Ten Years

Adam 2002

March 15th, 2004 will mark ten years since my son Adam’s death.

As I compose this blog post so many thoughts are in my head. His conception, my struggle with motherhood at 15 years old, learning that he was disabled, coming to a place of acceptance of that fact and becoming the mother he needed and that I needed to be to him up to the time of his death.

I am thinking about my mother and I going to Wal-Mart to pick out his burial clothes.  Towards the end of his life, maybe the last two years, he only wore hospital gowns. We had to guess at his size when picking the blue dress shirt and slacks. The clothes were too large and the mortuary staff pinned the clothes to fit his frail and unusually small body.

I have said this before, that writing has saved my life. But even more so, the people in my life have saved my life. My parents did not abandon me. They supported me through my pregnancy and saw me through college. They cared for Adam when I could not and that in itself is a miraculous thing.

Adam had many caregivers from the time of his birth and the four months in Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, through the years he lived at home with us and from the special human-angels on staff at Louisiana Special Education Center in Alexandria, Louisiana. I know that each and every human that came in contact with Adam was guided by the Divine to see his special and loving nature. Adam taught us more than we could have ever taught him. His disability brought us to understanding, humility and tenderness. We are better for having known him. I am better for having been touched by his gracious life.

Ten years of dedication to the Writing Life. Ten years from March 15th, 2004, the day Adam died. My husband and I were on our way to the hospital to attend to him when I got the call from Dr. Buck that Adam’s heart gave out during a procedure to place a medi-port in him to give him antivirals that were maybe going to save his life.

But we knew he was dying. Adam suffered the last several months of his life with pneumonia and septicemia. The last time I saw him he was surrounded by ice because his fever was 108 degrees and rising. My God! How did he live for as long as he did in that horrible state?  A few days after he died, I wrote the poem “Ice to Water.”  That poem was the most difficult thing to conjure, and was written through tears, but it saved me.

My being is attuned to love. Even when I am fighting I love my way through the pain. I have had to fight all of my life for self-love, for personal justice, and for reclamation. Ten years of writing and seeking mastery of myself through the work. Ten years of working through grief, working in grief—astounding and excruciating grief. I have gone so far on the path but I am still here mourning.

I was just lying in bed talking to my husband. We were talking about his work and my work. I have made very little money in all these years, but the small amount I have made has been spent on my family. We struggle but my poetry money has made a difference when we needed a tank of gas, a pizza, or a few groceries. As I was talking, my sorrow arose and I cried. Something new is causing me grief, a new disillusionment as I continue on the path.

I have put out so much energy to write, to get published, and to grow a career in a field that does not reward in the ways we recognize as success in this world. That didn’t really bother me all along. My perspective was that this is a holy vocation and I was honoring my gifts but somewhere along the way I got conned. I began thinking of commerce and exchange—what was I getting in return? This led to a deep sadness and more tears.

In this moment, as I reflect on the passing of my son, as I write about just a few details of his incredible life, I am brought back to the reason I committed myself so deeply to this path. Honor. I wanted to honor Adam’s memory, honor my gifts, and honor the people in my life. That I was able to succeed in gaining an audience was gratifying but the whole and holy purpose was, is and always will be for me is the “creative love” in the act of writing itself. I say creative love because my creativity/love is what brought me this far and I will not lose sight of it again.

There are many projects that I bring my energy to and I will continue to do so, but if these projects become grueling or dissatisfying, I will give them up. It is not a difficult thing for me to do at all. I am not paid for any of it, except the money I might receive from selling a book here and there. I am not concerned with a “career” because what is that? I am concerned with the creative act and the product, not so much my stature anymore. I am concerned with leaving a legacy of love, and my energies will be focused from this point forward on projects and people who are aligned with this mission.

Peace.

DANCE

The room is the brightest blue. She unzips her dress, slips it off her shoulders, steps out and carefully places it on the bed.  She positions the arms of the dress one up/one down. She imagines the empty dress spirited with life. (She imagines the room is not blue, but black with bare red bulbs in the ceiling fixture).  The room fills with music: woeful drumming and softly struck piano keys—only the sharp notes. She picks up the dress and sways with it. She puts her hands into the sleeves and wishes for a body to fill the velvet bodice and flowing skirt.  The light is dim but bright enough to see a thin layer of dust on the cluttered vanity, the scars in the sun-rotted curtains. Her miserable cat, Mr. Bellows, claws the bedpost. The telephone rings. She shakes off her dance and rushes to it. Hello?  It is not who she had hoped it would be. There is weeping on the other end then a resonant dial tone.

©2014 CLM

Need

I saw a photo. A man casually reclined at the prow of a small sailboat in a harbor on the Nile. The man’s easy-way was obvious. His contentment was too. His sins were not apparent. He looked uneven, as though one leg was longer than the other or that a shoulder was dislocated. But it was the slanting light of Egypt and he was in white; his shape almost blinding, like an apparition shimmering against the thin blue paint of the boat.

I saw in this photo the seventeen year old boy who took it all away from me.

After we smoked the joint, he begged to put it in. Just let me feel the softness, the wetness…
I pretended I was in another room, a room with no mirror to realize I was merely the highway he traveled. The half-forced insertion, the bit of blood—what was the spell he cast? It caused me to melt into him like softened wax.

I saw another photo. The man was with a woman. She was beautiful and the sunlight made her more so. They were at Stonehenge. The woman and the man wore colorful sweaters that seemed well-made and warm. They smiled brightly. I could only think: How thick are his memories and do they penetrate bone?

There was another photo from Istanbul, but I do not want to remember it.

I bore the death of a child. I bore the death of a child. How many years of have I lived in hope for the one day to execute my hate? But all the fires I set are doused and forgotten. My hate has worn to a pebble; I have thumbed it so much.

The light in this room is like tea or rust. The scent of patchouli and orange cloys. The man in the colorful sweater, smiling with all the energy of a sun, persists even with my eyes closed.

I step into the bath. Hot water reddens my skin. I mouth the word ‘release’ and cry without sound. I swallow the moon so it will never rise again.

CLM
1/23/14

Louisiana Aesthetic (Reggie Michael Rodrigue) has kindly published a poem I wrote after the Acadiana Wordlab session he led. Thank you, Reggie for your magnanimous words.

louisianaesthetic

LUBA ZYGAREWICZ Petrified Time 12 Years of My Life Folded and Neatly Stacked

LUBA ZYGAREWICZ, “Petrified Time: 12 Years of My Life, Folded and Neatly Stacked,” sculpture/stacked dryer lint, tags and rope

Last month I hosted a meeting of the Acadiana Wordlab thanks to the graciousness of the lab’s founder Jonathan Penton who also publishes the literary journal “Unlikely Stories.” During the lab, I exposed the attendants to a wide variety of my favorite contemporary works by artists from Louisiana and discussed the merits and relevance of them and their works.

It was great pleasure, and I personally got a lot out of the lab due to the quality and variety of ekphrastic responses I received from the attendants. If you’re wondering what an ekphrastic response is, you’re not alone. I had no idea what one was until I hosted the lab.  Once I found out what one is, I felt a little stupid. It’s what I do here all the time –…

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Summer Day, 1984

fishframe

I am pregnant; fifteen years old. I am fishing with my father. The bayou is a darkened mirror. Father stands in the slow-dancing boat and draws back effortlessly to cast the line. Water silvers; streams like snakes. There are snakes, too, black ones that appear plastic and fluid: shadows of water.  There is a faint stream of motor oil—a finger-trace in the water which rings a floating Budweiser can. Cattle egrets in breeding plumage float above the bank. Father pulls in a sun perch. Its iridescent tail fans the light. We cast again, again in silence.

After my son was born my daddy told me he made a wish for me as he rolled his wrist to reach the spot where the mysteries of fish exist:

To not regret, to hold to the promises I make.

Friendship

I was waiting for a friend in a sweet café.  I fidgeted with my phone, fluffed my hair and closed my eyes to the sun that flitted in mirrored windows of passing cars. Then she arrived and we ordered tea. We talked for an hour before what was on my heart arose. We sat with a white rose between us and I cried. I cried for the first time in years. My heart was so obvious and tender. My heart was spilling out of me. This sounds cliché but it is true. My old woman heart, bare and tender flourished in the café, undone by sunlight, compassionate friendship and a lovely tea.

The monsters of a thousand years tried to demolish me. I was left in want. I was desolate and afraid. A wonder of friendship came into my life, and I have relinquished myself to it.

I will never let love go, even if I am discarded. I will keep holding fast. I will keep seeking the beautiful and exquisite selves of caring humans. There is nothing that would turn me away.

Only love banishes fear; the fears this precious life has summoned.

Wings

Image

I want my ashes spread at Cypremort Point, Louisiana. To me it is a place that I have loved visiting all of my life. I continue to make memories there with my family.

As a child, my imagination was continually sparked by my mother’s nature-games, spotting hawks, Kingfishers, cranes, and other birds who inhabit the area and also her fun stories about Bear Country, a sloping area near the Weeks Island turnoff.  When we drove through Bear Country to get to the point, my mother’s voice would always drop a bit in tone and volume and she would tell us to be on the lookout for bears. As an adult, I finally saw a Louisiana Black Bear there and my mother’s evocative tales all became so wonderfully real again.

We had the use of a camp on the point for many years when I was very little until I was maybe ten years old. We would stay weekends out there with family. We would fish, crab, play in the water at the beach and then pack up at the end of that seemingly endless time and go home. I always liked Cypremort Point better than home. I do not remember much of the home on Sixth Street I began life in, but I vividly remember Cypremort Point.

Once I was allowed to steer the boat out in Vermilion Bay. I turned the wheel hard left and we circled dangerously. Once my father “caught” an alligator on his fishing line at Marsh Island and I shrieked in fear that the alligator was going to “get me” as he reeled it closer to the boat. There was an illusive, enormous sheep’s head fish that all of us tried to catch. It lurked under the wharf and we would see it swim slowly in and out of sunlight. There was a day when the sun was full and high that I saw a thunderous strongman lift a sea turtle over his head on a shrimp boat. I was stunned by the exotic creature and the strange man who seemed to appear from a Sinbad the Sailor movie.

This brings to mind the dead winged monkey that I saw in a pile of shucked crab shells.  It was stinking and scary. I saw the wings. My brother didn’t. Its dank and wet hide was encircled by flies.  I looked closely for evidence of breath but there was none. It was my first up close experience with death.

I held onto that memory for years, the wonder of it and the improbability. I protected my illusions. I saw a winged monkey like in the Sinbad movies, like in The Wizard of Oz. These creatures were real even though the one I saw was dead, rotting, and half-buried under red-boiled blue point crab shells.

It was more real than anything.

I have told this story to only the closest of friends, or after a long drunk.  It didn’t do much to jeopardize my reputation because my reputation has always been at risk. Saturday at Acadiana Wordlab, I wrote about the dead winged monkey and we all laughed. The truth perhaps spilled out that I had imagined it, that likely the monkey was a pet on a shrimp boat, not Sinbad’s ship, and the pet monkey had died and was discarded.

But I really want to believe, to hold fast to the magic of its existence; the idea that we do not know all that we think we do. I want to believe in the strange and unfamiliar, the existence of secret things of this world. How would you know that this creature does not exist? Our knowledge is fallible, limited. You may say I am a silly woman, and I am. I am in my heart still that silly, shocked and awed girl; a child of wonder. And I reside in that one, and perhaps many other, glorious illusions.