Writes With Pencils

fiction, memoir, essays and poetry

Tag: Grief

Canning Comfort

I just went through this time of year again. This year 247 lbs. of Bing cherries + 3 cases of red wine yielded 129 quarts of love in a jar that filled the entire cupboard.  I’ll share throughout the coming year with my restaurant guests and friends. The grief hasn’t grown any smaller four years later, but my life has grown larger around it. (If you’re curious about “what grief?”, take a look at my very first post. Thank you for reading.)

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Writes With Pencils

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I stock the old pine cupboard with rows of mason jars
full of plump bing cherries
from this year’s record crop,
each one hand-plucked and pitted
and steeped in sweet red wine.

Five pounds at a time, I first wash,
then pluck, pluck, pluck
the stems from their belly buttons
fully ripe, their cords had let go of their mother’s arms
into the farmer’s hands,
then from the pile I
pick, squeeze, pit—
each stone hits the bowl
with a joyous ping.

I stock the old pine cupboard with rows of mason jars
forty-one quarts so far,
the result of ninety pounds of pitted fruit
and a generous case of wine.

Next to them rests a single jar
of old fashioned strawberry jam
the only one left from last year’s harvest,
back when cooking and canning
was simply done
to capture and preserve
summer’s sweetness at its peak,
before it…

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Composure Decomposed

Airbrushed each day
in competence activity and rectitude
her face was flawless
free from blemishes
of failure insecurity and sin.
At least everyone thought so
and when asked about her skin regime
she only credited eating lots of butter and olive oil
and the luck of good genetics from her mother
who at 75 had looked no more than 60.

But then the perfect storm
of expectations loss and slaughtered dreams
beyond what she could bear
ripped away her glasses
grayed her hair
and with each squall and tempest
the careful coats of paint
then peeled away
in several shades of hardship
revealing all she’d lived and covered
while extolling optimism.

When the winds had once more calmed
and she first looked in the mirror
she reached from habit
for her brush and powder
to fill the cracks and layers now exposed
but when she took in her reflection
she saw a tender beauty there
from the sadness in her eyes
and weary sallow of her cheeks
to the deepened worry lines along her brow
all a burnished gold patina now
the vulnerability of uncertainty
of living her own truth.

The Quandary


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The run is over.
All the docks are lined with fishing boats,
crabbers and tenders,
and a few processors tied up at the end.
From my booth in The Bay
I look up from my mug of diner coffee
and over-easy eggs
and notice it’s
The Quandary that’s moored
in the slip
closest to the shore.
She’s securely tethered to the bollards
to overwinter away from
waves, tides, and storms
in this freshwater harbor inside the locks.

She’s tethered to the dock
as my own indecision
holds me in a place
between your dreams
and my life.

It’s your birthday today.
You would have been 60.
You loved this place, but
if you were here, you wouldn’t be
here today.
You dreamed of sailing the Caribbean
or up the Inside Passage to Anchorage
and beyond
or captaining a barge
through the canals of France.
And I would have gladly been your crew
in celebration.

But your run is over, my dear,
and I cannot sail it for you.
Some of my own dreams
died along with you.
And now my vision no longer sees
beyond a single season,
such a small space for dreams to grow
but enough perhaps
for them to sprout and bud.

30,000 Feet

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At 30,000 feet
the rumbling cabin pressure
squeezed the reservoir of sadness
in my belly
squeezed it until
it leaked from my eyes
the safety valves
that saved me from exploding,
taking the plane down
with me.

It leaked from my eyes
alone, sandwiched between
window and aisle
mountain view and leg room,
sandwiched between
comfort and pain
moving on and feeling stuck
childless and children
wandering and home.

At 30,000 feet
trapped in a tube
untethered from earth
powerless and free,
an in between place.

An in between place
two and a half years
after he pulled the trigger
two and a half years
to the day
my body knew
without checking the calendar
counting the sunsets
dark after light
dark after light
dark after light.

Two and a half years
my mind thought
how arbitrary
until it converted the fraction
to 30 months
the number of years
we’d hoped to spend together.

At 30,000 feet there are
no cakes to bake
checks to sign
or laundry to fold
no children to feed
errands to run
or calls to answer.

No distractions—
only space
to breathe and feel
the loss of him
then finally to write
and begin to claim
the emerging life of me.

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