To Live, Just Once

I keep "Minute" perpetually on my shopping list,
hoping to find one on the grocery shelf tucked 
between the dried blueberries and granola.
And then to find another and another and another.

A strange way to seek immortality - no less bizarre
than traipsing off through a jungle in search of some
mythical fountain of life where a sip of bubbling water
promises an additional breath for each breath drawn.

To live another day - to experience one more hurricane,
more casualties of war, a sunrise and another summer
of the buzz of cicadas - with permission from life
to get out of bed and to be a beginner again.

Is one experience of body-surfing a wave into the beach
not enough?  The taste of banana taffy again?  To hold
the hand of my beloved?  Or do I search for more time 
afraid that, like birth, death will only happen once?

Maintenance Required

I cannot imagine a soul apart from the body.
And, I understand the dynamics
of soul-attachment are not meant for me to know.

But if I, my soul, am to float away up into the heavens
upon whatever breeze that blows when I die,
I would like to enjoy the ride with the body 
that I leave behind.

There are those, perhaps many, who look forward
to that day of detachment from disease, paralysis
and fear that inhabits the corporeal.

Yet, what is this the Psalmist writes, God keeps
alive and restores souls?  Does this not change 
the yearning for moving along after death 
if maintenance is still required?

After the Memory of Death

I remember my life after death
where my body no longer struggles

     against the struggles which a body longs for
     thrown into the pool where fear plays.

Playful fear splashes in the neighbor's pool
making cries mocking the pull of drowning.

     The mockingbird cries pulling drowning
     sorrows into the radiance of blue.

Blue radiates, mirroring the drops of sorrow
upon the neat page listing summer plans.

     Summer pages turn neatly as plans list
     according to the number of joyful shouts.

I shout with joy counting the number
of times I live after the memory of death.


What is the chance for destruction 
     to follow the same path,
     by wind or by water or by fire,
     twisting, taking, turning,
     collecting possessions
     into its embrace?

Is the death of one child not enough
     or must the demands
     of the demons who cry, More,
     make offerings a daily ritual,
     to be met with trembling
     and with tears once again?


     "Well, alrighty then."
               - Sydney Marie Brotheridge
                  b. December 28, 1995
                  d. June 9, 2018

Is the death of a daughter a fable or a myth
Or a reality of grief that inflates one moment
And then, after enough tears have dropped,
Subsides into an uncomfortable calm
Holding a picture with my arm
Around her alive, smiling-faced body?

Is the resting of my head on her shoulder 
Outside a skating rink during a birthday
Celebration enough to protect her 
And, as often as I smile with her smile
Or her smiling with my smile, can it happen
All the time and everywhere?

Is there enough time and can it be measured
Between the first time I held this delicate child
With a lifetime ahead of her and the last time
I held her in Dar es Salaam as she breathed
Her last breath perhaps hearing me whisper,
“You are loved, Sydney Marie”?

Is there a way to find a completely different
Way with which to examine attachment
To a life filled with enough demons of despair 
And with enough angels of shining brilliance,
To find a way forward and not necessarily through
Or over the abyss of deep hurt and great loss?

Is the answer to the great question of Being
Found in the act of a tiny body laid out
On a stretcher being taken to the morgue
Or in a ceremony at the foot of a mountain
With enough gathered loved ones and friends 
Mourning a life joyfully lived and now complete?

Chicago, May 2021

I stare at a picture of the great metalled Ferris wheel 
from the 1893 Chicago World's Fair and lose myself 
in the number of people who went for a spin so long ago.

Fifty years later, Picasso, stares into the cave
of Lascaux and, upon seeing the dancing animals
painted on the walls, declares, They've invented everything.

And what about all the children that died 
before the age of five or the mothers that died 
in childbirth before the miracles of modern medicine?

Is there nothing so distinctly sweet,
so sweet,
as real bananas picked from the Peruvian 
rainforest an hour before breakfast?

There I stand in a picture from seven years ago with my arms around a daughter who no longer exists. That she lives in my memory, yes.  And in some form of a heavenly afterlife, perhaps.  

Sometimes I pause, 
shake my hands and arms in the air, 
and grin from ear to ear.  

I am mindful 
of the number of times 
I have returned 
from wherever 
I have gone.  
Many have not.

ginger beer

homebase can be mortal 
with all the starts & returns
of puzzled faces who
once again did not understand
the point of Sunday's sermon
& come only in the hope
of loan forgiveness for last
night's dinner tab itemizing 
roasted leg & puree of soul 
which never tasted so good

trust the story & remember 
how richly good grandma's
cranberry sauce tasted each
season of giving thanks for things
known & for things unknown
& how she would smile when
asked the secret of her recipe
& say, If I told you it wouldn't be
a secret & how she whispered
with a voice sounding of the end
in that last week, ginger beer.

Like Sisyphus

I learned to work like this
from Sisyphus who, tired
as a dung beetle after rolling
the last dung ball of the day
up its small food hill, let 
his ball go rolling into the sea
where ocean waves like eyelids
rose and fell, leaking salty tears
upon the feet of the child
who trembled like the slow, roll
of bones turning over in graves
of saints long-dead and gone,
never to tread again upon
the sacred ways, red 
as worn, sanctuary carpet
in the morning light.