The Night Grandma Died

Three wonderful years
Grandma lived with us
when I was in high school
in St. Clairsville.

She died one cold January night,
which I will always remember
as a night that took our breath away.
The night that made me realize
that life is so precious to us
because we have only so much of it.

In the back bedroom,
that used to be my room,
she cheerfully lived with us.
Never a bother.
Always a joy.
Always willing to help
as best her arthritic hands could.

She died in my bed–
the bed I slept in
for two-thirds of my childhood life.
The bed that stayed warm
even long after she had departed.
A warmth that assured me
our love for each other
would never die.

She cried out just once
before her last breath, and then
the house grew stone silent,
as we sat around her bed,
without words,
waiting for the ambulance
to take her small empty body away.

She was gone
and we knew it,
but still we needed to hear
someone else say the words:
she’s gone.

So much was unsaid
as they caringly took her body away.
I had questions,
but they wouldn’t bring her back.
So why ask them?

I wanted to cry
but wasn’t ready to
the night she died.
The next day,
as I touched her worn Bible
on the bedstand
she brought with her from her house,
the tears came.

I remembered her petunias,
that overflowed the green flower boxes
on her front and side porches.
And I remembered how
she never locked her doors
because she said
nobody could ever take away
what God has put in my heart.

I decided then that my life,
like my grandmother’s,
must be a blessing to others.
I knew then
that anything done in life with heart
makes a difference.
I knew then
that one of my jobs in life must be
to carry on my grandmother’s undying love.

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Reflections on Boston (Yet Another Revision)

Boston: graceful, bawdy, high-brow,
creative, impetuous, thoughtful, raucous,
and always liberatingly liberal.
Forever spinning connective threads
between the extremes strung
across the past, present, and future.

Yet there’s something more.
Beyond our words.
Ever presently illusive,
like the single milli-moment separating day and night.
Out of reach, yet not out of touch.
Embodied in all you find there,
like some archetypal signature
written on the bottom of everything.

More than its uncommon Commons
and its so very public Public Gardens.
More than its stately Charles River,
snaking through and uniting the city’s many parts,
attracting throngs of people and sailboats
seeking flow and change in their lives.

Notable history, for sure, but more.
Almost too many stories told from scripted lips.
Lips prone to remind us of what was,
when all long we want to know what is
and what will be.

Ornate, inspiring, yet mysterious architecture
rising like passionate delphiniums and orchids
into the endless blue June sky.
Some also reminding us of weathered gravestones,
jutting up from old cemeteries
littered with skeletons
still hanging in Boston’s closet.

More than the Red Sox’ Fenway Park
and the onerous Green Monster, denying
even the best hitters their coveted four-baggers.
More than its historic Tea Party, and
the rebellious old white guys powdering their wigs
for the taxing event.

Even more than Harvard, MIT, Wellesley,
Brandeis, Tufts, and Boston College,
where young minds bend and stretch
in endowed dark classrooms, and all the while
alumni associations claim more victims.

Beyond the 600,000 people
living within the city’s limits, and
the four million plus living
in the larger surrounding region.
Even beyond the millions
visiting each year to smarten up, eat fresh lobster,
hear the Pops, or brush up on American history.

All point to, but alone fail to capture,
that illusive spirit, blowing
like a constant untamed wind through the city,
breathing life into Boston
and all whom it touches.

So what would Medieval England’s St. Botolph,
whose name is carried on by Boston,
say about how to know this great city’s essence?
Likely he would say the same of Boston
as he did of the Lord Almighty:
Let your heart fill with Boston, and then,
and only then, you will know her.
And I would say that
the Curse of the Bambino has ended,
and it’s time for new beginnings.

disappearing garter snakes in the garden

two newborn garter snakes slither
like placeless rivers in concert
through the dancing delphiniums

they find their way–
God only knows how and to where–
through the foreboding snapdragons
   then
disappear into thin air
an alien abduction    maybe
but gone in any case

the rest of the day
   while not over
seems to limp    in the direction
of where the tiny snakes
exited the universe

Reflecting on Boston’s Essence (Revised)

Boston puts so many wonderful things together,
creating a unique, enticing, and hypnotizing city,
bridging past, present, and future.
Yet there is something more to Boston.
Something larger than even our best words can describe.
It’s easy to say Boston is one of America’s greatest cities.
But even these flattering words fail to capture Boston.
Boston is more than its uncommon Commons,
as beautiful and accessible as they are.
It is more than the crisp Charles River,
snaking its way through the city,
attracting throngs of people and sailboats
in the spring and summer months.
Boston is more than its notable history,
and the spirited role it played
in the American Revolution.
It is more than its many elegant
old and new downtown buildings,
scraping the sky with the tops of their heads.
Boston is more than Fenway Park and its Green Monster
and the feisty Red Sox who play there.
The city is more than its Tea Party
and all the guys powdering their wigs
to attend the taxing event.
Boston is more than Harvard, MIT,
Wellesley, Tufts, Boston College, Brandeis
and several other fine institutions of higher learning
that grace the city and its surrounding area.
Boston is more than the 600,000 people
who live within the city’s limits,
and the four million plus people
who live in the larger surrounding region.
All these things point to Boston,
but fail to capture the illusive underlying spirit
found in each of these pieces and parts.
Were he alive today,
it would be interesting to hear what St. Botolph,
the 7th century pious monk from Medieval England,
whose name is perpetuated in the name Boston,
which literally means Botulph’s town,
would say about the essence of Boston.
Perhaps he would say the same of Boston
as he did of the Lord Almighty: The only way to know Boston
is to experience her in our hearts.

Having just spent five days in Boston,
I would completely agree with this wise saint.
And contrary to what many people believe,
this fine city, so full of spirit,
does not live in the shadows of New York,
which the Babe left Boston for in 1920.
In fact, I have it on good authority that
the Curse of the Bambino is officially over.

Sculpting Life Rivers

Like the sculptor
chiseling a work of art
from raw stone,
we craft our lives
moment by moment
in whatever time we have.

Unlike a sculpted work of art,
our lives are not cast in stone,
rather they morph
in all directions
with each breath we take.

But if we are not careful,
we lose our ability to change
and rigidify like the immobile mountain
when we should flow like a rushing river.

As rivers,
we constantly renew ourselves
and feed others.
Be the river sculpted over time.
Be the river feeding
all it touches with life.

Secrets Hiding in the Shadows of the Waxing Gibbous Moon

It is the small secrets
that grow overwhelming large
in invisible shadows cast
by the waxing gibbous moon
that become your life,
forever changing who you are.
It is the large things
giving birth to the shadows
that flush you out to deep sea
where you must tread water long enough
until the right wave can carry you back
in the direction of your dreams.

Celebrating Seventeen Years Together with the Robins in Boston Commons

As the sun scoots westward,
leaving orange and salmon streaks
across the Boston sky,
plump robins continue pecking
for last unsuspecting worms
in the cool, just watered, grass.
And as day hands the baton to night,
hand in hand we stroll
out the Boston Commons gate,
and head back to the hotel
where hot fudge sundaes,
topped with whipped cream and cherries await us,
capping the perfect 17th anniversary celebration.