Tag Archives: friendship

Nadira’s Gift

Through the insanity of “flow” fixed stones of words grow, grounded in clay, slate and molten glass, grass, roots of earth, hearth of sun, mantle of river where water tumbles, crashes over edges like minds of poets and women who sit beside windows and touch across miles and oceans…

and smile because they know they come from the same strain of imagination, rained upon by years of struggle, laughter, tears, fears, and playing with saying words, caring not about madness but only seeking those moments of divinity where life begins and ends in a flash of recognition…

realizing death is just a breath inspired, a change of the woven pattern from knit to purl from water to gas, moving here from air to there where a thought or a prayer pulls Form out of nothing and starts all over again…


Filed under Poetry

First Death


Do you remember

the first time

you and Death


I do.

You were seven

 We moved to Wiltshire farmland

an old stone and brick house

built upon an underground river

a seventeeth century pub

and the river ran

through the cellar

to keep the spirits cool

but it kept us cold and damp

 No heaters, just coal grates

one in each of the two

ground floor rooms

no fires to warm the upstairs

where we slept

where icicles gathered

on your father’s whiskers

in those long winter nights

and where oil lamps

gave more heat than light

The wind always whistled

across the chimneys

and through our bones

even in the midst of summer

~ * ~ 

Just over the rise,

on Lord Bath’s park estate,

animals roamed free,

outside the tunnel cages

built for people

Here a baby elephant,

named Zola Bud

an Ethiopian famine-rescue

brought to a queen’s land

lived amongst giraffes,

one-hump camels

and a little girl of seven


Zola and the child,

sisters at play

one carried the bucket

the other trotted behind

trunk on shoulder

like a child’s extended arm

elephant shadowing

everywhere the child went


One warm spring day

released to the sun

and allowed to play

she fell into the bog

her heart, still frail

scarred from starvation

stopped its sweet beating

 Do you remember?

The only shadow

that followed you then

was Death

your first one

an Ethiopian elephant

silent and spent


http://magpietales.blogspot.com/ Mag 34  The Oil Lamp

Photos courtesy of google images


Filed under Poetry

Arlo’s Garden


My first old golden planted himself everyday

in the garden by my patio chair. That’s where he took his nap.

At thirteen, all Arlo needed was water, food and tennis balls

and, of course, he needed me.

It wasn’t until he died that I realised

how much I needed him.

If he’d been a man, I probably would have married him.

That dog set roots in me,

roots so deep, that even after he was gone,

within a week, they sprouted another

homeless old golden named Shadow.

Shadow lived to be fifteen and a half.

Then one night his eyes looked into mine, and they said

Thank you.

The next day he died, and I missed his golden

shadow beside my chair, and under my feet,

but I felt his soul staying right with me for six weeks.

I buried some of his fur in Arlo’s garden.

Then it took root, blossomed and brought me Libby.

She’s thirteen and real chipper. Kind of bossy too.

She’s not like the boys, but I love her anyway.

I understand her. We both think like girls.

Libby lays on the lounge chair cushion

that I took off the chair and put on the patio floor

so she could lay beside me as I write.

She likes her comforts and I like her company.

Today I looked up, meaning to say a word to Libby

let her know how much I appreciate her help,

but her cushion was bare.

She didn’t raise her head to smile.

I saw some dirt strewn on the ground; I gazed across

to the strip of garden where Arlo planted roots

and where Shadow’s fur blossomed.

There Libby had planted herself, fast asleep and dreaming.

I couldn’t help but wonder as her paws twitched

and her muzzle nursed a bark

if two big goldens weren’t running beside her,

chasing balls, catching skunks,

and swimming the deep spring river.


Filed under Non-Fiction, Poetry, Uncategorized

Dying: The Conversation Stopper

Dying: The Conversation Stopper

“Come in and meet my mother,” I said to the father of my new 6th grade girlfriend when she came over for an after-school visit. He got out of the car and followed his daughter and me up to our front door. “She loves it when people drop in,” I continued. “Nobody comes over anymore, now that she’s dying.”  He stopped dead in his tracks (excuse the metaphorical pun). “It’s okay,” I reassured him, “she’d love to meet you, honest.” He blushed, stuttered about remembering something he had to do, then told his daughter he would return for her in an hour. That was the last time the girl was allowed to come to my house.

A year later when the ladies at school handed out pink carnation boutonnières for students to wear on Mother’s Day, I was told to choose a white one because, “your mother is no longer with us,” the lady said in a hushed tone. There was only one white carnation in the generous basket of pink blossoms. “You mean because she’s dead,” I corrected. “Yes dear, so you get to wear a white one.” “I don’t want a white carnation,” I said and turned away, when what I really meant was, I don’t want a dead mother.

Death – we all do it. Few want to learn about it or seek conversations with any sense of curiosity or preparation for it. When someone dares to broach the subject in a social setting, people squirm, change topics or turn away. God forbid if anyone admits to actually being in the process of dying. That’s a real party pooper. The depth of emotion which accompanies death, loss and grief is probably the main reason the subject is avoided, while fear of mortality is another. It is unfashionable these days to feel sad, bad, powerless or, dead. After all, we are of the living crowd.

My friend is dying. He lives in an AIDS hospice house where I have volunteered over the last couple of years. I met Sebastian (not his real name) last fall when he moved into this six-resident home of respite.  I felt an instant attraction to him. His conversation was intelligent, curious, and engaged with life, while he appeared to accept his predicament with the graciousness of a refined gentleman, keeping personal fears and complaints to himself. The wheelchair and his occasional wince of pain between labored movements were the only visible reminders that this man is living the last weeks and months of his life.

Sebastian’s array of experiences and interests, particularly in other people, and the fact that he listens with as much enthusiasm as he speaks, makes him a natural magnet for hospice residents, staff and visitors. He spoke passionately about the plight of homeless people with AIDS. You should write down these things you want to say, I encouraged, but his hands can no longer cope with a pen, or navigate a keyboard, and pain medication interferes with his ability to focus on a discipline as demanding as writing. Will you help me, he asked. So began my friendship with a dying man.

Seb begins talking in response to my few gentle probes while I record his conversation on an old cassette player. When I get home, I listen, type it out, and return it to him the following week. It soon became apparent that Sebastian was no more of an expert about dying than I am. We walk this journey of discovery together, though I say that with a bit of shame, because he does it so gracefully, and my time, unlike his, has not been designated a sell-by date, nor do I suffer a devastating and terminal disease.

Sebastion’s pages are filling up with reflections that pull me back to another time, another place, where it is comfortable to go; where one feels the first scent and taste of a sun-warmed tomato picked from the vine by a grandmother’s hand. Sometimes the pages are difficult and painful to read – impossible not to shed tears as I feel the enormity of what a dying person must realize, release and grieve. One recognizes the poignant beauty of simple things that we take for granted, like friends who feel comfortable with our company, walking to the coffee shop, helping a neighbor mow their lawn, or living in our own home with our own things around us and choosing who we share a bathroom with.

At other times the pages cause me to laugh with their delightful honesty and the ridiculous circumstances brought about by the act of dying. A description of Sebastian falling out of his wheelchair on a visit home to his city while his carer went into panicked hysterics, and Seb lay on the sidewalk laughing and begging bystanders not to pick him up for fear that they might break his fragile and already broken bones.  What could I do but laugh, he asked me, and we laughed together at the story. It’s so tragic, it’s funny.

I’m glad I have my dying friend, though I’m certainly not glad he’s dying. Our friendship is like an oxymoron. As we build our relationship, we watch it slowly break apart.  I try not to think of losing him, though I know it is inevitable. I can only hope that my belief in the afterlife is correct, and that at some future point we will meet again in far better circumstances. I don’t look forward to witnessing his physical demise or to saying goodbye after his last breath has passed his lips and his ashes fill the intricately carved soapstone urn that stands waiting on his dresser.

But every time I visit Sebastian, I come home happier – less afraid perhaps, of what life can surprise us with. Seeing how he copes with the inevitable and makes something so impossible to do – doable, I feel enriched by our friendship and ever so lucky to know him. When I enter the door of his room, he smiles with encompassing warmth and we both feel better for being there, in spite of the way it is.  Despite the tears and fears and his unending pain, he smiles as if holding on to a secret joke. Sebastian doesn’t ask me to take it all too seriously for too long, because, he says, the old saying is so true: This too, shall pass.


Filed under Non-Fiction, Uncategorized