Thursday, December 29, 2016

December 29: Death, Debbie Reynolds, "Strawberry Picking"

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I know death is a natural part of life, but I'm getting a little tired of it.  I was actually thinking that I might make to January 1st without any close member of our family dying.  I was wrong. 

Granted, my wife's grandmother was almost a century old.  She had a long, mostly good life.  But that doesn't make the loss any easier.  And, of course, 2016 has claimed a good many famous people, as well.  Yesterday, Debbie Reynolds died, one day after her daughter, Carrie Fisher, passed.  The Grim Reaper is having a good year.

August of 2015, I wrote the following poem for my sister's funeral:

Strawberry Picking

by:  Martin Achatz

You took me strawberry picking
once, drove out to a farm
where we paid to squat in green
beds laced with tongues of red.
I could feel my ears and neck
tighten under the punishing
sun as we filled Morning Glory
ice cream buckets with our
harvest, each berry looking to me
like some vital body part,
an organ or muscle necessary
for life.  You sat on your haunches,
fingers staining red, as if you
were some battlefield surgeon
patching up the fallen with only
your hands.  Every now and then,
you would lift a berry to your lips,
eat it in a hummingbird moment,
smiling the smile of the freshly
healed at Lourdes, where miracles
are common as empty wheelchairs
or dandelions in a July field.

The days since you've been gone,
I see strawberries everywhere,
in a welt of blood on my lip
after shaving, a stop sign,
a friend's dyed hair,
my son's sunburned shoulders,
oxygen in the gills of a perch.
Last night, I stood outside, under
ribbons of borealis, watched
them glide between the stars
like garter snakes in a midnight
Eden.  The Bible says that, in the cool
of the day, Adam and Eve heard
God taking a stroll through
the garden.  There were probably
peacocks nesting in the pines,
a stream talking with moss and stone,
the scurry of mole and spider
in the ferns.

That's what I believe you heard
in your last moments of breath.
You heard peafowl screams,
brook trout leaps.  Grasshopper wing
and corn silk.  And you heard
His divine toes in the grass, walking
along.  When He came to you,
He couldn't resist.  He reached down,
plucked you from the stem.  You were
ripe.  Sweet.  Ready.  He put you
in His Morning Glory bucket, continued
on into the dew and sunlight.

Please vote for Saint Marty:

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