Thursday, July 9, 2020

MULTIPLE CHOICE

Dear Mommy,

Some days
your death feels like
a calculus exam
laid in front of me
when I can only do
basic arithmetic

or
being jarred from sleep
in the middle of the night
by a starved
angry grizzly bear
tearing down the tent
while on a camping trip

or
an offensive comment
my spirit is forced
to listen to
at ear-splitting decibels
on repeat

or
being trapped
in a small room
with the incessant
low-battery beep
of a smoke detector

or
biting my tongue
in the same spot
28 times
in one day

or
having gum surgery done
without anesthesia

or
being shoved
in the back
and crashing face-first
into a pile
of glass-shard-filled dirt

or
steel-toe cowboy boots
knocking violently
against my temples

or
cat claws
being slowly dragged
across the entirety
of my body

or
I'm not strong enough
for this today

or
I want to
genie-blink
your ashes
back into your flesh
so I can rest my forehead
against yours
and we can nuzzle noses
one more time

or
please come back

or
I miss you

or
I need you

or
I love you

or
D
all of the above





Tuesday, June 23, 2020

HOW TO BE A NEWLY ORPHANED ADULT IN SEVEN EASY STEPS

1. Remind yourself every hour
that you're grown
and you been on your own
for decades now
so stop acting like
you really need parents
to get you through
the days and years
specifically
Mommy

2. Tell yourself
every time you cry
for longer than 5 minutes
to suck it up—
that's too much damn sobbing
in one day
you ain't got the energy
to spare...
you got the rest of your life
to battle this demon
and you're gonna need
all these precious tears
you're squandering
today

3. Be sure to show
at least five extra teeth
and turn on all the lights
in your eyes
when you smile at strangers
who ask how you are—
you need them to believe you
when you lie and say
you're good—
you're in no way prepared
to let the truth slip out...
so keep those acting lessons
you took in the 90s
tucked in your back pocket

4. Walk around all day
with your fists balled up
so that every time the panic
about the fact that
Mommy's house
is no longer gonna be home
for you
once you clear it out and leave
sneaks up beside you
and tries to hold your hand
you'll be prepared
at all times
to sock that fucker
in the throat

5. Spend at least thirty minutes
every morning
rehearsing the myriad ways
there are to tell people
Mommy's never coming back
before you leave the house
and possibly see people
who haven't heard yet
or get on the phone
to handle her affairs
so your spirit will be strong enough
to withstand the force
of the torrent
distressing your tear ducts

6. Do not loiter
in the spot in the house
where you spent the most time together—
you know your breathing tends
to get a little shallow
your eyes dart erratically
and your nerves fray—
just dip through
get what the hell you need
and get the
fuck
out

7. When you go to bed
don't kid yourself
into thinking tomorrow
is gonna be any better
than today
cuz you've only been
a grown-ass orphan
for 2.5 weeks
and Lord knows
this is only the trailer
for this horror flick
that you will never
be able to get up
and walk out of









Monday, June 15, 2020

KID/SISTER

Who better
more appropriate
than the two of us
to send you
into the ancestral realm?

We
The Onlys
the baby sister—
last of the five—
and the lone child
a two-woman team
who cherished you
in ways no others could
came together
combined all the love
in their hearts
and gave every bit of it
to you

I didn't do it alone
that would've been impossible

I did large chunks alone
yes
but
when we were together
in this house
with you—
when sister
and daughter
joined forces
two
sometimes three
days a week
during your last month
with us
our care and devotion
were unmatched

Cuz we knew you
we understood you
we knew how
to figure out
the you
that The Intruder
was turning you into
better than anyone else could
cuz you were...
a special kinda patient
one who needed
a special kinda care
interaction
conversation
communication
one who
would not have done well
with other people
people not us
your kid
and your sister
nope
nobody woulda been able
to speak to you
handle you
pacify you
like us
nobody woulda been able
to embrace your special
the way we did
nah
they wouldn't have gotten
your jokes
wouldn't have been amused by
your snide remarks
would've been put off by
your super-specific
demands and requests
wouldn't have known when
to be firm with you
wouldn't have had
the slightest idea
how to fight with you
shut your madness down
would have surely
gotten fed up
with your constant
escape-artist act—
oh, man
you and your escaping
from the bed
time and time again
after promising every day
to STOP...
and you didn't stop
had no intention of stopping
until you physically couldn't
do it anymore

MY GAWD
YOU WERE SO...
JULIE!
*SIGH*

No
just us
The Onlys
could do that job
cuz it had to be done
with love
and nobody loved you
more than we two

And when you decided
to make your exit
you made sure
to have us
right there in the room
focused
hands-on
so you could see us
feel us
so we three
could be together
for the last time
for your last hurrah
your final minutes
so we could look you in the eyes
watch your spirit flee your body
kiss you good night
then comfort each other
after

You made sure to leave
enveloped in the love
of your two favorite people:
your kid
and your sister
the only ones
who could send you
out of this realm
in peace

WAS

Referring to and thinking of you
in the past tense
is really...
just stupid to me

I mean
it truly sounds
stupid
cuz you were just here
you've always been here

See that?
I said "were"

Stupid

Day Ones and I
came in really late
the other night
from a much-needed break
from purging your things
and when I opened the front door
I forgot
for about five seconds
you weren't inside
sleeping
not wanting
to be jarred awake
by our burst of energy
our midnight-hour cackles
the singing
of the Prince song
that we had just heard
on the radio
and belted so loudly
prior to getting out
and I found myself
trying to be quiet
till I remembered
your bed was empty
cuz you weren't here
you're never gonna be here
again

What kinda sense does that even make?

It doesn't
cuz it's stupid

It's as stupid as every time
my phone rings now
and when the people
on the other end
talk to me about you
I have to respond
with past-tense terms
but I don't do it right away
all the time
cuz I forget
that you're no longer IS
and then I have to backtrack
correct myself
correct myself about
your being
your permanent not-here-ness
permanent
that's a long fucking time
you know

And what kinda sense does it make
for me to be fumbling over that distinction
in eight out of ten calls?

It doesn't
cuz it's stupid...
and annoying
to be honest
cuz I know
that correction
isn't gonna change
your status isn't gonna revert
it's not like I can
wait it out
like your IS
is gonna return
and allow me
to get back
to speaking
and thinking of you
the way I did
before June 5

And what kinda sense does it make
for June 5
to now be responsible
for the reason
I have to forever
change the way
I speak
about your existence?

Like
June 5 and I
may never be cool again
I may indefinitely
side-eye that mug
wanna cuss it out
even cause it harm

And look at me
talking about injuring
a goddamn calendar date
as payback
for the way it has
injured me

Yep
I'm absolutely annoyed
right now
currently
PRESENT
TENSE

Friday, June 12, 2020

TRUST

Two days before you left
I asked you
if you were worried about me
and you said:
"No. You'll be all right."

But for the weeks
leading up to that
you had been secretly
telling friends and fam
that you were concerned
you asked them
to check on me
after you were gone
make sure I was okay

you were ready to go
but not ready
to leave me
your baby
you needed assurance
that when you did fly
I wouldn't stand there
paralyzed
you needed to feel certain
I would release you
and finish walking my path
without hesitation

then

as I took care of you
no previous experience
just ran head-first
blindly
into The Intruder's
booby trap
stood strong
amid your weak
didn't flinch
at the unpredictability
the scary
the downright messy
of your sick
no matter how hard
it was to watch you
suffer through it

as you watched
my friends
who consider you
their other mother
come through and
love on me
and you
make me laugh
help me help you
help keep me standing
when you knew
I wanted to fall
as you saw
how well I covered you
how well they covered me
you saw nothing but
stability

you knew
I would be able to cover
myself
and then

you started to let go
decline hastened
body parts began
to shut down

you started packing
when you knew it was safe
to travel

Two days before you left
I asked you
if you were worried about me
and you said:
"No. You'll be all right,"

and your word
has always been sturdy

PUSH

I cried through my entire dinner
but I was hungry
so I ate

salted my food
with teardrops
chewed and swallowed with obligation—
I mustn't be wasteful—
you wouldn't wanna see that
you wanna see me go forth
thrive
take good care of myself
even if I bawl while doing it
even if I don't know how I'm gonna
make it to the next moment
without you
even if I feel like a mess
too wretched to clean up

you would want me to keep going
no matter how many days
or years
you've been gone
no matter how painful it is
no matter how confused
scared
skeptical
I am
about how I'm gonna
be
anything
something worth smiling about
something you'll be relieved about
something that'll make me feel
like I really did the damn thang
in your absence

you would want me to thrive
no matter how many meals
I gotta salt
with these tears
to get there

THIEF

People loved you for
your grace and modesty; heart
snatching was your game

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

FLURRY OF EMOTIONS, PART TWO

CLAIM

The Intruder took
your body. I took your soul
to use as my guide.

DOCUMENTATION

I'll tell our story
through all the haiku, free verse,
and prose I can write.

ESCORT

In the midnight hour
she told me (sister) Linette
helped her cross over.

GOALS

I'll shine again one
day, like the light in your eyes,
and smile on your face.

EVERYTHING BUT

I want them to leave
the hospital bed. It's the
last place I held you.

CONSISTENCY

Even at death, you
were intentional, just like
you were in your life.

Monday, June 8, 2020

FLURRY OF EMOTIONS

THE MAIN INGREDIENT

Body shutting down
limbs getting cold, only love
to keep you comfy

REGARDLESS

Although declining
you'll still cuss a MF out...
it's me. I'm MF!

ACCEPTANCE

Lying here with you
knowing these are our last hours
together in flesh

INTUITION

Kept opening eyes
looking at me. We both knew
they were last glimpses.

ASSISTANCE

Ancestor(s) came to
get her last night, like I asked.
Now we can both rest.

RELIEF

Watched you take final
breaths. Watched your face melt into
joyous place of peace.

MAKE-BELIEVE

Telling myself I'm
house sitting while you're away
or I may lose it

TRANSFERENCE OF ENERGY

Wearing your jammies
to bed. Maybe they'll help me
wake up more like you.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

AFRAID OF THE DARK



After you're gone...
after The Intruder
cleans its plate
puts its utensils down
sighs with satisfaction
and takes you from me...
what will I do
in this house
alone
once all the people
who have come to
help me
cry with me
cradle me in their arms
tell me I'm gonna be fine
tell me they're here for me
tell me they understand
encourage me to eat
urge me to get some sleep
push me to take care of myself
advise me about
how to go on without you...

have left?

cuz they have lives
families
jobs
other important things
they have to do
that they've put off
long enough
to be here
"emo-sitting" me

what then?

there will come a time
when I'll have to face
the silence
the empty
the fact that when I
"darken up" the house at night
it'll just be
me
and your vacant room
your purse
shoes
clothes
toiletries
computer
bills
all your things
but no you

what will I do
how will I comfort myself
that first night
after they've all gone
and you're gone too
and I'm here
by myself
wind whistling outside
neighbors next door
across the street
raccoons and coyotes
running amok
in the roads
like it's a regular night
like I'm not over here
WTFing
staring at walls
peering around in confusion
screeching at the moon
trying to convince myself
I'm gonna sleep soundly
or at all...

I said
what will I do?

why aren't you answering me, Mommy?

I need answers
I need the cheat sheet
for this fucked-up test
I'm gonna hafta take
at some point
when you leave me
here
in a house only you
have called home
and I am tasked
with residing here
till I'm done
closing you out
with piecing together
this terrifying lesson
that Life has handed me
for which I have
absolutely
no
plan



Friday, May 29, 2020

MORE BLACK LIFE LOSS

TYPECAST

Won't let "I can't breathe"
be the one-liner you keep
forcing us to moan
#GeorgeFloyd #EricGarner #BreatheForThem

STAND-IN

Took a breath tonight
deep, long, for George Floyd, like the
one he struggled for
#GeorgeFloyd #BreatheForHim

MIRROR IMAGE

They're the main looters:
stealing black lives from the arms
and hearts of loved ones
#GeorgeFloyd





NOTE TO SELF

Harness vibe of "I
can do this" days; IV-drip
into days I can't

Monday, May 25, 2020

BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD

There are times
when I'm really "good at"
talking about
planning for
your death
with myself
with others
with you
cuz at this point
these convos are
essential
plus
I been wrapping my brain
and my spirit
around this maddening reality
for almost six months

so

there are times when
I'm not in jeopardy
of bursting into tears
I can hang tough
talk about your impending
"goneness"
with relative ease
feeling like
I really got this
like I'm pretty much ready
for the moment this ride
halts
and I gotta
make the calls
break the news
handle all your biz
empty your house
and go start my life
from ground zero
without you
figure out
who the fuck I am
without a mama
to call
send cards to
text eyeballs
email all my writing projects
fresh off the keyboard
to sleep eight stairs away from
in the guest room
when I come home to visit
to harass about
the junk food
with all the chemicals
preservatives
and redblueyellow dyes
you got invading your fridge
to say good night to

yeah

I be feelin' real ready

until morning comes
and The Intruder
causes a commotion
one I've never seen
one I gotta move you through
alone
cuz when my help was here
his punk ass was asleep
or on lunch
or doin' some other bullshit
that had me thinkin'
things might be mellow
for a minute

but nah cuz
here we are
me, you, and "it,"
and just when I think
I got shit under control
I can move us through
the storm
without incident...
you plead in agony
in fear
in tears
for me to help you—
you whisper my name
ask me to help you—
like I'm not right there
already helping you
cuz The Intruder
has you by the wits
feeling helpless
even though I gotchoo 

YOU WHISPER MY NAME
ASK ME TO HELP YOU

and when I get you to the bed
you collapse
in exhaustion
I tuck you in
wipe the panic
off my face
so you don't see me
about to crack
and then I realize

I am nowhere near
ready

Sunday, May 24, 2020

IT'S FOR YOUR OWN GOOD

I remember when I was a kid
how hard I wished
I could tell you
NO
as many times as you
said it to me
and smooth
get away with it

I mean...really
what kid celebrates that word
anyway?

(I tried it
you know I tried it
we ALL tried it
as kids...
and I don't know
about y'all
but ummmm...
all of my
NO's
ended with me
gettin' jammed up
and with my mama
there were levels
to the jam-up—
all depending
on what kinda
NO
I was bold enough
to throw in her face 

I started working at 14
cuz of that word
cuz it seemed like
there was some kinda
NO
trailing behind
so many of my requests
so many "unreasonable" excuses
for them
so many "Cuz I said so's"
after my pissy whys)

Man...
I could not WAIT
till the day
I could tell you
NO
and not get jammed up

I didn't know
how long it would take
how old I'd hafta be
or what situation
we'd hafta be in
for my
NO's
(cuz you know I wasn't gon' stop at just one)
to go over
without a jam-up
but lemme tell you
I was watchin' the proverbial clock

These days
this month
this year
I have told you
NO
it seems like
789 times
and I have not
enjoyed any of them

There are so many things
you wanna do
that you can't
things you don't wanna do
that you need to
things you want me to do
that I'm not allowed
things you wanna eat
that will make you sick(er)
things you never wanna do again
that the doctors say
you gotta do
for the duration
and here I am
NO-ing you
till you evil-eye me
till your feelings are hurt
till your defiance rises
till you're frustrated to tears
till you're mad as hell
till you're reminded of
how many limitations you have
cuz of how ill
you really are

I wanna be able to say
YES
to all your requests and demands
but I can't
 
I gotta do
what's best for you
even though I know
you wanna jam me up

Saturday, May 23, 2020

MY BAD

My favorite emoji
is the eyeballs 👀👀
they crack me the hell up
I use them for mostly funny
and light moments
in social media posts
or to taunt friends and fam
when I'm waiting for a response
to a question I've asked
a task I've doled out
information I'm looking for
or when I'm just checking on them

Mom gets the biggest kick out of 'em
always says she laughs
when I text her
a string of eyeballs
and nothing else

But now that
I'm in her house
with her
and The Intruder
I no longer text eyeballs...
I have my real eyes on her
all day long

Sometimes
there are these moments
when she's so "up"
talkative
sharp-witted
and moderately energetic
that it looks like
feels like
she just might be improving
like The Intruder could possibly
be having a change of heart
packing its shit—
not things
items
or stuff
it's definitely shit—
and making its way
outta her body
so much so
that I start to get
sorta-kinda hyped
and I find myself
eyeballing her
in emoji fashion
real hard
and long
like the string I send her
via text
👀👀👀👀👀👀👀👀👀
cuz I believe in miracles
I've seen too many
had too many of my own
to NOT believe
so hey
who am I to doubt
that Mom could have one? 

But then
before my hype
can set up shop
in my bones
The Intruder
flings its shit
in my face
spits in
my real-life eyeballs
letting me know
this shit ain't no joke
it ain't packed
a damn thang
but a one-two punch
to my sinking-feeling gut
as I watch it
snatch her from miracle
to misery
in the blink
of my teary 👀
then I feel betrayed
foolish
miracle?

pshhh—
never mind