The dancers

The officer comes in, straight face
the focus, he knows, is de-escalation
despite the mother’s bruises and her children’s tears
what happened here
is simple in the way nothing is, ever
It’s 1977 or 8 or 9
the time, it runs together when you see the same faces day by day
He, the husband has been drinking, again
shouting slurred words, imagined offenses
And the wife, with her children behind her just asks that he please leave
So the children can sleep
So that they can have peace, though the oldest one knows it’s just temporary
The officer can see it in her eyes, the kid, no more than 6 who dialed 911 because her mother was taking blows and couldn’t get to the phone…
He says, “come on sir, let’s go”
takes the husband by the arm and guides him outside, where the blue and white lights of his cruiser cast eerie dancing shadows on the homes facade.
They are visitors, these shadows.
Reminders to the officer that all is not well here,
And he thinks of his wife and his child, at home.

Penance

perhaps you are my secret
left in the darkness of a closet
filled with dry bones
that rattle like fallen leaves
on pavement on a crisp and windy day
yet unlike those drifting leaves
I can not sweep you away
because you are alive
with beating heart
a memory I revisit in the silent night
with hope
that I may somehow change the past
rinse you clean and bright as dawn
bring you back to Innocence
and into light
forgiven

Eyes Closed

It’s raining and I find myself
listening to the wipers mechanical sound
As they shift back and forth across the glass
and marveling at the cast
the stoplight’s glow leaves on the road
Green means go
and so I drive knowing this way
will never lead to your heart
yellow, pause take stock and
grip the wheel I know the red light’s coming
stop or go?
Hit the gas…we all want what we can’t have
even when it means we might not make it through
T-boned in the intersection
it’s possible
Knowing this still
I careen recklessly forward
slick roads and all
Eyes closed

So many memories

There is courage in living the life you don’t want to live and in facing the death you don’t want to die. That is what my grandpa had: courage. A gritty resignation to face his life every day, even though it was not the life he dreamed. He suffered physical and psychological ailments that bound him, body and mind. And yet, he could laugh as heartily as he could cuss, and his laughter somehow reminded me that the struggle doesn’t have to steal your smile, even if it takes your strength. Every morning, he would wake up with legs as heavy as concrete blocks, and mustering all his strength, swing them one at a time to the edge of his bed while working to pull himself into an upright position. With sweat forming on his brow, he’d grab a metal pole that had been installed from the floor to the ceiling of his room right next to his bed, to help steady himself. Then, with a series of heaves and self-motivating talk (or sometimes curses, or sometimes prayers) he would propel himself into his wheelchair and roll from his room into his day. He lived alone and insisted on independence for as long as he could. Parkinson’s was not kind to him, but he accepted it; sometimes grudgingly, sometimes with a calm and quiet resolve. He had a keen sense of justice, even if the world was not always just to him (and believe, it was not). His childhood, a time filled with laughter and lighthearted days for most, was punctuated with sadness and egregious wrongs. He was misunderstood, judged. And yet he grasped on to life and to the moments that mattered. Holidays especially seemed to be a time my grandpa would come alive and reach out to share just a small amount of joy, to bring out a smile.

His lifetime spanned 86 years. I was lucky to get to know just a few encapsulated moments; life stories he’d share when I’d come by to tidy his house. I feel so lucky to have had that chance, to see my grandfather as more than just a grumpy old man. He died in a Hospice nearby, after lingering awhile. Again, he met death in the same head-on fashion he met life with…acceptance of his fate and a resolve to do what needed to be done, even if deep down he was afraid. I am honored to say that in those final days, when his hands were too unsteady to hold a razor, my grandpa trusted me to shave his face. I’d gather the necessary supplies; a dishpan of warm water, a razor, shaving cream, and a towel, while making small talk about the weather or the state of the world. I’d wet the towel and place it gently over the shadowy stubble that covered his chin and neck, and after applying a layer of shaving cream I’d begin the task, always gingerly. I wonder if he was as worried as I was that my most careful would not be careful enough. So many memories. He was humorous and philosophical; religious and agnostic; powerful and fragile; elderly, but young at heart. He was not perfect by any means, but he tried. He was, in the end, the human-est of humans. One of the bravest, showing me that courage is facing the known unknown…the moment you are in and the moments to come with dogged determination and tenacity of heart and with hope, by God with hope that something better awaits.

Happiness in simple things

Like finding just what you need in a place you maybe wouldn’t have thought to look. Inspired by the finding of a black bow tie at a thrift shop near downtown Indianapolis. It was the finishing touch to a Halloween costume and just as I began to think “we might need to go to a tuxedo shop somewhere and find a new one” there it was. I found it. All I needed was patience and the willingness to SEE. And all it cost, this bit of joy, was 40 cents!

Thrift
A dented gold bell tinkles a welcome
Where mounds of long forgotten and discarded things are sifted and sorted and hanged and shelved in order of size and type and color, though not so orderly that the undiscerning eye can find the value
But where small treasures nonetheless exist
where old things, used and dented and perhaps even abused things
When found by loving hands
Can be made new