Last night, I sat down with my journal, intending to record my thoughts about my sister. Instead I wrote a poem:
for Sally, July 17, 2016
It's been almost a year
since your last breath
pushed out from between
your lips, spread its wings,
took flight, a wet
slap of a sound, almost
like something being born,
full of the salt and blood
of the newly alive, and you
were no longer, were emptiness
with a kind of gravity,
a burned-out building,
a sunken row boat, a shoe
on the side of the road, perhaps
tossed out of a car window
or left behind after an encounter
between two teenagers who thought
they loved each other but found
only a grain of pleasure followed
by fumbles for pants and tee shirts
in the night, a sense that their lives
were shorter, had moved
closer to nothingness, to that last
fist of oxygen in the lungs,
and our mother sat beside
your bed before the Farley brothers
came to take you away, she sat,
talked to you about coffee, the slant
of sun on your face, how
she was glad for your stillness,
and she held your hand,
the way my son holds
the string of a circus balloon,
afraid to let go, see it wheel,
spin away like a goshawk
hunting for rabbits among the stars.
A year ago, I was focusing on happiness. It's what my sister would have wanted. Today, I choose to do the same.
July 17, 2015: Kind of Magnificence, Diamonds on the Soles, Gnomish Fairy Tale, Adrienne Su, "Under the Window"
Annie could not help but hide behind a car like a child, red-faced and laughing, trying her best to smack Ives on the head. Ives received her shots with joy and mounted his own assault. Raising his portfolio like a shield, he shouted at the top of his lungs, and, charging toward her, pulled her down into a drift of snow, where they briefly kissed and he felt the first fleeting heat of her tongue. Then they rested, side by side, on the frigid pavement like dummies, wistfully looking upward at nature's swirling activity. A kind of magnificence, heaven, as it were, coming down on them.
A really joyful passage from the book. A young Ives and Annie, just getting to know each other. They let go of all their cares and worries and simply behave like kids, throwing snowballs at each other, tackling each other in the wintery night. It's one of those rare life moments: complete and total happiness. All their future pain and sadness not even a shadow on the radar of their lives.
Driving home from work this afternoon, I had a moment like that with a friend. We had the windows of my car rolled down, and Paul Simon's album, Graceland, cranked on my CD player. The wind was cool. The sun was bright. We cruised along and sang at the top of our lungs: "She's got diamonds on the soles of her shoes....Diamonds on the soles of her shoes...." It felt so good.
Tonight, I will not focus on my sister's illness. It's her birthday. Instead of talking about her chemotherapy or inability to speak, I choose to think of her in better times. Camping in her trailer on a July weekend. Swimming in the pool or lounging by the hot tub. At night, listening to Garrison Keillor on the radio around the campfire. Those are the memories I am going to celebrate.
We had cake tonight for my sister. Called and sang to her. The cake was yellow and chocolate, covered with chocolate frosting and a thick layer of sprinkles. It was really good. I know she would have enjoyed it. A lot.
Tonight, when I get home, I'm going to continue the happiness. After I clean the bathroom, listening to ABBA music (my sister's favorite), I will sit on the couch and read a good book. Maybe I'll put on an episode of Kolchak the Night Stalker, one of her favorite TV shows when we were kids. The only rule for the evening: no sadness invited.
Once upon a time, in a dark forest, lived a dark little gnome named Marvin. Marvin was known far and wide as the saddest person in the gnome kingdom. While the other gnomes got naked and danced in the moonlight, Marvin sat in his burrow and worried about the color of the mole on his stomach.
One day, a beautiful little gnome name Bertha knocked on Marvin's door. When he answered, Bertha said, "Marvin, I love you. Would you take my hand and dance the dance of wedlock in the daffodils with me?"
Marvin shook his head. "I can't dance. Bad ankles."
Bertha persisted. "Would you go down to the waterfall and swim in Love Lake with me?"
Marvin shook his head. "I don't know how to swim."
Bertha tried again. "Would you come out of your burrow and sit in the pines with me?"
"I can't," Marvin said. "I'm allergic to bug bites and tree sap."
Bertha tried one more time. "Marvin, will you kiss me in the gnomish way right now?"
Marvin said, "I don't have any gnomedems for protection."
Bertha went away, and Marvin closed his door and lived the rest of his life in complete darkness, never knowing a single minute of joy.
Moral of the story: Girl gnomes are tramps.
And Saint Marty lived happily ever after.
Under the Window
by: Adrienne Su
Day and night in the green hospital
the woman whose name means Fortunate Jade
grows smaller. Her son forgets
more Chinese with every visit.
He sits by the bed and cries tearlessly.
He is fifteen and remembers his birthplace
as the sputter of its two taxis,
chickens in a wire box, deep-fried
oysters, and guttural speech.
Even in health, his mother looked
small in the supermarket aisles.
She hated the food; she said the people
were dumb as animals. For the last
year, her flesh has been slowly
making its way back to China.
Her son does not tell her
she is still beautiful
even though he knows the words.
He rearranges the camellias,
asks her if she wants TV.
He jumps up, sits down, changes
the water in her glass. He is in love
for the first time and can't talk
about it in any language.
This is the boy she prayed for,
implored all the gods,
even the foreign one, to deliver.
He arrived with a clear cry,
the first son of his generation.
The house filled with blessings
and fat red envelopes. Her husband
found work in America, where
they learned to drive cars--
and now this. Perhaps it was ill luck,
a bad ancestor, the nameless daughter
she had prayed out of existence.
It could be the water
from the strange pipes
or the foul teas she'd sipped
to turn the not-yet child
into a boy. It could be
the songs she had crooned
to her belly, not thinking
of the unblessed rice paddies,
the slighted earth, the moon
that now glared into her window
through each night, saying,
You will not sleep. You will not sleep.
|Bertha, you ignorant slut!|