Sunday, January 13, 2013

A Journey of Love


Looking For You, Finding Me

By Martie

My daughter, Michelle, died when she was 8, years ago. It has taken me a long time and many moods and stages to get to this year, this day, this book. Most of the poems within these chapters were written within a period of 30 years, especially during her birth month, October and death month, February. It is my hope that these poems will help others ... they have certainly helped me. I was young when she died and could hardly feel alive without her.

Mourning is complicated, and yet, most people go through similar stages of grief. When Michelle died, I had no idea what to do or how to feel. I just wanted Michelle back, was angry at God, and buried in depression and denial. At the time, no one suggested counseling; in fact, I was married to a psychologist. He mourned, by leaving the relationship and the place that was filled with memory. I understand many things now, including that, and feel that her short life was the birth-place of a knowledge and peace that I would never have had, had she lived. I am most grateful to her for that gift.

It is my belief that she and I agreed on this before either of us were born into this life. As souls we committed to the way it happened. She sure kept her part, and I am finally learning my own.


Looking for You, Finding Me

Trying to find you

when the sky sends warmth

to February

and all the scattered down clouds

have gone to other grief,

I realize,

to be sleeveless

and skip into your place in time

with a smile,

is not about looking for you,

but about finding me.

Chapter 1

The Innocence of Motion

He was fast on skates;

turning like the wind he knocked down

my shyly paperback book.

He found my eyes hiding there,

and told me something with his cool

that made me think of bad weather.

Somehow, I must have known

that the treacherous path he walked

held the seed, for I saw the photo

of the way his child

would take his beauty

and claim it with the eyes of a beloved animal

with skin of autumn leaking into the trees.

I was only a vessel afterall.

He was fast forward, not gradual as was my want,

but hard of mouth as he listened to me sing my hymn.

In the choir of my heart I watched his chill

and pretended it was not a virus I could catch,

not one that would bed me to cold

or so quickly bring life into my changing.

A stone is thrown into the pool

and becomes something more.

That small seed of his nonchalance

became a liquid web, like music shaped by reflection,

the innocence of motion fell up, not down

and became Michelle.

Chapter 2

When I was Beautiful

It was in autumn

that I became beautiful,

just weeks before my first birthing

when I was weighted with a light,

bright as nodding sunflowers

before a blue sky.

Bitter, bitter the brine

of that conception,

yet, it made my mirror glow

with reason, life, not seed now flown.

Just remembering that swell,

all front curled and stretching skin,

full breasted loving cups begin.

Oh, we turned heads as I walked,

the sway of me saying, look,

look what a miracle life begot.

Even though I was alone in my joy,

the beauty of his face grew within me;

his skin, the color of dusk,

his eyes, damp dirt's liquid hurt.

I had never felt so alive,

though I cried bitterly between minutes

and slept-awake, with each kick

beating my face into bloomed roses.

With falling leaf and changing,

I wear the memory of her slide and cry,

and see the way her dusty skin was red with power,

her eyes the color of cherry stones.

I know I never loved before that time,

and will never love again quite that way,

the way I did just before her birth

when I was beautiful.

Chapter 3

Just a Little Light

I was too young to be

so frazzled,

a baby slung across my hip,

this child that came to me

from the land of careless,

from the place where skin has magic.

Magic, so easily planted a seed

that curled around my heart,

then squeezed joy into all my places,

wonder of wonder, this life.

I thought I couldn't

take care of so much urgency,

and so I searched for answers

from unlikely places,

and oh, how I messed up,

seeing through my need,

falling into comfortable

as if it would hold me.

How could I be big enough

or capture enough wisdom

to give depth to this infant

that twirled around my life

with questions that I couldn't answer?

All around there were songs

that I didn't hear

as I danced to quiet a baby's cry,

I danced with monsters that would scream

and sang to steady the ache.

Then one day,

after the sky had melted

and rained all its bitter truth,

after the umbilical cord was stretched

and tied my whole life up with balloons,

I saw where peace was planted.

Of course, it had been there all the time,

peace waits so patiently,

because it takes so long to see

that bright bulb's hidden treasure

just needs a little light.

Chapter 4

Shake Your Pretty Head

She will ride on cape that twists the road

away from the sulk of afternoon

into the steady healing flow of river's turn

a fish a day to earn and slippery

to pull from mouth the hook of bravery

hunger will release the fill

then drown in water anyway up hill

I am falling up to land within her net

the sky is scattered dun of blue

my whim is to fly of course but wings forget

wings where have you gone to reed and river's force

the tide of air has made a road in sky to ride

the cattails grim turn aside their load and I

look for the smudge of some creek be gone now

loaded with the heavy weight of it I sink not fly

Shake your pretty head release the dead

walk the rocky hill across the nape of twilight

she tells me from the other side

coming now to fish the outcrop of rock for gold

a child will see a reflection crosses the deep

and sways this rhythm of water's keep

to love like jumping rocks is not forgotten

the bounty of a sweet clasped foot

naked cannot slip within the torrent past

for the trickle of a summer shower still remains

singing the quiet hours of day away

Chapter 5

A Conversation with Michelle

Remember Michelle,

when you took my hand

and led me up that path

where your imaginary friends lived?

You called them names

that came from birth of language,

those names ancient and preserved

that were always there

inside your head when you were two;

yet still walking across the meadow

in your third year,

rolling with the dogs in shadowed sun.

I know them still.

You let me see them light up your face

while I listened to your

one-sided conversations.

Your brown eyes crinkled

when I saw you before the laugh

filling up, and then when the sun

hit your hair the light was so radiant

that my breath would catch.

You shed your clothes

like a nuisance that was not part

of the feel of the air against your skin.

The fabric of dog fur and porch railings,

brought joy to your round belly

and sturdy brown legs.

Once, when I caught you looking

out the screen door at twilight

in naked silhouette,

the first coyote barked

his hunger into the canyon

and the dogs clamored around you

sniffing the air ...

and something in you

was wise and wonderful and wild, too.

You threw your cares down

with passionate howls and said

you wished you were dead

and I wondered what dark storm

took you so violently from sweet,

when there was so much love for you

and so much wonder to life.

In your pink flannels, with your cheeks

flaming and so much bravery,

you found the jumping running grass

and glee became you with magic.

You touched me with the listening of an old soul,

then folded me in your small arm's embrace,

knowing when I was sad.

Did you already know that one day soon

I would weep for the loss of you?

You struggled with the sanity

of the children that tormented you

with their pulled-back friendships;

for schools and neighborhoods

were outside your imagination's control.

You drew cats and dogs from far and wide

to our doorstep, with some inner whistle

that took in lost and lonely things.

In your eight years you took me

and rearranged all my feelings

and then threw them up, like feathers

to dance around you;

then you were gone,

you were no longer a breath,

and it was like your mother

went with you and what was left

was only part of me,

missing you.

Chapter 6

Pieces of Eight

You told me water was your friend,

naked and brown

your hair filled with fire,

your eyes made from brown mischief,

all the kitchen pans

in the tub with you.

And it was.

Your blanket had a name

and was constant companion to your fear,

dragged behind you through rooms

into daycare,

across the place of dreams,

shredded and covered with stories

that you had no time to tell.


From the magic place

you learned secrets

of how to talk to animals,

where to find the beginning of a path,

how to write backwards and upside down

a name.....your name.


You scratched out a quiz with each breath,

asking why, and why then why again;

until even the answers grew questions

and I caught your curiosity

to hold revered and fragile

with your glaze and turn of cheek.


Sing it again mommy,

read to me, tell me a story of how,

listen to the sound the sunset makes

naming shadows,

tell me again about why

the coyote knows me

and cries my name across the years.

Tell me, sing me why we die,

and I'll tell you what infinity is;

it is the end and a beginning,

it is eight years old.

Chapter 7

In Spring there will be Wild Flower

Today we scatter run the breeze

with black flecks of life

in a box of sun and seed.

The grandchildren stir the air,

while all the time

Michelle is watching, there.

Sitting by the pond

and throwing rocks with a plop,

is a sound drugged

with water splatter-dropped.

What would you call this need to toss,

larger and larger rocks into the froth?

With sun on face with warmth, abide the day.

October brings to river living gifts that stay;

and the sound of riffled water is a touching start

that runs her beginning again within my heart.

Watch the way the ripples speak her name

saying how forever, love is still the same,

out they pass along the cliff and far,

never ending circles of love, just are.

Chapter 8

You Leave Me With Permanence

Did you see that clear line

following the curve of the mountain

where the sky touches?

I did too, and this,

a love song, tide to its timber

as the leaves danced to get my attention.

And so I bundled my shoulders in flannel,

turned my heart to the north

and saw you there, a child again;

dressed in those long stockings,

your black leather shoes almost touching

the hem of your special red velvet dress,

(this must be special).

I could have sworn that I covered it,

wrapped it tight with tissue

and snuggled it next to my wedding dress.

It's in the captain's chest, I went to look,

knowing you must know how

fabric lives and lives

while people die,

for you were wise even then.

I remember your warm skin.

Now that you know the answers

to all the questions that I have asked,

there you are, not a shadow, no,

but a torch in bright, look at me smile,

galloping across the mountain top

where your ashes feathered and fell,

more years, more years to add of memory, ago.

I want you to know that you have taught me

about listening and patience,

(you were never good at either then)

and as I watch you blow out

like a candle flame on this windy day,

time takes me past the mountain

to the heart of where you really live

and there, you leave me with permanence.

Chapter 9

Someone's Child

I read there was a miracle child;

undead, I saw her smile from the newsprint.

The way her dark hair curled

was so familiar, as if time moved backwards

and changed everything.

I know there were screams

that rained on her spring

with no sound,

her heart slowing to almost stop,

again and again,

and sleep far deeper than night.

I heard them in that other time,

the one where daughters do die.

I also knew

that those who loved her must have wished

her free of life

in their secret souls,

and lost hope to weight

that crushed inside

till death was in their eyes.

But this girl lived ...

I saw it in the newsprint.

She lived

through the scream,

the unimagined soundless terror,

and found her way

in darkness,

to a breath that lived.

My own gamine girl

took to death so quickly

that same year,

that same spring,

holding the same soundless scream

inside her.

Oh, I want to be the mother

of a miracle child,

not me.

Chapter 10

Hello February

Welcome to my life this day is blue

and I have cried a time or two

since last we met together on this path

where snow lays grounded in small patches tease

and pleases the dappled light in me

Don't try to trip me into falling dark

I am most sure and filled with light

even in the night I dream of lavender wings

and feel the lash of mountain rain

I have taken a step forward you see

from blaming you for the pain of loss

I've shown my sorrow this month each year

and February you were the tear

forgive me for my open wound

A remedy for death I've asked

as if the beginning never had an end

and I could pretend to stop the flow of time

or go back and start again

How about this dear friend

I let February be glad now

don't argue that you are bad

I myself will lift the sad

and let you see new flow within my streams

to loosen the ache from all my February dreams

Not because I have forgotten Michelle

but because I choose to remember her

all the time

Chapter 11

Hello Above

hello above I think you are

all around that star

can't say that I've not looked away

a stray

but I used to be Sunday's child

licking that gold star beside my name in school

and every night I laid me down

my soul

what was that I didn't know

but didn't want to die before I woke

forsaken ... no no

I've been wondering about that angel

I called Michelle

you know she was special she was

most for me a first big love

and my prayer was big that day

I know I'd faltered earlier and now I was in need

all of a sudden I asked

is that greed

to take a child who was loved so dear

this tear is all you gave to me in answer

and still I ask

how is this plan worked out

I don't mean any disrespect

and I'm sure you know my heart is good

and believes in love and brotherhood

and I appreciate all the little things you made

for me to touch and see and love

and I know one day beyond this time

sense will make of me some semblance

of what this time spent is meant to be

until then just one other thing

for peace on earth goodwill to men

could we get some help with that


Chapter 12

Leaning to Walk Again

Learning to Walk Again

One straight burnt trunk

Still finds the sky

A spirit's walking stick

It casts a shadow

So do I

Chapter 13

Forever February

All along the edge of night

she silent slips with ancient ways

with toss of head sends mauve to dark

this art work is the sky and more

belabor not the trust she has

that turn of hand can bring sun down

Come February now the time of mourn

she stops to ponder not warn or wasted

the color of the way it feels

to leave beloved hills to stay

forever with the mist that tears have made

She knows this space from every year

has come to feel the callus it has wept

and contemplate the ways to pull the paint

to make a backdrop compliment the grief

and some relief the beauty caught define

like sweet memory of sun in shine of hair

The time is near now she can feel the strain

though it remains eclipsed the brightness fades

then opens new a page that's filled with days

so turning now she sets the sun in clay

to bend forever February into love again

Chapter 14

I Talk to the Woods Denuded

I talk to the woods denuded

not pine or cone just black stark trunks illusion

grants me foot within

the wandering of my spirit

to see small grasses mostly weed though sweet

and tufts of rocks that fall into the clearing

like a memorial of what used to be

to cover the char that once was tree

I picture the woman she would be

on curve of time this road I take

to bring her sharper to my senses

with long brown hair by sun made to flame

and eyes the color of a wooded glen

stem brown skin and toes mostly open

from barefooted time that she would spend

I remember her love for wild and free

the sound of coyote almost cock of head

to hear from back yard pass the curl of scent

that travels bent within the nape of years

from someplace beyond this single web

she was open this way in her life as now when dead

and that is why this trail is not of sorrow

but hallow in the path it takes to certain sure

to find the lifting up of missing her is born

from a life never forsaken always worn and mostly now

is any month when she stopped as winter became real

I feel her keen within continuations cycle

for every sigh I lift she with love heals

Chapter 15

The Ashes Fall Up

the sky is humming with flying vessels

they coat the creases where the sycamore waved

a sky now nestles with soot of tinder

the air is full of your remains

they say at night a fire lays down

it has lain down for days

ashes surround a small green thing that starts

then two and I think oh how I miss you

your sweet swollen brown eyes

filled now with ash and blown around

this wind takes it all and makes a fire again

the sky is the color of a tomb

and from the room the moan is calling

to the moon

where oh where is the pretty place

where tears could weep clean

and fall without making prints on face

I have left you so many times

pushing you from my womb the first

oh how you voiced my minutes then

with lines that were so simply made of love began

when will I be through with missing you

The ashes fall up

I breathe them in and wipe them from my eyes

before I realize they could be you

Chapter 16

Dear Love,

Dear love,

Where you nested

my heart grows lithe,

as with my own whim

I've flown away from solitude

and found breach of delight within.

I can't love you into stillness,

like rain you come refreshed

as I weep for what was ravaged

I keep the harvest's goal,

Oh, significant wonder,

girl's gone beautiful soul.

I can gently part the curtain now

on what I thought that I should dread,

and find in truth a grace amazed

by my own light, wavy threads.

I have no doubt my sigh and cry

weighed heavy on your placement

with time's perfect patience,

so I threw them in the brier

I thought I held for you

to soften a girl's bad dream come true.

To question is my degree,

so I ask miraculously

significant wonder touching grace,

and though flesh is an unworthy tool,

I see you smiling in my face.

I see the pages turn,

hear the sound of paper,

know the end has such integrity

that I want to skip a page or two

to see what happens later.

Keep well, this home of heart

has been growing from the start

from a chain anchoring one into the other,

where there is no end to the devotion

from you, my daughter

forever in the lasting of me, your mother.

Could I but see the distance

plague the stone so I could fly,

curiosity would lick the slurry

until the sap in me was dry.

So, my love I have a feeling

on the page that says, the end,

when I've eaten the apple to the core

there'll be a light in me, not dim,

that still will want for more.

Chapter 17

February 21, Every Year

February 21, every year,

I feel you tap on my shoulder of memory

as you emerge from hibernation.

"Look," you say,

"I am swept under the heartbeat

of memory, sleeping;

covered by hours, then by days,

finally by years, until my laughter

fades from your memory

and the sound of my voice

is lost."

"I am only noticed

when February cuts into

your heart,

or in my picture

one-sided and posed."

"You look for me

across the mountain top,

as if my ashes are what

seed the ground and I can feel

the pilgrimage of your feet

upon my soul."

"Don't you know

that your heart's beat is me,

and the ache within your womb?

In the full, blue-veined

breast of remembering

is where you can find me,

and I will always be there?"

"Trust your tears."

Chapter 18

The Back door

Just a bit of bloody down

and the pounding of a heart,

a willow wind

that's gone wing

with message, silent, sing.

The magic weeping of a forest;

see, I am full of trees,

their naked branches are caught

in the charring of a thought.

I cannot weep anymore;

this memory is too sweet to cry,

a song is there in feather's flight,

born of time and mine to keep.

There is no end to love.

I thought there was an end to grief;

but found again the loss of light

from a gift that had no flight.

Like a movie played again,

death stole the final clinch,

but left the grief and also joy

and the everlastingness.

Just a bit of bloody down

and the pounding of a heart,

a willow wind

that's gone wings

with message, silent, sing.

Chapter 19

Swallowing The Cross

Swallowing the cross

from the mud and muck of loss

I scratch the surface of victory

and regain my warmth by tenacity

I can't sing this dirge again

with the peach tree blooming finally

wanting her to be proud of me

after being lost in the capture of a shadow

keeping me from finding any ally

again and again I've been hit by the fever

of trying to place my spirit into eager

The way I remember it was just open

and out it comes with the first minute

not laying claim to anything broken

but I can't find it now spoken even

and somehow laying down in the sun

is easier then standing up in the rain

Needing to be washed to clean again

I try to stain my skin with a blossom

and find instead the molding petals

rotten swimming in the mulch of days

hidden wrinkled within the keep

of how many ways are there to remember

and the rain is not to blame

Each year I've waited for February

as if a tree could lift the shroud

with the joy of peach blossom's tears

made of pink love and eight years

Now in spring a time of metamorphosis

I am singing to the fruit instead

though pale beneath the other trees

it allows me to see the bravery

of tasting the juice of change

nudging this truth from winter gone

that love like seasons always remains

Chapter 20

A Roller in the Grass of Playful

I'm thinking of you Michelle

warming past the tree

where we frolicked with the day

memory takes me to that hill

All the year I've worn my heart

in comfort drawn to wait

the times that bring you near

just not expecting now and so dear

But here you are wrapping around my years

growing with me not tears

but moments spent in learning trees

and little pieces of poured cement

with your name that lasts

it's just not fair how living

can't be cast

The dog's bark is for you too

and the jasmine hanging on the fence by me

a roller in the grass of playful came to be

itched with laughter until the tears were only mine

So this day I know you see the pool we built

the year you died

as if to hide in the joyous splash

your brothers made into what was a hill

where dogs remarked

yet still

I miss the way your gleeful filled the day

and colored the empty place in me with play

Chapter 21

The Ash

By Martie

Like a feather it drifted across the currents

born of February

just one small ash

a piece of bone perhaps

torn from the door in splendid flow

atop a mountain wave

I watched from the ground on a blue day

wrenched with her presence still

as I had shopped and bought her favorites

my heart on automatic

forgetting she was no longer

Her dresses hung from one shoulder

tilted in the closet

and the precious pieces of her haunted

the floor in taciturn

where I slipped on them but could not bare

to close the door no

Years clicked past like telephone poles

in a sleepy child's watch

then today I went with frame of mind

all tucked and worn each year to fine wood

but worried that her ash had burned again

in a mountain that blazed to look like elephant's back

the trees like tiny hairs across the top

it looked like that

twenty-eight years ago she could have landed

in a dappled current and flowed like my heart

to the sea

forever and always no matter

she is like dappled light

burned in many places

mostly though in me

Chapter 22

The Weight of the Butterfly Flower

The flowering peach,

a daughter's bloom;

each February she lived

in tiny pink bud.

Her tree fed my memory

and flitted across my vision

with nectar so sweet with sorrow

that the sky wept pink.

Such weight

the delicate butterfly flower held.

It took her place somehow

and lived for her each year;

a tree-gift from the fluttering

girls and boys of second grade,

now almost middle aged

with children named

Michelle, perhaps.

She will always be eight, to me,

the bright and moving child

of my youth,

so spark and full of fire,

the first that captured my heart,

she holds it still.

She died again last fall, Michelle,

as her leaves turned and bid a final

tremble to the ground.

The tree no longer lived;

its gamine trunk so stark and bleak

was a sentinel to the truth

that all things die.


under the canopy that burned

my heart again,

from brown and rotting leaves

has emerged proof of the everlasting

circle of creation,

a fragile new beginning

green and growing.

Michelle sleeps now

and has for years,

her features cloudy

with just the slightest trace of light

where her brown hair curled ...

but I see her yearly

when the peach tree blooms,

in February.

Chapter 23

No Straight Lines in a Memory

I can close my eyes

and feel the silk of her hair ...

her complaint

plaited by my patience.

See how the part is crooked in the back?

There are no straight lines in a memory;

but I swear there is a scar

where her brown eyes lingered

true and straight while daring the brush.

Watch me, she says to my memory.

I can make my hair dance.

She turns around and then again,

caught in the air of time;

her hair, a rope or a bridge,

to climb

to her belligerent smile.

Chapter 24

A Box of Things on Sunday Morning

So many years

have come and gone

that the memory is lost

covered by a blue blanket

tattered and torn in a box of things

Did she like cereal on hurried mornings

or bacon with eggs scrambled

to hide the runny part

from looking too much like yellow blood

I question my remembering

I've lost her in my own meandering

where I grew up and passed

the telephone

with its yes or no answer

to life or death when

to choose seemed so simple

Had she lived

she would be forty-two years

not 8 not 8 not 8 not 8

twisting in on itself again and again

like candles on a cake-less cake

It's her birthday

but I can't find her

tattered and torn box of things

this Sunday morning


Chapter 25


Darling daughter of my heart

open is the cage that kept me locked

notice how my freedom is your door

ever in my heart needs nothing more

Chapter 26

Gone Now

February is gone now,

with her quick, clean lines

and tilting globe of determined sky.

She hung her skirt out wantonly

on the naked open neighborhood,

dark with clouds and pink with dawn,

I listened as her tongue licked trees.

No need for solace in her rain,

my weeping chalice is gone,

where winter skies and dappled roads

flush the aching river in me

to the sea.

A tree was made so love could stay

and blossoms gamely on that day

with pink peach petals weeping down

where tears have not an opening found.

February is gone now,

with her quick, clean lines

and tilting globe of determined sky.

I have fondly said goodbye.

1 comment:

  1. I'm almost speechless. You have immortalized your wonderful daughter for the ages. It seems that you have penned all of Michelle that you intend to. That is your call of course, but somehow I have a feeling she will call you back unto her, because I believe she has found a mother she never knew, or understood that she had. Your words and memories and beautiful poetry has kept an eight-year-old little brown girl alive within the lines of your beautiful words and phrases as you gave in to the written word to help yourself cope with the awfulness of being alone without that sunny smile of Michelle. I have never read anything quite like this. I wish, when you are finally done with it you could get together with someone who could produce a video with piictures of Michelle and images from the poem superimposed in the background as you read it and put it on You Tube.

    Thank you very much for allowing me to read this. I am honored.