Just when


I say “I cannot” again …

I hear a mad rustle in the low-growth.

I see white dashes leaping thru the forest shade.


They are two.

They are like sleek salukis, fleet.


Two wee fawns, deerlings, they are chasing, chasing each other in great galloping circles, the two, until they reverse and give chase again, in crazy figure eights. They are tracing out the symbol for Pi.

They taunt and tease, they are saying Baaa! Meh! Baaa! They are this miracle, this swooping miracle that has me suddenly standing, I am standing in the middle of this moment, this life. I am laughing, howling laughter, as they chase and bleat, they’re saying, What took ya …

And that’s how it works.

Just when I say, “I cannot,” two wee deer like twinned sprites, come to these woods, my lost forest of tears and cannots, they surround me and hold me, I am lifted and launched forward with their response:

“We beg to differ, Les.”


And they look, they really do, like they were born yesterday, these Miracle-workers.






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Perennial Flotsam

Perennial Flotsam. And found today. Another surprise.

Must have been a day like today. Only cooler. Less messy.

All these, mine from September 2006, under yet another pseudonym. Only cooler. And less doubtful.

In reverse order.

The feathers.

The feathers I am
to sell somewhere else, they were
never mine to begin with.
You must have mistaken
me for someone else.

RK-DTW-9-2006 3:47 PM


A while.

I will disappear
even though my promises
are still empty ploys.
I will stop looking for you
even though my vows
are still hollow things

It will just take me a while.

RK-DTW-9-2006 3:46 PM


Seven years.

Seven years of looking for you,
Seven years of seeing you everywhere,
Seven years of nothing changing,
Seven years of nothing ever being the same.
Every word falling from your lips
without a sound,
I was still waiting for that pat on the head,
wasn’t I?

RK-DTW-9-2006 3:44 PM


One day.

One day I will thank you
for everything you brought me, be
grateful for every lesson taught.
One day I will appreciate
the time you spent on plans and on
curriculum, on the late night
cramming, on the caregiving and the bedside sitting,
on the rearrangement of the lamps, of the furniture,
for the bills you paid on my behalf,
for the friends you sent my way,
for the shoulder I cried on,
for the rabbits and the turtles and the doves
in the gardens,
for the watchdog on the porch,
for the portals opened up,
for the discipline that walked the way, for the
bitterness you tried to hide, for the cynicism
you couldn’t quite, for the human-ness
you forgave in me, for all the allowances
you allowed, for all the boundaries you patrolled,
for the chances you took and the chances you didn’t,
for the understanding that lasted almost clear to the end.
One day I will be thankful.

RK-DTW-9-2006 3:41 PM


Free tickets.

Free tickets to a common game,
the thought that hardball
and harder bats split themselves
apart on contact.

More shit for Michigan.



A marriage proposal.

A marriage proposal
on the Jumbotron, we all held our breaths
while we prayed for the surprise
to melt into yes, thankful
no one thought they’d had their
chance before it ever started.

RK-DTW-9-2006 3:39 PM


I read the pieces.

I read the pieces
spread like buckshot, remember
fragments as I pick them up
still hot with blood, try to
fit them into old wounds, think
about glass from a bottle exploded
in my hand, the years of familiarity
and worry before I missed its absence,
until I understand closure is its own obsession.

RK-DTW-9-2006 3:37 PM


I will disappear.

I will disappear,
it will just take a while,
not as long as the time
it took, all the time you
took, to forgive me, to
blame me, to include me and then
exclude me, it
will take me a while,
poetry the surefire weapon
of ending the lesson taught
by the
unwilling soldier,
trapped in the trenches
by a dead woman’s fear

RK-DTW-9-2006 3:35 PM


Must act as if.

Must act as if
I’ve let go, as if I’m living,
as if I’m letting you live,
as if I see the irony of it all,
as if I see the wisdom,
as if I’m not God,
as if I am not infatuated, infectious, or insane,
act as if I’m smiling,
as if I’m not crying,
as if I believe the prayers being prayed,
as if I can stand on my own,
as if I understand,
as if the sun doesn’t rise
and set on you,
as if the tides don’t ebb and flow
according to your moons,
as if I want what’s best for you,
with or without me,
as if I have the massive heart and hope
you showed me you have,
as if I have cast off fear
or embraced it,
as if not every word
I ever read is yours, as if
not every word I ever write is for you,
as if I believe I am not broken,
as if I believe you believed it too,
as if I shine more light every day,
as if yours will never stop shining
because of me.

RK-DTW-9-2006 12:42 PM


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Forgiveness is not fairy dust

Forgiveness of self isn’t some fairy dust sprinkle.

It’s more like the rake we used to try to level the burning coals on which we would walk, the same rake whose handle would fly into our face because we threw it down, prongs up, a careless day so long ago: primed.

No, it’s not fairy dust or wishes (tho God knows we’ve tried begging for wishes, too).

No –– it’s when that rake finally breaks or rusts beyond use and when the spade is dull or lost and we’re digging the shite out of a hole we started so long ago we can’t remember why we’re digging anymore –– along that same impulse to jack-hammer the foundation every time the roof leaks.

Or we’re digging because we have this notion we can bury the blame, or the regret, or the shame, or the remorse of the horror of being human … but the hole is never big enough because you discover you can’t bury human without the humanity of it and why, yes, there’s no hole big enough and there are no tools left for us save our own hands and fingernails and we’re digging –– if we can just get a hold of that root now, see that huge root that’s in our way? And we keep digging until we dig it clear, we’re hacking and pulling, we are desperate, we are desperate, some of us, for forgiveness.

We’re almost there, hacking and pulling, and then in one moment –– and the moment is different for every one of us –– it happens.

It could be one Saturday morning in May, a morning when you’re still in a bathrobe, so relieved it’s clean and cosy, and you’re drinking cold coffee and you’re sitting at the feet of a storyteller, another digger of holes like yourself (tho former), and suddenly, with one last yank on the deep, gnarled root, you land on your ass when it lets go. You’re stunned for a moment. And then you see that what you’re holding is not a root.

You’ve got the legs of a person you’ve dragged up and out of the hole you’ve been digging your whole life until this moment and then person sits up and sitting up she wipes the dirt and grime off her face and then she grins at you –– at you! –– at your tears and your sweat, and she says, “Wild, eh, babe, love you, LOVE YOU, you’re the best, what a trip, eh? I love ya!”

And just like that she’s pulling you up, giving you the hand up and out and smoothing and patting and leading you by the hand, and suddenly you’re laughing now at an old, old joke told to you by someone you’ve asked again and again for forgiveness, even tho he’s been gone, dead and gone, for 12 years now, you’ve asked before but never like this (it was an asked-and-answered-unexpected thing) and then you’re laughing and crying with relief and joy at the same time, and she’s leading you by the hand, and she’s saying, “Everything is all right, love” and you look at your hand in hers and it’s strong and sure and you think to look back at the hole you were digging –– the hole from which you were pulled –– and you wonder …

… who was digging and who was dug? And all you can see in that briefest of backward glances is not a hole but a beautiful, beautiful, blooming lilac tree, shimmering and vibrant and cascading. A new spade and a new rake are resting at ease on her sturdy trunk, and beside her a new wheelbarrow, whole and ready, and new gloves and rich earth for the next planting in this incredible garden called life.

Yes. Forgiveness is not fairy dust. Or is it?


You’ll know it when you see her or him.

Never give up.

May you find forgiveness now.





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He feeds the deer

A hunter tells me he feeds the deer on this property, this is days after the season is declared closed. He is young and he is earnest and the boy who learned to shoot shines thru, together with the one who husbands the deer today, the one who lugs home great, heavy bags of feed to place in the great, heavy bin he just bought, new, for this purpose.

We talk again and again about the deer, I see them again and again as they come to feed; they eat and move on, return eat move on. I somehow think they only come at day, until one night, under a sleepless, snowy full moon, I look out to the plateau on the hill outside the window and see them, see the shadows of the deer eating, moving on, returning. Their coats are winter camouflage, their visits ethereal.

Eventually I offer to pay, to chip in for the feed. The hunter thanks me but won’t hear of it. He tells me about the feed, about the important ratio of grains, of the need for the cut of molasses. I listen while I try not to think of the hunting.

I try to remember, instead, that the hunters here eat what they kill, that there is no waste of any part or piece. I try to remember that this is cyclical, that we are just animals, too, joined in the great chain of life.

I try without success.

The deer know the sounds of our vehicles, know the look and the sway of the hunter who feeds them. They look at me sometimes, too, as if to say, where’s breakfast, dinner, supper, their little deer faces made for just this moment. I try not to think of the hunting part. I do not name the deers, tho Bambi of Disney echoes in these woods.

These thoughts I try not to think are like the deer: they appear they feed they move on they return.

Until one day I come up the drive and see the hunter at the top. He’s standing full on in the middle of the flat place, he is circled by about 15 deer who are just at the fringe of the forest, waiting, watching.

I come up the drive unnoticed because the tableau is complete––the hill, its plain, the deer, the whole bag of food, newly opened, planted on the ground between his legs, the hunter scooping with both hands, bare and full, his arms lifting and flinging the feed with an abandon than can only be named joy.

I had thought it was named therapy or even penance, until he confides to me after a while, as we stand and watch these creatures feed, the hunter confides to me that even tho he goes to camp each season, he hasn’t shot a deer for years.






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How to be an elder

I am awash in the sea of paper that follows me around. Decades of shy pleading to come for a swim.

It turns out I am my mother’s daughter after all, worried that our skin won’t hold up in the ocean of tears we cried getting to the shore.

The papers are vast and deep in content and in context.

Some bring me to my feet to embrace their beauty. Others, to my knees in their plaintive bid to remember, to be frugal, to be ordered.

Both types are muted messages. Muted messages that whisper “I was here.” Messages that span time and distance, their power made all the more sorrowful when I remember at what cost they were purchased. Messages all the more sorrowful for their silent, “Please forgive me for leaving traces of myself.”

In the end, this isn’t a poem or even a will or a testament. This is more like a trail maybe pennies, some small markers, little hints that say, “Don’t follow me—I’m lost.”

We are 92 and 65, seemingly adrift in her dementia and in my rage against it. I want to blame everyone, in general, and the man who beat her for 10 years of her life, specifically, as if he caused all of this—all of this—including my crippled hanging on, instead of standing up and letting go.

I hear, “Grow up!” Think, “I am supposed to be an Elder.”

I tried it when I was still a single digit child. It didn’t work then.

What about now, the still small voice who lives on the nib of a pen, whispers. What about now?

I look at her “LARGE BLUE BIN” list as if it holds the answer. I look at the list, neatly printed in her hand, with her pen, written on the upside down back of the sheet from a complimentary pad from the grocer she liked to shop at, when she was younger, when she was independent, when she was as close to her own woman, her own person, as she would ever get.

it says, in a cramped font that’s supposed to look like handwriting, “We treat our customers as we would like to be treated” followed by a faint ®

and again,

“Quality and Freshness Since 1929 ®”


“We aren’t the best because we are the oldest, we are the oldest because we are the best.” No ®


I’m not surprised there’s talk of this oldest and best business. After all, I sat down to cry about how hard AF it is to even begin to begin figuring out “How to be an Elder” *©

Yes, I am awash in that sea of paper. It’s slow going – I never seem to know what treasure or loss I may find.



(Opposite Entrance

stumbles me. I imagine her writing it, so she could remember, imagine her tucking it away together with the measure conversion chart printed on the back of the calendar for the year 2000 at a glance – imagine her probably forgetting where she placed it, after all, after all the time we spend trying to figure it out, trying to figure it all out, trying not to let on we don’t have a clue, ashamed, as if it’s all our fault.


Drinking helps for a while, until it doesn’t. Dementia seems a more permanent solution to forgetting we don’t know how it works—when we come across list like this—when we don’t know the answer to, “Do we toss the list of things that go in the large blue bin opposite entrance, do we place it with the candles the candle wax the spray bottle tops the shoes the cloth the straws the sponges?

Or, do we cry and howl and give it to the fire we’re building to burn this shit down, to make way for a place where we’re not lunatics to care, to make clear the way that we desperately must travel, to prepare to know one day—and one day soon—How to be an Elder, ya, and one who’s about to kick some serious ass in this world, so our daughters and our sons need not wait for the permission slips or make any apologies to do the same.






* How To Be An Elder © Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés

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Driving the Slipstream

On the last leg of the five-hour trip I hear a thought: There is such a thing as a highway slipstream.

No sooner have I thought it than I become aware of two silvery ghost cars up ahead of me, they, too, are driving this winding, undulating road.

They’re taking the wide Ess-curves in tandem, it’s like a dance flying past the waters and the rocks, it’s almost like a lullaby…

…which would be sweet—if it weren’t here, here at 100, one-oh-five-if-we’re-brave-klics per hour heading north to the Highlands.

I wonder where I picked them up, I wonder what colour they were before here, here where the north stream strips us down, peels back the skin and the colours, we emerge like these phantoms chasing lines and memories as we drive, blending, moving with the thin trees and the rising mists, this warm December day.

There is such a thing as a highway slipstream I hear again, rhythmic like the wipers on the wind screen, there is such a thing.

And it’s true.

We all vanish, one by one, first left, then right, then me steady straight.

I arrive home thinking nothing’s changed, thinking everything has, and see the slipstream beat me to it.

Welcome home, it says.

What took ya?






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DST (Don’t Save This)

Found today: Strapless,

and stemmed at 12:34

for eternity.





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