Damage

Hail pummeling, dark

windshield unshielding

now quarter-sized, 

maybe golf ball—

weakened wipers fighting,

soul-strike after soul-strike

like gunshots 

to the spine.

A different person, 

another kind of woman

might’ve slowed, 

quickly sought cover—

an overpass maybe

or fought for space 

at the Buc-cees 

diesel pumps.

But she drove unphased 

by the ensuing cracks, 

accelerated even—

toward the falling 

pieces of storm, 

knowing the damage 

will be striking

in the light.


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Notes for the Skilled Nursing Facility

My mom is gone now.  But I wrote this poem anyway. It got a little dark.

—————-

Notes for the Skilled Nursing Facility

 

Her name is Diana Sue Harris, but please.

Don’t call her that.

She goes by Sue.

 

If there’s an issue, call her middle daughter

who will drop everything

and hold the hurt inside for years.

 

She loves Dr. Pepper, all day long. It never seems to elevate her sugar levels,

so give it a go.

If you tell her to drink water instead,

she might call you a bitch.

 

Dark chocolate makes her happy, with a nice cold glass of milk.

Whole. Not skim.

She doesn’t watch her figure anymore.

 

She can’t drink beer in here, I know.

So substitute with donuts, which can lift her spirits as

much as a couple of Michelob Lights

on a good day.

 

Can she have cheese? Block not sliced?

Burgers?

Barbecue?

 

Can her senses still be filled with the mesquite smoke of tender Texas brisket, or grease from the Angus chuck dripping down her hands, or the tang of sharp cheddar on her tongue?

 

Don’t answer that. I don’t want to know.

 

If she’s sad, you can put on some George Strait or Elvis

and she’ll move her hips and hands and remember her lovers,

the dancehalls, the days of being light and desired

and full of magic.

 

Can she go outside here? Can someone lightly touch her elbow

and help her to a spot in the sun?

 

Is there a way for her to still feel a breeze lifting her silver hair,

Bake-clay warmth on her face?

 

Will someone make sure she can see the determination of lacy dandelions,

the hope in blades of Christmas green grass?

 

Her “baby” is Dolly, by the way. She’s a shaggy dog. She’ll ask for her.

Here’s what to do: Tell her she’s safe. And loved. And that taking that dog away from her was one of the hardest things her middle daughter’s ever done.

 

The TV. Yes, sitcoms help. Try Golden Girls.

Laugh tracks distract from not knowing who you are.

Try it for yourself.

 

Her husband of 52 years was Herman. He loved her. She loved him most of the time. She’ll ask for him, and wonder where he is. I need my husband, she’ll say. Don’t tell her he died three years ago. Tell her he’ll be there soon.

 

I guess she can’t go clothes shopping anymore. Just in case, Bealls has a good clearance rack this time of year.

 

Dislikes? Well, hot peppers. The sting of shower water on bare skin. Bras (who cares anyway?) Loud voices. Being touched without her permission.

 

If you can, ask her about her chili. Chicken-fried steak.

Her music store. Her life.

Not now, but before.

 

She takes her meds with pudding or yogurt.

Everything seems to go down better with sugar

these days.

 

Do not make her lie down flat in the twin bed in the corner

with the thin, rubber-covered mattress.

Lowering her head makes her afraid.

Like falling backwards, over, in a rocking chair.

Like something you least expected

And can’t control.

 

She can’t use a fork or spoon anymore.

Let her eat with her fingers. Let her snack. Let her cry. Let her dance.

 

Let her do whatever the hell she wants.

 

Take your $200 a day and leave as few bruises as possible.

Cover scratches with gauze and tape and try not to tear her tissue-thin skin.

 

If she doesn’t want to move, don’t make her. If she says no, listen to her.

 

Try to remember there’s a human in there. Who loved her family. Her animals. Food. Music.

 

Who was smarter than you may be right now.

 

Try to remember the need for dignity remains.

Even if she can’t speak that word anymore.

 

Tell her she’s beautiful.

 

Before you break her spirit,

and she decides living isn’t worth the cost.


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Getting past grief …

Grief Poem #129

by Kathy Lynn Harris, copyright 2017

 

I saw an older man today

in the January-crisp morning light

walking a fence line—

faded ball cap down, blue flannel shirt,

shoulders hunched against the wind,

breath like smoke

from one of your old Marlboros.

 

And there it is again, that abrupt

catch of throat-breath,

quick-snag of heart.

 

As if I’m 14 and arm-crawling

under a sagging barbed wire fence—

dead weeds in my face,

 

following you into the

next section

of winter-brown pasture.

 

Moving as fast as I can;

trying to prove I’m good

at this sort of thing,

 

thinking I’m in the clear.

 

Then a razor-sharp

rusty prick

hits

 

and the back of my shirt rips

and maybe my right shoulder bleeds

and I realize I had misjudged

time and space …

 

And that I wasn’t past

the worst of it

 

at all.

 

 


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New poem for #WorldPoetryDay

World Poetry Day

Breaking

I can count my broken bones

like milestones

like clean breaks

like short stories

maybe Lorrie Moore’s—

funny

but also kind of sad.

 

First-grade nightmares and hardwood floors

driveway basketball with two bare feet

recklessness and dank river air

missteps on a solo mountain hike

impatience in a Target parking lot.

 

But my heart?

You can’t really count

the fragile

hairline

fractures

on a fault line—

eventually spreading

 

like what happens

from the weight of beating

monsoon rains

on long-weathered wood,

rotting, wearing down

strength.

 

moments after days

after weeks after years

 

chipping love and naivety

into what must resemble

rubicund ceramic shards

scattered on an unswept,

linoleum kitchen floor

 

too many unkind boys

and unkind girls,

playground pranks,

and no way to measure

root-scraping betrayal

in familiar trees

or insecure men and unsuccessful lies

or the gradual creep

of a mind-tangled disease

or conversations I’ll never unhear.

 

My bones healed, I suppose

some smoother

and stouter than others,

some reminding me

on the last mile of a long day

that healing takes a long time.

 

But my heart?

It just figures …

that’s the way things are now.

 

 


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New Poetry: A Different Seed

texas-bluebonnets-081

 Photo by Texas Parks & Wildlife

So … I’m knee-deep in poetry right now, still.  And I feel almost guilty. I have so many people waiting on my next novel, but I’ve set it aside (again). I’m drawn to poetry and I’m gonna ride this pony til she stops.

Here’s one of my latest that I worked on in a recent Lighthouse Writers workshop. I can’t seem to get the line spacing right on this blog, but it’s close.

Let me know what you think. Thanks for reading!

 

A Different Seed

I was born in fields of bluebonnets,

ink-well-sapphire             dense petals spiked in sun-blind white

short-lived in the Texas spring —

each dew-soaked stem

flattened just yesterday

by the sharp nose of the coyote

the hoof-step of the Hereford

hiding the hiss and slither of the rattler —

always bouncing back

seemingly singular,

good for early-morning picking

before the heat sets in.

 

Yet by high noon

it’s never easy

to detach a wilted loner

from the rest      held together by a nest of roots

entrenched in the holy dirt

of Saint Sam Houston

el malvado Santa Anna

battle-blood of the Alamo

sweet bread of the German siedler

rusted barbed-wire of fences

oily cotton boll of the farmer

weather-worn skull of a fire-ant-stricken calf

my grandfather would’ve tried to save.

 

And even though Lady Bird’s highways are lined with them —

musky-sweet flowers,

family ties,

good intentions —

 

not every seed will grow

where planted.

 

Is it easily spread on the wind?

Can it tolerate full sun?

 

And what happens

when

the parched and crisp soil

becomes suddenly drenched,

clay-like —

unable to breathe?


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New Poem: Invincible Ignorance

I I’ve been dabbling in poetry lately. While several of my poems have been published through the years, and one even placed in a literary contest here in Colorado, I don’t consider myself a poet, really. I’ve not studied the genre like I have fiction and creative nonfiction. But something about it has been calling me. I think I like that I can play around with language and punctuation and flow and metaphor in ways that you just can’t with other types of writing. And I can swoop in and out of thoughts and imagery on the page.

Here’s one of my latest poems, dedicated to Mom and Dad’s daily challenges as they work through their early 70s.

Invincible Ignorance

Her hair dark, shining, beyond her shoulders

thick as three horses’ manes

legs perpetually tanned

sure-footed

in the garden

on the sawdust dance floor

carrying her sharp-tongued wit

wherever it wished to go,

taking her children along

for the bright lights of

the Ferris wheel ride.

 

His hands rough,

capable

of moving livestock

and minds,

holding dogs

and the dreams of little girls;

his shoulders, those shoulders

carrying us

and keeping all things steady,

the shelter of reason

the home of

it’s all going to be okay.

 

But now

her hair,

turning a corner

to spun silver —

where there is no planting

on uneven ground,

and the fair

with its lights spinning

at the pink of dusk

is likely

leaving town.

 

And his hands,

those shoulders,

they’ve turned on him

with knots like centuries-old

live oak branches,

creaking in a South Texas

night wind,

and swollen joints

no amount of tools

from his truck

can fix.

 

Uncertainty creeps in

like a rattlesnake

slipping

through tall dry weeds

for a strike.

 

pain overtakes

the laughter

 

meds don’t mix

with beer

 

mornings

are a crap shoot

 

and

reaching for anything

is just too much.

 

Me? I can’t, won’t

wrap my head

around the present

or how it fits with the past

or how it shapes the future.

 

Yet I do know

invincible natures

live longer

than those

who are not

 

bone and muscle

are a fallible

source of direction,

salvation

 

and, mostly,

ignorance remains

a nice place to visit.

 

After all

their truth

is not my truth

 

and the state of

all matter

is relative

anyway.

 

 


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