Friday, January 18, 2013


You may think this post is a departure from what I usually write for my blog about marriage, family and having a son with Down syndrome. You may be right. I've discovered it's important for me to write in different genres from time to time, and about ideas that interest me. So...this one is a poem I've been working on for several months. It's gone through many edits, with several writer friends giving me their helpful feedback. The origin of the poem came from the suggestion of a professor in a continuing education class I took called "The Writing Life." He came up with a writing prompt which was to complete this sentence: There are two kinds of people in the world--people who (fill in the blank) and people who (fill in the blank).With very little hesitation, I filled in the blanks with 'people who are afraid of everything and people who are afraid of nothing'. Why did I choose these two groups of people? Ah, wouldn't you like to know! Let's just say some people I know and love are at a crossroads in their lives and have been "stuck" in a groove out of which they have not moved in a long time.
Think of it as a meditation on fear and on what keeps us from pursuing our dreams.



                                          What are you afraid of? Does it feel
                                          like the dark water of a chill autumn lake,                                               
                                         where you are underneath, struggling to breathe?        
                                          Or do you feel the weight of fear
                                          inside your roiling belly,
                                          a fierce ache
                                          soothed only by flight?
                                         What are you afraid of? Does it bring
                                         you to your knees, collapsed on the
                                         tired linoleum, fists raised to Heaven,
                                         forsaken and hopeless?
                                         Or do you sit alone in your room and close the shades,
                                        surrendering to your episodic apathy,
                                        and sleep’s escape for rescue?
                                        What are you afraid of? Do you see
                                        fear reflected on your face, as in a funhouse mirror,
                                        distorting your thoughts until it seems the world is
                                        too wide, too harsh, and unable to love you?
                                       Or do you look around at others, meekly
                                       measuring the caliber of their stature
                                       against your own?
                                       What are you afraid of? Is this your life?
                                       Can you ask yourself
                                       to abandon dread and panic,
                                       to risk, to jump in blindly with calm expectation
                                      of bursting up and out?
                                      Is this all? Or can you widen your narrow scope
                                      to see the promising landscape?
                                     What are you afraid of? Will you stop
                                     hating yourself long enough to take a chance,
                                     to push off the edge like a swimmer who,
                                     to gain momentum, plants her feet against
                                     the sides--knees bent, and eyes wide open,
                                    concentrating on the win, and fully committed
                                    to this journey?




Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Birds in the Fog

She could not seem to find her way out of the melancholy that had become her companion in the weeks before Christmas. It was not depression exactly, nor could it be qualified as the blues. Despondence perhaps, or a poverty of the soul.  When her husband asked, “Are you feeling okay?” she smiled wanly, replying with all the energy she could, “Yeah, sure. I’m good. Just tired, I guess.” She did not know how to tell him what she felt; she didn’t want to have to try to explain feelings that were as difficult to discern as a bird flying through evening fog. He was black and white, exacting and no-nonsense. If one felt sad, one should be able to express the source without fuss or forethought. Figure it out, acknowledge it. Move on. He was used to her gloomy moods after thirty years, and was generally sweet about it, hugging her by the kitchen sink, helpless to cure whatever it was she denied with her false cheer. She became adept at quietly stepping into the bathroom and closing the door to cry, to avoid the questions she could not answer for herself.

She imagined the Christmas he had a month after his father died. 1973. It must have been impossible to feel any joy when you were fifteen and you missed your dad terribly, and you worried about your mom and sisters. He must have had to be so strong for them. She cried just thinking about it, her husband as a boy, crying in his own bathroom with the door closed.

This is what she did when the curtain dropped over her, like those heavy, dark velvet stage drapes falling in a musty theater when the show ends, and the euphoria of a moment before begins its descent into memory. This is what she did: she found places to cry—the shower, the car, the roads leading away from her house, and then she thought about ten other reasons to be sad, hoping to put it all out there at once for practicality purposes. Like cleaning out a cluttered closet so that when you walked back into it, there was order and a clearer path with no shoes to trip over.

She knew this much—she was lonely for her children who were growing up and felt less and less like being with her. She had spent all that time growing them but they seemed to have germinated like dandelion fluff, and spread far from the genesis of her body. She was lonely for her family, the closest of whom lived almost 200 miles away. Everything she did to get ready for the holidays, she did mostly alone, so that in her gloom, she wondered why. When she tried to answer her own question, it made her choke up; her children had friends and lovers, and they had taken precedence over family traditions of tree decoration and watching holiday movies together. She supposed that was the way things worked, how it was for everyone, but it didn’t make her feel any less bereft.

One day, she decided on a whim, to step into a church instead of the bathroom. The heavy door opened into the dim lights used between Masses, and to the mounds of red and white poinsettias on the altar. Walking slowly up the aisle, it felt unexpectedly and surprisingly familiar, like a cherished photograph unearthed from a long-forgotten box stored in a bottom drawer. At the altar, she knelt and crossed herself, as she had learned to do as a child. When she sat down and looked up, she realized she had found a new place to cry, in the fourth pew of St. Mary’s Church. As she dabbed her wet cheeks, she finally felt the comfort she had not remembered was here. Her tears dropped to the folds of her smiling mouth, and the presence of God smiled back.