Herbie beloved child mostly invisible no longer 15
Looks to me just as he did
Blonde, healthy, handsome, mischievous and
Had he lived soon would have a 60th birthday
Magically, mysteriously stepped into this room where I’m dreaming
Wanting to ask how I’ve managed since his death. Listen . . .
. . . You know how I’ve missed you all this long time
You know I have everything I need I told you in other dreams
Now there is something else I need to understand
How have you endured all the years I left you to face alone
Thank you love it’s good you need to ask
I’ll try for a helpful reply
Shall I jump right in not celebrating these moments being together
Stay awhile and breathe with me
These dreams are so brief.
Your question isn’t a simple one though
There may be some words that speak to the heart of it
Finding you dead struck me down
Knee shaking frightened by the several months taking us to that morning
Now I was frozen in place flattened by horror and the guilt grew and grew
All my responses went zooming to an inner box that locked me uptight to stay safe
Wrapped me in cotton wool for a very long time
Right away I depended on writing to push feelings out
Words helped me hide from what I couldn’t bear acknowledging much less taste
And dreams would come
Letting me to see how fragile I was
Sometimes images found me and fell onto the page
Revealing satisfying metaphors
Helping me dig to where feelings waited
Often drawings held your spirit in the shape of a small yellow bird
Following me in my searching surprised me
All of it surprised me
Daring shapes and colors emerged from deep places
Hidden places that held a kind of truth and
Though the sharp taste of feeling was just within reach
I wasn’t ready to embrace it
I still am not
When I put it all together words dreams poems images
I was satisfied in a way not whole but satisfied
Building something out of solitary years to make you glad
And finding beauty in the power of our story
Those were my goals
That’s what I needed to make the learning visible tangible
Now the story can rest in tenderness
Now shall we breathe together awhile
The wall I built on the day of your Memorial
Gradually became an airbag
Not so fully inflated as to have the potential for bursting
A soft squashy bag with a very slow leak
Lately, the bag has become layers of cotton wool
I’m safely wrapped, safe from knocks and bumps
Safe from being confronted by images and memories
Too painful to encounter head-on.
Today I’m setting up a drawing of a stormy, heavy Little River Marsh
Pierced by a doorway into bright sunlight.
It reminds me of opening into buoyancy and resilience
Till I notice that the clouds reflected in the water are from the stormy sky.
I try to dig deep to where the feelings are
But find only bones in the dark.
The light of your spirit accompanies me partway down.
I lose heart and daring.
Into the North-East Sky
From where comes that push
When leaf buds emerge as fat silhouettes against the sky
Then magically turn to lace?
I’d draw it the same way I’ve drawn your push toward peace
That stepping off into the noose that energetic daring, giving up giving in
One is to deny life’s force the other to accept its inevitability.
One is a push from despair into peaceful oblivion the other a push from fullness into joy.
Two kinds of release from tension.
A memoir titled Shapes and Shadows is available at Gulf of Maine Books.
Image at top: Photo of the artist.