Paired: Halved

As some have put it, it’s a day we both know is coming. Each husband and wife know it’s a moment on the horizon. But because it’s so frightening, we seldom if ever speak of it, except to make financial arrangements or deal with it through legal documents. Even poets seem to  avoid the unanticipated aspects of the loss of a spouse. it’s simply too painful.

 

It’s a subject often approached by poets,

those who are married or otherwise paired

in at least a semi-permanent bond.

 

But it’s an approach a bit like

an aborted approach to an airport…

“Yes, folks, that was a close call….”

 

Yes, there’s an allusion to one of you

going on alone,

and an admission of a glancing nod

toward the empty spot

beside the one who continues.

 

But there’s no acknowledgment

that for many of us half of the self

is no longer there.

 

Family memories, jokes, shared experiences;

knowledge of your glaring faults

and fumbling attempts at reconciliation;

your glowing moments of triumph;

your overcoming of dark failures

that could have demolished you;

the love you shared – and gave away –

that was deeper than life itself.

 

On and on it goes, as part of you, perhaps half,

or simply, and literally, the better half of you is gone.

 

You won’t just be missing the one who is gone,

but the best sides of your self, as well,

the ones that remain invisible to you

because they’re only seen by those

closest to you, yet outside of you.

 

 

 

Alchemy

O.K., the bride and groom graduated from TCU, hence the significance of the purple Blenko  hand-crafted glass pitcher, which magically made ours an emblem of the Mean Green of UNT, from which both Susan and I graduated.

Magic? Perhaps so….

 

Like quantum physics

with its logic-defying

sets of principles

 

and relationships,

when we bought the Blenko glass

purple-hued pitcher,

 

significant of

bride and groom’s alma mater,

suddenly transformed

 

was the green pitcher

we’ve had for decades, that’s now

a bumper sticker

 

for the place from which

I earned my two degrees,

and my dear wife hers.

 

 

The joyful host unseen

My friend Ralph was a rather shy man, not given to much talking except in the intimate circle of close friends. In a group of a dozen or more, I’m pretty sure he’d remain silent unless urged to speak by others. But his funeral brought together all those who shared the intimacy of his friendship, which was warm and wise. I’m quite sure he looked on from heaven quite pleased that his friends got along so well.

 

After the funeral

we gather at round tables,

gathered ourselves by

our mutual friend’s death.

 

We make the briefest

stabs at establishing our

connections to the deceased

and then launch off

into tales of our lives:

places we’ve lived,

what we’ve learned

of employers, of living

in places the snow

stayed on the ground

six months of the year.

 

Ralph would have liked this,

his friends meeting each other,

talking over a meal

provided by the women

of the church.

This is just how

he’d have planned it.

A pleasant noon meal

as his friends took on

the look of friends themselves,

while he — or actually his peaceful demise — the reason

for the party, could simply

watch and smile

without the burden of being

the center of attention.

 

 

Baby steps

At the wedding reception of one of the sons of two of our closest friends, I had the privilege of holding the first grandchild of another of our closest friends, waltzing him around the reception hall, showing him the sights of the room, giving his mom a break, and, in the process, having the time of my life.

 

I hold a baby,

give my friends’ daughter a break

as I cruise the hall,

 

showing him people,

decorated wedding cake,

another baby.

 

Keeping tears at bay

by varying sights and sounds,

treating his young eyes

 

to this wedding feast

of men, women, and children

celebrating life.

 

Young Caleb and I,

performing this dance of love,

moving, mingling

 

with Christ’s body here

in varied and wondrous forms,

love making water wine.

 

 

Front porch life

We had just experienced what we didn’t know at the time, was one of the last chances for three generations of my wife’s dad’s extended family to gather for a holiday meal. The memories of our daughter, Amy, and her cousins playing with Barbie and Ken and a house and pool to scale were fresh in my head. Little in life tops such family gatherings and the warmth of shared food, long-remembered conversations, and children’s play.

 

Gunmetal gray planks

floor the porches of houses

of a certain age.

 

My wife’s grandmother’s;

her aunt and uncle’s big house

in Meridian.

 

These sheltered porches

supported much visiting

and small children’s play,

 

gray not limiting

their rich imaginations.

These were battlefields;

 

dusty Western streets

where kids’ silver six guns blazed,

cattle stampeded.

 

This is where cousins

played with dolls while their elders

watched through lace curtains

 

remembering, longing

for the lost innocence

of front porch childhoods.

 

 

Inscribed

Two events, one tragic, the other simply memorable. Each of them claims its own special place in my memory. Neither will be erased by time or forgetfulness.

 

I stumbled upon

an old Daytimer today

for 2001.

 

Curious, I turned

its pages to September.

Sure enough, nothing.

 

By the 11th

there were no markings, no notes.

There was no need to

 

mark the day’s horror.

The memories were incised,

burned into my brain.

 

I had been at home

watching TV in disbelief,

as the second plane

 

pierced through the skin

of the second tower.

No words were needed

 

to trap images

that will never be erased.

But a few years back

 

a more innocent

memory was inscribed there.

Despite my efforts

 

to capture the scene

with a borrowed camera,

memory instead

 

became its keeper:

My daughter’s kindergarten,

a Christmas program

 

and a manger scene.

I’d practiced the night before

doing everything

 

except pressing the

button to begin taping.

And I did it just

 

like I’d practiced it,

viewing Amy in her role

through the viewfinder,

 

watching her break ranks,

come running down the long aisle,

right into my arms

 

— the record light off.

But there in my mind’s archive,

along with the crash

 

is permanently

burned into my gray matter

the white Christmas sheep

 

running to our seats,

cotton-ball-covered sweatshirt,

marking her as God’s.

 

 

Keeping the virtuous handy

Marion Zientek is one of those who have passed on, but whose card is still in my Rolodex. He was a good man, a fellow Catholic editor, and the only man I’ve ever known with a pronounced Southern accent mingled with a Czech accent. Temperate, generous, and captain of as eccentric a crew of fellow journalists as I’ve ever had the pleasure to know.

I have dead people

 listed in my Rolodex.

I just can’t let go

 

of people I’ve loved.

So when I flip past their names

I remember them.

 

And I call to mind

their virtues and their good deeds.

And so they live on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mars star

 

Flashing bright colors viewed through binoculars brought the — nominally — red planet closer, made it more appealing,A star in my mind then, and now a planet we’ve sent mobile cameras to, analyzed — in situ — samples from, it’s still just as fascinating,Pulsating planet of red, blue, green, and yellow speaks of my childhood,With binoculars I’d watch its flashing colors,thinking it a star,Now I know better,but even light years closer,it dances — dazzles.

 

Pulsating planet

of red, blue, green, and yellow

speaks of my childhood.

 

With binoculars

I’d watch its flashing colors,

thinking it a star.

 

Now I know better,

but even light years closer,

it dances, dazzles.

 

 

Why our parking lot doesn’t get white horses late at night any more

When I began to work at my current job, a fenced-in area adjacent to a farrier’s headquarters barn sat on the country road a quarter mile behind the building I work in. Every once in a while, maintenance on the lighting in our parking lot would get lax, and you’d be almost to your car when a large white animal shape would loom up out of the dark of night and scare the life out of you. Apparently the fence suffered some maintenance problems as well. White horses on dark nights, I discovered, can be well nigh invisible, as unlikely as that sounds.

 

Today I drove past

where the farrier’s corral

once held the horses

 

waiting to be shod.

The new suburban houses

standing where the barn

 

once held his smith’s fire.

A new baby cries to be held,

not knowing that once

 

glow of burning coals,

the din of hammered horse shoes

filled his nursery.