Sleeping with Granite

Me in bed with my bipap mask on and a big hunk of granite on my belly.

Me with a bipap mask on and a big hunk of granite on my belly.

I sleep with granite on my belly
Because hard objects are comforting
In a way that soft objects can never be

I sleep with granite on my belly
Because my father knew he’d die by December
So he hand-picked rocks as holiday gifts

I sleep with granite on my belly
Because my parents chose this particular rock
Shaped like a heart, heavy like a grieving heart

I sleep with granite on my belly
Because its heaviness anchors me
And tells me where my body is

I sleep with granite on my belly
Because I sat with my family on mountainsides
Made entirely of granite as far as you could see

I sleep with granite on my belly
Because it sings me rough but soothing songs
About the feeling it gets in the noonday sun

I sleep with granite on my belly
Because granite made friends with me
Before I had human friends

I sleep with granite on my belly
Because it reminds me of the Sierras
And the Sierras remind me of my father

I sleep with granite on my belly
I sleep with a bag of stones
In a shirt pocket oer my heart:
Plain grey rock with indentations
Volcanic rock with lots of holes
Tiger’s eye, Lapis lazuli, Schorl, Jasper
Amethyst, Orange Agate, Spectrolite

And all of these
In their way
Tell me I’m home

“All we need is time, but time’s too damn unkind” (*)

my dad understood
the language that rocks speak
and befriended them

he was fluent in
mountain, rock, forest, star, tree
listened to them all

the week he died
I showed him my rock friends
he respected them

after he was dead
I received a package
full of granite chunks

granite connects us
sure as DNA and love
granite mountainsides 

my only regret
not sharing rock friends sooner
while we still had time

Continue reading

Sun and Rain

I woke up feeling
Like a piece of glass
While the sun casts blinding rays
Through the middle of my soul

I woke up feeling
Like a piece of glass
Ground down into tiny shards
That dazzle the eyes unpredictably
In the glaring sun

I woke up
With an awful taste in my mouth

I woke up
With clothes like sandpaper on my skin

I woke up most of all
Knowing something was gone
That I couldn’t replace
That I couldn’t even remember

When I was a child
I thought myself a monster
When I couldn’t cry
When I should have been crying

I used to lick my hands
Spread the spit over my face
And make sobbing noises
Then feel even more a monster
Because they were only fake tears

I’d feel so exposed
Just the way I do now
Like the piece of ground-up glass
In the sun

Even though I’m alone
And no one can see me
I feel transparent
I feel overrun

Sometimes when people cry
They say “It’s raining on my face”

I think it’s raining 
Deep down in my soul
Where nobody can see
And there’s no path
From the rain 
To my eyes

Alexandria (RIP Ronald Baggs, 1941-2014)

You never knew what talent you had
Until one year for my birthday
I asked for the greatest gift you could give
The story of your life

I wanted to know who you were
Before I first met you
A grey-bearded wrinkly man
At the age of thirty-nine

I was your last child 
Unplanned but not unwanted:
When the pregnancy was difficult 
And the doctors counseled yit to abort,
You and my mother
Unanimously decided to keep me 
Whatever the risk 
“You were the best mistake I ever made”
You always quipped

And I wanted to know who you were 
I wanted to know who you both were
You were thirty-nine and thirty-four
When I met yit, after all
And I was thrilled beyond imagining
When the chapters started to 
Pour in through the mail

You never knew you could write
But you wrote so well
With clarity, intelligence, humor, and depth
Not a word too much
Not a word too little
Little need for an editor there

You wove your life story seamlessly 
With current events of the day — 
What we now call history
(You were born in 1941 after all)
You included illustrations 
Ranging from silly cartoons
Of childhood mishaps
To aerial views of places you lived 
All tied together 
With the perfect writing style for the job

I loved reading your memoirs 
Alongside my mother’s
Because each made your personalities 
Shine through in your writing style and 
Choice of subject matter 

But you didn’t think you were a writer
Until you sat down and wrote
Mom said you always had it in you
But you were nearly seventy
Before you let it out

(When you were diagnosed with terminal cancer
Metastatized everywhere
No hope of cure
Months if you’re lucky
Days if you’re not
You told my brother 
“If there’s something you want to do
Do it
Don’t wait
None of us knows
How much time we have left.”)

But you were a writer
And you finished your memoirs
And started writing a novel
Based on our family history
During the Okie migration
When you became too weak to type
You dictated to Mom

She told me how thrilled you were 
That I was writing a novel too
I will finish this novel
No matter how long it takes
Because it meant that much to you
Even on your deathbed

You became a writer in your old age 
But you also became a storyteller 
Among the oldest still alive
On your family’s side
To remember
Not just your life
But the lives passed down to you
In stories
From the elders who came before

And now all that is gone
Your only older relative
Your aunt Voicy
Has severe dementia
Everyone else is dead
All that knowledge is lost

I shall seek that knowledge 
The only way left to me
By lowering myself underground 
Where the roots of our family 
Grow deeper and deeper
And the soil is rich with love

I won’t learn any stories 
I haven’t already heard 
Those died with you
Such a wealth of information died with you

I don’t think you fully realized
How much was hidden
In the caverns of your mind
Much like mine
Like dragons we hoarded rich sensory details
In caves hard to get in or out of
But when found
They shone like jewels

But even if I learn no more stories
From our underground root system 
I will be saturated 
In the essence
Of what it is
To be who we are
And the smell of rich soil
Will be its own reward

Understand that to me
Your death was not only
The loss of a loved one
It was also the burning 
Of the library at Alexandria 
And so is the death
Of anyone old
But especially 
An old relative
What is lost can’t be retrieved 

I only wish you were still here
To fill in the blanks
Between the stories
And to share our dragon hoards
And to smell the soil 
On each other’s skin
And know through smell
As through no other sense
That we are a part of each other

Continue reading

My Father’s Beard (RIP Ronald Baggs, 1941-2014)

when I was a child
I played with my father’s beard
sitting in his lap

when he was dying
they cut off part off his beard
to mail it to me

I would cry except
all my tears are locked inside
they cannot come out

some things are too hard for tears
some things turn my face to stone
some things make me ache to cry
some things make me ache and ache
no matter what, tears don’t come