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Poetry and the Weekday Porch Vacation


Joe took the day off to study for his upcoming counselor’s licensure test. I had just returned from a morning Scrabble game, the one where Mara complimented my lime green shirt and I explained how I had pulled all the little rhinestones off after I bought it at thrift shop. She and Rosemary, whose dining room table we were playing on, laughed at the thought of me wearing anything with rhinestones.

Now, back on my own front porch, illuminated by forsythia light, I pulled a book from the stack that Mara had lent me. I opened her autographed copy of Claudia Emerson’s “Late Wife” and began to read.

The air bubble that choked and then popped in my throat caused tears to fall from my eyes as I read the poem called “Riding Glove.” While unloading groceries from the trunk of the car that once belonged to her husband’s wife who had died of cancer, she found the dead woman’s glove. It floated up from underneath the shifting junk – a crippled umbrella, the jack, ragged maps, Emerson wrote … It still remembered her hand, the creases where her fingers had bent to hold the wheel, the turn of her palm, smaller than mine.

The description of the glove made me think about my brother Danny’s shoes in my closet. I took them from his Houston apartment after he died. Now I wanted to put them on, wear them around the house, and let my bare feet plop around inside them, like a little girl wearing her father’s shoes. But then I remembered how stiff and un-scuffed they were, how cut short their use was.

There was nothing else to do but return it – let it drift, sink, slow as a leaf through water … C.E.

I thought about my brother Jim’s royal blue Nike sweat shirt, the one he left in my house when he and Danny visited me in the summer of 2001, just three weeks before Jim was killed in a metal milling machine accident and less than two months before Dan would die from liver failure. To the sound of my neighbor’s distant and incessant hammering on the new garage he's building, I wondered if Jim was ever cold during the last three weeks of his life without his sweatshirt. I wondered where the one little stain on the front of it came from.

The sweatshirt is too big for me and I don’t want to see Joe wearing it. I can’t imagine giving or throwing it away, so I just stuff it deeper into the limbo of the back of my closet, next to Danny's shoes. 4/10/08


Those are rather melancholy musings for such a lovely Spring day, Colleen. I hope this fugue clears up soon; sometimes memories need to be put away along with the mementos that can inspire them. Just a thought.

Michele sent me to see you.

This is how grief is lived in the long term. It floats up every now and can catch you off guard. It's a bittersweet occurrence, not entirely melancholic for me, because it is tinged with pure love.

That's a healthy approach, Colleen. I get overwhelmed so I find it best to avoid the subject entirely if I need to function normally that day.

Maybe that's the right place for it.
I'm envious of your forsythiaed porch!
Our snow is about gone but we have a lot of warming up to do before we get those! A few crocuses are up.

I wore my dad's old cardigan for years after he died and then one day I found I could let it go. The house is full of mementoes from loved ones and the garden is full of plants they gave me. They are such a comfort.
That handsome man on the porch reminds me of a young Ted Danson.
Michele sends her best.

That's my handsome husband, Joe.

Colleen, lovely inter-twining of your memories of your brothers as inspired by Claudia Emerson's poems. I got to hear her read at the Virginia Festival of the Book in Charlottesville, but didn't know about the other reading.

I linked to your blog post today and alos to an entry I wrote on Emerson right after she won the Pulitzer. It has links to what was available online of her poems at that time and when I finish the current post, I'm hoping I'll find some other links. I plan tomorrow to belately add you to my blogroll. I've got a new job and it's interfering with my blog :o) See: http://www.newstrust.net/webx?224@@318c72f@.fbb3a28

Are you going to the contra dance tomorrow? If so, I'll see you there...

Thanks, Beth. I'll be over soon to have a read. I'm a new big fan of Claudia's. I hope you've read "Late Wife."

I was glad to see you moved to an easy to find blog server. Joe and I talked about going to the contra dance, but it all depends on how much energy he has after taking his licensure test.

As I start a new kind of scrapbooking, the memories come floating through all the time now. It's fascinating how making books of "connections" allows me to process the memories in a new way. But I never stop wishing for just one more conversation with my mom and dad.

Yes, i know about those reminders of absence. They will find their way to us always - in words, music, images, old stories, holiday memories, birthdays, anniversaries, etc. And, there will always be the stirring of feeling, the tinge of pain and ache, sometiems even the laughter remembering...

Good luck to Joe on his test. What kind of counseling? Hope you and Joe have a great springtime weekend. We are playing in the dirt! :)

Life hitting us hard , my husband,Don loved lasagna every Thursday and bragged about mine- After he passed in 2003 I could not walk down the pasta aisle without falling apart. I wonder if people thought I couldn't cook??

Not even rhinestones on a hat???

The entry made me feel a little melancholy but as you say it was tinged with love so that's okay. Your memories of your family always seem so pure.

Isn't it interesting how Claudia can write about loss, choke me up, and spur me to write about loss, which can then choke someone else up, as though life was a contagion, a group mind and when one of us yawns, the next one does too.

I went to a house concert last night. Tret Fure, an extraordinarily talented folk singer, sang a song about the wedding band that belonged to her mother and to her grandmother that is now on Tret's right hand. I was moved to tears, as it stirred memories of my mother's wedding band, which she gave me some years before her death, which also belonged to her mother. Yes, Colleen, "this is how grief is lived in the long term."

I just googled her to hear a song, Jeff. Her voice is very stirring.

Joe is a psychological counselor (hope I said that right)who specializes in prevention, mindfulness, substance abuse, and has been working with youth for the past four years. The test is like passing the bar, which means a LOT of studying.

Rhinestone hat? Maybe I'll look for one at the thrift shop.

My mother used to tell me to always use my good china with the children. The dishes would soak up those memories and when I was gone and the children brought that china out, their table would sit in an aura of history.

Beautiful! Create tradition because the traditions live on after us, and the things used, associated with us will be imbued with our memory.

Oh Colleen, that sweatshirt sounds so cozy and warm, maybe it diesn't matter that it is too big for you....I know I am projecting here, but I would wear it anyway because it would give me such a feeling of being close, once again....
I LOVE the way you write about these things that are so tender and ckose to your heart. I can see them and almost feel like I can "feel" them, too...! You have a great gift, my dear.

Naomi, I've missed you and your deeply felt responses.

Maybe I should consider wearing Jim's sweatshirt topped off with rhinestone hat!

I watched Into the Wild today, and thought of my lost son, how I didn't know for months and months at a time where he was or how he was, although the wild he sought was drugs and then hepetitis-C.

But he always had such a kind heart, was such a loving son, that it was difficult for me to reconcile his behavior with his actual self.

Gone now since 2002, the old liver transplant story: you have to be dying yet well enough for a transplant. One minute he was sick enough; the next, he was too sick.

Yes, Colleen, with the Holocaust class and this movie today, I'm finally getting through to my walled-off feelings, past the anger of losing my brown-eyed oldest son to his bad choices in life, hopefully on to some peace.

My family knows that liver transplant story well. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings, Marion.

The Grateful Dead Show in the Sky

The t-shirt you got at the Dead show in Charlotte
is faded, threadbare, with a hole in the sleeve.
I still wear it, usually to bed, though it leaves
little pieces of appliquéd Calvin and Hobbes
on my sheets. Most of the time I don’t care,
it’s soft, and written above them: Need
a Miracle! With a quote by Shel Silverstein
on the back: I will not play at tug o’ war
I’d rather play at hug o’ war.
Where everyone kisses, and everyone grins
And everyone cuddles, and everyone wins.
Tonight I need a miracle, and not the kind
that Calvin wants with one finger in the air
asking for a ticket. I need to know you’re there.

Beautiful, Mara. xo

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