Lives in Pieces: Vale et memini (Goodbye and I Remember)


A Postscript to Lives in Pieces (Sequence Out of Order)—As Yet Unfinished


Part 4 is still in progress. This poem was written after the events, but it addresses the resultant effects of the events. Sometimes life is not linear, especially in the retelling. More often than not, the poems that arise in the initial retelling are too raw, too intense, and so they must be subsumed until much later when they can be resurrected for retelling in another time, with different  pieces to surround and enfold them. This is the time for this poem. Its context will become clear once the whole story has been told. Perhaps I should wait until such time, but the words are crying out now to be heard. I must hearken to the words.


For My Husband, Returning to His Lover


The lover speaks:

 “She is the sum of yourself and your dream.

Climb her like a monument, step after step.

She is solid.


As for me, I am watercolor.

I wash off.” — “For My Lover, Returning to His Wife,” by Anne Sexton


I ask my only love

if his new love

is prettier than I.

“The same,” he replies.

The same?  How can that be?

Look. If I stand naked

before my mirror,

it is obvious (at least to me),

my beauty and hers

cannot be the same.

For example, here,

hidden beneath the hairs of my

pubis, lies the scar

of the last child I bore him.

And here, in the hollow of my neck

is the flickering pulse

whose rhythm I have attuned

to only him.  And clearly,

my breasts have grown softer and lovelier

from use–four babies

have suckled them.  How many

have found sustenance at her breasts?

I pity their unused firmness.

Look closely, these faint gray lines

at the tops of both my thighs, surely

she has not acquired anything

quite as exquisite.  Mine are badges,

earned by keeping pace with him

for decades–the many treks

we made across life’s arduous terrain.

And this, explain this:

right here, this layer of skin,

thicker across my heart.

How can she possibly have

the same strong patch of derma,

repeatedly flayed and regenerated,

toughened from years of surviving

the fierce pain of first one loss

and then another?  The same? No.

He is wrong.  Her beauty

cannot compare.  I have lived

too long in the arms of grace.

I have all of the petals

of all of the flowers

he ever brought to my bed

scotch-taped to my hair.

And I have all of the salty droplets

from every tear

ever shed between us

collected here, in the deepening lines

surrounding my eyes.

Eyes that have seen

too many sleepless nights,

sleepless from comforting

his three living children–

set forth under the moon–

nurturing his flesh,

preserving his legacy.

Eyes that have grown so dark

from all they have absorbed

that they are almost liquid now.

Anyone’s eyes

can reflect the light as hers do.

How many eyes

can swallow pure light whole

and still enrapture

with just a glance?

The same?  No. I still have all

of his seed, given freely

every time he planted himself

within me, pooled here,

in this round part of my belly.

Her belly is flat.  What does it know

of planting and reaping? 

Show me the blood she has let

as I did when it came time

to sustain him, when only my corpuscles

could satisfy his concupiscence.

His teeth marks have formed ridges

all over my body–tattoos from the times

he could not taste me

deeply enough.

All of the magic lotions

in all of the pretty bottles,

will not fade these scars,

nor would I even try.

The same?  Foolish man!  Her beauty

comes from a soft, unsullied life

and Max Factor.  It is ephemeral, borne

of spun air and cloudless skies.  It

washes off

like a late afternoon shower,

fading quickly from memory.

Mine is borne of tempests–

fiercely fought hurricanes

and unforgiving, relentless winds.

My landscape is permanent

and far too complicated

to be compared to an empty orchard,

awaiting the coming of life’s sweet apples.

The same? No.  Forgive his ignorance.

Come closer. Can you not see?

The saint commits the sin.

Only wisdom

can offer absolution.

There is no wisdom

in evanescence. There is no permanence

in beauty without substance.

The same? No. Careless man.

What an inadequate answer

to an inane question.

Tell him to go and play in spring’s garden

where the blooms

have already begun to fade.

As for me, I have

an elegant tapestry to return to,

just waiting for more golden threads

to be woven into its strong, peerless fiber.

The same?  What I have

is as permanent as Michelangelo’s hand of God

reaching out to Adam.

The same?  What I hold

is as valued as all of the beads

on all of the rosaries

in all of God’s houses.

The same? Poor, silly lost man.

His fingers have become so caught

in her embrace

that he has forgotten

how to read maps. He has forsaken

all he knows to be true. The same?

I think not.


September 19, 1998


There will be more later. Peace.





It’s Christmas Eve. Where are the helper elves?


Star of Bethlehem

We’re In Countdown Mode

I am much too tired to do a regular post tonight. I’ve been going non-stop since I rolled out of bed. Somehow, Tillie managed to make herself small and curl up on my right side, right on my shoulder and arm, the one that is hurting. I woke up holding on to one of the rungs on the iron headboard, with my head hanging off, yelling to Corey, “I’m falling off the bed.” To which he replied, “how can you possibly be falling of the bed?”

When I’m falling off the bed, I’d much rather that he grabbed first and asked inane questions later since I fell off the bed in my attempt to answer the question. Luckily, the nice, cushiony dog bed that none of the dogs sleep on broke my fall. This is how my morning, or rather afternoon began. It was already afternoon as I had slept well past noon. I don’t feel guilty since I didn’t fall asleep until 3:30. My insomnia is getting better, though.

My mother’s words of advice are that I shouldn’t be taking sleeping pills because I already take too many pills. This I don’t know already? She then proceeds to yell at me for not answering my phone as I try to explain to her that I couldn’t answer my phone because I was in the doctor’s office, and then after the doctor’s office, I came home and went to bed. To which she replied that she understands, but I shouldn’t sleep during the day, but she spent the day on the couch because her arthritis was acting up, but that’s no reason for me to spend the day in bed . . . ya da ya da ya da . . . I’m dozing off as she is telling me how irresponsible I am . . . I am so tired of my mom being mad at me

So, after getting out of bed today, I wrap presents, and wrap presents, and wrap presents. At some point, I realize that I cannot find a present: the gift card for my daughter. But Brett finds it in a bag. Then I cannot find a present that Brett bought for Corey. At this point, it’s still lost, but we will resume hunt in the morning. We are too tired to keep looking tonight.

Tillie has tried mightily to help wrap presents. It’s her first Christmas, and everything is new and exciting. The ornaments on the tree are new and exciting. Corey is taking bets that the tree will not make it through the holidays. I tell him to run some fishing wire to the ceiling. He looks at me as if I’ve grown a third eye in the middle of my forehead. I know that other people do this to prevent tree toppling. Am I right?

Of course, I could be hallucinating at this point because I haven’t been ingesting fluids regularly throughout the day. I’m also jonesing really bad for something sweet. There is nothing sweet in the house. Eamonn found my gingerbread men. I thought that I would be safe buying gingerbread cookies because there is no chocolate involved. But no, he likes these too. I’m trying to find a cookie that he doesn’t like, but I fear that is not possible.

So no cookies in the house, no ice cream, no chocolate, no jello, and three twizzlers. I need chocolate. Is anyone listening? I’m saving the twizzlers for my most desperate moments as I know that the worst is still yet to come. Eamonn’s presents haven’t been delivered yet; they are due to arrive Wednesday. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

I did finish my present for my niece. She wanted Obama memorabilia, so I got together a bumper sticker, some voter cards from the campaign, a poster, and a Time Magazine Man of the Year edition. Actually, I’ve bought one of those for everyone’s stockings. Oh crap. I still haven’t made Tillie’s stocking. Maybe that’s the last thing I’ll do before bed.

Have to get up and finish wrapping, put more ornaments on the tree, and make a sweet potato casserole for the luncheon at 2 tomorrow. No problem.

This Christmas Cheer I Could Do Without

The boys’ dad called me today to find out what kind of jeans Brett wanted for Christmas. I only told him weeks ago. He was obviously paying attention to me as usual. Actually, he called Eamonn, and asked Eamonn to ask me. Lovely. Then, said father called me about an hour later to ask what his daughter might want for Christmas. Not only is he last minute shopping, which is none of my business, but he can’t even be bothered having conversations with his children to find out what is going on in their lives long enough to know what they might want or need for Christmas. That is his other son and his daughter. He so obviously plays favorites.

How can the man that I spent a huge part of my life with have turned into someone I barely recognize? This man does not know his youngest son or his daughter. How can he be content with that? How can he live his life knowing that they know that he care more about their brother than them?

I stay out of it. It’s not my business. And besides, he wouldn’t listen to me anyway.

That’s enough for now. If I think about this any more, it will just make me depressed. More later.

Merry Christmas to those of you who are ahead in the time zones.

Peace on earth to you all.