training. The ER resident at Jacobi wanted to shoot my husband full of pain-killers and send him to Rashid’s hospital. Better to be somewhere where you are family members of staff, he thought.

My brother-in-law was a voice of reason in the midst of chaos. He chose to have Billy stay where he was. Who knew what his injuries were? Jacobi is a public hospital, Columbia-Presbyterian is not. You want to be in a public hospital on the weekend, Rashid told us, because on the weekends all the staff disappears at a private one. That means that tests that you might need aren’t ordered. You have to wait until all the “techs” who do the tests, and the doctors who order them, are there. In a public hospital, staff is there all the time. “He’ll get much better care where he is,” Rashid said. “Even if I could help you, there’s no one to run the tests at Columbia.”

I found out the truth of this later that evening. I went with my husband up to the orthopedic floor where he was sent. A doctor met us in the hall as my husband lay on his gurney. He was an older man, and he carried himself with authority. He grilled me about the ER. “The very first thing he complained about was his kidneys,” I told the doctor, “not his back.”

The doctor looked pissed. He turned the gurney around and put us all in the elevator back to the ER. He chewed out the ER resident something awful. “Have you run tests on his kidneys?” he almost yelled. He talked to my brother-in-law, too. When he found out from me the resident had suggested sending my husband to another hospital, he turned purple. They did many more tests on my husband. We ended up in a renal ward. I don’t know what happened to the resident.

Marcia waited patiently for hours while all of this went on. She took me home to her house to stay for a few days while Bill was in the hospital. “I don’t want you to be alone,” she said.

For years that’s how it was. My husband was out-of-town one week. “Marcia, I need a ride to the hospital, my doctor wants me to meet him at the ER. He thinks I’m having a miscarriage.” It was 4:00am. She took me to the hospital. She was there when I woke up from surgery. I stayed at her house after that, too, even though she already had houseguests.

Marcia lives in Florida now. Rashid is retired. She no longer has a house the size of a hotel. I live in Colorado. I haven’t seen her in-person in years. We almost had one of those idiotic falling-outs that sometimes happen in families where siblings stop speaking to each other, forever.

We spent six weeks together, during which time our mother passed away, we had the funeral, and then the two of us went through a huge old house full of six generations of every imaginable thing all those people couldn’t let go of, and decided whether to sell or throw it out. We cleaned the house down to the bare bones to sell it, too. Neither of us wanted to live there.

At the end of all that we were stressed out, angry, grief-stricken, bitchy, and totally unreasonable with each other. “Screw you,” I thought as we parted ways at the airport to go to our respective states.

We are all that’s left of our family of origin. We’re both pretty old now. Somehow we kept talking over all those years since Mom died. We’re good friends again.

“Chrisy, I have to tell you I had an MRI yesterday and the radiologist thinks I have a hip fracture, and a torn ligament. I’m going later this week to talk to the orthopedist about what could have caused this. I’ve had a lot of pain over the last few months,” she told me by phone.

My mind raced. “Maybe she has bone cancer. Your hip doesn’t fracture for nothing, does it? They said she might have to be put in a cast. Our brother battled cancer. It wasn’t pretty. I haven’t seen her in forever. That makes me a jerk, right?”

Turns out her problem might not be that dire. They’ll know in a few weeks. I better plan to get to Florida soon. Gosh, I love my sister.