Posts tagged ‘death’

May 1, 2016

One of Those Days

by lisa st john

Maybe it’s the rain. Maybe it’s my internal work clock (quarter four has begun). Maybe I really, honestly, thought I would get my sabbatical. Strike that last one. That would mean I no longer expect the worst in order to appreciate what I actually get. That hasn’t changed. Has it?IMG_4422

I could have gone to a writer’s retreat this weekend but I was beyond tired. I am glad I stayed home to rest but at the same time I am angry for not pushing myself.

Pushy Me versus Tired Me: A Conversation

“How are you going to be a writer AND a teacher if you can’t muster up the energy to drive four hours to Boston?”
“My hematocrit was 33! They wouldn’t let me donate blood. I must be anemic again.”
“Blah, blah, blah… .”
“I just got back from a long weekend in Cincitucky
           “Did you get any writing done?”
“No, but it was such a beautiful time—it felt so good to hang out with my son and see him thriving in his adult world and—
“Travel is good. Travel is fodder for writing.”
“Gee, thanks. I am going to Isla Mujeres the day after graduation, and to Provincetown in July, and to San Miguel de Allende in August and LBI after that and–
“What the fuck are you running from?”
“I am not running from. I’m running towards.”

Anaïs Nin said that we write to “taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” Maybe Iraintulip2’m not ready. Maybe I’m too ready. Maybe Stephen King was correct about writing and teaching (not compatible). We’ll just have to see.

Until then, I live off the crumbs of what I can muster. A blog here, a poetry reading there, the Chronogram Word Café series, The Bard College Institute for Writing and Thinking, you know. Here and there.

  1. POETRY READING Friday, May 6, 6 pm in the Reference Room of Stone Ridge Library. Join us as Tina Barry, Patricia Carlin and Lisa St. John read from their latest works. A reception will follow the readings!
  2. TRAVEL, write, rinse, repeat… .

p.s. (Was SO PROUD to be a part of Chronogram’s Poetry Roundup. Thank you Ninraintulipa Shengold, for your fab review. My favorite line: “Ponderings debuts a nonpareil poetic voice, lithe, quirky, and fanged.” I’ve always wanted fangs.)

Snippet from a poem that doesn’t quite exist yet:

I will buy the $110.00 bra without a coupon—without even checking with Ebates. Feel the power? The dollars I

give

away don’t count somehow. This much to the students in Isla Mujeres whose mother is homeless; this much to GOFUNDME so Mrs. ___ can stay home with her husband while he dies; this much to Amanda Palmer’s latest Kickstarter because without art what’s the fucking point?

This phase is supposed to be over. Hospice therapist said so.

Ponderings is available at Finishinglinepress or you can get a signed copy from me directly 15.00. paypal.me/lisastjohn

August 25, 2015

Perforated

by lisa st john

Unlike some of my sisters out there in the world, I do not choose to wear the veil that covers me. My friend calls it a “Saran Wrap” of sadness. I didn’t realize that I had it until she told me. But it’s there. It’s a veil. It’s thin and breathable but it’s there. I’m not sad all the time anymore, but I wasn’t sure I could ever say, “I’m happy” again and really mean it. Not until now.

IMG_3304

It has been 1,006 days since my husband, Kent, died. But it’s also been 10, 588 days since my fabulous son was born. He will be 29 years old this year, and that blows my mind. He is handsome and gentle and intelligent and successful in every sense of the word. He has a beautiful fiancée and just moved into his first (fabulous) home. I have been hanging here trying to help out and trying not to get in the way. And I think the veil got thinner.

Have they put something in my drink? Did my own kid rufi me? Or is it possible that my sadness has found a quiet spot? Their joy is contagious. Even the German Shepherd, Missy, catches it. She ran sprints around the new house yesterday, almost knocking over the yet-to-be-hung bazillion-inch television. And I swear that dog was smiling. We call her “Soul Puppy” because her love is so curative. How could I cry when a sweet little pup was licking my face? What right did I have to be mourning when I could instead take part in the supreme joy that is puppy romping?

The breeze here is warm and inviting. The sky is bluer than I ever remember. The world is lush with life and newness and bliss. Now I not only recognize it, but feel a bit of it too. The veil is thinning. So all of you joyous people out there, please remember: SHARE. Dance in the grocery store and sing while driving and laugh and laugh and laugh. Those of us with veils need it.

p.s.: Thank you artists. Thank you for making “a joyful sound” and sharing the beauty.

p.p.s: Shout out to some of my favorite artists: Kaileigh Osarczuk, Amanda Palmer, Karhu Moon, and all the laughing children of the world.

I just got this message from Finishing Line Press: “Your book will be going to print very soon. I will keep you updated on when your file leaves for the printer.” Oh yea. You can get it here.

August 5, 2015

It’s Just Stuff

by lisa st john

 There will be joy…whether we want it or not.

IMG_2711

Cone Dog Millionaire?

Loss and grief are unforgiving teachers. Are you ready for the quiz? No? Too bad; so sad.

All we can do is decide how to react to moments. We cannot choose the moments. All we can do is be good to ourselves so that we can be good to one another.

“Aren’t you sad…devastated that he’s leaving?”
“I, uhm…want him to be happy.”
“But you’ll have to get on A PLANE to see him!”
“Yes. And that’s how I am going to spend my money.”
“But he is your only one, what about saving for your retirement… .”
“I’d like to think I raised a good adult, even though he is my ‘only one’ (!?). Now he is off being an adult. ‘I never seen a hearse with a trailer hitch.’ Do you know that song?”
What?!”

Recently, someone told me that I don’t respect money. This is true. It is just stuff. It is used to get more stuff. Or it is used to help create experience. I like to think that is what we taught our son. Experience over things, moments over regrets.

Recently, someone told me that I shouldn’t always pay for her dinner. “Do you forget,” I asked her, “that you wired me money all the time when I was pregnant and alone and couldn’t work anymore?”

“No. I guess I forgot…”
“Twenty-nine years ago I stole a bag of rice from a grocery store. I paid for the can of beans. You taught me that beans and rice make a complete protein—healthy for the baby.”
“Yea, but…”
“You taught me how to ask.”

My late husband used to tell the story of a college friend who didn’t have drinking money. My husband used to tell him, “If I’ve got enough for one beer, I’ve got enough for two. Let’s go.”

I like to believe that this sentiment is alive and well in the world at large and not just in my own life. Can I afford to buy a recent high school graduate a new car? No. Can I afford to give a few bucks toward her crowdsourcing effort? Hell, yeah. It’s just stuff.

“What do you mean you don’t balance your checkbook?”
“That’s what ATMs are for—checking my balance.”

My logic works kind of like this: I got a refund for a $200.00 deposit I put on a rental house for my last vacation. I forgot about putting down the deposit. So now I have a brand new (free!) $200.00 that I didn’t have before. (Well, technically I did have it but I forgot it so… .) Now I have a new $199.00 camera. For FREE! (Sort of.)

There is no amount of money that can buy anything worthwhile. There is no amount of money that will bring my husband back. I am stuck here; I am stuck here without him, and I will be damned if all he taught me about living in the moment is going to go to waste. I hope I die broke. I hope I helped make many experiences along the way.

“Does it get easier? The loss? The grieving?”
“I don’t know anything about easy. I just know about change.”

p.s. My first chapbook, Ponderings, will be out at the end of this month. I just proofed the first set of galleys from Finishing Line Press. Buy it. And if you can’t let yourself laugh at weird, stupid stuff like trumping your cat, well, then… .

IMG_2823

March 16, 2015

SummerTime, and the Livin’ is… .

by lisa st john

I have a few “teacher” poems that rarely see the light of day because they either sound pathetic or didactic. They are often just plain bad because they are rants. Just rants. Then and again, on days like this, they can come out and dress up and play poem.

“I Get Summers Off”

for Taylor Mali

Come Monday afternoon when I am driving home and can’t tell the difference between the salt and sweat of my tears–

’cause I heard 11th grade Aliya saying she wants a good job so she can support her (yet to be conceived) children when Jordy (inevitably) lands back in jail…

’cause I saw Sammy kick the office door when he got suspended for a fight he really had

with his father

in the form of a friend’s face…

I remember them saying, “You get summers OFF?!”

And this Thursday I hear Michael Stipe on the radio singing, “Everybody Hurts” and I am BACK in TIME at 12th grader Damon’s funeral (the principal forcing me toward the casket of my [ex?] student who blew his brains out in his mother’s bedroom between 9:00 and 10:00 AM on a desert spring day).

I mark the time because the coroner told me. I mark the time because that means he was already dead when I called him at 10:15 to ask why he wasn’t in school. I mark the time because BOOM!

I get summers off.

And bettyandisabel come dancing from hop-scotch and jump-rope and it’s spring and…oh no. This isn’t that poem.

And the dreams escaping through broken-windowed houses that should be homes call to me in sonorous serenades in the form of children’s writing. And the cries for help—for at least attention—TIME attention TIME attention

ATTENTION! “Time?”

call to me in serendipitous notes “accidentally” left on my desk and bruises “hidden” without sleeves but

It’s okay. It’s all okay. ’cause it’s a job and I

get summers off.

But wait. Sometimes a Wednesday comes sneakin’ inside a hushed, timid space between a “fill in the blank here” meeting and a “fill in a bigger blank here” paperwork mound and I hear the gentle rustle of a postcard from Kayla who wants me to know I made her first year at college easier because of “all that damned writing.” I sniff the email of Marianne who typed me up “just” to say that if it weren’t for my class she never would have graduated, and she is thinking of me now. I dance inside the hug of Jose who has come back to tell me that he got his GED after all and that he remembers the “fill in the blank” (attention TIME attention TIME attention, TIME?) when he was homeless trying out high school helped him make it. And (not so) little Larry from my ninth grade “remedial” class comes knockin’ on my office door to say he is enrolled in AP English next year ’cause I helped him to dispel his fear and I think…

I get summers off?

 

I told you they were bad. This one was written a few years ago and meant to be a performance poem so here  is the audio before I decide to make it go back on the shelf marked, “Rants–not poems.”

Disclaimer: All of this didn’t always happen and none of this isn’t sometimes all the way true-ish. And yes, the names have been changed to protect the writer (obviously).

April 14, 2013

Advice?

by lisa st john

Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn’t.” –Erica Jong

Life must be lived and curiosity kept alive. One must never, for whatever reason, turn his back on life.” –Eleanor Roosevelt

Picked up a notebook the other day. It was from 1996. Three widows born in a plane crash moment. The quote from A was, “I don’t know what I need; I’ve never been a widow before.” Then I remembered what B said when we first met her all those years ago. Her husband had recently died and here she was at a scoring conference. “Get yourselves some girlfriends is all I can say. The two of us did everything together—everything. Get yourselves some girlfriends.” More recently I have heard enough advice to fill a few swimming pools, but what it all comes down to fits in a tear: there is no right way to grieve. C called and said, “Don’t let anyone tell you how to do this. Make yourself feel better however you can. I still have [his] clothes in the closet.” It’s been eight years for her.

The first day I left my house and went into the world was terrifying. I went into the shop and told D how guilty I felt for being alive, for walking around doing “normal” things. She looked at me indignantly and said, “Who the hell do you think you were married to? You have no right to stop living.”

The first time I left my cell phone more than three feet away from me, I told E I was going to join the gym because that’s what “normal” people do. She said, “You’ve been talking about what normal people do all day. I gotta warn you—you were never that normal to begin with.” And we laughed.

The first day I realized that I hadn’t cried yet I remembered what F told me. “Back to normal?” she said, “No. That’s not going to happen. You have to create a new normal.”

Sandra Cisneros’ Rachel was right. Here’s to onions and sweaters and little girls. Here’s to how we all feel when we wish we were a hundred and two.

I think today I will walk outside and just sniff at spring for a bit.runningman

I believe that when I die I shall rot, and nothing of my ego will survive. I am not young and I love life. But I should scorn to shiver with terror at the thought of annihilation. Happiness is nonetheless true happiness because it must come to an end, nor do thought and love lose their value because they are not everlasting. Many a man has borne himself proudly on the scaffold; surely the same pride should teach us to think truly about man’s place in the world. Even if the open windows of science at first make us shiver after the cosy indoor warmth of traditional humanizing myths, in the end the fresh air brings vigour, and the great spaces have a splendour of their own.”

-Bertrand Russell 

%d bloggers like this: