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

How wise


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


Paul 1 Cotton Wool copy

Rosalie Paul, Cotton Wool, pastel on paper, 24 x 18 in. (photo: Dennis Griggs).


Cotton Wool


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.


Paul 2 Marsh Doorway copy

Rosalie Paul, Marsh Doorway, pastel on paper, 14 x 11 in. (photo: Dennis Griggs).


Marsh Doorway


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.


Paul 3 Ribs copy

Rosalie Paul, Ribs, pastel on paper, 24 x 18 in. (photo: Dennis Griggs).




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.


Paul 4 Into NE Skycopy

Rosalie Paul, Into the North-East Sky, oil pastel on paper, 3 x 3 in. (photo: Dennis Griggs).



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.