Tuesday, September 23, 2008

September 23, 2008 -- nine years!

So, you might ask, what did I do today? The answer is: I went to the gym as usual, but while I was there, I listened to some of Paul's favorite music -- Cat Stevens, the guy he loved when he was little, and John Lennon, the guy he wanted to emulate. I went to work, wearing a purple t-shirt, Paul's favorite color -- really it's better to go to work than be sad alone at home. And, then Bob and I went to the cemetery at noontime and each of us left a smooth stone on his grave marker -- now dim and old and it's hard to see all the lettering, and one of these days I'm going to have it replaced. Then we went to lunch and ironically the music playing in the restaurant was jazz -- John Coltrane playing sweet jazz on the piano -- somethig I usually avoid if I can because hearing jazz after Paul died was just too painful. And, then back to work, able to concentrate on nothing, and I'm home now. And, I'm sitting at my computer wondering what all this means and whatever I do to remember Paul, doesn't make any difference to him, and it only helps me get through this day. And tomorrow I know I will be better. But more than anything else in the world, I really hope and pray that no other parents will have to experience this kind of loss ever again.

Tonglen Practice

It's the mothers and fathers I care about.

When my son died, I grieved for him
and all mothers and fathers
who ever lost a child.
I breathed in pain,
and with each exhalation prayed
that no parent
would have to feel
the pain of such a loss again.

But I can't do it alone.
The mothers
and fathers
over all the world
must practice Tonglen with me.

We must take the pain into our bodies,
into our souls, into our hearts,
and cleanse it with our healing breath.
Then with our collective breathing out
give this world a chance
to be safe for all our children –
all our sons and daughters.

Breathe in, breathe out
now, forever,

Monday, September 22, 2008

Lucky me!

I was lucky to have a few minutes to talk to Paul on his last night alive. Bob was angry that he did not. And, in that conversation there was no way to know that it would be my last time with him. Yet, in hindsight there were lots of clues. I went over and over the words we spoke in those few minutes and came upon a million what ifs. But, there was no going back. The next morning I knew I would never have the chance to speak to him again.

The Last Night

How could I have known
it would be the last night? A night
like all the others:
the low creaking groan
of the garage door,
tires screeching to maneuver
into the narrow place,
the roar of the engine before silence.
Then slamming the door,
my son, sweeps down the long hall,
calling out hello in his deep friendly voice.
I startle as I hear his heavy strides
pass my door,
I call out to him.
Returning, he enters my room –
standing, staring, looking more calm
than I’ve ever seen him.
His blue eyes like sapphires
fringed with thick dark lashes
never leave mine while we speak.
My lips kiss his cheek
cool as alabaster.
I marvel at his smile – lips
barely turned up not showing his teeth.
He looks like the angel
he will soon become.
He has already found peace.
Only I don’t know it yet.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Making a memory list

Paul -- 4 years old

I spent some time a few years ago trying to make a list of all the things I wanted to remember about Paul. It became an endless task -- and frustrating too -- because I came upon things that I could no longer remember. Luckily we have his music, loads of photos, some of his writing as well. What I fear the most is after Bob and I are gone, memories of Paul will be gone too.

Remembering Paul

I’ll always remember he slept
without closing his eyes all the way
I’ll always remember he walked fast
and way ahead of us
I’ll always remember he had long, thick, black eyelashes
surrounding clear blue eyes
I’ll always remember he played the piano
legs crossed at the knees, leaning
way down over the keyboard
I’ll always remember he liked to wear
second-hand clothes and didn’t mind
if they were ripped
I’ll always remember he stood
at the pantry door munching almonds
I’ll always remember he liked to climb –
trees, rocks, diving boards
I’ll always remember he was meticulous and anal about his things
I’ll always remember he could play almost any tune by ear
And that he was always a loner
And how much he loved his girlfriend
and wasn’t touched enough after she left him
I’ll always remember he was sensitive
I’ll always remember he drove too fast and erratically
I’ll always remember he got lots of parking tickets
I’ll always remember he was in love with John Lennon
I’ll always remember he liked Doc Martin shoes
I’ll always remember he tapped his foot when he sat down
I’ll always remember how he sat
all folded over like The Thinker
when he drank coffee at Starbucks
I won’t ever forget the feel of his cool pale skin
the last night I saw him
Or the sound of his voice
I’ll always remember his hair was thick
I can’t forget he knew all the nursery rhymes
by the time he was two
and he said he wanted to watch a record
when he lay down on the red and black plaid sofa to take a nap
I’ll always remember he and his brother
called the back of the station wagon,
“the really back”
I’ll always remember he loved to fish.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Back to Paul's country

Paul was thrilled to be accepted at the New School's jazz music program as a college freshman. He had always loved New York -- even as a little boy. He never minded the fast pace, the smells, the sounds. He thrived on them -- until he had his first manic break. After that he was certain people were lurking in doorways out to get him and his girlfriend. But, he couldn't stay away. We'd bring him back to California for hospital treatment and a short spell of quiet and rest, but as soon as he could he'd go back. Back and forth, back and forth, so many times I didn't keep count -- until he came home for good two and a half years before he died.
We go back to New York often -- it still attracts us. Maybe because Paul is still there everywhere

Another View of New York

New York City
Union Square, the lower East side
Paul’s country.
He blossomed there
He became a musician there
While he learned about the real world
Of cold fourth floor walkups,
Dealers hustling on street corners
Late night gigs, playing for tips in smoky bars
Fast walking just to keep warm
And a first grownup love affair with a girl named ________.

I went back there last month
No, he wasn’t there.
He’s been dead and gone almost two years now
But the reminders were everywhere.

The square where he first lived as
A freshman at the New School
In the tall skinny brick building
66 Park Avenue where the Jazz Department
Held classes and had practice rooms and jam sessions
And young musicians aspiring for fame
It was on the marble steps of that building
Where he first met the girl
With the long flowing auburn hair and piercing blue eyes
The love of his life.
No, she was his life

Beth Israel Hospital, just around the corner
That’s where they took him when he first went crazy
Almost ready to graduate
Getting gig after gig
Staying up all night,
Playing music, drinking Scotch whiskey
Hardly eating,
Smoking one cigarette after another
Ah, it was the life
Until his musician friend
Bill K died of a heroine overdose
And things were never the same again,

Avenue A where he lived after graduation
And recovery from his first break
Now teeming with young people
Bar hopping
Listening to music
It’s a happening place made famous by the musical “Rent.”
For me it was filled with old memories
Of my boy, Paul
And where his dreams would never come true.

Friday, September 19, 2008

September 11, 2001

Before this month is over, I need to reflect on September 11, 2001. I was in a poetry workshop at Esalen Institute in Big Sur, CA in late September that year and was asked to write a poem about how it felt. I could only write it in terms of how it compared to Paul's death. Compassion, sympathy, empathy -- whatever the right word is -- I have it for all those who lost their loved ones in that horrific and terrifying event.

Tragedy in Perspective

They say the poets need to retell the story
To find meaning in the devastation, the incineration
Of 3,000 people. We are
The ones who can make the world feel better
With the beauty of our words.

But, I can’t find the meaning
All I can see is the grief, the disbelief, the yearning,
Searching looks on the relatives, friends, colleagues
Wanting to know why their loved ones
Vanished so quickly
Just like they were sucked up by a UFO
A tornado, an avalanche
Never to be heard from or seen again.

Perhaps if I compare this devastation to the one in my life
I can find the right words.
The day Paul took his life, September 23, 1999, my life,
The lives of my family, were never the same again.
But, is it too selfish, too petty to look at September 11, 2001 that way?

So, let me simply say,
I can relate to those left behind
I can feel their pain
I want to tell them I’ve been there too
I know what it feels like to have a beautiful
Living, breathing human being reduced to
A bag of ashes.

Yet, maybe I’m lucky.
At least I had the ashes
At least I could bury them so when I miss him
I can visit and cry at his grave
And soothe away the dust from his gravestone.

The others have nothing
Only the horrific memory of watching the collapse
Of two massive structures
And the disintegration of thousands of people still inside.

I feel for them all
The grievers, the mourners, the lovers, the children, the mothers
All those left behind.
They are all me
Married to me by their grief
And I know as they know
We will all never be whole again.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A bad day

For some reason Thursdays have been my bad day. Maybe I fell off my bike that day or maybe an early crush decided he didn't want anything more to do with me. I really don't remember why. But, I do know that we found Paul dead on a Thursday. And, nothing could be worse than that.

Thursday Morning

When all I heard was silence
behind the locked bathroom door
that Thursday morning,
when all I saw was darkness
through the open bedroom door,
when Bob went to investigate,
calling his name, Paul,
pleading with him, Paul,
open the door,
when Bob went to the garage
for a screwdriver to pick the lock,
when he opened the door
and closed it quickly from the inside
while I stood on the stairs,
as Bob found our son in the bathtub,
sitting in a pool of blood,
blue, already cold and stiff,
tongue hanging out of his mouth,
when Bob came out of the bathroom
face red, hands shaking
and told me
Paul is dead,
when all I heard were sirens
and the footsteps of the police
as they stomped though our house,
all I could do was huddle
in the corner of the couch,
my legs drawn under me,
my arms folded around me,
as I rocked back and forth,
my hands clamped into tight fists.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Pick a year, any year

I wrote this next poem a year after Paul died. But it could be called Two Years, Three Years, etc. all the way up to Nine Years. The feelings are the same from one year to the next.

One Year

It’s a year, they say
Time to stop mourning for your dead son
Get on with your life.
Okay, I will, I reply.
Look – I work, I work out,
I write, I travel, I read,
I go to movies, I make love, I eat out,
I enjoy the company of friends.
And – I nurture myself with new hairdos, makeup,
massages and manicures.

After all, Paul took his own life a year ago
He didn’t take mine
At least not completely.

What they don’t know is
My life now is just playacting
Meant to fool others as well as myself
Into believing that I can move on
And begin to live my life again.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Picking up the pieces

So, instead of moving, instead of getting that "fresh" house, we began to renovate. I got rid of the scene of the crime first, then I took his bedroom and closet and turned them into a beautiful office where I'm sitting right now writing this, and we moved boxes and boxes of things we cannot part with into the garage. All the boxes are meticulously labeled and arranged in deference to him.


We don’t have to look into that room anymore
and wonder if spots of blood still remain
on the floors and walls.
We’ve demolished the scene of the crime.
We will no longer step into that tub and see Paul
in his white long sleeved work shirt
and khaki pants sitting against the shower door
in a bloody puddle.
They’ve taken it all away.
The old aqua blue tub
the toilet, and sinks.
the faux marble counter
with burn stains from the tiny firecrackers
he set off as a teenager.
The god-awful blue and yellow vinyl flooring is gone.
Sterile white tiles and fixtures
will take their place
in a room with no memories
either of life or death.

Six years later
instead of the dark room
he walked out of for the last time
leaving the door slightly ajar
his bed never slept in
his dirty laundry
slung over his over-stuffed chair,
his paychecks left on the side table
uncashed for weeks,
his pictures and posters meticulously thumbtacked
in perfect rows on the walls
his books and records all lined up
in alphabetical order in his closet
along with his shoes and plaid shirts from second-hand stores,
his keyboard, electronic drums, amplifier,
and his music, each tape labeled and packed
in a canvas bag,
so we could easily choose
a piece to play at his funeral.
Instead, the room now totally bare
except for a new bay window
that looks over the garden
and new shiny hardwood floors.
A writing table and a comfortable sofa
will go in there
with space in the closet
for shelves of poetry books,
files of poems hoping to be published.

Boxes labeled Paul’s fiction A-Z
Paul’s jazz records K-O
Paul’s rock and roll A-F
stacked where I can see them
as I open the door
park my car every evening
after a long day at work.
On top of the boxes
a pile of dungeons and dragon games
one tarnished brass duck bookend
he got for his Bar Mitzvah,
the purple treasure chest
where he kept his pot,
a cigar box filled with metals and belt buckles
his uncle brought him from Russia.
Leaning against the wall
a roll of drawings
he made in Bellevue’s psych ward
each declaring his love for Sally
now married with two children.
A photo of her
with high pointing breasts,
slim waist, flat stomach, and round, firm buttocks
shows her proud, and so ready,
though Paul was not.
He let her go
He let it all go
with one sweep of the knife.

Monday, September 15, 2008

A bi-yearly ritual

We go to the cemetery every year on Paul's deathday and his birthday. I always dread it -- probably because it punches me with that jolt of reality right into my gut -- and yet, afterward, I always say to myself that I should go more often. Of course I don't. Twice a year is all I can take. The rest of the year I still let my mind think magically and imaginatively about the boy I miss so much.

Three Cemeteries

On a cool, sunny day in Normandy
the breeze does not disturb
the graves at the American Cemetery.
No matter where you stand,
looking diagonally, horizontally,
or straight back and forth,
each alabaster white grave marker
each chiseled engraving
is in perfect precision
and symmetry
as far as the eye can see.
The grass covering the graves
mowed just the right height
a shade of green
from a Technicolor garden.
The surroundings –
a rectangular reflection pool
the curved wall inscribed with the names
of 1,557 Americans missing in action,
the center bronze statue commemorating
the spirit of American youth,
and the Omaha Beach below –
create a restful setting
for the 10,000 allied soldiers
killed in 1943 or 44
during World War II.

On a gray, rainy day
in Prague,
hordes of tourists stroll
through the Jewish cemetery.
Their feet crunch
the brown and yellow leaves
covering the ground.
Housing 800,000 graves –
some over 12 layers deep –
this cemetery, not functional since 1787,
on the verge of collapse.
The packed gravestones lean
every which way
in a hodgepodge of rectangular, square,
and triangular shapes
so old, so worn and broken
the Hebrew or Yiddish markings
are hardly readable.
Just like the Jews
who were forced to live
crammed together in
the Prague ghetto,
these gravestones want
to escape the barriers
that keep the visitors and vandals out.

On a stormy day
in Los Angeles
we drive through the gates
of Hillside Cemetery
and curve around the drive
to the back wall
and a small plot
of miniature flat rectangular
gray and black marble gravestones
that lay flush
with the closely cropped grass.
Full sun interrupts the downpour
just long enough
for us to kneel
at our son’s grave
on his December 31st birthday,
wipe away the raindrops,
leave a smooth black stone,
and four yellow roses
and allow our tears to fall.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Ben, my love

We were with Ben and his girlfriend, Marissa, last night. We see him often. Unfortunately for him he has the burden of being our only child now, but he has excelled in this role -- thrust upon him so suddenly and completely. He is all a mom could wish for in a son -- and so beautiful and talented besides.

A Poem That Wants To Be for Ben

They are always about Paul, my dead son
the one who died of his own free will
so many years ago.
My hordes of poems go on like a mantra:
his mania, depression, his delusions, escapades,
his suicide. They never fail to mention
his piercing blue eyes, the little half smile
that never showed his teeth, the smoky smell
and the way he slumped over the piano
like the thinker as he played.
Paul and his death have been my muse.

Ben’s living eyes brim over with love
as he looks down and folds me in his arms.
He is the son who says
I love you
every time we speak.
His smiles are wide
even when he faces disappointment
in his own life.
This son is the reason I choose to live.
Why isn't he the reason I choose to write?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Choosing my answer carefully

At first the question made my heart pound so furiously that I couldn't get an answer out. Later on, I was adamant about saying I had had two sons and explaining right up front that one was dead. Nowadays, I choose my answer depending on who is asking. I don't want people with young children or planning to have children to hear my sad story. No one should have to go where I've been unwittingly. I believe my blurting out my story in response to a simple, friendly question gives out way too much information. Leaving Paul out makes me feel guilty, but way less guilty than making people asking innocent questions feel bad.

Wrong? Right? Who knows?

The Dreaded Question

It happens again like so many times before.
I’m at my sister’s house,
talking to her neighbor
someone I’ve just met
and she asks me the dreaded question
one that I’m avoiding
by talking about what a great day
this has been in Portland
and isn’t my sister’s garden just beautiful
and what do you do for a living
and where are you from.
And there it is,
after I’ve tossed the salad greens
put the tomatoes in the bowl
and sliced in the avocado
“How many children do you have?” she asks.
And never missing a beat
I say, I had two
but now, only one.
My oldest son died.
Then I leave to get myself together
and wonder what she and my sister are saying
while I am lying down in my room.

Friday, September 12, 2008

No, I didn't need a fresh house!

Many people said we needed to move after Paul killed himself in our house -- too many bad memories, you need a "fresh" house, they said. What they didn't understand was there were memories both good and bad in our house and memories both good and bad everywhere else. I couldn't even escape at the gym -- the place I go to most often as an escape.

Riding It Out

I sat on the saddle
Spinning the wheels
Of the stationery bike
I leaned over the handlebars
Elbows bent, head down
Peddling in time to U2.

“Ride it out,” the instructor said
“Ride it out for 30 seconds.”

The police said
Thirty seconds is
How long it took for
Paul to die after
He cut his throat.
Thirty painless seconds.

I don’t believe it.
How could it be painless?
Could it be less painless
Than the pain of his illness?

Thirty seconds and no more pain.

Was he awake?
Was he thinking?
Was he listening to the music in his head?
Was he riding it out?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Working out

I've worked out for years, played tennis, jogged, practiced Yoga -- all the stuff. But working out became a matter of life and death after Paul died. Fortunately, just before he died I joined a new gym where I didn't know anyone. I was able to come and go as I pleased, do my workout, get some relief from the pain, and leave. And, that routine became my savior. Instead of slowing down as I got older, I find myself working out more than ever. I still need the physical outlet that turned into a way to balance my emotions and help me deal with my grief. I wrote this next poem very early on.

Making It Hard

The bright room is almost full.
All four walls of mirrors reflect women and men
In baggy shorts and sleek black tights.
The music is so loud
The woman in front of me stuffs ear plugs in her ears.
Lisa G says, “work from the core,
Your workout relates to your real life.”
I want to get on with it.
I don’t come here at 6 a.m. to listen to a lecture.
The neon sign on the wall says, “sweat,”
And that’s what I want to do.
The woman behind me complains.
I don’t know her name, but here she is every week
Always in the same spot, always complaining, always in black.
Black tights, black sports bra, black thong leotard,
Black headband on her head of black hair.
Even her lipstick looks black.
A drill sergeant in baseball cap and high-top aerobic shoes
Lisa begins her litany
“If it were easy, everyone would be fit,” she shouts
“Don’t come here and expect it to be easy.”
She doesn’t know my name. I like it that way.
I like the feeling of being anonymous here
I don’t know anyone and no one knows me.
No one knows about Paul, that he died
Or any other thing about me either.
Being anonymous is a benefit
It keeps me in shape, calms my mind,
Gives me the space to be myself.
It’s a mini vacation from the horrors of my life.
So, I thank Lisa G
For getting me moving,
For making it hard,
For making it hurt,
For showing me how to
Trade one pain for another.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A matter of perspective

My mother died three years after Paul. She was 94 years old, and she was ready. In fact, she'd been wishing to die, threatening to die for the 27 years she lived after my father died. There was no comparison in how I felt after she died to how I felt and still feel about Paul's death. This next poem says it all. It was published in the "Survivors After Suicide" newsletter, a program of the Los Angeles-based Didi Hirsch Community Mental Health Center. One of the goals of Didi Hirsch is to erase the stigma of mental illness and suicide. Plus they started one of the nation's first suicide prevention hot lines. If only we had known about it before Paul died.

The Bully

Paul is a bully.
Always waiting to take over my poems.
I’m writing about my mother
who starved herself last year,
hanging on for weeks in a morphine-induced coma,
using up every bit of energy I had
until she finally died.

And here he comes pushing her aside
to get to the front of the line.
He brags so the whole playground can hear.
"My suicide is bigger,
I used a box cutter; she just stopped eating.”

And he's right.
Compared to his death
hers was a bump in the road.
He was my beautiful sick boy,
she, a not-so-nice shriveled old woman
who had wished for death for years.
She'd call me a bad daughter for saying this
but I don't miss her at all.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


After Paul's death some people just left my life. And, I won't try to guess the reasons why. However, on the plus side, through these last nine years I've made some wonderful new friends and have become closer to those who remained. This poem, one of the first I wrote after Paul died, was published in "The Compassionate Friends" newsletter to accompany an article called, "I'm Not Contagious," written by one of my long-time Esalen buddies who really understands all the trappings of loss.


They came in droves at first
out of concern, out of curiosity.
They sent flowers, cards
and sweet notes saying
call anytime
anytime at all.

Now it is quiet.
A few friends
invite us out,
or come by.
The rest have moved on
glad to have done their duty.

Don’t they know I’m not contagious?
My son’s death will not rub off.
I’m the same person I was before.
A sadder person, perhaps
but needing my friends
just the same.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Magical thinking

Joan Didion wrote about magical thinking the most eloquently, but I think we all do it. We don't want to believe that our loved one is really gone, so we play games with our mind to believe he or she will return somehow, someday. I leave the hall light on to light Paul's way back or think anonymous phone calls could really be him checking in.

Here we are at his last Thanksgiving. We're now in the midst of planning our 9th without him.

September 23, 2002

The phone rings once
startling me awake
from a deep sleep.
I jump out of bed to answer it
knocking the Waterford
perfume bottle from my dresser,
and there is no one on the line.

Only 5 a.m. but I am up
for the third anniversary of Paul’s death,
a day I dread every year.
All I can think is
Paul called to check in,
to let us know he is still around:

I go out on the porch
and watch the orange half moon
set behind the trees.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Some history

Paul had his first mental break in March of 1993 while he was in his senior year at the New School in NYC. After an unsuccessful attempt to get him home and hospitalized, we went to New York to get him in treatment there. We encountered a huge snow storm almost as soon as we got there, but that storm was small compared to what Paul's breakdown meant to him and our family.

Blizzard in B

It is mid March, 1993,
and a bitter blizzard blows in.
Some predict
the century’s biggest.

Flakes of snow swirl in gusts to the sidewalk.
Cold slaps our cheeks
pushes through our clothes
as we cling to each other,
walk through the cavern
at the feet of New York's skyscrapers.
The sirens set our teeth chattering
as impatient cabbies honk,
inch their way up the streets.

Yet, we trudge forward
uncertain of what
we will discover when we arrive.
A more foreboding blizzard, perhaps,
blows through our boy’s broken brain.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Paul's things

For me it is important to have his things around. I haven't hidden away his picture, and I don't hesitate to talk about him either. I want to keep remembering him, and I want others to know about how important he was in my life. I wrote this next poem while at a workshop at Esalen with Richard Jones. It's been published in "Mamazine," an online magazine, and in The Great American Poetry Show, Volume 1, the anthology I coedited.

Black Bomber

Swaddled in this
black bomber jacket all weekend,
I am safe from the Big Sur chill.
It’s too large for me.
And that’s okay. It was Paul’s.
I bought it for him
years ago at American et Cie on La Brea
before he went crazy
and decided to leave us
way before his time.
I like how it snuggles me,
like he’s in there too giving me a hug.
It’s the only piece
of his clothing I have left.
I’ve given away the rest:
his favorite plaid shirts
that smelled of sweat and smoke,
the torn jeans he salvaged
from second-hand stores,
his worn brown Doc Martin oxfords
that took him miles on his manic escapades,
and the tan suede jacket
he had me repair over and over
because he couldn’t let it go.
Like this jacket –
I’ll never let it go.
It has stains I can’t remove
and threads unraveling,
My son is gone.
But, this jacket –
try and take it from me.
Just try.

Friday, September 5, 2008

I knew nothing

I thought I understood what was going on in Paul's head during his manic breaks. But, really I knew nothing -- and neither did his doctors. The more I read about this terrible mental disease, the more I realize how little is really known about it -- even now. Even so, I tried to describe it in this poem.


Intoxicated, euphoric.
exhilarated, with visions
of power without bounds,
Paul is like Superman.
He climbs, he circles, he races,
floats above reality.

Then he sees demons lurking in alleyways,
imaginary Mafiosi
poisoning his drinks and cigarettes
and the world’s water supply.
He is left to wander, pace,
click, re-click door latches as he goes in and out.
He babbles unintelligibly, imperceptibly.

The voices he hears echo like violins
ever louder, faster, discordant
until a cacophony of drumbeats
and a tintinnabulation
of scraping symbols
pound his brain.
There is no escape, no way out.

He looks for an exit
where only one exists.

(For a more informed perspective, read Marya Hornbacher's book, Madness. She writes about mania from first hand experience, her own bipolar life.)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Another view of Paul

He sat like a Buddha when he played music, did his homework, and talked on the phone. And, he always looked so calm. So, today's poem is my attempt to capture that part of him. I now have little Buddha statues all over my house. Not because I'm a Buddhist, but because they remind me of Paul.


“The dead we can imagine to be anything at all.”
Ann Patchett, Bel Canto

He sits cross-legged in a tree
deep in concentration,
the way he would sit on the floor of his room
learning against the bed doing homework,
composing music, talking on the phone.
His closed-mouth grin shows
he is pleased to be where he is.
No longer a skinny rail, his cheeks filled out,
his skin clear, his eyes bright.
His tree has everything – soft jazz sounds
flowing from all directions,
deep vees and pillows for sitting and reclining,
the scent of incense and flowers,
branches of books by Miller, Tolstoy, and Dostoevsky
the music of Davis, Gould, Bach and Lennon,
and virtual communication to those he loves.
He needs no furniture, no bedding, no clothes, no food.
Those necessities are for worldly beings.
The passing clouds give him comfort
and the stars light his way.
Heaven takes care of him
as he imagines himself
to be anything at all.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Number three!

Paul was a jazz pianist and composer. Here's one that tries to capture his beat. And, oh how I miss hearing him play.

My Jazzman

My jazzman
beat it out
on the mighty eighty-eights
played those riffs
tapped his feet
bent his head
down to the keys
felt those sounds
on his fingertips.
Yeah, he was a hot man
on those eighty-eights.

But, all too soon
his bag grew dark.
He went down
deep down.
My jazzman
played the blues
lost that spark
closed the lid.
And, yeah,
you got it right.
He quit the scene.
laid himself down
in that bone yard
for the big sleep,
for that really big sleep.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Countdown Day 2

Perhaps I have enough poems about Paul to fill up the days until September 23. Here's another poem for Paul written years ago, but still very relevant today.

A Stone Called Son

I sleep with a stone.
It's gray and small enough
To fit in the palm of my hand.
One side is smooth, the other
Has the word, son, cut into it.
And when I put the stone
In the crook of my index finger
I can read the word with my thumb.
I like to place it between my breasts
And feel its coolness on my chest.
It quiets the pain in my heart
And slows down my heartbeats
So I can rest.
Sometimes I hold it all night
And find it in my fist when I wake
When I'm not sleeping it sits next to my bed
On a tiny silk pillow imprinted on one side
With the word, heal.
Well, it takes time.
A healing pillow and a stone called son
Can't do all the work.

April 28, 2003

Monday, September 1, 2008

Remembering Paul

September is the month Paul died. In just 23 days it will be nine years. So, here's a poem in his memory.

Cat Stevens Then and Now

As I walked up the stairs I heard Cat Stevens singing
The familiar words of his song, “Morning has Broken,”
And there I was back in 1973
In our old gray Chrysler station wagon
With the wood trim and fake red leather seats
And Paul was sitting in the back
Belting out the words with him. He was only two then
Still clutching his green stuffed turtle for dear life
As we drove along.
His fat cheeks were rosy red, his blonde hair
Cut like an upside down cereal bowl around his face.
Then I return to this day and my table at the
Westside Pavilion Mall where the lunch crowd
Is beginning to gather not knowing or caring how I grieve
For the chubby little boy sitting in his car seat
When so little made him happy.