08 October 2016

Ant's Fear of Drowning

water was falling-rising
in the humid fecund dark
long before we knew
each others names
years in the underground
before her heart lit the gloom
mine knew it was love
the day she said brightly
the sound of creaking stairs
made a lonely house a home
rain fell faster than evasion
tunnels filling in a liquid rush
i retreated to my chambers
above the torrent and swirl
waiting patiently in a dark
that refused quiescence
trembling hands and feet
skimming the seep below
hoping the heart would survive
such terrible wonderful deluge

02 October 2016

Movie and a Dinner

Quiet out here on the headland tonight. Slow breeze, barely moving the dry grass so no whispers there. The crickets and katydids are up to their usual hijinks, but they sound restrained. Even the sea is subdued. It undulates sluggishly with waves that caress the shore rather than pound it. The seething of the tide laps faintly over me as I sit by the open window, absently rubbing the sore spot on my right calf, a remnant of an agitated dream that gripped me before dawn. I never knew phantom kicks could be so painful.

The light fades from the sky. The clouds hovered most of the day, but it never felt gloomy. Nice for this time of year. Such a welcome relief from a stubborn summer heat so oppressive it felt fascist. the morning felt so good I walked the shore, out to the lighthouse and back. A few shards of sea glass needed up in my pockets, and now adorn the mantel above the hearth. There was the serendipitous find, too, of a wayward lobster trap caught on the jetty. To my surprise it still had a lobster and some crabs stuck in it. There was no buoy attached so no way for me to tell who it belonged to. I lugged it back to the cottage, extracted the lobster and the crabs to a pair of rusty buckets filled with seawater. The trap I left on the porch to dry. Dinner was halfway made.

My leg ached. The dream had knotted it up. The walk could not quite untie it. The same was true for my head. Damn that dream. A familiar theme in an unfamiliar setting. You know a place that you think you have never seen but somehow you know it is there? Yeah, like that. I woke up nearly screaming and kicking at something with my right leg. My eyes were barely open when my calf cramped up. I curled up under the covers and hurriedly beat on my leg to loosen the knot, but not before my foot had bent downward from the tension. The muscle felt like a steel ball under the skin. Hurt like a sonofabitch. My heart was pounding from the dream, and I shook.

Slow march of the waves is hypnotic. Not nearly the battle anthem of heavy surf. I am fidgeting with the lighter on my desk, willing myself not to fire up a smoke. One side effect of the hell-hot summer is that the urge to smoke has nearly died down. Been a week or more since I last had one. All to the good, I think. 

The cottage smells good. It is home tonight. The mixture of salt air and seafood gumbo simmering away is one of the finest scents a man could ever draw into himself. Something about the tang and savor of the two makes me wonder if that is what the kitchens in heaven smell of. Maybe someday I'll find out. But not now. Not tonight. The gumbo is near ready, a sublime mix of found and foraged foodstuffs I discovered while cleaning the fridge and pantry. Lucky is the man who can bring home eats from the sea.

Time to dish up. Sipping a beer while giving the gumbo a few last, slow stirs, I like I had company for the evening. Friends and family, flitting around just outside the edges of my vision. People I treasure, people I miss, a few ghosts. The feeling surges when I sit down at the table with my heavy white bowl filled with goodness. The dream comes back to me, a movie before my mind. I am running, running, somewhere in the labyrinthine tunnels of a building I cannot name. Heavyset men in dark uniforms are chasing me, I'm running towards some sound and light. Voices call out to me, urging me on even as faint cries behind me try to drag me back to a coal-black night. I lash out flailing, kicking, as something brushes my ankle. I wake up or come to, the aroma of the gumbo gently bathing my face.

Grief is a peculiar beast, and tricky. It nearly got me there, in those tunnels far from the sea. But I made it out this night. Silver threads stretching from some humans here on earth and from some who are no longer of this mortal coil made sure that I did. Breathing deep, I wipe my eyes and take up a spoonful of goodness. The warmth on my tongue meets the warmth flowing into my hear while the waves outside the window offer up quiet acclaim. I raise my glass to the spirits at my table, come to join me for dinner.

21 September 2016

Super Heavy

Hurtling down the highway on my morning rounds and I see another one up ahead. The shape is familiar, a small yellow triangle emblazoned on the corrugated side of a shipping container. The words are well-known to me now. "SUPER HEAVY", it says, right there on the side of what the warning label declares to be a high-cube model. About 8,600 pounds of weathering steel clamped to the back of a semi and loaded with who knows what. This day, clouds and all, I feel it. Super heavy.

This sort of thing makes you think while spending so much time on the roads in the middle of the country. Shipping containers are all over the place out here, on trains and trucks. Danish, German, Korean, Chinese concerns pushing their charges overseas and through the woods and to Grandma's house we go. Curiosity got the better of me, because I had to know how the super heavy vibes got here, and landed on my head and filling my heart with ghosts.

Container ships. It is how it gets done. Insanely large vessels carrying thousands of twenty- and forty-foot long steel boxes full of stuff. Boxes that get loaded, offloaded, put on trucks and trains and sent forth into the world to scatter their contents hither and yon. Things that you didn't know you needed, perhaps, or things you didn't want but found you anyway. It hit me this morning that this is my grief, too. A load of super heavy, coming from a strange place far away.

Amongst my vehicular ruminations in the soggy heat of a tenacious summer I could not also help but wonder just what it is that powers these huge ships that bring us stuff from all points on earth. A little research turned up that most of these vessels burn something called "bunker fuel", which turns out to be sort of the lowest of the low amongst refined petroleum products. It is thick, black-brown sludge leftover after all the other easier to use and more valuable fractions have been extracted from the crude. 

Bunker fuel is so thick you can walk on on it when it is cold. Cheap and easy to get, it burns like the outer rim of hell and creates a lot of pollution generating all sorts of nasty things when it goes up in flames. But it is what drives the fleet. It makes it possible to move tonnage, even if we don't want or need the weight.

Another day, another road trip, and when I spied another yellow triangle the pieces of all this began falling into place. I know why the clouds seem so low, the air too hot, the weight too much to carry. All that semi-useless knowledge and the thick, black well of my grief congealing into a metaphor so bitter I had to laugh as I wiped my eyes.

I've seen this ship before, this behemoth of sadness and grief barreling out of the mist to run me over. Not once, not twice, but three times has the darkness punched me in the heart. A person can't watch three babies dies in his life and feel like he is a typical passenger on the cruise we hope to call life. No one can.

But I know what this is. Having sailed my ship right into a storm only to be fished out of the sea and carried away by a hulking black steel mass known as the MV Grief, I am a container lashed to the deck. The engines thrum and moan, burning the bunker fuel of sadness at a rate that threatens to drain the core of the world. The joke is on us, that this ship burns the same stuff packed into the container that I am. A person-shaped container full of the black-brown sticky spew of hell that wrapped itself around my heart faster than I could scrape it off.

I had to laugh, I said. The images burning in my head were too terrible for any other reaction. I have a secret that the captain of the Grief does not know: I can carry more than his ship can ever dream of. There is no vessel that can carry what I have had to carry. I have proof. I am alive. I burn the bunker fuel in my heart and know that memories of the children and grandchild that I held are cargo that far outweighs the grief of their loss. I am super heavy, but I am not lost at sea.

31 August 2016

36 Days in Dreamtime

36 days in dreamtime and the awakening occurs here. Cold, dim, familiar. The cry of seabirds and the trumpeting of seals greets the rising of the sun and myself, such as it is.  I know this place. The stones of it dig through the fabric of my coat, into my back. I never wanted to see it again. 

Memory fades a little as I sit upright. I was dreaming, I thought. But maybe not. No, I wasn't dreaming it all. She was here, she was with us for 36 days in dreamtime. Now she is gone, and I am up here on the ridgeline overlooking a lonely island out in far south of the Atlantic where it is cold and gray but the birds and the seals are curious.

At least, that is what it feels like. Soul on ice. Numbness of the heart and a weariness that reaches deep into the bones. Hard not to feel like that when you granddaughter dies before she got to make a full orbit around the sun. I have company, though, which means the long journey back to the mainland and the sun will not be as hard as it could be.

Not that difficulty matters. I have a thicker skin now. Tougher hide around the beaten stone that is my heart. Hard work is the order of the day, hope I am up to it. This is one of the hardest things I have ever written because I stared at the blank page for three weeks, because the words would not come.

Maybe they still have not shown their faces. I do not know yet. But I had to start somewhere, and the familiar territory of my past experience with loss beckoned. The journey back starts now. It starts with a deep breath and memories. My soul pulls its coat tighter, and starts back down the mountain to the sea. I have 36 days in dreamtime to keep me going.