My Sister

It’s one month past the year mark of my sister, Kathy’s passing.

Kathryn Jane O’Brien, November 17, 1955 -December 19, 2018.

Over the past several years, I have witnessed my sister, Kathryn, up close as she continued her battle with cancer.  I have seen the qualities of courage, strength and love personified through her.  Love being the constant force.

Selfishly, I did not want her to leave.  Finally, with love, I coached her to leave.  As did other siblings.  She fought the long hard fight with great dignity and respect for herself and others.

Once she committed to Hospice care, her capabilities decreased rapidly.  Over the past few years, she had been managing increasing pain, wearing a compression sleeve for the lymphedema in her right arm, having her lungs drained weekly, thoracentesis.  Her open wound had to be cleaned and bandaged daily.  She hardly complained.

A month before she engaged hospice care, she emailed me in the morning to say that she was a “shipwreck.”  I told her “I’m coming down.”  We spent that afternoon together and a few hours the next day.  For the moment, she had regrouped and was going to go continue the fight for her life.

Then, three weeks later, she was done.  She called our other sister who lived nearby, Susan.  Susan cleared out a room for Kathy in her home.  A hospital bed was delivered.

Bandages, swathing, wrapping, weaving
what battle has she returned from, has she?
The wasteland of her body resounding
reflections of an earth in jeopardy.

How does she heal what seems like a riddle?
Which rhyme does she summon, where lies the key?
In such a haystack, is there a needle?
How does she unwind this tangle, does she?

Is there an apology forthcoming?
or a salve of forgiveness to be applied?
Questions in midair, balance beam teetering
spanning a chasm that seems far and wide.

What falling before this Phoenix rises?
resurrection modeled in each sunrise.

 

 

 

In the New Year

2020 feels auspicious.  In the mountains, we are expecting snow and rain, that wintry mix.  I am appreciating winter for a good winter promises an abundant spring.  These days, I am also grateful for the inward time that winter proffers.  Did I use that word correctly?

A little poem, a couplet, that I came across in one of my journals:

A bed of earth below which lays
a startle of forceful green relays
the message that beneath tamped earth
there is the promise of rebirth.

 

****
I’ve been painting again.  I wasn’t painting for awhile.  I’ve been grieving three intimate losses in a ten month period.  You might know that grief is it’s own country.  When you go there, everyday life takes on a different sheen.

Anyway, this painting began with a large sheet of watercolor paper (18″ x 24″).  I wrote down my feelings about grief.  Then, surprisingly, emerging from this came my version of “Puss n’ Boots.”  See below.

Blessings to everyone as we go forth.

pussn'boots3

In the groove

When you write regularly, you can write regularly.  When there are stops and starts between your writing, whether poetry or prose, the flow is interrupted.  Working with the poet/teacher Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge over a period of several days, the poetry kept coming.  Writing (and reading) this poem, I enter the surreal world that poetry can create without making excuses for itself.

Ocean Eyes
©by Christine O’Brien

I have ocean eyes
roving, moving
looking for home
cathedrals in Toledo Spain
cafes that stay open all night
laughing voices
lifting on warm breezes.
Whose experience can I engage
to make a better-seeming life?
Is it best to go North
is truth to be found there?
Or to the center?
Every day, I fall into
some rabbit hole
and a greedy fear seizes me.
I reside here so often,
it feels like a second home.

Tonight, at 7:30 p.m. precisely,
I put on my pajamas
entered the cave
and danced ecstatically,
among the stalactites.
They’ve discovered gold in Spain
let’s join the rush
pack up our stereos, leave the car keys
and go!
Don’t break the mirrors on your way out
or do break them.

I’m late again.  When I arrive,
the gold is all gone
or was it only a hoax,
something concocted by those
crazy, grazing cows on the side of the road
late last night
grazing right into my dreams
their big cow heads
shoving down between
blades of sleep,
I patted them
and felt their spindly
slobber on my bare breast.

Rain fell like ocean spray
and I entered through
this center of gravity
again too late to reap the reward.
The prize eternally moving,
just out of reach.
It’s the journey, not the prize
that matters
the white rabbit bellows
and I tweak his whiskers for being
such a smart ass.
My house is portable
My home is me
Oh woman of the Moon
on the move.

****
I realize that a surreal poem is not unlike an abstract painting.  Go for it!

A Confusion of Love…

pinc

Today, I am distracted by the serious illness of my ex-husband.  So, I thought that this would be an appropriate time to post this blog.

There is so much in life that seems incongruous.

Webster’s definition of incongruous:

a) not harmonious : incompatible
b) not conforming : disagreeing…
c) inconsistent within itself

Incongruity seems to be woven into the nature of life on earth, certainly within the human scope of things.

When my own parents were in need of care towards the last years of their lives, that paradox of love and not love surfaced for me and my siblings.  For us, childhood had been a harsh landscape.  Out of such an incongruity of feelings, I wrote this poem in the season of winter.

The Old Folks

Smoke and rain mingle, today’s perfect form
List the ingredients for rugelach
Take advantage of the calm before the storm…
The old folks at home have no right to squawk.

They chose their lives, they made their lonely bed
Posting keep out signs and hoisting regrets
Cultivating fear, hibernate in dread,
Now, commanding love, hedging all lost bets.

Which of their children would come to their aid
Rescue them from old age isolation?
What are the odds that one of a paltry nine
Plucks hairs from mother’s vain chin, others shun?

Today’s imperfect form, the smoke is rain
Calculating the loss, is love the gain?

****

Writing Prompt:
Within your own life, consider an incongruity that you struggle over.  Place it in the context of a season.  Weave the incongruity and the season together to create a prose piece, a poem or a painting.

note: When I feel into something in this way (through creativity), uncomfortable as it might be, it is transformed for me in some form.

Go gently into this day.

 

 

 

“Brief and Fragile”

Today, a few close friends of Richard’s plan to hike in on an obscure mountain trail lined with wildflowers and pine trees to a canyon where we will commemorate Richard and scatter his ashes.

I remembered this little poem from the book, Earth Prayers…
by Maria Eugenia Baz Ferreira

To all that is brief and fragile
superficial, unstable,
To all that lacks foundation
argument or principles,
To all that is light,
fleeting, changing, finite
To smoke spirals,
wand roses,
To sea foam
and mists of oblivion
To all that is light in weight
for itinerants
on this transient earth
Somber, raving
with transitory words
and vaporous bubbly wines
I toast
in breakable glasses….

 

poetry today

Sometimes the remedy is poetry

your written poem or the read poem

can supply the medicine for what ails you

Poetry won’t be contrived

it rises from a depth

of feeling–frustration, sorrow, happiness

sometimes ecstasy

In these times, The Greatest Generation, The Silent Generation,
Baby Boomers, Baby Bust, Xennials, Millennials,
Gen Z, Gen Alpha

stroll (mostly upright) side-by-side

on this rocking, rolling, heating up planet

Is poetry the antidote

for what ails you, society, the world

–the man-made manifestations

of a humanity

that struggles too much

Poetry,  like a cement

that fills a crack in the sidewalk

though more flexible

like putty perhaps,

it has the power to

shift a demeanor

Many think of poetry as lofty

beyond their ken

but poetry is gritty

a navigational tool

through life on earth

Poetry is a language

of the wayfaring soul

 

 

 

Getting to the “REAL POEM”

Last year, I decided to write a poem about having a tooth pulled.  My first tooth extraction ever had been scheduled.  I was resistant and working hard at de-stressing.  I wanted to arrive at a place of resolution and peaceful acceptance.  I wasn’t close.

“Why not write a poem about it?” I thought.  So I set myself up on the back porch, a cold yet sunny landscape stared back through the sliding glass door.  Beauty.  I write.  It’s not long before I realized that it’s going to take some time for me to get to the real poem behind these first words.  It’s good that I’m getting things down on paper.

The Gap
© by Christine O’Brien

Do I have a tooth to spare?
A sacrificial tooth–
could it be an offering?
In service to what?
This tooth, 2nd molar, upper left
staunch beside my wisdom tooth
once gone–makes a space–a gap–
reminders of losses that must be grieved
perhaps healed, but always missed.

The pink cow stares at me from the
painting below the window
on the south-facing back porch.
I want to be brave
I have been brave
I remind others to be brave
I am brave.

But I need something.  What?
Does anyone ever release a tooth,
gladly?  Not likely.
To keep all of my teeth in my mouth
intact has been a desire, a hope, a goal,
an impossible dream.
Another vanishing dream.
Bye, bye tooth.

Once pulled,
I’m going to keep it.
A shrine.
In it’s place,
plant a spirit tooth.
What is the language of tooth?
Does it have a message for me?
Louise Hays had
complementary analogies
(or is it metaphors)
for physical conditions
throughout the body.

Tooth SPEAK!  Upper,
beside the wisdom tooth,
hard-working,
yet a little less wise, perhaps.
Better if it had been the last tooth
on top–now a gap.

Tooth SPEAK!  What do you have to say?
“How taken for granted I’ve felt.
All these years of devoted service.
Clenched jaw, biting nails, kissing
careless men with poor dental hygiene
(not too many).  Chewing, grinding, nuts and seeds–
the tougher jobs
reserved for the back teeth.
I’ve been a reliable little soldier…”

****

See, you can write a poem about anything.  Of course, this is a work in progress.  Or is it?
I can’t count how many poems I’ve written to help me through a challenging time.
Have you turned to poetry to express such things?  I recommend it.