Let and Let and Let


It is just you. And a pulse. And breath.


-Jung said to be alone

to find what supports you

when you can no longer

support yourself

can give you an

indestructible foundation.-


Love doesn’t exist

when it cannot get in or out-

this much I know.

There are degrees of loss and a kind of

bottoming out

when you give too much

take from yourself too much

let too much

cowering from yet hovering over

your gutted pearl–your silence

a shell in the ocean

you try to fill. Read More


Nikki and Jodie today’s always a bit rough. Love you guys. “yous girls”
For my sisters. 
Sometimes I wonder if, 

Besides your features

And your hands, 

I inherited other things

From you –

Like how sometimes I’m shyly afraid, 

Like how sometimes I escape myself

Like how I love spring and apple blossoms 

Like how maybe I’m afraid of rejection too. 
I wonder if at your funeral

I cried for myself instead

Not the beer tabs and pennies 

Found in your empty house,

Tears I didn’t mean to cry. 
I guess I think about how

I’d be different 

How I would’ve kept myself 

Instead of losing things. 

The entire act of sorrow-

I cry for myself again-

Because it hits like parts

Of my past without you

That are best forgotten 

But also traced over scars

That mean I made it. 
It’s the anniversary of you dying

Like leaves
If you were here would I be different 

Would I be braver

And a little stronger,

Little bit healthier 

Little more ok
I’m alright dad,

I found what I lost. 

But in October 

I wonder how it’d feel

To see your hands I see

When I look at my own

Maybe holding me for a sec. 
In some kind of different season

The act of sorrow 

I remember as your life 

Was maybe easier when you disappeared. 

I wonder if that’s how forgiveness works –

Not an end of grief

But a slipping away in early

Morning hours

And my own return to you

In my own early morning hours 

When I Remeber you.

What’s Left (for Nikki)

(written October 12, 2011)

It’s the anniversary today.  I debate taking your grandchild to your headstone.  She names you in the sky at night.  I don’t feel grief or loss–those were my companions long before you died.  But there is this ache.  It’s in my chest and it warns memory.  The ache is, this year, something hard to identify.

This morning the house was dark and quiet and I pictured life with you in it.  A life without alcohol.  I imagined you would have prevented me from all sorts of things-things like heartache, lost trust, guilt shame, illnesses.  You were like a big child to us, even then.  Your slowness was what sweetened you.  You made your first born, Nikki, shine.  That was the last time she let herself be loved by a parent.  Your gradual rejection left in her a big empty space, and as she got older, that space filled with self-reliance, education, but mostly with the sense of life as an orphan.  Her ache for you and loss of you shook straight through her heart–cutting it in two and then clumsily stitching it back together, leaving gaps for it all to seep through.  I imagine it steeling itself to the love of many things.

When you died we all suffered different losses.  Mine was the beginning of a broken fever.  You left me to a monster and I’m scarred in crippling ways.  For Jodie, your youngest and by far the sweetest, her loss was unnameable and filled with a deep sorrow–it served as a reminder of not knowing love and protection and sanctuary.  But for Nikki–for Nikki your death made me angry.  Why had you left her again?  Why must she lose you twice and open up old wounds that, from childhood, really never heal?  When she was younger her love for you was fierce and without limit.  She knew you had no right to abandon her, and she didn’t give up easily.  She was persistent and faithful and resilient until, as time passed, her heart broke.  She learned loss and defeat too early.  When you died, her loss was like an old companion she’d tried to forget, only this time she had more control.  But I saw her face–she looked like a little girl again, learning you were never coming back.  I suppose, on the anniversary of your death, I grieve for her.  My heart feels young and fragile and sore for her.  She is the ache in my chest.


I hate how you’re always

in my way

bent over in the hallway

as I carry all the laundry

I hate how you’re always

in my way

legs splayed across the bed

sound asleep as I twist

I hate how you’re always

in my way

like when I dance

you get too close

I hate how you’re always

in my way

leaning for a kiss

when I’m trying to write

I hate how you’re always


I hate that you’re gone

I hate that I never leaned in,

I hate how I never make room


for my father


Your body isn’t on this earth

like the others

I still see them, hunched over

bar stools at eleven a.m.

Your body isn’t on this earth

and I wonder where you drifted?

to an embankment

of some kind

to a bed of moss

a nest?

our rose petals we’d sent after

your ashes rotten years ago

your body isn’t on this earth

you’re more like a breath

or a petal, just above the stir


if I could talk you into

piecing back together

for an afternoon

I would touch

your face,

sober and clear,

I wouldn’t be afraid

I wouldn’t ask you why

I’d memorize your eye color

and the way your lashes swept,

I’d trace the bones we’d burned

I’d say my name for you;

I wouldn’t turn you in for all you were

I’d tell you who you were and are to me,

letting you go

and watch you scatter

softly back across the river

like a breath telling you I’ll see you again.

Habit of Silence

In the mornings, it was excused for sleepiness.  We’d pass each other in our own floor patterns and habits, maybe say good morning.,  My cigarette smoke leaked into the morning yellow on the back deck where I’d wake and listen.  Birds and wind and traffic and exhalations.  Then my brain would squeeze as the sun rose higher and the dreams cleared, knowing it was time for the day to begin, wondering how it would go, if it would last, if we’d changed.

We dressed at different hours–I, with the comfort of time suspended, unable to work and trying to heal–and he, in the rut of unemployment and agitated fingers buttoning his shirt.  The hush of clothes as we passed in the hallway to the bedroom, maybe a polite ‘excuse me’ to break the air.  I sought space at this time, for meditation and thought and perspective.  He sought with hot flesh and prodding fingers and a tired way to love me.  I couldn’t be touched.  The possibility of my lover touching me quite thin, as my skin was too awake and afraid.  I wondered if we had anything else to give–what was left to receive from each other when we needed such different things?  One day I had said “space, Justin, space…I need to be alone because I’m broken.  I need to take care of this mind”  and I could never tell him how my soul wept for him in loneliness.  I could never tell him he could have my soul if he tried to take it.

The year before, when I was healthy, he proposed through a poem he had written, down on one knee, his hands shaking.  I cried the moment I understood, and the ring glittered like snow; I was really loved.  We’d lay in silence together be and making love, our minds lax and limbs jello.  How I could love him then, in the floating hours of the day, and I told him through my fingertips how I loved him.  We’d laugh and touch our lips together.  We’d flirt with argument.  Later, in the kitchen Read More

Memoir Piece 2: “Ashes”



The land is in pools, mirrors. As if there were a flood and only islands remain, islands with the trees from my earliest memories–the wild apple blossoms, their pink and white petals falling like snow. I imagine him under there, in the shade of the silky blossoms, leaning back on an arm, picking blades of grass, his long legs muzzled in by the sweet alysum growing. His blue eyes look up through their long, long black eyelashes–the lashes I’ve inherited–and into the blossoms, into the purple sky. His reflection is still on the water. Peace. He’s found peace. He still wears the cream colored shirt with the brown vees from the shoulders to the chest, heavy in his strange scent that I can still smell if I remember really hard.

The white farmhouse, falling apart and filthy, stood on a sunken, lush lawn with wild apple trees that snowed pink petals.  He built us a swing under one of them, taking turns going higher and higher into the pink fragrance.  There was a hammock tied between the two trees and we spent afternoons lulled in it by the bees, fat and humming.  We picked from the plum tree, he pulled us in a wagon behind the rider lawnmower, we climbed ancient tractors, we walked in the fields with the big, round hay bales.  There was a pig in small barn, I loved the thick mud and even the suffocating smell.  Family came and went as if they’d never grown up and left home.  Most of them were alcoholics, some of them were borderline pedophiles but they were eventually pushed out of the circle.  My grandpa Leo was an old white haired man with a huge gin blossom nose, sitting in his chair.  Drinking.  The kitchen was warm and old, with a large wooden fork and spoon above the oven.  My grandma Helen had chipped, blue China plates.  The floor rolled in hills and we road our trikes around.  I don’t remember him ever leaving our side on those weekends he had us. Read More

In Your Absence by Judith Harris : The Poetry Foundation [poem]

In Your Absence by Judith Harris : The Poetry Foundation [poem].

In Your Absence

By Judith Harris Judith Harris

Not yet summer,
but unseasonable heat
pries open the cherry tree.
It stands there stupefied,
in its sham, pink frills,
dense with early blooming.
Then, as afternoon cools
into more furtive winds,
I look up to see
a blizzard of petals
rushing the sky.
It is only April.
I can’t stop my own life
from hurrying by.
The moon, already pacing.

Poem copyright ©2007 by Judith Harris, whose most recent collection of poems is The Bad Secret, Louisiana State University Press, 2006. Reprinted by permission of Judith Harris.

For Justin

because I want you to remember

how I was once kind of beautiful

I will paint you pictures

and etch on glass                                                         

who I want to be

once this sickness of the year

leaves my poison breath

I so infected you with.

Oils in blue black dripping rain from my fingertips.

A house in the forest with one light on.

A scratched eye with a glint to tease

beneath long, lovely lashes.

I show you palette after palette

the mix I’m desperate at–where’s the right colors,

how would you like it, how am I sense?

I urge you from the door with blank canvases,

and I’m not one for persuasion.

Your hidden eye, your hidden pity

and goodbye.  I paint for myself.