When One Man Dies

It doesn’t matter who you are. It doesn’t matter how you well you think you lived your life. It doesn’t matter what happened before. It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor, known or nameless. It doesn’t matter if your friends number in the hundreds or less than a handful. When you die, pain and sorrow permanently alter life for everyone who knew you.

When one man dies, neighbors become friends. April, Leroy, and their family are my neighbors a mile to the north. They were here within minutes of my 911 call and spent the first four hours with me, directing the state troopers and coroner, rubbing my hand, and holding me close while I slowly came to understand what had happened. When Gary died, my landlords came with green chili stew and bottles of wine. They traveled 90 miles to feed and comfort me. The 88-year-old neighbor brought beer; he had to find someone to drive him the four miles.

When one man dies, grief crashes in. People who didn’t know Gary cried with me when they heard the news. Usually they were remembering their own loss, the person they loved who died. Old sorrow returned to linger, to sit on their shoulders awhile. People who did know Gary were stunned, wordless, until the reality set in, then they too cried, remembering the man they loved. Grief tastes like ashes; words are no longer eloquent; colors are dull; time is warped. Pain is real, though, and weighs more than you could ever imagine.

When one man dies, family expands. I called everyone I knew who knew Gary. Each of them gave me strength, each one wept, each one called me back to check on me. Each one called another person who knew Gary. Now all of us are more than mere acquaintances. Now, Gary’s grieving mother is part of my family. I know things about her child that she does not know but that she needs to know. I know that he was a kind, gentle, strong man. That his kindness blessed many people. That he still wanted his body used by scientists to possibly unravel one more mystery. That he was diligent, brilliant, laughing, caring, and still tortured. That he built beautiful stone walkways, altars, and fire pits. That his final days were spent in a beautiful place and that he was surrounded by people who cared very deeply about him.

When one man dies, grudges are forgiven. Most of Gary’s family and friends had not spoken to him in years. He cut off his relationships one by one, methodically, in the last few years of his life. That angered and hurt his friends. Somehow it helps to understand that he did that to everyone. His friends understand more about the pain he was carrying, the weight of the decision he was making. They also know that carrying grudges is foolish and can rob you of precious time and sweet memories. Friends who have not spoken to each other because of some previous hurt have called each other this week and sought some common ground for forgiveness.

When one man dies, everyone becomes a storyteller. I have learned that Gary spent a month building stone walkways for a friend in Missouri. I have heard details of his childhood, stories from his days in the solar industry, tales of his propensity to make every project into a scientifically elaborate experiment. I know that he could be bone-headed stubborn and I know that he could be child-like in his enthusiasm. I know that he loved deeply. And, I know that many people loved him.

When one man dies, love floods your world. My mother and her dear friend, a priest, came to help me bless the home where Gary lived and died. They came laden with flowers and prayers. They soothed my spirit, and Gary’s. Friends with whom I work, called me, wept with me, and did rituals for me. Their notes poured love over me like a honeyed salve; their calls allowed me to grieve and to be held in love. That soothing allowed me to comfort Gary’s friends and family. They in turn poured love on his mother and on me and on each other. The richness of the love given to Gary, and to me, cannot be described but will always be remembered.

My friend Gary took his life on Solstice. His own grief stilled his heart and turned him away from the beauty of life. He no longer knew how to live in this world. His pain broke his spirit. His choice is almost impossible to understand; it was his choice. We sit in quiet sorrow, remembering when we chose to continue but so wanted to die. We all know now that the answer of suicide is a gut-wrenching answer for those who remain behind.

He came for solace; he died in peace. I will remember Gary Lee Moore.

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Chili Day

Sunrise glitter
outlines crystalline branches.
Midnight snow disappears.

Slippers swish softly.
Cats murmur, mew.
Disheveled ravens mutter oaths.

Yesterday’s gold lies softened,
brown with drizzle.
Itchy dreams smell of wool.

Colors dazzle then mute.
Low splashes crest, recede.
Cars rumble afar.

Flickers’ whistle sharp farewell.
Pigeons pin tattered grey
clouds to high wires.

No longer Indian Summer.
Sips of White Peony tea.
Quiet poetry.

 

Lush


My grief sobbing shall no longer drown one bird song
one child’s giggle
one exuberant hosanna
one scrubbing prairie wind howl
or one whistle of contentment.
I shall quiet myself and listen.

I shall allow my sense of entitlement to wither
starve my neediness and longing
divorce my despair
prise addictions from my body
and untangle myself from my eloquent dramas.
I shall stand in truth, protected by kindness.

I shall not drug myself stupid
comfort myself with protective fat
seek a thousand healing metaphors
stuff my shelves with poignant totems
cocoon my heart with ancient wounding.
I shall not flinch from today.

I shall peer into the future with expectation
affirm beauty’s continuing reign
acknowledge love’s reality
drink the abundant green nectar
and soak up autumn’s heart-quickening flash.
I shall continue planting and nourishing.

I shall delight in cheeky fur-covered demands
encourage uncontrollable nose-noise laughter
shiver with sudden shyness as love sparks
rhumba amidst rain-cleansed sage and chamisa
and taste the bounty, the endless bounty of this Earth.

I shall tango intoxicated with life.
I shall splash into this sensual and splendid world
swimming in the glory.
I shall become lush; I shall thrive.

Fleeting Grace Notes

Fleeting Grace Notes
Drifting along a sun mote climbing this
flamingo pink ribbon of a mid-winter sunset,
I float into contemplating notions of time,
musing and meandering through comparisons.
A tiny nub on the crisp green eyelash edge
of a raggedy night-blooming cereus leaf
swells twenty-six times twenty-four to become
a heart-bursting blossom for eight hours, usually
between when you fall asleep and awaken.
Some sweet babies mermaid miniature
mama oceans for twenty-two months.
In only thirty galloping minutes
minuscule bacteria mature and divide.
Soaring sequoias first produce
fertile cones at age sixty,
while stalwart and gnarled
bristlecone pines endure five millennia.
My existence on this precious planet
falls somewhere along this continuum.
What a stupendous gift:
to live, to feel, to love, to witness!
As my brief sojourn on this Ecstatic Earth
nears completion, may I keep my heart
open in surrender to each
brilliant flash of Your beauty,
every instant of luscious laughter, and
all priceless moments of serenity.
May I gently unfold into Your seasons,
relishing the fleeting grace notes of
cottonwoods ripening into breathtaking gold,
exquisite emerald hummingbirds chittering,
delicious food grown by my neighbors, and
ravens strolling through wondrously silent snow.
In the name of all living beings without exception,
I sing hosannas to all and whatever You May Be.
© Jeanne Treadway, 2015

We Reclaim Her

Erzulie Dantor
Umbilicated as we are, with the soft
salt-water haven tucked between our thighs,
She Who Delightfully Transmogrifies,
endlessly becomes That Which Is Visible,
ever remains That Which Is Unseen
marked us as belonging and intact.

We proclaim our sovereignty and freedom.
We speak steadfastly against the mad din,
unbowed by wicked cacophonous tyranny.
We rebuke the irrational rationalism and
scorn those invoking horror and hatred.
Our years of tears merge with
She Who Wept Seven Oceans
and Still Shields us all,
scouring and cleansing, rearranging,
gathering strength and focus.

Get out of our way you who grovel in wealth
and fear contamination from all real love.
Beneath your awareness we unshackle Her Beauty
as we release ourselves from your fetters,
your starved and poisonous greed.
We reclaim our Goddesses, Whole and Free,
liberating ourselves and our children.

We fall open again into Her Lusciousness,
into Her Multitudinous Green Aliveness,
gasping awestruck as we gambol
in the utter Splendiferous Creativity
cradled in a single drop of dew,
the cascade trilling of the tiny canyon wren,
the marvelous meanderings in cottonwood bark.

She frees us from your priggish attitudes
and disdainful mockery of ecstasy.
We rollick with our Lascivious Baubo
Whose Vigorous Guffaws reveal
Her Red and Black Underpants,
an affront to the neighbors which
mightily amuses Her Kids who know
She never wears such things.
She Who Salaciously Slobbers and
Dips-Skips-Rolls in Shit,
Ms. Eager Britches Coyote, scoffs at your
ridiculous rules and prudish perversions,
luring us into blushingly lewd escapades.
We shake with raunchy hilarity listening to
every scandalous secret carried on world-circling
breezes to the Hairy Elephantine Ears of
She Whose Squishy Birth-Striped Belly and
Child-Sucked Pendulous Breasts dangle
Nipples within Aureolas of Areola.

The stolid fierceness within
the gentleness of Erzulie Dantor,
She Who Devours all Blood-Curses
mothers ever spew on daughters,
Fiercely Protects single women with babies,
Engenders Wholeness and Healing Succor
for all females, particularly the shunned young,
surges into our hearts as we bear witness
to the rapacious evil devouring the Vibrant.
We repudiate your right to rule us;
We do not acknowledge your fallacious
regulations regarding any part of our own
perfect, unglamorous bodies.
Our Prepotent Goddesses strengthen us.

Do not adorn your wristwatch with Her.
Stop using Her Astonishing Loveliness
to animate belittling and degrading cartoons.
Unhand Her Magnificent Mammaries and
desist from your hideous, devastating,
puerile advertising featuring
every lusciously bounteous curve
and nourishing crevice of Her Body.
Stop your repugnant practice of mocking Her
by naming mutilating products after Her.
Quit bull-dozing, uprooting, and paving
each last pristine square inch
so you can live with Nature,
amidst Her Precious Quiet,
Her Last Surviving Wild Animals,
Her Ancient Majestic Trees
and, for simple justice, quit naming
your monstrous mansions after
the very Marvels you just ripped out.
Every day we teach more children
in every realm, country, and collective
to cherish being alive,
to know their rights, and to be
heedful of their responsibilities.
Their growing connectedness
and healthy love of self
compels them to replenish
this Beauteous Globe;
to once again hold
Her Sanctity as priority;
to rebuild the numberless homelands
of weeds, bees, butterflies, foxes, rabbits,
birds, and creations by the thousands
in which they live, thrive, and play;
to eagerly join with each other
to stop the abuse of all beings.

As we reincorporate the Holy Female,
celebrating diversity and offering balance,
their hearty laughter and rich compassion,
facile, curious, inventive brains,
inclusive values and ethics,
art, poetry and music
nurture all creatures sharing
our Gloriously Generous Planet.
Their delight and tenderness swell
our souls with joy and grace.

© Jeanne Treadway, 2014

Giles

Giles

Thirty-one years ago
in some momentary blessing
an unexpected quiet fell
impeccably potent
just behind our chairs
sheltering us from
the common cacophony of busy
machine-gun hammers
screeching saws and

laughing, lusty men.
While that gift of silence
merged with golden September sun
Giles whispered words about
a sorrowing sense we shared
of precious little goodness.
He in his tender blonde Mormon beauty
me in my summery pulsing brown heat
we opened heart to soul
murmuring together our wistfulness.
I heard a woman’s oboe voice.
I saw her arms splashed with cherries.
I admired his father’s enduring integrity.
Shielding three children, maybe four,
a singing and dancing wife
that gentle poet lived precariously
puzzled by human contradictions.
Later, three poems, folded and shy
slipped into my Les Fleurs du Mal
waiting to soothe me again
on this cloudy Sunday afternoon.

© Jeanne Treadway, 2014

Getting Close

Sank Into

Today, the sun massaged my shoulders
until my whole spine sank into my pelvis.
Then I understood.

My sister didn’t want to talk with me
about her continued choices for coping
with breast cancer or
about anything
heavy,
you know.
No thanks, I don’t need any help, she said.
Mom offered too.
I’ve got my family here.
Just keep it simple. Okay?

Mother’s claptrap about this
having nothing to do with me
is completely true
and utterly false.
It’s about more than health.
It’s about relationships and
naming those included or excluded and
being fearful, vulnerable and
getting close
too close.

You see,
my sister and I share an hereditary disease,
a societal malaise,
a mean-weird upbringing and
other stuff beyond DNA.
But she had this malignant hideousness and
she pulled away because she
could not tolerate hearing one gasp,
one sharp silence, one more loving story,
dreading always a poignant moment
when mother stirred the emotional soup or
I made everyone cranky with logic.

I can’t fault her for understanding
who the hell I am
and conserving her energy to deal with
ninety-five commands and demands
endless suggestions and
gee whiz I saw on Oprah last week
yadda yadda and
fifteen articles in the mail and on the Internet
so many someones know would make her feel better
when a nap would do the trick and
all those looks of screwed-up compassion and
the pauses in conversation when
she rounded a corner in her office and
the weariness she felt
just living moment to moment
with a teenager learning about personal power and
two nearly-thirty kids a husband a job
a mother who’s going blind, is mentally ill and
can be vicious
a sister who is damn intense and
cannot does not will not work well with mother and
oh shit did she remember to take that new medicine and
why is her left armpit aching and
is that scar tissue from the surgery or a new lump and
is the kid’s toilet stopped up again and
doesn’t the dog have a vet appointment today.

I thought we had weathered the worst,
we who survived our rage-scarred childhood,
individually naïve sexual revolutions,
death, divorce, meaningless jobs, poverty,
loss of hope, endless lies, fearsome surgeries,
chronic illness, and damaged dreams.
Yesterday, she told me
she’d chosen to hide herself from me
for forty years or
was it fifty years?
This solidifies that which I’ve suspected:
we haven’t lived in overlapping realities
for a very long time and
we have devolved into intimate strangers.
Well-scripted greeting-card moments,
instead of tender and real conversation,
shall serve as our communication.
She’s relieved and I grieve
knowing this is simply the way it is.

I never wanted to learn these vaunted truths:
great grief becomes tedious,
loss is all there is after a point,
we never really know another person and
freedom comes with high costs.

Good for her.
Ouch for me.
Good for me,
I guess.

© 2014, Jeanne Treadway