Gravy

My aunt made the gravy at Thanksgiving dinner,
she alone knew its secrets –
skimming the fat, constantly stirring,
never turning the flame too high,
adding a pinch of this, bit of that,
stirring, stirring, always in motion . . .
the gravy was divine.

Yet now you say we are at the gravy time,
the rewards finally ours to reap.
The struggles, the pain, our despair,
being just the right ingredients.
Granted, you stirred, and stirred,
and stirred some more . . .
but Honey,
you ain’t never learned how to cook.

Home for the Holidays

Begins the dreaded yearning
for hearth and home
as only Mom can make it . . .
a pervasive, clinging need
to nestle in the warm embrace
and drink from the wellspring
of utter contentment.

And so the journey,with attendance to a multitude
of details large and small,
the flurry of messages
so all is properly prepared,
paid for, sealed, delivered
to the doorstep
of the elusive family of heart.

Each gathering brings
the flood of memory
washing pores in bracing chill,
peeling the layers bit by bit
until all the adult trappings
are removed
and you become
the impressionable, innocent child
of yester year.
Yet with the vestiges
of bitter disillusionment remain.

Hence, the clangor and din
with which the most precious
of long awaited (and feared) days passes,
reducing us to our basest of selves,
hammering at each other
in long held patterns of familial, ritualistic torture
. . . . . to devolvement,
a flood of tears and aching hearts,
a tentative reweaving of the tapestry,
each time believing the threads
are realigned just differently enough
that the picture will have a different face
until the next time
the yearning begins.

Still as Stone

He sits still as stone,
imperturbably  standing against the stream,
neither in defiance or rage,
but because there is nothing else to do,
because he is and that is the manner of his days,
quietly moving, barely a whisper,
the tremor of his hand extending
so his whole body reflects the vibration.
Tremors but otherwise stillness
to the force of the stream, yet within,
ah, what flows beneath the surface?
A world as rich and full as his skin’s world is spare?
He pays no mind to his lack of movement
for his mind never stops churning,
a choreographed dance of infinite steps,
resting within the solidity of stone.

My enemy . . . Myself

 

Gears grinding ever slower
Gummed up by old oil
Smoke coming out of ears
As thought winds down.

I’m not a good friend to myself
Once was –
But the shifting trajectories
Confused my mind

Staring at the computer again
And again
No semblance of brainpower
No manifest of concise thoughts

I’m losing myself
That part I valued most
Wisps lifting and flying away
Moths banging against outside lights 

When did poison leech
Synapses, nerve conduits
Knots grown in density
Fog rolling in

Sorry.
For the drugs
And illnesses born
For the wasting away
Of what was God’s for taking 

Sorry for me being me
For the hours upon hours spent looking
Misunderstanding the simplest connections
Snow on the screen of my mind

All verbiage is gone.
I am no longer the girl
brightest at work, in college,
Computer not a handy tool

Father died from complications
Born from dementia
Is this my genetic influence?
Of which I have no control?

I stare at the computer
Mind numb, an enemy of myself
Lost – beating my head against walls
Alone – no longer hearing myself think.

 

Esmeralda’s Hair

When Esmeralda was two her mother cut her hair.  It was so short her ears froze when she went outside.  It was so short it stuck straight up on her head.  It was so short people sometimes thought she was a boy.  Her mother tried to stick bows in her hair with gel, which looked very silly.  One day she walked up to her mother, put her hands on her hips and announced, “No more hair cuts, never, never never!”

Her hair grew.  Soon it covered her ears.

A few weeks later she was able to put bows in her hair without looking silly.

It reached her shoulders.  She put barrettes in but they got lost.  Her mother said, “You have to brush your hair and keep it neat if you want it long.”  Esmeralda just nodded and went back to playing.

As it grew, she liked to put it on top of her head so Esmeralda pinned her hair up with chopsticks but she never bothered to take them out.  They drooped and clacked as she moved.

It grew so long her mother tried to braid it but the tangles got in the way.  Esmeralda never combed it and it fell down her back in snarls and tangles.  Esmeralda’s teacher, Mrs. Snotrush, spoke to the class about the importance of brushing their hair, pointing at the messy heap on top of Esmeralda’s head.

It grew so long it reached her waist.  Esmeralda liked to separate it in two and tie it into a bow at her neck.  One day Esmeralda and her friend had a fight.  They were so angry that they took burdocks and smashed them into each other’s hair.  Her friend took the burdocks out, Esmeralda didn’t.  Esmeralda’s mother just shook her head when she saw her.  The burdocks scratched her cheeks as she slept.

Soon she could sit on her hair.  She tried to brush her hair one day but the brush got stuck in the tangles and she left just it there.  One night when she was sleeping, a mouse saw the hair dusting the floor and skittered up.  He made a home and each night brought back treasures he found during the day, jittering about his adventures in her ear as she dreamed.

When she was swinging at the playground Esmeralda’s hair swept the ground, leaving the ground neat and her hair littered with twigs and clumps of dirt.

Her hair grew down to her knees.  One day a bird flying by decided her hair would be an excellent place to build a nest.  Pretty soon three chicks hatched.  Esmeralda sometimes liked having the birds but Mama Bird was always squawking, the chicks were always chirping and the worms Mama Bird brought back to her chicks that sometimes fell in her hair and squiggled down her neck.  It was hard to pay attention at school with all the noise.

A little, brown chipmuck looking down from a tree thought her hair would make a wonderfully soft home to come to each day, jumped down and burrowed deep with his paws.

Esmeralda’s hair grew down to her toes.  She kept tripping as she walked.  The bird squawked angrily at her because she scared the chicks.  The chipmuck jittered at her to be careful.

One day her cat, Nubs, noticed the mouse, birds, and squirrel and jumped on top of Esmeralda’s hair and stared at the smaller creatures.  It was a heavy load to carry.

The next door neighbor’s dog saw the cat in her hair and started jumping against Esmeralda. She had to run inside and hide.

Esmeralda went to school the next day to find her teacher, Mrs. Snotrush had called the Animal Control Officer to school. The Officer gave a talk about the importance of not bringing animals to school unless the teacher was asked first.

When she and her friends climbed up a pine tree, Esmeralda’s hair got stuck in all the branches leaving her hanging stuck in the air.  Sap from the tree clung to her hair. Little pine needles were everywhere, tickling and itching her.  She looked and felt like a fly trapped in a spider’s web.  It took a whole day and two of her best friend’s help to get her free.

In fits of frustration the animals skittered and chittered and slid down the tree, running off to find new homes.

That was it!  She ran home to her mother and cried “Cut my hair. PLEASE!!!”  Her mother started cutting . . . out came a branch from a tree, twigs from the playground, the mouse’s treasures, the bird’s nest, the squirrels home, clumps of dirt from the swings, chopsticks, burdocks, barrettes and bows that had gotten lost, sap and pine needles from the tree she was stuck in, the brush that got stuck and hundreds and hundreds of snarls and tangles.

Esmeralda’s new hair cut fell to her shoulders fell in soft waves.  Her mother brushed until it gleamed and put a bright bow in it.  She looked in the mirror and liked who she saw.  She promised she would always keep her hair neat and clean . . . and she did.

What Is The Church?

Within the building a musty odor clings to the air,
There are cracks on the ceiling,
The nave has been closed for years
because so much of it is unsafe.
Every penny we have goes to the roof
and all other repairs.

But I remember running through the balconies,
Sunday school lessons with many children
My father’s rich voice from the altar –
and others before and since,
the beautiful organ with all those pipes
and the music it stirred within the soul.

Couples have married here, babes baptized,
countless communions, church dinners,
fairs, thrift shops, and food pantry days.

Now the congregation as dwindled
so many being in their elder years
members for thirty or more years
wanting to die here as they lived here but
the organ is silenced – no money for repairs

What is a church really?
A place of worship
or a place to be worshipped?
A place for the few
or a place where the few
give to many – spreading the faith
that has brought them such comfort.

We may be the few now –
but God and his grand plan
are calling us – asking us to listen
to the depths of our hearts.

To know that just as Jesus died on the cross,
disciples were executed and exiled,
and even today, some Christians have to hide
in the woods, basements, away from prying eyes,
to practice the religion- without books or other paraphernalia
– we have been privileged to have this building.

A church need not be a fortress
holding people in, keeping people out.
Imposing, Magnificent, Intimidating.

Jesus authorized his disciples to go forth
with just the clothes on their backs,
taking nothing with them as they
proclaimed his message to the world.

But we would not get far
with these boards and mortar on our backs
our voices would be crushed by the stones.
Jesus said take nothing.

But a church is not a building, it is the people
and what those people are doing
to strengthen their faith
and to make the hard decisions.

What would Christ have us do?
That is where Christianity lies.

Prime Time

Sometimes words need to be spoken.
Not for posterity or fame
but to be one voice in the vast wilderness
of the cacophony of noise.

Perhaps I’m so shell-shocked
because of my traumatic brain injury
and bipolar issues . . .
the need for silence, surcease of pain.

Still, I need to be with people,
ones who understand,
who don’t question me
or condemn my behavior.
Perhaps in limited doses –
but it is essential to me.

Prime Time gives me that.
No judgment, no shame.
Friends and guides . . .
ones to help me down my path
to remind me there is one
and I have a necessary place on it.

Saying Goodbye

As I stand here today, I can’t reconcile the fact that my  Mom
has died against the woman I knew. She was a force to be
reckoned with, a force of Nature, and the quintessential
matriarch. I hurtled myself at her thousands of times yet
she stayed strong, unwavering. A mother. I didn’t realize
how much I would miss her until now when its too late.
The woman I saw on Monday evening was not the woman
I knew in this life. Her spirit was gone and we all knew
how much a woman she was.

She gave me many things in this life – helped me when I
needed, definitely more than she should have. She encour-
aged me to be a strong woman . . something that was an
inside job for me but not often an outside one. There was
no way I could fill her shoes – One sister is the mirror
of her and fit to walk in her shoes. My other sisters and I
were either more like my father or fierce individuals.
I was her antithesis.  

But even in this I defined myself by her measure.

 My sisters and  aunt and I stood around her hospital
bed and solemnly swore we wouldn’t followed the
same health choices she did. We agreed we would be
closer to each other. Some of that has come true,
some not.

 After she died, I moved to California to be close to my
children. I just didn’t realize they would not feel the same
about me.

My medical issues soon made a burden to my son.  My daughter
was out of the country.  Finally, I realized I had to go back to Con-
necticut  to be where family could help me out when needed and
where I was wanted.

In the course of looking for a new apartment, I had the opportunity
to stay in my  mom’s bedroom for two months. I saw her life and
the things  that comprised it. My anger slowly dissipated, as I
could feel hers do and we made peace.

Our relationship had always been a tough one. A reason
I moved to California was to put as much distance between
us as possible or I didn’t think I would survive.  She was a
remarkable, powerful woman and I had just been too
angry to  see all the remarkable things about her.

I miss her, I have grown and I think she would  be proud
of me now.

Family Relations

IN THE FINAL PARTING

Looking back from this not so distant future,
The bed and its occupants glow –
All anger and distrust and hurt gone –
for now, this period of time;
gentle voices, soft laughter and tears mingle freely.
washing away old animosities at this time of parting.

In the face of the task –
to ease this frail, overused body
to relinquish its claim on the radiant soul within
all else fades

Caught up in the normalcy of daily living,
time rushes past and we fail to hear
the heart’s true message from one to another.

It is only in this parting, so full of pain and sorrow,
that such pettiness can be lifted.
His life was dedicated to healing hearts –
and in his final hours, he defies expectations,
and created a surcease of souls’ angst
intertwining embittered hearts and bringing peace.

The place where I dump the stuff that's inside my head.

Geetha Balvannanathan's Blog - Isis Tratum

Poems, thoughts, healing, other art works (pictures, songs and videos not made by me belong to their authors, the rest being mine) © 2010-2046

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