what can happen in an instant (a poem)

you catch my eye

a bird takes flight

a light flips on by switch

you steal my heart

a New Year starts

a gambling man gets rich

our lips meet

the cold retreats

a baby comes to be

we hold on tight

day shifts to night

a wave returns to sea

a keyboard clicks

a cuckoo ticks

your heart begins to wane

as lightning flares

a tightrope tears

and nothing is the same

a star falls

a car stalls

you turn your back on me

my throat clumps

a lost man jumps

and just like that, I’m free

 

The first of (hopefully) many pieces inspired by 642 Things to Write About.

the artist’s prayer

"Muse of Creativity,"  a painting, poem, and prayer by my mom
“Muse of Creativity,”
a painting, poem, and prayer by my mom

–Muse of Creativity–

Come to this table filled

with brushes, paints and

water, a candle, a purple iris,

and most importantly,

Mother Mary. Come and

assist me in using my talents

to make beauty, to offer love,

to spread joy. Alone I cannot

create. With you, I am

emblazoned on the artistic path.

Never alone. Never afraid.

Always Brave. Thank you

for guiding me.

-KDS

the pros and cons of writer’s block

I don’t have writer’s block.

Because that’s when you can’t write.

Where your mind is a crevasse, a pit, a canyon–

Deep and vast and empty.

Vultures flying overhead,

scouring for bits of creative roadkill

left among the dust and heat.

Circling, swooping, diving

On a mindless, endless loop

Of absolutely nothing to say.

 

I don’t have writer’s block.

Because my mind is not a canyon.

But a chalkboard in a first-grade classroom

Filled corner to corner, top to bottom

with only two letters.

Or a typewriter with just two keys–

Two options, two choices.

I hunt and peck just like the vultures,

but there are only two letters for me to find.

Of the 21 consonants and 5 vowels in the English language–

the language I learned to speak by mimicking my mother as an infant,

the language I learned to write poetry in by copying my mother as a young girl–

Of all the letters she taught me,

Only two are within my reach.

Two alphabet neighbors,

Making one precious word:

M-O-M.

I’m an artist with only two colors.

I’m a musician with only two notes.

I’m a daughter with only one parent.

Because M-O-M is gone.

 

No, I don’t have writer’s block.

Because I cannot block out grief.

And I cannot block out angst.

Or flashbacks.

Or nightmares.

Or the swelling of my stomach when I miss her more

than having 24 more letters to work with–

Than having something else to say.

 

I don’t have writer’s block.

Because I can write.

I can write anger.

I can write devastation.

I can write longing.

I can write memory.

I can write her.

I just can’t seem to write anything else.

 

I don’t have writer’s block.

But there are some days

I wish that I did.

 

this is what death looks like

I watched a movie last week. It opened in a hospital with a mother on her deathbed.

Her young son standing by her side, holding back tears.

She looked over at him with tired eyes. And said sweet things like I love you, and you’ll be fine, and don’t you worry about me.

Before she drifted gently away.

But death doesn’t look like that.

All glitter and glamor and Hollywood.

And I didn’t know it until last year.

Before anyone dies in the movies, they get to say their final lines.

They get to finish their role.

They get to play their part.

But death doesn’t work like that.

Death comes in when you’re all alone in the hospital on Sunday night.

Because visiting hours are over. And your husband has gone back home.

When you think it’s just a bad cold, but really it’s pneumonia.

When they say you’re in ICU just as a precaution, but a third of hospitalized pneumonia patients don’t make it.

When the doctor comes into your room far later than he should for the day,

And you have to take notes with shaky hands because no one is there to take them for you.

“Respirator”

“Lung failure”

And your two daughters are scattered across the country.

Planning their Christmas visits to see you.

And they have no idea what’s coming.

And neither do you.

That’s how death works.

So you scribble down jagged notes in your tiny book and put it in your purse to tell Tom the next morning when he returns to your side.

But you never get the chance.

You’re the one-third.

And all alone, you slip into a coma.

With no one to tell your final lines to. No one to hear your goodbyes.

In the movies, the hospital patients look like mannequins.

Sickness is painted on with makeup.

Medical equipment is just another prop.

There are flowers on the bedside.

There are flowers.

But that’s not what death looks like.

Death looks like me calling Southwest Airlines in a panic to try to move my Christmas trip five days earlier because my mom might die.

Death looks like packing a black turtleneck dress next to a reindeer sweater because I’m not sure what the next seven days have in store.

Death looks like crying at an airport bar on a Monday afternoon while my flight’s delayed for two hours.

There is no glitter, no glamor in death.

And when I get to the hospital I’m rushed down dingy corridors lit by humming fluorescent overheads. It smells like latex and bleach and sweat (that I realize only later is actually my own).

Family members are on their phones contacting more family members. Everyone looks up when I arrive, but no one smiles. That’s what death looks like.

Like a monstrous version of the woman I call mother.

Blown up with so much fluid. So swollen I’m scared to touch her. Scared she might burst.

Death looks like eyelids held shut by medical tape.

Big puffy blisters all over her turgid face.

Black and blue bruises covering arms and cheeks.

Tubes shoved up her nose.

Yellow fingernails.

Needles coming out of her skin.

And small splotches of blood on the blanket from everywhere she’s been stuck.

In the movies, even the dying have a good hair stylist.

But mom’s soft hair was matted up on top of her head in a sticky, messy sumo-wrestler style bun.

She was foreign to me…unfamiliar.

I had to squint and study to recognize my mother in this ballooned woman lying on that hospital bed.

She looked like death.

Death looks like an oxygen monitor that keeps dropping further and further away from 100.

Death looks like a plastic bag that won’t fill up with urine.

It means she’s too sick. It means her organs are broken.

It means she’s not getting better.

It means she’s not coming back to say goodbye.

Death looks like planning a funeral four days before Christmas.

And opening the presents she got for me on the floor of her living room. Underneath her pink and white tree. Without her there to watch. Or hug. Or thank.

Death looks like two sisters with no mother.

Without a second take.

Without a denouement.

Without glamor.

Without glitter.

Without goodbye.

This is what death looks like.