Thursday, December 30, 2010

The edge is off

Paul's birthday is tomorrow.

Usually I'm beside myself as I approach this time in December. I'm nervous, I can't concentrate, and I just want the visit to the cemetary on Paul's birthday to be over. This year I'm much more calm. He is still a huge part of my life. But my thoughts about him don't run my life anymore.

We plan to go the cemetery tomorrow as always. But this year it feels like we’re just fitting the visit in between the rest of the events of the day. I'll go to the gym as usual, do my normal morning stuff afterward, go to the cemetery, get a manicure and pedicure, take care of Oscar (maybe), and then go to the movies and dinner with Ben and Marissa. In years past all I could do was think about and dread going to the cemetery. I could hardly do anything else. So definitely the edge is off. I can honestly say I’m moving on. His death doesn’t impede the rest of it. 

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
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.
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,
verges on 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
lying flush
with the closely cropped grass,
marking the cremated remains
of fathers, mothers, aunts, uncles,
and grandparents.
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.


Unknown said...

Good for you Madeline! Sounds like you're taking good care of yourself. Incredible poem, as always. :) Have a Happy New Year!

February Grace said...

I'll be thinking of you tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

Powerful poem.
I'm happy you are entering tomorrow with a clear head, regardless of where it goes during the day. Thinking of you tomorrow and in the new year.

Lucky Press, LLC said...

I am nearly through with my second read-through of "Leaving the Hall Light On." It is so well-written, so open-hearted, so raw and honest and true and inspiring. What a privilege it is to publish your book, the emotional toll it took to write, I cannot imagine. How strong and brave and beautiful you are; how wonderful your husband and son, Ben, and, of course, Paul, who I am keeping in my thoughts throughout this day.

I trust that your poems and blog and book will reach out to many families and provide comfort, insight, and encouragement.

Love to your family today and as the New Year enters...

madeline40 said...

Thank you all. I so much appreciate your kind words.
And, no matter what I wrote this is a tough day.