what i remember about when you died

My cabin in Fisherman’s Paradise,
a place you loved.

A quantity of painkillers
for a busted back, a turned-off phone,
a knock from a neighbor:

It’s your grandmother.

Driving in a car named Silver Bells,
bad back on a bad seat,
a John Hiatt song bringing my tears.

An osteopath,
forever-after referred to as The Healer,
and a leg adjustment.

My cousin Sue, rising from her chair,
holding me in her eyes, then in her arms.

Cutting my braid,
drafting lawyerly letters,
receiving your writing desk and papers,
my mother crying in my lap.

Not being there before you died,
not talking to you, not seeing you.

Not saying goodbye.

Fireblossom has challenged the Real Toads to write in free verse this weekend and has written a wonderful, informative primer on the subject that everyone should read. It's here:
Free Verse: My Love In Her Wild Magnificence


  1. Free verse form suits these memories perfectly .. not saying goodbye - heartbreaking.

  2. This tale twists and turns and has a great and delicate balance of almost facts, details and emotions. Very beautifully wrought, Marian!!

  3. Each fragment a memory too painful to remember, too precious to forget. When writing touches deeper than skin, I call that art.

  4. Some painful memories you describe so vividly and with great emotion. I'm sorry for your loss.

  5. A beautiful poem, a self-forgiveness. I especially like the Healer.

  6. This is heartbreaking, Marian, all the more so because of the way you've made the whole thing so vivid.

  7. It has a bit of a staccato vibe to it. Kind of like how one speaks whe they are near crying and words don't flow, emotions take over. It really works here.

  8. When my father died, I wasn't there. He lived in MO I live in TX. He was shaving one morning and then he was gone. So I identify with the pain here. I too received his desk. It is placed in what I call my love letter nook. It is my place to compose love letters of hope and encouragement.

  9. Oh this is so poignant, richly felt,and beautifully expressed. So hard not to get to say goodbye. Though it is impossible to, anyway, when a person is so dear. Beautiful, Marian.

  10. A very sad poem--you describe all the splintered moments wonderfully. k.

  11. Palpable, the loss. And the love.

  12. ((HUGS)).
    I loved this poem, because I can feel the loss in it, can feel the hand slipping.

    I wasn't there when my dad died and so I have stories about that day from many places, my brother's mouth, my mom's ..my sister's. I rely on those stories to tell me that STORY.

    I can tell, in these words, how much you truly loved this woman. That...the love..is always enough.

  13. By weaving in the random details, you bring the feel of the whole cloth of grief home very strongly. Your fragmented opening, too, very effective, as you build off the smallness of each touchstone into a larger feeling of helpless loss. I was reminded of a personal experience--being late for my grandfather's funeral because my piece of crap old car broke down on the Dan Ryan, me with a six month old in the back seat and no one to call--what a bleak desert that day was--I get the same feeling here.

  14. thanks, everyone.
    i wrote about these moments a few years ago, but the attempt was inadequate, even juvenile to read. so i pulled that back out for Shay's prompt and gave it a new (much better) spin.

    i'm working on a collection of writing by, for, about, and with my grandmother. these memories had to be part of it, but i only want it to be a small part.

  15. Your loss is so real, so tangible, so heartfelt.. the regret of not being there for the last breath, the self-doubt, the questions you keep asking yourself - "Did I do enough? Did I make her happy? Was I good to her?"... in the end all that remains are your closest moments together, and more happy memories than sad ones... and I find it so apt that you got her writing desk..

    Sending hugs and cheers your way :)

  16. No fuss, no muss, just Perfect.

  17. thanks, thanks. yes, her desk, and all her papers... some of which i work with and have brought to the world via this little blog :)


Thank you for sharing your thoughts!