Winter Solstice

Every year I forget. Forget the pain, forget I am in exile. Forget the reality that my fibers are made of dust. Stardust. Winter comes through Advent and even when I forget the Stations of the Cross that appear in foreshadows in those purple candles round the wreath, I ache for spring, for death. Even in the balmy tropics where I live my heart grows dormant once a year. And even though the tinsel may spread thick, the holly and the ivy call, the roasted nutmeg and rummy eggnog fulfill my mythology that all is good…the evergreen dies. But as in Narnia, the White Witch’s power is not greater than the Lion’s Sacrifice and so through the dead of winter that begins when the bright wrappings cease, my heart–encased in yesterday’s seedpod–waits for spring rain, soft earth, and the intuition to sprout. For it isn’t winter or even Father Christmas that I long, but resurrection, redemption and the chance to see the stone turned that I might shine, a star, in the heavens once more.

Migration

Once mine, they leave

on the tide,

return to the deep,

swim leagues

to find bright coral

 

born of brilliance.

I watch their freedom dance

 

from the tidal pool.

Late in the sun,

silver minnows swim

like party ribbons,

crabs chase my toes

a sand dollar grows

salty in my palm;

treasures once mined

by my young

who this day

spray their way

to sea

 

leaving me

heart to heaven

body in sand.

The sun falls away.

I stand wondering

how he painted the moon

to bring the tide

and draw it back,

leaving me

 

in the dusk of mourning.

 

The air shifts cool

as velvet curtains

close the night.

Stars rise,

shine on the skin

of new whales

diving again

 

and again

and

again.

 

forgiving is like that, he said

don’t tell me this breeze

passing

blues singing

on midnight porch

with patient dog lying

 

is not

 

or that this

wicker chair

wedding lights

your arms

those eyes

 

won’t be

 

don’t tell me I forgot

my mind

throwing well-fanged words

like venom down your side

 

I fear most

the less     the loss     the lack

unremembered mingling

of blonde and brown hairs

‘79 hatchbacks

 

but see

see     see     see

my crumpled

heart beating

watching your bleeding

struck by my gin

broken on brick

lost shine of moon

 

dark      shadows      light

dawn translucent

dark troubled eyes

grey stubbled skin

in Easter dew

you

you      you

don’t tell me

how  it is with you

 

but enfold me

ruffled with guilt

reclaim my fault

your pain

our seam

 

with one whispered word

 

 

Just Before

In the stages of labor, Transition comes in the moments just before the new life begins to press its way out, to squeeze its greatness from the womb.

Sitting on the backyard porch, I listen to the birds. They weave a medley over my head, from telephone wire, to palm, to merry bougainvillea. The squirrels along the wood fence behave as though something is about to happen. I watch the sky move across the pool and wonder.

Transition marks some of labor’s most intense pain, for the one birthing can only breathe, release and surrender as the force of new life stretches the final sinews, creating the space it requires to arrive.

I step down by the pool and sit on the end of the mat. I breathe and stretch, lean into each position. I allow myself to think…of myself. Not the children, or Todd, or work, or loved ones, or needed tasks. Immediately I cry. There seems so little to consider when the thoughts contain only myself. Have I forgotten all I struggled to learn about the essence of me? I breathe, stretch, cry. I wonder if the world is flat. I breathe.

The new life crowns, and can be seen for moments before retreating in a pattern that seems devoid of progress. Pushing to hurry the Transition only impedes the birth.

Face down, arms outstretched beside the pool, the visceral memories of childbirth Transitions surprise me like a metaphor. I feel the brush of Spirit over my body and remember that if I push this new life—whatever it may be—before its time, I will thwart that for which I long. Waiting and trusting make me frightened, but with four births as my memory, I reach in hope for things unseen.

By its nature, Transition reveals a world between: between then and now; between old and new; between heaven and earth. Transition claims us, demands we trust that the birth will come, that the new life will appear.

Back on the porch wicker, I squint my eyes, the image of tomorrow like an old Polaroid slowly developing in my hand. Today I see only dimly, but the Spirit, like a good midwife, has whispered in my ear that I am in Transition, that all of this is not a march toward death, but the press of new life coming.

Though almost brutal in its incessant press to will us to wait with hope, the force of Transition is, in itself, the new life’s promise that the end of yesterday has come and the reality of the future is near.

 

Mother’s Day

One slow Sunday morning

of feigned sleep each May,

my children banged about

the kitchen preparing

“breakfast in bed for Mommy,”

their daddy playing line-leader

in a parade of plates.

 

Yesterday – nearly grown – they

owned this small tradition,

lined four wide beside my bed,

beamed like children.

Plates of cheese eggs,

fried potatoes, toast, berries,

coffee with cream

paraded in with pride.

I sipped, tasted, tried

to keep my heart contained,

but the sun shone on their faces

 

eager as before. I see them still

piled beside, a mix of pillows,

elbows, knees; we

talked and laughed,

I shared my berries,

memorized the view.

 

2nd Place in 1st “Flash Fiction Slam”

flash slamso i got all the way to the final round of my very first “flash fiction slam!” Won 2nd place, met some great new literary peeps, sold some books, passed out some cards and talked up my new novella Lily Harp, coming out in June! sweet night. kudos to Patrick Greene and the Gallery at Avalon for hosting…and to J. Bradley and his “There Will Be Words” reading series for running the “slam.”

Help a Young Artist!

…who happens to be my daughter.

Our girl Olivia Lynn Barton is working to get into Berklee School of Music in Boston next year & snatch up both a vocal performance and songwriter scholarship if she can manage it…otherwise we simply can’t afford it.

So, this is a shameless ASK to those of you who love my artistry…check out my daughter’s. Her latest original song “Fuel or Fire” is especially good. We are trying to get as many “follows” as possible in the next 4 weeks on her SoundCloud…Berklee WILL look there and they WILL notice!

You can make a difference. I believe it. Please go, listen, like, follow, comment, share…

 

 

 

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree

Sidesaddle in a stuffed chair I sit, feet tucked.

Sipping coffee, I stare at our tree as if it’s a stranger. Strings of white lights, green branches, childhood adornments suddenly blur through the lens of tears.

A tinfoil star, a gold macaroni tree, a painted partridge too big for its branch, a handprint angel all dangle, but where are the tiny hands, sticky with glue that handed me those treasures with pride? The same hands who followed me, waving ribbons on sticks in a Palm Sunday parade; the hands and feet that danced to Billy Joel in the living room; the quad of voices that sang along with Barney and the Hansen Brothers with equal fervor; the gaggle of kids who ran up and down our road at every dusk, climbed trees, made mud pies at the driveway’s end. The babes I carried, birthed, nursed, tucked into bed, read and sang to; the kids who tumbled into the minivan like puppies leaving a colossal mess of dirty dishes, spilled toys and a topsy-turvy blanket-fort to run away to the freedom of the park with a canvas tote filled with fishy crackers, sippy cups, and apple juice.

My blurry lens reaches its tipping point and spills onto my cheeks as I greedily hunt this latest Christmas for more remnants…more popsicle sticks, framed school faces, construction paper nativities. My coffee grows cold as I fall into the hole that is the loss of the life I loved so dearly; the days and days and days where I was held, needed, adored.

I unfold my legs, stand and inhale, run the back of my hand across my face and step into the early morning darkness of the kitchen for a glass of water. As I pour it I am shaken by the corniest metaphor imaginable…a half-glass of water. The tree glows behind me and yet I see it still, know it lives with all we’ve been. The moment stops. I have never been a half-empty person.

And so, with my half-full glass I return to the tree, perch in the chair and stare. On its branches my eyes find the same gold macaroni, tin foil, and tiny hands that a moment ago brought pain, but a new washing floods through the loss that has grieved my heart for days; a slow river of spirit leaves gratefulness in its wake. I have been richly blessed. My life holds much, its mamma story written on the lines of the branches. My nest is not empty, but full. Filled now with different needs, I suppose, except the need is only one: to love and be loved.

The rushing waters erode the final layer of fear: I did not cease with little league games and ballet recitals. I am still the woman reflected in the hands of the children and family traditions that sparkle on this year’s eight-foot fir.  I am the mamma who listens, who encourages each child into self, ministers without measure. My brood may have moved from mud pies to mature matters, but I am the same park-going-ribbon-dancing-mud-pie-making imaginative mamma and there is no way my glass can ever be anything other than overflowing with love.