2021-02-17 Having an Out-of-Body Without Ever Leaving My Body

It’s another random ordinary Wednesday and there’s once again not a single noteworthy thing I have to contribute. Not a thought in my head worthy of writing about for the gazilllionth time. 

Late yesterday I ingested some citrus ginseng fizz I bought from a newish acquaintance of mine whose business is selling these Earth friendly health products. I’ve spent a fair bit of coin on protein powder, energy boosters, body washes and hair gels from her and this company. It’s part of my plan to try and live a healthier lifestyle and also be a better caretaker of our planet.

No matter, as that’s not relevant to my point. But this citrus ginseng powder which I mixed into water and drank about 6pm has caffeine. I think that’s what resulted in me being wide awake at 10pm.

At 10 Pm I was laying in my bed unable to fall asleep and thinking about all sorts of things including how much of a broken record I always am with my writing. I mean really thinking. 

Like I’m watching the needle on the track as it spins, a little swing arm with a tiny bit of metal digging into a groove on a piece of rotating black plastic. I zoomed in and saw the smallest wavering as the rectangular head holding the needle was moved by the imperfections of the spinning vinyl.

Round and round with each rotation ending in a small, almost imperceptible click and jump, back to the beginning of that same track. I zoomed in a little more to confirm what I was seeing. Sure enough, there it was, over and over. Click……..click…….click. How had I missed this before? Why did I think that the song had been changing? After all this time, it’s still the same song. I remember thinking it’s a good song but how can this be?

I thought about how to get to a new song. I mean, really get unstuck and find a new track, and that only led to a terrible scratching sound like fingernails across a chalkboard. Cliche I know! But that’s exactly the feeling. That sound and shiver you might do anything to avoid if you knew it was about to happen. All of a sudden I’m staring at a girl with pointy polished nails positioning her fingers precariously at the top of the blackboard. I say,“DONT.”

Turning my attention back to the record player, I balanced the swing arm on the tip of my index finger, not allowing it to move a centimeter in any direction, record spinning benieth it. I held it in place as I held my breath waiting for whatever was going to happen next.

This moment was one infantesimal moment in the grand orchestra of time. 

In a way I felt paralyzed by the math of it. For every possible move, an incalculable number of outcomes: actions, reactions, and ripples of consequence. In the biz we call this paralysis from over analysis which is something I’ve often been afflicted by.

An unseen amount of time passed as I sat there, hovering above the earth somewhere inexplicable. Where could I possibly be that neither the moon nor the sun were in view? The earth, a powder blue orb, was in front of me and a field of stars far behind. Defying the lack of gravity, my finger still balanced the swing arm of the record player. I would have asked (of no one) “how on Earth is this happening?” But I wasn’t on Earth anymore so the question seemed entirely irrelevant.

Is this a joke? I thought. Some sort of a test? Some survivor challenge I forgot I entered? Some random episode of Punkd? My finger began to cramp and suddenly the weight of the swing arm became a concern. How long could I hold this position? I’d have to decide what to do soon.

As the muscles in my forearm began to tense and quiver I conjured a conductor. This moment, as small as it was in the grand scheme, was too big for me to navigate on my own. An invisible index finger slipped under my index finger, helping me hold the needle in place and I immediately felt relief.

The song that had never stopped playing returned to my ear. I didn’t move but the scene surrounding me was transformed back to the familiar room I sleep in. I stared at the record player, my finger miraculously still balancing the arm that held the needle that dug its pin point into that familiar groove. I slowly pulled my aching finger away, curled it back into my palm with my other fingers, and pressed my thumb around it. The song never missed a beat. 

***

This was all very strange, considering that I don’t even own a record player.

With peace and love, 

~Miss SugarCookie

2021-02-11 A Quick Trip on the Memory Train

I’m walking. I’m walking. I’ve got nothing today. A full set list of stuff to get done today while I’m stranded at home. Jeep won’t start again and is parked at Jim’s office. He took my car to work today. 

It’s ok because it’s the first day of my period (cuz I know you wanted to know that 😜) and typically the heaviest day and the cramping-est day and probably would veto running errands around town anyhow. Been there done that anyway so…. meh. 

It just means I have all day to get stuff done around the house. Does that mean I will? Prolly not. 🤷‍♀️

I told you I had nothing to say today. Why you still reading? 

Guess it’s time to check my email and see what’s going on in Paris this morning…

It just happens to be a ride on a train. Fascinating. 

***

What I can say is that from down here, among the abandoned strappy black heels and patent leather pumps, I’ll never know for certain who triumphed over whom, which depends strictly on the definition of the word triumph. 

At times, for her own amusement, the Universe leads our memories astray but the outcome remains the same. Regardless of city streets riddled with contradictions, the street sign replaced a hundred times still runs parallel to the horizon, where the sun continues to rise in snowflake fashion every single day. 

I might have been sitting across from an Afgani woman on the Eurostar that one time too. Based on the year it might have been the same woman. But the advice I had been given was to not make eye contact so I’ll never know for certain. 

I just stared down at my shoes, thinking about how my stupid American wardrobe made me stick out like a sore thumb and and a target for all those shifty pick-pockets loitering near the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre and Notre Damme. I couldn’t have heard your conversation over the voices arguing about pairing a red trench coat with black leggings anyhow. I’d made so many mistakes.

Just then they rolled a cart of sweet treats by our train cabin and I was further distracted by chocolate frogs and Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans, which hadn’t been invented yet. That was the moment the thread of the story fell to the ground and I went down on my hands and knees to hunt for it. 

***

I would say this would make more sense if a person read the triggering poem:

A Celebration

by Iman Mersal

Paris Review Issue no. 197 (Summer 2011)

But I doubt it.. as it doesn’t even help me decipher the message. And I’m the one who wrote it. Near as I can tell is that it’s an alternate take on the same subject as is in my poem, Left Brain Poet, with the references to memory and the flaws of our fragile human brains.

The actual details of my ride on the Eurostar are sadly long gone. The only solid memory is how incredibly different the French countryside appeared as we emerged from the Chunnel. Like I’d traveled through a portal of space AND time and ended up on a different planet. It was bright and beautiful and green which was so different than the dark, dreary greys and blues of London. 

I suppose the bit about the clothing is accurate too, though not a memory from the train. It actually pestered me enough for several days early on that trip that I spent half a day shopping on Oxford street. By the time my day-trip to Paris arrived, my “American-ness” was thoroughly camouflaged (as long as I didn’t open my mouth). 

Still hard to believe I went to England, Ireland, and Paris for two weeks all by myself in 2010. It was shortly after my divorce was final and I think I wanted to prove to everyone that I was finally free and could do whatever the fuck I wanted. That included visiting Stonehenge AND getting robbed in Dublin. Dublin.. don’t get me started on how much I hated Dublin. I mean, by then I was over traveling alone and let’s be real, once you see Paris and London, Dublin is a Dump.

I said don’t get me started didn’t I? Why are you still reading??!! 

In any case, my grand memories of that trip become even more grand as time passes and the truth of it all may be becoming mired by so many retellings. 

Maybe that’s the point and has nothing at all to do with what this morning’s poem from the Paris Review was all about. 🤷‍♀️ Such is the Way. In any case, I’m grateful for the opportunity to have lived those moments and to reminisce about them now. Thanks for reading.

With Much Love, 

~Miss SugarCookie

2021-01-04 MFA Graduation Day 💃💃🎉

It’s about time. It’s about endings and beginnings, direction, voice, responsibility, and resolution.

Or at least it wants to be. Aspiration, experience, and discovering what life is trying to teach you. I mean me. When i say “you” I mean “me”. When I say “we” I also mean “me”. We’re all self centered. Humans. All pronouns are rooted in a center that’s concerned with self, with perspective, angle, intention. We’re slant. 

Sometimes this generative process I go through each day begins with fragments of thought. Most of the time I don’t have a lot of complete concrete ideas of what I want to write. I just have to begin. We all have to begin somewhere. We’re all alike in that. 

I suppose the difference between this writing and the production of poetry is that this writing begins and ends as an unedited first draft. All the fragments and incomplete thoughts, the “fluff” and mistakes are exposed. And I’m fine with that. I’m getting what I need from it and am satisfied. 

As opposed to the poems which go through a dozen (often many more) revisions. I’m way more concerned with mistakes, and turning every stone of the poem over to discover what improvements can be made, the tightening of the writing until it’s sharp as a blade. 

 Obviously in the MFA program we talk a great deal about this process. And in my last semester revision was a big focus of study as I was revising every poem in my manuscript. It takes a great deal of effort and even now, though it’s long been over, I look at those poems and see other things I could change to make them even sharper. 

Yesterday I attended a lecture about voice and how you can’t find your voice because it’s naturally in you already. Not a thing to discover, if you will, but instead something you just have to flex and grow. You have to hear yourself and also practice other voices. You have to go out on a limb. The metaphor the person giving the lecture used was that of a tree. The trunk and main branches are your natural voice. All the smaller branches, leaves, buds are extensions of that voice. But it still all comes from the same source. It was a great metaphor. 

My lecture was on voice too so I’ve done a lot of thinking about the topic, but the lecture yesterday opened my eyes to a few big pieces I’d not considered previously. 

First that our voice is sometimes something we’re suppressing because for whatever reason we’re taught it’s not correct. We lose confidence and try to change it, which doesn’t work. 

More importantly though, I had the realization that I’m kind of afraid of my own natural voice. Afraid may not be the right word. A better thing to say might be that I don’t trust my own voice. I think this is one of the  reasons public speaking scares me. I have to write out what I want to say because I’m afraid of my natural impromptu voice stumbling, being judged and laughed at. 

I literally wrote out and read my lecture (and my reading was just that too). When asking questions during zoom lectures I prefer to type my question into the chat and not speak out loud. This extends to other parts of my life too, specifically when it comes to my job and facilitating meetings. 

I’d much prefer to write out an email than  conduct a meeting. I’m much more comfortable with that. I’m not good at going out on a limb. I need to work on that. 

Today is the last day of the last residency I’ll have the opportunity to attend as a student. There are a few lectures left and one workshop. Later today there will be a virtual graduation ceremony highlighting all the grads. I’m not really nervous about it as I’ll mostly just be watching. The grads have composed a prose poem of sorts where we’ll each have our two lines to say in turn. That’s it. Then it will all be finally, officially over. 

I’ve had a lot of time to figure out what’s next and what my life will look like now. In truth, not a lot will change as I’ve already slid into not working a job and not having deadlines for school. My hope is that I can keep myself on task. Keep working on “going out on a limb” and pushing myself to stick with the endeavors I’ve committed myself to. 

I want to and think I will but it will be a matter if finding the right balance. Yes, it’s about balance too. Sleep, balance, time, health, direction, and responsibilities. More about that will likely appear in fluff in the musings of Miss SugarCookie soon (and always). 

My hour is up. Time to get going with the day. 

Cheers to endings and beginnings, 

~Miss SugarCookie

2021-01-03 Final MFA Res Day ??!… 🤦🏼‍♀️

It’s official…

I’ve lost track of what “MFA” day it is, what day or the week, and also what year. But I’m not ready for the new year yet and that’s ok. 

What? Did I just say that I was not ready for 2020 to end. Well, not exactly.

I’m ready for 2020 to take a hike but not quite ready for 2021. I feel as though I need more prep time to be off and running with a good start. 

It’s the same with a lot of things right now. With my time in the MFA program coming to a close, I should have more space in my brain to work in other things. But as I walk through my house this morning, every room is in desperate need of attention. 

The Christmas decorations and crap collecting in the living room. The kitchen is a disaster. The litter boxes are full. And on and on. Nothing like being inspired to write and then scooping the poops and losing every decent thought you could have had. Kind of like now, having so many things I want to write about but end up writing about chores instead. Good grief!! 🤦🏼‍♀️

Even if I don’t know what day of Res it is, I know how many days are left.. two. Today and tomorrow. That’s it. Two days to really make the rest of this count. And on the flip side, two days delaying getting back to normal life. Two more days of putting off things that need doing. I’m clearly torn. 

I’d like to have a few days to myself, alone-alone, to reconcile everything. I’d like to reflect on my reading last night instead of waking up thinking about the new year and all the things I’m gonna set as goals or try and do. I’d  like to revise the poems I had workshopped this past week. I’d like to spend some effort crafting emails back to various folks for this and that and really pay attention to my words. I don’t want to have to rush it or fake it or worse, just postpone longer. 

I probably should have been more demanding this past week with people in this household. Everyone has their own agenda. For once I’d like my agenda to be the primary one, and not secondaey or tertiary. 

I keep wandering back to that train of thought. I don’t want to. 

I slept through to 7am today which is glorious. But my FitBit has decided to stop collecting stats on my sleep so I have no idea when I went to sleep or the quality. I feel pretty well rested and maybe that’s enough. The FitBit not working is just another detail in a long list of things needing attention. 

See, there I go again. Ugh. That’s enough. I gotta switch gears and get to today’s MFA agenda (while most people in the house are still asleep). 

Peace and Love, 

~Miss SugarCookie

2020-12-30 Final MFA Day 2: Gathering All the Internets

I’ve gathered all the internet in the house that I could do as to try to get a good signal in a more isolated location. Maybe I should put the cable modem, WiFi router, and signal boosters in my car and drive away. 

Never mind that. There’s a giant snow pile behind my car and I’m stuck here. 

I just can’t seem to get out of my own way. I for sure thought that once that stupid lecture was over, I would really enjoy my week. But alas, it’s not happening. 

I’m in such a mood already and taking the “trash” out yesterday to find two full bags full of trash mixed with recycling set me off in a big way. I don’t ask for much. You know, as the person that runs this household, but my one big thing is recycling. It grates on me to no end that something so easy is just not done. My wishes ignored. I want to talk with these teenagers with authority, but in two cases my hands (and mouth) are tied. 

Clenching my teeth while sorting through disgusting trash bags to pull out bottles, cans, cardboard, and paper do nothing to help the migraine I was trying to get over or the rotten mood I was in. Listen, I was wearing a brand new sweatshirt I got for Christmas and the last thing I wanted was to get it stained with some unknown drips or goo from the trash. Just gross. 

I could not help myself. I picked a fight with the only other adult around. I admit it, I knew it was wrong of me in that moment to come swinging into the living room where Jim was eating his dinner. I simply just could not help myself, 

If I was in Nebraska city right now I wouldn’t be taking out the trash, you know, so there’s that too. 

My grievance was met with and equal and opposite grievance about dirty toilets (which he’d spent time cleaning) and I thought, well, here we go. Our first official fight. I mean we’ve known each other almost 3 years so it was bound to happen eventually. But now? Why now?!! 

We agreed, like adults, that the timing for the discussion wasn’t right and that we should dismiss it. Ok fine. 

But then I pressed for “when” and that too was met with a snark of a reply, was it so wrong for me to not want to fall in an all too familiar pattern of keeping my damn mouth shut then have a blow-up at some future juncture? I just wanted some acknowledgement that we really would talk about it. I didn’t need “January 17 at 2 o’clock” as the reply or “oops but I’ll be at work, so sorry”. 

For real, I didn’t. 

Seems there might be more to talk about than recycling and dirty toilets. 

I had a future poetry book flash in front of my eyes. Title still TBD, but the cover has a picture of a princess morphing into a monster in front of a grand castle. Nobody wants to read THAT book. Least of all me. 

So I did some more zooms, multitasking, ate some food and had a drink. Tried to get time fast forwarded to bedtime so everyone would go to sleep and I could be alone. 

I’m not super prepared for today, but fuck it. At least my headache is gone. 

I’ve got two lectures this morning and workshop and another lecture this afternoon. So not into it. And I was serious about that internet thing. I moved the booster that’s usually near the treadmill up to a different area of the house. So I don’t have internet for reading online this morning. Ugh!

Is it only Tuesday? Good gravy!! 

Must be time for coffee.

~Miss SugarCookie

2020-12-29 Final MFA Day 2: Snowmageddon Anyone?

It’s like 2020 is holding the mic, refusing to let go.. saying “I’m not done yet bitches!” 

All the living under the rock life and blissful denial that I use to shield myself from what goes on in the world outside my door can’t protect me from the apparent snowmageddon that is now “pouring like an avalanche coming down the mountain.”

I think one of the things that I’m going to miss about being in Nebraska City for this residency is that now somewhat familiar feeling of being so immersed in the writing life and people that I wake up inspired with new ideas. Rush through the days with thoughts that all feel like brilliant beginnings. Having to stop, mid-stride to get something down on paper or my phone. And also the emotional swing that eventually leaves me in tears. Yes, I cry, and though that’s so Miss SugarCookie, it’s also true. And I love it. I really do. 

It’s that “on the edge” feeling that makes me feel alive sometimes and crying is just a byproduct. I love hearing the readings and just getting lost in that moment. And there’s really nothing wrong with the crying. It’s a great release and I feel so good when I get to the other side. 

I’ve made the mistake in the past with relationships, thinking if I got wrecked that at least I’d have the emotions to fuel my creative fire. Dead wrong. But this is different. It’s fueling the fire in a different way. It’s immersion of thoughts and feelings that’s not sooooo close to home. 

Yes, I get there sometimes too, in workshops where we’re forced into our own memory, but it’s mostly the fires of other people burning around me I think that sparks my own.

Which is exactly why I don’t think this virtual res has the ability to generate the same atmosphere. I’m trying to attend as many readings and lectures as possible but closing my laptop and walking down to the living room is just not the same. Somehow I wish I could somehow isolate myself from the rest of the house to try and capitalize on this last official residency. 

In other news, I did my lecture yesterday and it came and went and OMU (Oh My Universe), when it was over I felt like a Born Again Human. It was like the best feeling to have that over with. I might have mentioned my love/hate relationship with public speaking but I think It’s like 80/20 with hate taking the lions share. The worst part?…

It was virtual so I didn’t even get to show off a cute dress. Damn! 

If we were in person I would have THREE opportunities for cute outfits but that’s all out the window. Yesterday I was debating even what pants to wear. I mean, would nice pants that match my top have given me more confidence? Or would it have been better to be comfy in pajama pants? 

What did I choose? 

The world will never know. 🌎 

JK… I wore nice pants. 😜

The lecture being over means I get to relax and enjoy the rest of the week. And looking out the window, it looks like I’ll be stuck in for a while so it will be a good week to have that coffee and Bailies Irish Or hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps.

One other advantage of being home for this Snowmageddon is the fact that my husbands office was closed today so we got some extra special snuggle time this morning before getting up. Extra, extra special. Mmmmhmmmm.

Anyway, today my poems are being workshopped which I love! And it also means that I won’t have to talk and dont have anything to prepare. The only thing I have to prep for today is a faculty lecture for which we had materials to read in advance. I really hope it’s not a lot as I haven’t even opened the file yet. 

Actually.. I think I’ll go do that now just in case it is a lot. 

Cheers to Day 2. It’s gonna be great!

~Miss SugarCookie

2020-12-24 A Perfect 4

I haven’t put on a dress in a while, but I’m pretty sure size 4 is still what would fit best. On a scale from 0-10, pretty sure my poetry is a 4 too. At least based on all these rejections. Another one popped into my in-box this morning. Like hello… merry fucking Christmas to you too. Who sends rejections on Christmas Eve? Whatever. 

I’m still letting my submissions ride through December. I’ve had three or four new rejections in the past week and one new poem get posted on a new site. 

That one I’m not particularly excited about (the journal not the poem—that poem is at least a 7 on the aforementioned poem scale). I’m calling this latest publication a lesson learned. Everyone makes mistakes you know and so this is a mark in that category. 

As I’ve come to conclude, finding places for your writing is a lot like dating. It goes like this…. 

Submittable is like that dating app. There’s a list of potentials you can do a bit of filtering on. You get a brief “picture” and bio of potential matches. You sit alone and scroll and scroll and click and read and if something looks promising, you might dig a little deeper on their website, you know, how one might google a person of interest. At this point in the game, you have to decide which ones are worth more effort. Like dating, it can be slim pickings at times. 

You might ask yourself if they are right for you and your babies. Oh that’s another thing, you are concerned about yourself but also your precious children, because they will be the ones inheriting the outcome if there’s a match. 

So you find a good one. You swipe right and fashion that first communication. You have to decide if you will be clever or just stick with the standard form letter greeting. Hi. I’m “so and so” and I’d like you to go to the prom with me. We don’t have to go to dinner. Yes, I have a fancy dress I can wear, I’m a size 4 (in case that’s important). I’ve been checking you out and I think we’d be great together. Not up for something long term? How about just a one night stand? Here’s a good poem. Take it pretty please with sugar on top. 

Too desperate? Makes sense… that’s what rejection does to a person. 

So as far as I figure, part of this dance is like determining what league you are in (and sizing them up too). Like see that hot guy over there, Mr. New York Times is a 10. Miss Paris Review is also a10. Unless you’re name is Ilya Kaminsky (who is also a 10), you should just forget about it. 

You have to know yourself. I’m not a good judge of myself. I think I’m like a 6 but I’m probably a 4. And I’ve been aiming all over the place. 1s, 8’s, and everywhere in between. I’ve even swiped on some unrated lit mags. Literally. Which makes them a 0. 

That was my mistake. Now I regret hooking up with that ZERO who misspelled my name when the issue came out and frankly was sloppy in their presentation. And I sent them one of my best babies… like one of my 7s. Ugh!! 😩 

The truth is, just line dating, after a lot of rejection you kind of lose confidence. I think that’s what happened. I just felt down about it and started sending everywhere and didn’t do the proper evaluation. I won’t do that again. 

From now on I’m going to evaluate what I have to offer and match that with the places I’m sending to. (I say in the wake of this latest mistake). But it’s a lot of work. Just like dating. 

For now though, and through the new year until after Res, I’m just riding out the swipes I’ve got stacked up already. Still hovering above 70. Maybe I should just ride it out until I’m back down around 50. We’ll see. The swiping can be addictive though. Hmmmmm… that’s just like dating too. 

Wonder if I’ll ever find a good match for my manuscript? 

Well..  I used Bumble once and hit the freaking lottery. So I guess anything is possible. 😜

“Why yes, Mr. Graywolf Press, you can have me. Just take me. Take all of me!” 🤣

Happy Hunting, 

~Miss SugarCookie

2020-12-18 Time Doesn’t Give a Reason

It just runs and rolls and takes the days away. Years lost inside fragments of fractured mirrors or broken bottle glass strewn across the lawn, bits so small and clustered they look like the tee-box of hole nine.

You know the one. Hard as hell to hit from because of the stampede of cottonwood trees swaying to steal your shot. But don’t they just sound like the rush of the ocean tide meeting the shore when you close your eyes and breathe in. Forget for a minute you’re in landlocked Iowa. 

I wouldn’t know, though. I hate golf. A fact you can’t help but remind me of with the regularity of a waxing crescent moon. Reliable as those little reminders dropped randomly in conversations about visits from the children and grandchildren who supplanted me and mine when we climbed up and out of the Big Lake and ran away. 

But now. Now I’m suddenly tiptoeing back across that broken glass to see you. Not so death defying but still an act of acrobatics for which I polished my best shoes. Cats in the craddle with a silver spoon. And yet.. yours is a life I can’t afford to lose. 

***

First draft Friday again and that’s a rough drive down the fairway. Rules be damned.. this one stays (for now). 

Late yesterday as my eyes became blurry with sleep I was waist deep in an interview with Elizabeth Bishop. Another poet I’m learning about for the sake of a lecture nobody’s going to give two shits about but me. Here’s the Universe’s honest truth. I’ve never liked her poetry. I keep trying, but still don’t. That’s ok though. I needn’t like it to talk about it. 

Her work has been called meticulous. Characterized as a blend of the impersonal (accurate descriptions of things) and personal (inspired by actual events from her life). 

I find it dull. But I’m still just a newbie and maybe don’t know enough to appreciate it. 

The poetry is one thing but the person is another altogether. I love reading the interviews. You get more of a sense of who the poet really is. Little windows you can peek in and glean the juicy good stuff.

Alas, I was mid-read and sleep was not to be denied. I could not finish the interview. It’s therefore my first order of business today (after this).

When the transcript was first published, it had been edited by her. As she was with her poetry she had meticulously modified some of the text to correct or clarify her statements. She’s no longer alive so they re-released it with the original unedited text. Poets beware… all bets are off once your no longer walking the planet in physical form. 

They also have published her unreleased poems after her death. A fact that probably has her soul rolling in unrest from wherever it is. Yeah. That.

Later today I’m making cookies and moving on to Adrienne Rich which will undoubtedly be a larger portion of my lecture. Bishop has micro-shifts in her poetic voice and style in her lifetime but Rich’s underwent a grand transformation. Changes one can really sink their teeth into. A good way to kickoff the weekend. 

I think this will be it today. I need to get rolling before the day rolls over me. 

Cheers to Friday (and First Drafts), 

~Miss SugarCookie

2020-12-07 I’ve Got Crocodiles Now

I don’t have much. My attention span feels thin today. Reading Poem-a-day, something about a duplex, I’m left uninspired by the language and really wondering when “This” will appear. Some days are like that and I just want to let it be. I’m giving myself a pep-talk as I write this. You can do it.

I am always hopeful when I make plans. Hopeful that when that day arrives I’ll still be hopeful enough to see plans through. I can’t cancel again, it’s too suspect. Three strikes and I’ll be out, so I have to keep my plans today.

The caffeine doesn’t seem to be working today. Maybe a shower will do the trick. Other things need attendance today. Check boxes empty and waiting. Unpaid bills bulging in my paper planner.

I travel briefly to Paris and find a Quarter, but the only trigger in that town was a dime. Inadequate. I wonder why they made the dime smaller than the nickel. Who decided that was a good idea? This question is about as far away from poetry as one can get. Like standing on Earth and looking up at Mars in the night sky, neither tragic nor romantic. Just a red question that never looks any different and is entirely inconsequential.

Typical. The over-explanation. Still working on that.

I open the messaging app and see where I left off—an open thread with my dad. He’s alone and I offered yesterday to come back over today and walk the lake with him. But like father like daughter like chickenshit. I don’t text, I close the app and toggle back to this.

Then board the Commuter Train. It’s an amusing story about babysitting crocodiles but it’s not amusing. It’s tragic. Poor girl and her invented words and broken heart and dead crocs. Written well enough to make you feel sorry for the babysitter too, who neglected them and let them die.

I get the metaphor. And it makes me think of my own crocodiles.. and also those of the friend I have plans with today and also my dads.

I’ve never been in charge of his crocodiles before. Now suddenly I am. Suddenly is the worst kind of tragedy. Suddenly the lake by his house has turned from dream to daily reminder. Suddenly everything is a reminder.

A week ago he stood between my sister and I behind the dining table and said “Why’d you have to leave me” and “I was supposed to go first.” And Just like that I’m tearing up again.

I need to put pants on and text him back. Or better yet call.

I suppose I can afford to cut this short if I’m headed back to the lake today.

The bills and checkboxes can wait. I’ve got crocodiles now.

Peace and Love,
~Miss SugarCookie

2020-12-02 Timeline of Grief

We all operate at different speeds. Something happens, an unexpected death and the ways society operates with such precision, dictating procedure and timing. Some of these are for good reason, necessary steps such as removing physical remains to more appropriate locations.

I’ve never before been a witness of someone who has passed into the next plain of existence, whatever that is, and  watch as the body they left behind us escorted away. Until this past Monday.

She did not look like the woman I knew so it did not seem real. I was sitting just out of view when they moved her onto the stretcher and zipped closed the shiny bag with it’s geometric pattern of cream and burgundy. I watched as her grandsons helped wheel her out of the house. “Just a body now,” I tell myself. But in my head it doesn’t seem real.

My empathy is overwhelming and I can’t help but weep with those broken down. Grief overflowing all the cups in the room. I’m crying too, for them. In those delicate moments I’m not crying for myself. I’m not there yet. My timing is different.

Cultural process dictate that arrangements be made. Conversations are required. Being on the periphery, my input is not needed. Maybe just for the correct spelling of names to be printed. A few names among a very healthy lineage, biologic and otherwise.

A day later we’re sitting in the party room of a restaurant. One of my first visits inside an establishment to sit around a table and have a meal since the onset of the pandemic. No one at that table was prepared for the conversation. No one had done any planning for the processes society forces us to conduct, decisions to be made.

No religious services, cremation, thoughts of a burial plot shared with parents near Walnut Iowa. Splitting ashes so my dad can have a part of her remains close to him. The writing of her obit for the paper and the handout at the service. The decision to position the gathering as a celebration of life. Details forthcoming.

I listen and have little to contribute. Talk around the table is contained. No one is in tears so I’m ok too, just listening as I try to eat a meal. Unmasked and wondering if I’ll be quarantined when I get home.

After that we part ways. The core crew headed to the funeral home to finalize arrangements. I get in my car and drive home alone with my thoughts.

I feel sort of lost in not knowing what to expect next or when “things” will happen.
I tell myself that I just need to keep being there for my dad, who just a few short months ago celebrated his 30 year anniversary with the woman he chose to spend his life with.

Later he calls me. Tells me “service” will be Saturday followed by a family gathering of Pizza King Pizza which is a long time family favorite for us and lots of other families living in the Council Bluffs area.

Then he asks if I’ll say a few words on Saturday and, once again, I’m caught unprepared. I say maybe. I’ll think about it. So dumb. Why didn’t I just say yes?!

Of course I will do whatever people need. I realized we are bound by what we collectively need, which is to grieve. But I’m just not there yet. I’m not sure what my speed is but it’s slower than what’s required by society. Saturday feels reassuring. I’ll have plenty of time to prepare.

Last night, after having been awake since about 3:30AM and unable to sleep during the day I declared in a deliriously exhausted state that I was going to bed at 9. I hit my body with magnesium, CBD, Tylenol, and melatonin. I really needed a full nights sleep, which I received.

After Eight full hours I woke groggy at the 6:30 alarm. I woke with a headache and despite the hours, feel unrested. I groaned into the kitchen to make breakfast, feed the fish and cats (inside and outside too).

I stand over a hot griddle, stirring pancake mix and start to cry. For myself this time. Finally.

I’m thinking of a text my friend Kel sent me in the wee hours of the morning (3:24am), sending hugs. I’m thinking of how we are all together alone until death takes us away from this life. I’m thinking about how this is the first of six parental figures I’ll grieve. I’m thinking about my relationships with all of them. All Six.

How greedy life has made me. Who gets to have three sets of parents? Four if you count Jim’s parents, whom I’ve only known a short time.

I recognize I’m processing my own grief on my own timeline and in my own way. I’m sure writing and presenting at my step-moms service will be therapeutic for me (as is writing these words). I’ve already begun to compose what I’m going to say.

There’s plenty of time left ‘till Saturday.

Peace,
~Miss SugarCookie