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.





Notes From the Road #2 (If I Were On the Road)

Fifteen Days and Counting

You Meet the Most Interesting People Sometimes

Yesterday I was working the phone banks at the Obama Campaign Headquarters, and I spoke with a 67-year-old woman who hasn’t voted since the Kennedy election. She told me that she hasn’t really wanted to participate in politics since then, but she decided that this election was too important not to participate. She also said that she thought that Barack Obama was the first candidate to come along since Kennedy to give her hope.

Most of the people on my calling list were over 65, and I was surprised by how many said that they were voting for Obama. Of course, several people hung up on me right away, which is always the case when you are making these kinds of calls, and then you have more people who screen now, so you leave the scripted message for the answering machine or voice mail, and hope that they listen to it. But with a lot of the elderly, you find that they are willing to talk to you because they do not get many telephone calls, so they are more generous with their time. Corey found himself on the phone with one gentleman for half an hour and ended up talking about FDR and Truman; he said that it was one of the most interesting telephone conversations that he has ever had. The gentleman was 88 years old.

One of the things that really impresses me about this campaign is how organized they are in Virginia. In Hampton Roads alone, they have over five headquarters; whereas the Kerry campaign had only one. The other thing that I think is really great is that these people are making sure that anyone who needs a ride to the polls is going to get one. Giant marker board already have lists of names and destinations. “Get out the vote” is alive and well in my town! How awesome is that. A Democrat hasn’t carried Virginia since Jimmy Carter. I’m not counting any chickens, that’s why I plan to volunteer as much as my back will let me these next two weeks.

Colin Powell Endorses Barack

He may be a Republican, but his endorsement carries weight. Former Secretary of State said in an interview on “Meet the Press” that he endorses Democratic candidate Barack Obama for president even though he has known John McCain for over 20 years and the junior Senator from Illinois for only two because he believes that Obama offers offers a better chance to repair “frayed” relations with countries around the world. Powell also said that he is “troubled” by McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as his choice of Vice President and that he does not believe that she is ready to be Vice President.

Many believe that Powell’s endorsement will be especially helpful to Obama’s campaign in counteracting charges that he is not ready to be Commander in Chief, especially since Powell commands a great deal of respect as former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Bush I. Personally, I really liked what the General had to say about the comments accusing Obama of being a Muslim. In essence, Powell said, he’s not, but what if he were? As a country, we have to recognize that we are a country composed of people of many faiths, and just because someone is a Muslim, does not make them un-American or not patriotic. Powell then went on to relate the story of a mother grieving over her son’s grave at Arlington cemetery. The boy was 10 when 9-11 happened, and he waited until he was old enough to enlist so that he could serve his country. He happened to be Muslim.

Sarah P. on SNL

Never thought you’d hear me say this, but props to Sarah Palin for her appearance on Saturday Night Live. The governor actually did a good job in her cameo on the show Saturday. I think that it was a great idea to pair her with Alec Baldwin. Actually, I don’t know why I’m so surprised. Palin is a born performer; it obviously her milieu. She loves the spotlight and the cameras do love her. It’s just real people that she doesn’t do so well with . . .

If you haven’t seen it yet, check out the youtube clip. I would post it here, but it’s such a long clip that it would eat up my allotted space.

And Now a Word from Our Sponsor

I finally managed to nab an Obama/Biden yard sign. I’ll keep you posted on whether or not it stays in my yard. I’m surrounded by McCain/Palin signs. After a quick drive through the neighborhood, I’ve espied only three other Obama signs. While Democrats might carry the state, I doubt they’ll carry my neighborhood. They definitely won’t get my mother’s vote. She’s still one of the old guard who believes that he’s a terrorist, and there is no convincing her otherwise. One of the people Corey talked to on the phone yesterday told him that she was convinced that if Obama won the election that the White House would become the Black House. Fortunately, I didn’t talk to any people who responded in that way, and I’m not really sure what I would have done if I had. Bit my tongue I suppose since it wasn’t my telephone or my call, technically.

That is one of the problems with calling on behalf of someone. When you are representing someone else, there is a certain amount of decorum required. Even I, in my curmudgeonly ways know that, but it’s still an irksome position in which to find oneself when you would like nothing better than to start spewing facts and statistics.

However, facts and statistics are lost on the ignorant and closed-minded. I should know this after encountering it numerous times on my own. When an individual has already taken a stand based primarily on fear and ignorance, nothing can change that position, least of all logic. Fear is one of the greatest motivators known to humankind. It’s what drives terrorism, wars, cults, murders, and all kinds of violence, domestic and other. What we fear, we seek to destroy. Only those who choose to enlighten themselves, to take another path to rid themselves of their fears, are able to overcome fear without violence, whether that violence is internal or external.

Oddly enough, it was a stream of consciousness quote on “ER” for the character Abby that reminded me of some of this. The first part of the quote was from Job Chapter 3. In verse 25 Job says, “For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me.” But as Abby is leaving the ER, she has moved on, and the stream of consciousness has changed to Chapter 38, which is actually god’s response to Job:

“Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea
       or walked in the recesses of the deep?

 Have the gates of death been shown to you?
       Have you seen the gates deep shadows?

 Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth?
       Tell me, if you know all this.”

Now, I really don’t know a lot of Bible verses. This just happens to be one with which I am familiar because it is beautifully poetic, and when I heard it, I knew that I remembered it from somewhere, so I Googled it. But as I’ve mentioned before in this blog, I am a believer in signs, and I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the hate and anger that has been bandied about on this campaign and what that means, and how the charges of anti-Americanism are being hurled so easily.

And all of this has reminded me of being a little girl with olive skin, newly back in this country and how hate was so easily thrown my way, and I had no idea as to why. So I ponder hate and racism and bigotry frequently lately, and I watch the clips of the rallies, and I worry about the lunatic fringe. And then I hear beautiful words such as “Have you comprehended the vast expanse of the earth?” and for a moment I feel peace and hope, and I pray that in the end, people will remember that we are all Americans, that a different name, and a different skin color is just that—different, nothing else. Not worth hating. Not something to be “greatly feared.”

Peace. More later.