body, Choices, Learning, Poetry, spirit

Holding Pattern

Nyberg Mess of Blues

Silence a welcome respite
as the world’s tragedies carry on
without you.
It does not last, of course, this quiet as thin as the skin
of a drum.
You consider desertion
on its plastic hanger, how quick the fix.
But you ache for the succor of absolution
in its supple cloak, to have it fold around you,
ceding the demands of atonement.

Continue reading “Holding Pattern”

body, Poetry

Reaching for Stars

moon climbing large
Collapsing onto the bed, he moans
“I don’t feel good.”
Every night he doesn’t feel good.

What would Good feel like? I want to ask.
The absence of pain?
A month of snow days?
Maybe this Good lays a path and clears debris,
one smooth downhill grade.
Or better still, buoyancy
as if weightless
on water cooled by twilight
and the wings of loons
dipping low.

Continue reading “Reaching for Stars”


Happy 100 Days: 41

A gnawing worry about the coconut cream pie woke me up at before 7:00am. Meringue instead of the planned whipped cream, I was suddenly certain. This meant I was up re-baking at 7:30. No sleeping in. A power nap before departure, then.

(“Oh, to have your problems,” I can hear the billions sighing).

The rest of the day was given to chosen family. Hugs. A walk in the sun. Noise. Food upon food accompanied by wine and more food. Clearing the plates, drying the dishes, stumbling over one another to share in the cleanup. Ziploc bags pressed into hands. “Take some, go on, we could never finish all this!”

More hugs. Home, quiet. A happy dog. Tomorrow’s meal now in the fridge. A walk under the half-moon. A big, empty bed whispering its urgency. Just for me, this night.

Measures of wealth are relative.

Happiness, too.


Happy 100 Days: 86

Rain and rain. A pyramid of monster cookies greets me when I return from the gray world beyond. Inside this cocoon, he has put beans to simmer in the crock pot and started baking the sourdough loaf. This one has a drizzle of honey to sweeten it.
Yesterday, as we meandered past storefronts and chatted with artists displaying their shards of glass and wooden eggs, he pointed out the Plow and Hearth. “What does that word mean? What is hearth?”
I tried to come up with the right definition, naming the specific thing (the inside part of a fireplace, no?) but also attempting to draw the edges of the concept with my meager words. I call up a picture of a Mary Azarian wood cut, that curl of smoke, the pot bubbling over the flame, an open chair near the table. A loaf, warm, waiting on the board. A jar of honey. A box of salt.
We walk on, and then it is the next thing. The child, the errands, the warming up for the next sprint.
Everything needs doing. Everything always does, no matter how much is already done. After stuffing the gift bags for Bug’s party with pencils and granola bars, I stop and curl up on the couch with the crossword from the Sunday Post. Giovanni is kind and lets me mute the football game to put on classical 90.1. A swell of strings pushes wide the walls.
The rain falls against the turning leaves, yellow poplars finally claiming their name. I mumble through the clues, calling out, “Four letters! Spy plane or rock band! Ends in X or O. We should know this!”
“I don’t know. ELO? NWA?” He slices asparagus and pepper, sautes garlic. In the oven, the loaf is rising, and he has started on the sauce for pasta. Much to my surprise, I complete the entire crossword. It may be the first time I have ever done so in one sitting. I do not know what time I arrived today. I do not know what time it is now. The couch no longer faces a clock. I forget to miss it.
It has gotten dark, and he has grated the parmesan. I hop up and put water glasses on the table, set silverware on the cloth napkins I gave him back in the winter. Candles, yes, and bits of romanesco, soft cones nestled among the shells. We eat and it is my turn to ask the questions about his tucked-away stories.
What is hearth?
Inside that word, sanctuary and warmth, yes? A place of returning.
I only a manage a rough sketch, but it suffices for now.


Chemical Reaction

The festival’s fireworks are beating at the sky. Down in the dining room, the dog paces and pants. I know now that the report is the second and larger explosion of the two. The shooter lit the slow fuse before sending the case skyward. At just the right moment, the flame ignites the calcium, the sodium, the copper. All this knowledge does not propel me out to watch. I have decided that to know is better than to feel, and so I remain, curled in the safe cocoon of my bedroom.
One slight click to the left, and we are there on the curb in the parking lot, letting light shower down on us through trees purpled with night. Between blasts, I hear the fat tears always at swelling at the edge of his throat when he sings “Sweet Savannah.” His voice slides over the lip of the distance to fill my hungry ears.
I still remember exactly what you said
That you had demons that you couldn’t put to bed.

On nights like these, some women buy shoes. Others call up girlfriends for pink drinks in a loud bar. Some fill the tank and hit the open road. I do none of these things, at least not at first. I dig out the last of the blank books and fill page after page with nothing but him. He gives way eventually and I find my way through the rubble to myself.
I made promises I could not keep. I wonder if everyone does this, or just those of us burdened with the belief in more. “I’ve done everything I can,” he said.
This claim intrigued me. “Everything? Did you really do everything?”
Oh, my impetuous tongue! I am so often accused of callousness, one would think I could remember the importance of timing. Not everyone pauses to marvel at each fragment of insight. Even those who do have no appreciation for inquisitiveness when they are standing with a lit fuse in their hands.
On nights like these, some will find another one in whom to stash the remains. Here, take the bones. I do not do this, either. Instead, I unfurl the turquoise sweater that had been left in his drawer since winter. His scent blooms from it, an explosion of molecules I cannot quite place except between the folds of his sheets and skin. A chemist could identify them, but only as long as the unique microorganisms last, which, as we all know, is not very long. I hang the sweater back in its native habitat. No one would guess anything here has been gone. Time and homeostasis are the secret of oblivion. All extremes return to a steady, predictable state. Soon, I will smell only my own sweat and dander unadulterated by the leavings of any man.
“Did you really do everything?”
We were well past the play of the idea. He contracted and pawed the earth , refusing to defend even as he did exactly that. He folded and re-folded the corner of the comforter as he stood next to the bed, breathing like a bull.
Lithium makes red. Strontium makes an even brighter red.
Like so many times before, we were the north and the south, two nations divided by a common tongue. My question was one of philosophy, not history. Have any of us really tried everything? Have we, in our tumultuous affair, made ice cream from scratch? Built a weather-vane? Learned pick-up lines in Russian? As best as I can recall, we did not read Rumi aloud every night for a month. We neither carried bowls of fire out to the forest at dusk nor fell down on our knees before the wide open sky to beg for a sign about how to proceed.
We worked hard as workers are known to do. We walked at a dogged pace around a known perimeter, time and again, and then anguished at the absence of mango trees and open sea. My own imagination grew weary of scoping the narrow sphere around us for signs of wolves. I forgot how to lift my gaze. So, it seems, did he.
On nights like these, some shred the old letters. Some march back into the world, shoulders squared and jaws tight. Some set themselves to re-writing the to-do lists that love’s windstorm left in disarray. I do none of these things. They are just more noise, as deafening as the blasts still clanging against the sky. Always, the dead weight of the silence that follows presses on the chest. Always, the only guidance that matters is found in the nothing.
After the grand finale that I refuse to witness, I close my eyes. The older self with loose gray hair and a hard-earned smile takes my own young body into my arms. She does this without effort. After all, she knows I survive this. She knows it won’t be long before I rearrange my constituent parts to bloom in full-spectrum color when the slow fuse finally makes its way down into the rare elements that comprise me.
I set the book aside and go find the dog. We step outside. It is quiet now except for the echo of him.
Sweet Savannah, you shine so bright
May the evening be your favorite night.

I let his voice out to rise and then splinter against the high branches of the white pine.
I walk with slow steps and follow the loop that brings me back home, every time. In bed, the silence is a tungsten shard against my throat. No reason to fight. I get up again and feel in the closet for thick knit. The bag I found under his kitchen counter when I was carrying my things away is still crumpled on the floor. I fold the sweater into it then stash the bundle in the furthest corner. Maybe there I will forget about it until one of those nights like these, when I most need to remember.

The Shooter Jennings website:
“Sweet Savannah” on You Tube:



I allow myself ten minutes of self pity per day. It isn’t wise to take gulp it down all at once. Sipping is a better course. It whets the appetite but keeps some on reserve for when the mouth goes dry. After each taste, set it aside. Lift the eyes, take notice, breathe. Dig for a pen. Step into the music, call a friend. Give someone else a hand.

Over the course of a year or fifteen, perhaps the practice of coming up and out becomes the default. This is the hope, anyway.

So, please excuse me while I overindulge today.

Bug and I immersed ourselves in Halloween this weekend. Haunted mini golf, a raucous costume bash, and a pumpkin baking frenzy. I knew Tee would have Bug tonight as he does every Monday. Weeks ago, he asked if he could bring young Potter to my place for trick-or-treating, as my suburban neighborhood is a bit more pedestrian friendly than his town house complex. Last night when I called to confirm the plan – my Hermione costume ready, the house strung with pumpkin lights, a small mountain of candy by the door – Tee informed me he had changed his mind, “Didn’t we talk about this?” Miscommunication or oversight, not malice for certain. But still, my kid is not going to be here on Halloween.

We have had more than our fill of the holiday in each other’s company. Hell, he and I were singing karaoke and dancing until midnight on Saturday in our matched Gryffindor scarves. This is not a big deal. I even told the lawyer Halloween was not one of the holidays we needed to parse out in the Parenting Agreement, because it simply is not that important to Tee or me. Bug will be with the parent whose day falls on Halloween each year.

But, boy, did the news take a big scoop out of me. There was already a hole where my family used to be. The news is ice water on a cavity.

I do not want to go home tonight. Who can bear the chitter-chatter at the door, the pleas, the insufferable cuteness of their wings, their wigs, their gore?

This is a laughably small grievance. So many suffer much worse. The specters of lost children stab with acute, cardiac precision on the holidays. Friends I know have children across oceans, or who only come in the summers, or who are gone forever. Mine is not such a terrible fate. Bug will be with me on Wednesday, and on Thanksgiving, and again on alternating weekends into the only future I dare imagine

That still leaves tonight, and this insatiable thirst for self pity. The requisite moderately sexy Halloween outfit hangs on the back of my office door. I packed for work with a vague notion of something other than my house tonight. The streets here are lined with bars offering pub crawls and pumpkin beer to the childless and festive. Yet, I cannot work up the enthusiasm. Oblivion no longer satisfies.

I cast about for a texture for tonight’s indulgence. I open my tongue and taste the air. What is the craving? For ink? Steam? Curry? Stupid giggles with a friend? Silence? I circle back around to the same old place, the lessons not yet learned. When hurting, do something kind. Slow-dance the mind. Comfort the heart. Seek a source. Open the lips; take a long, slow sip.