GloPoWriMo – Song 2

How to Harvest Ancestor Silk

To harvest ancestor silk
you must first find it,

Growing on dried weeds in
meadow and barrow.

Use your sharp eye to
find the place where
spiders have spun
the silk that spans
the gap between
branch and flower,
stem and seed.

Keep your mind sharp.
Stay focused.
Do not pause to wonder
why it is called
ancestor silk
nor how gossamer
can become

Catch your mind
before it meanders
back to your
ancestors, grandparents
to your grandparents,
parents of those you try
not to remember–
not to forget.

Pull your thoughts
back from the gap
between stem and seed
for your eyes must
be clear to find

Ancestor silk.

You cannot see it
through your tears.

Daily prompt: “write poems that provide the reader with instructions on how to do something,” from Na/GloPoWriMo.

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NaPoWriMo 2019

Puppy Love 17


Lucas had something I never had. He had brothers.

Gunther called, and for a moment, Lucas’s black mood lifted.

“It’s good to hear your voice, brother,” he said. “I’ve got sad news, and I’ve been wanting to talk to you?”


“It’s Otter,” he said, his voice catching. “No, not sick. Worse? Like the worst.”


They talked for a while. Lucas’s voice gained some strength as they shared memories of the very good cat, but when the call ended, he lifted his head and howled, more mournful than I’ve heard any of the pups howl, ever.


I did my best to help out. There was always so much that needed to be done, and Lucas was hardly in any shape to resume his typical chipper attitude towards the housekeeping tasks.


He thanked me. Even broken-hearted, this boy’s polite.

“It’s all right, Lukie!” I replied. “You eat! Leave the rest to me!”


I looked into the household financial records. The saving were slowly chipping away. The amount Lucas’s mediocre paintings brought couldn’t cover the bills. There was enough for the near future, but I was thinking of the long run.

I could help with that, too, I realized, opening a Word Doc and beginning to type. “Six Pups and a Cat,” I wrote, “by Lucas Munch.”

I knew I made a great ghost writer, and I had hopes that, with any luck, this book would be a best-seller. Its profits would funnel back into the household account.


My writing was interrupted by happy barking. Out back, Chloe and Dustin played pounce.


I’ll pounce you! Chloe barked.


Not if I pounce you first! yapped Dustin.


You’re cute when you’re pouncing! Chloe said.

Oh, no, you don’t! barked Dustin. You’re not going to distract me with flattery!


My heart jumped a happy skip. Would these two become mates?

But when the game ended, they sat, back to back, looking into the darkness.


Poor Dustin! Otter was such a good friend to him.

“It’s OK, White Lightning,” I said. “You’ll get your spark back again.”

He only whimpered in reply.


Dustin took the slow march to the line of graves, and Chloe followed. They cocked their heads, as if they were counting each and every headstone.

“There you are, you two!” said Lucas. “I’ve been looking for you.”

Dustin raised his head, his white tail wagging.

“You know?” said Lucas. “One thing makes it easier? It’s friends. Friends and family? You and Chloe, you’re friends already, but if you wanted, you could become family. Do you think you would like that?”

Dustin wagged his tail harder.


“Gunther told me you could use a hug.” It was Wolfgang, who wrapped his brother in his arms and squeezed. “You’ll be OK, little brother.”

“I know,” replied Lucas. “I’ve got you?”


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Shift 43: Keeping On


I went back to school. I picked up training again. Sometimes, I felt better, but often I didn’t.

Aadhya said grief isn’t over just like that. You don’t just have a good cry and move on. It lingers.

I told her they’d all died a long time ago, even Scott, though I just found out about it. She said it didn’t matter. Grief’s a process, not a moment.

“And sometimes, it’s not even a process,” she said. “Sometimes, it simply is.”

“Like it becomes part of me?” I asked.


“You mean I’ll always feel like this?”

“No,” she said. “But you may always have a corner in you where it resides. Or maybe not. But either way, best not to try to rush it. Just let it be.”


I hated feeling that way.


Aadhya said, “You are safe to feel now. For a long time, you weren’t, and you had to keep up your tough exterior. But you’re safe now. And there’s no rush. You can simply feel exactly as you feel.”

It seemed easy for her to say that. What bad feelings did she have inside? It wasn’t fun to feel sad all the time. It hurt.

I started having dreams while I slept. Or maybe they were nightmares. Nadja said I still cried in my sleep some nights.


The dream could go any way, but it always wrapped around the same ending. I’m alone. Everyone’s gone. I’m in a forest, and I see trees all around me, only it’s not like a real forest where I feel the trees are alive. It’s like a paper forest, and they are cut-outs that have no life, only obstacle, and I’m alone in the center, looking for a way out.


The dream can start anywhere: a market, a school, a park, a movie theater. It always ends in the cut-out forest, with me alone.


During the days, I started upping my workouts. I still trained with Tracy, so I could work out smart and not over-train. But I put everything into it I could.

The only way I knew how to deal with this dream and with the feelings that lingered was to put everything I could into the workout. Then, sometimes, the sadness turned to anger, and I got a relief, at least, from feeling sad.


I still kept meeting with Aadhya. It was like everybody wanted to talk to me: Aadhya, Clara Bjergsen, Nancy Landgraab, and my trainer Tracy.

I got tired of talking.

I’d talk with Aadhya, because I felt like she had a radar on me. She knew what was going on and what I needed to say. I trusted her to look into that cut-out forest and help me find a way out.

But whenever I saw Clara or Nancy coming my way, I quickly went someplace else or started doing something else. I recruited Marquis to be my decoy.

When Clara came my way, if Marquis was around, I’d whistle, and he’d intercept her and start asking her all these questions about the SAT or college applications. She couldn’t resist. When Nancy started zooming in, he’d pull out a volume of Walden or the I Ching. She was a sucker for that. They’d sit down and study some passage, and I’d be free to be alone with my thoughts and feelings.

I didn’t mind talking to Tracy. She never pried. She always had a way of making me feel like I was sitting down to a meal of comfort food, even when I was doing fast reps on the machine.

“You can trust your body, sweet-heart,” Tracy said. “You can stretch it now. You just keep on keeping on, keep working out. You’ll get there. You’re young. You’re strong.”

I started to feel confident when she talked like that. When I remembered Aadhya saying “Just let it be,” and then I remembered Tracy saying, “You’ll get there. You’re strong,” I started to believe them. I started to think, maybe there’s a path through that cut-out forest.


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Shift 42: Passing


Nadja told me I was crying in my sleep. I don’t recall. I just know I felt so heavy that it was hard to get out of bed.

Everything was going so well. Tracy said it looked like I’d be ready to run track this spring. My grades were all A’s and my test scores were high, so it looked like I’d get academic scholarships, too. I was feeling like everything was working out.

And then, the world came crashing down, and now, I’m not sure how to get through this.

Mary, one of the YOTO volunteers, collapsed at YOTO. She was dead by the time the paramedics arrived.


I didn’t know her that well, so it’s not like there’s a hole in my heart where she used to be.

And she was old and had lived a good life. They say it was an aneurism. Seeing the paramedics wheel her out triggered something in me. I reacted as if it were someone I knew and loved.


I felt angry, too. Why was she working here, if she wasn’t well? Why did this have to happen on Aadhya’s day off? If Aadhya were here, she’d know something were wrong, and she’d have had Mary sit down and take it easy. We’re supposed to be safe here. It’s not a place for old people. It’s not a place where people are supposed to die.


I realized none of my thoughts mattered. My response wasn’t rational: I knew this. It didn’t make it hurt less.


Darling didn’t help. When I told her at school in the locker room, she got all upset, too.

“Mary died?” Darling said. “She died? I knew her! She was my neighbor! Oh, God! She was the first person to give me a job, watering her plants when she on vacation. How can she be dead? You were there. Why didn’t you do something?”

I didn’t feel better.


I had a hard time keeping up my training. My restrictions had been lifted, so I was free to train as much as I wanted, within reason.

But it was hard to even finish my morning runs. I came back early. Everything ached.


Working out wasn’t any better. In between sets, if I could even finish them, I ended up breaking down.


Aadhya told me to take a break from everything: school, working out, everything. Not for long, just for as long as I needed.

“What if what I need turns out to be a long time?” I asked her.

“It won’t be,” she said.

“How do you know?”

“Because I’ll be right here.”

So, I took a week off of school.

During the days, when the other kids were at school, Aadhya and I talked, and then I slept until they got home.


During one of our talks, Aadhya asked me, “How many people have you lost?”

“I didn’t lose Mary,” I answered. “She didn’t belong to me.”

“That’s not what I’m asking,” Aadhya said. “I have a feeling this doesn’t have to do with Mary.”

In her silence, I thought of Scott. I was still glad he was out of the picture. I wish I could have been strong when he was around, so I knew I could protect myself.

“I lost my uncle,” I said.

She kept silent. I thought of Gran. Once the EMTs came, I never got to talk to her again. She collapsed, and she was gone. I was alone.

“Gran,” I said. “I never had a chance to say goodbye to her.”

Aadhya looked at me in silence.

My mom and dad drove off, and I stood with Gran and waved to them. I was glad to see them go, because a weekend with Gran meant reading and climbing trees and drinking tea and staying up late to watch movies, cuddled under the log cabin quilts.

“They never came back,” I whispered.

Aadhya held me while I sobbed. I was so alone. All my family, gone.

“I never said goodbye. Not to any of them. There’s so much I never said.”

Aadhya held me. When I looked at her, her eyes were moist and ringed in red.

I held her shoulders and looked into her eyes. “Aadhya. I love you,” I felt fierce. I grasped her shoulders and I spoke really fast, like the words were racing to get out. “You have been a mentor and more to me, and to all the kids here. You’re like a grandma, only more. If I never say it, you’ll never know it. I love you. Thank you.”

She held me. We wept together. And then I went upstairs to sleep.


I still felt sad when I woke late in the afternoon. But I got up anyway. I could hear the kids coming back from school.


I got dressed. I dished up leftovers for myself. I thought maybe I could eat. Aadhya came into the kitchen.

“The volunteer who’s on duty tonight, Nancy, she just found out about Mary,” Aadhya said. “She’s very upset. Do you think you could talk with her?”

“I don’t know what I could say,” I said.

“Sometimes, you don’t have to say anything. Just being there, being present and listening, can be enough.”

Nancy joined me at the table. She started talking before I could say anything. She rambled on about all these esoteric things. She talked about spirit and essence and nothing ever being really lost. I think she thought she was comforting me. The thought made me smile, in spite of myself.

“Thank you, Nancy,” I said.

“Oh, it’s nothing,” she said. I could see she was still upset, so I sat there, in silence. It wasn’t nothing, and I wasn’t alone.

“Pain doesn’t have to separate us from everybody,” I said to Nancy. “Sometimes, it can draw us together.”

I was still sad, and I could see that Nancy was, too, but I could smile through the sadness, a real smile that reached out to the person across from me.


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Whisper 2.02

Dear Mom,

Riley had another melt-down. She said it’s ’cause you won’t see her graduate.

We got a call from the school, saying that she was going to be allowed to walk in the ceremony, and she’ll even receive a diploma, with full credit. I don’t really understand this, but I didn’t argue.


The graduation ceremony was in the afternoon. While I talked with Riley, trying to get her to calm down, Patches and Bo played.

Patches told me she’s practicing with Lamber, so that when she finally holds Roxey, she’ll know how and won’t get scratched.


Heading to the graduation ceremony felt bittersweet. Mom, I agree with Riley–we both wish you could see her receive her diploma.


“Will you be here when I graduate?” Patches asked me.

“Of course, Patches,” I said. “I’m not going anywhere.”

“What about college?” she asked.

“Oh, we’ll talk about that later.”


Riley, sitting in the cab waiting for us, looked so sad.  When I slid into the seat next to her, I whispered that this was supposed to be a happy occasion.

“I’m just praying to get through it,” she replied.


She did get through it. When we looked at her diploma, we saw that she’s graduating with honors. Mom, she’s so smart! Her classmates voted her, “Most likely to stay home.” She laughed. “This is so me!” she said. “That’s all I ever want to do!”

When we got home, we discovered Zoey and Roxey playing in the living room.


We all stood and watched them. Patches started laughing first. Then Bo joined in. And soon, their crazy games had us all giggling. Oh, Mom! It felt so great to laugh as a family.


“When are you leaving?” Riley asked me as we had a snack.


“I’m not going anywhere!” I replied.

“Um, college?” Riley said.

“Um college what?” I replied. “I’m not going.”


“You’ve got to go,” she said. “All your life, that’s what you’ve been dreaming of, planning for. You can’t skip college! Mom wouldn’t want that.”

“Look,” I said. “I might very well go to college one day, but I’m not going now. Not when we’re all going through this. Not when Bo and Patches are still kids.”

“But I’d stay to take care of them,” Riley said.

“Nonsense,” I replied. “When I go to college, you’re coming with me. We’ll just have to wait. It’s that simple.”


“You’ve got to think of what Mom would want,” Riley continued. “I know she’d want you to go. You know how she always arranged with Mara Nix to be ready to help out? She’d want you to go, with me staying here to look out for the kids, and Mara Nix coming around when we need extra help.”


“It’s not going to happen that way,” I said. “I’m going to get a job so we know the family is taken care of. Then maybe later, after Bo and Patches become teens, or after they graduate, even, then I can think about going to college. Heck, maybe we’ll all go to college together! And you’re definitely coming with me!”

“Mom would hate for you to put aside your dreams,” Riley said.


I know Riley has a point, Mom. You always did want me to go to college straight out of high school. But I know you understand that dreams are flexible. Sometimes, other things come up that are more important–like being here for Bo and Patches while they’re littlies that need extra care, and keeping the family together while we move through these seasons of grief.

Mom, I know you’re not disappointed in me. Or even if you are, you’ll get through it once you realize I’m doing what I feel is right, just like I always do. And if what I feel is right doesn’t quite match what you feel is right, that’s OK. I know you trust me.

I won’t give up on college for good, Mom, just for now. For now, I’ve got more important things to do as a means of being the daughter and the big sister that you’d want me to be.


Growing up is hard, Mom, but I’m ready. I’m ready to make the tough decisions. And this decision isn’t even a tough one. Family comes first, Mom. That’s a no-brainer.

Love forever,


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