Accidents (keep) Happen(ing)

I still haven’t been writing.

Last week, on their way to the post-concussion-you-can-go-back-to-school follow up with the pediatrician, my daughter crashed the car. She hydroplaned and hit a guard rail. Thankfully, they were fine. (The car, not so much.) And me? Well, I’ve been a wreck.

Oddly, I didn’t turn to writing to help process it. (I turned to sugar to avoid processing it. That’s a different problem.) In the past, my notebooks have been my best friends. I’ve used writing to express and explore all those messy feelings that swirl around when life gets crazy.

Not this time.

No journalling, no poems, no blog posts. No words. I’m out of words for all of it. I don’t want to explore how I feel about life right now. I don’t want to think too deeply about anything at all.

In other news, today is the sixth anniversary of my mother’s death. So there’s that.

At some point, this dam is going to break, isn’t it? All of these feelings will rush out at once, maybe as poems, maybe not. I think I’m more afraid that it won’t. The dam will hold, and I’ll stay like this forever, numb to everything, with no words. No more words. Just waiting for the next accident, and the next.

A total wreck.

Hold Hands, and Look Both Ways

I haven’t been writing; I’ve been worrying. Last weekend, my granddaughter, love of my life, got hit by a car. She’s okay. Bruised, badly scraped, concussed, but okay. She’s tired already of all the fuss that comes with, you know, being HIT BY A CAR. She’s okay. I, on the other hand, have been worrying.

For the first few days, my brain was stuck in a loop repeating variations of “she got hit by a car.” Nonstop. This couldn’t have happened. Couldn’t be real. It didn’t matter that she had been discharged from the ER the same night. I imagined the impact, the fear, the landing. Hit by a car. Over and over.

Yes, it could have been worse. For many families, it is. I know that. And that knowing made me doubt the validity of my own panic, the shock of it all, the urge to do something to protect her. She was FINE, she insisted when we talked. But she wasn’t. Her injuries weren’t major, but she was far from fine. Indignant, yes. Fine, no. She had been hit. By a car.

And I wasn’t there when it happened. I couldn’t protect her. Couldn’t ride with her in the scary ambulance. Couldn’t hold her hand or sit by her bed. I was home, bombarding my poor daughter with texts demanding more information than she had. Waiting to find out whether she had major injuries this child who has spent far too much of her life in hospitals. (I had written “already fragile child” and deleted it. She’s not fragile. She’s medically complex. She’s at risk. But she’s strong and resilient and feisty and fierce. She heals, and she grows, and she surprises us daily. She’s not fragile.)

Neither of us had been there when it happened. She got the call, the one you get in nightmares, the one summoning you to the ER as fast as you can get there. She told me later that her partner drove while she freaked out. At that point they didn’t know the extent of the injuries or what news would be waiting for them at the hospital. She had been HIT by a CAR.

I’ve wondered from time to time how I would react in a crisis like this. When I got the text from my daughter saying they were in the ER, I wasn’t fazed. We’ve been in the ER with this child so many times. But it was the next line, the second sentence, that changed the story. Hit by a car. I gasped. Out loud. I’ve never done that involuntarily. I surprised myself, because it was so loud. As I gasped I felt my heart stop, just for a moment, before it started to pound faster than ever. And my hands started to shake. I needed to do something! I pounded the keys as I texted back, asking for details. Text after text.

I wanted to call someone. I needed to tell someone. My husband was at work, but he picked up right away. Then I called my sister and told her. Not just to fill them in, but to calm myself down. I needed to take action of any kind. It worked for a moment, but not long. I asked my daughter to send me a picture of our girl, who was now resting in a bed under observation. Seeing her was crucial. She wasn’t a pancake. She wasn’t bleeding. She looked grumpy and sleepy and sore. But fine.

Later she called me from the hospital to chat. She was still disoriented and had concocted an elaborate story to explain the accident she didn’t remember. She sounded like she always does, and I finally was able to breathe normally.

“Why are you all worrying so much about me?”
(Oh, I don’t know, maybe because you just got HIT BY A CAR.)

“It’s what I do,” I reminded her. “I worry about my baby.”

“I’m not your baby.”

“You’re my baby’s baby. That makes you my baby too. That’s how nanas work.”

“I’m FINE.”

Okay, kiddo. But I’m not. I want to scoop you up and take you home with me, wrap you in blankets, pad you with pillows, and never let you out of my sight. But I’ll keep all of that to myself, and I’ll stay back here where nanas and papas watch from the edges of their children’s lives. Part of the action, sometimes, but not in charge. Letting your lives unfold the way they’re meant to without major interference.

You’ll know I’m worried now and then, but never how much. You’ll see just enough to make you say, “Oh, Nana!” in that exasperated tone you use with me. And maybe someday, when you’ve got littles of your own to worry about, you’ll understand that it wasn’t that YOU got hit by a car, but that WE got hit by a car. We got hit by a car. That’s how this works.

No One Hears Me

KITCHEN DRUMMER

some play with finesse
pulling rhythms from clouds
brushing feathers across
tight skins that sing
subtle songs percussed

and others strike fiercely
with strong sticks
or bleeding hands
daring us to dance
to their complicated
syncopations

I pull out my pots and pans
from the cabinet underneath
the kitchen counter
where my coffee pot claims
the best seat

and I bang on the lids
and twirl my wooden spoon
beating out the rhythms
of my own life in songs
my concert for one

Our Lights Blind Us

BRING BACK THE STARS

bring back the stars
shroud the frantic lights
fighting the night
i need the stars
to feel my smallness
in the vastness of space
bring back the stars
reset humanity
remind us who dare believe
we are creators of light
that there is more
and more beyond that
beyond our speck
in the void we are small
and insignificant
bring back the stars

Just Another Day

Today is the day I’m supposed to jump back into writing with fresh ideas and an abundance of enthusiasm. I’ve been making excuses all summer, but summer is done now. My granddaughter has gone home, my husband has gone back to work. I’m alone in a quiet house. So what’s my problem?

The honest answer answer is that I really don’t have a problem. I’m just tired and undisciplined and too eager to create problems where none exist so I have something to blame when I’m feeling bad about my feeble output. I could sit down and edit the poems I’ve written this summer, do some cleanup on them, work at them. I could jot down ideas I’ve had for stories (not true—I don’t have ideas for stories, I have characters and snippets of dialogue, vague scenes, no real ideas). I could print out my blog pages so I have a hard copy of what I’ve written over the past year and a half. I could read. In other words, I could work at being a writer and do writerly tasks.

Why don’t I? Because I still don’t think of myself as a writer. I don’t take my writer-self seriously, even though I love writing (and reading, and reading about writing, and talking about reading about writing). I still keep that part of myself tucked away, hidden from the rest of my life.

I have a list of life-improvements I’m wanting to make this fall. I’ve been holding off, delaying any changes until after Labor Day. Until now, today. Integrating my writing-self with my self-self is one of those changes. But I didn’t wake up this morning clear-headed and eager to get started. I didn’t exercise or eat a healthy breakfast. I didn’t meditate. I didn’t set up my computer at the desk in the spare bedroom or arrange my favorite writing books within reach on the bookcase. I didn’t prepare myself mentally before bed last night to do any of those things.

I woke feeling groggy still after a long, busy weekend. I shuffled to the kitchen and made a cup of weak coffee. I watered the flower baskets by the front porch even though it’s raining lightly, because they’ve been stressed by the drought and needed a good soaking. I sat in the recliner with my laptop and checked my email and stared at a blank page in my Poems in Progress file. And I almost quit without writing a word. But I didn’t. I wrote this, whatever it is. Just another day, another trivial thought. Still, I wrote.

Enough Is

ENOUGH

how do i do this
one more day
the cat is yelling
this isn’t enough
the page is yelling
this isn’t enough
the dust is yelling
this isn’t enough
and all i hear is
you aren’t enough

how do i do this
one more day
i feed the cat
i fill the page
i fight the dust
my mind is yelling
this isn’t enough
and all i hear is
i’m not enough

but i am not this