everything she needs

she’s so not bothered
by the arthritis in her knee
she’s happy with her brand new glasses
cuz that means she can see

pretty fish swim in their tank
lots of meat in the freezer
she worries not about grey hair
it don’t make her an old geezer

her favourite foods are in the fridge
there’s a roof over her head
& when she wants to sleep at night
she’s got a big warm bed

she’s got a job she likes
that helps to pay the bills
& the blessing of free health care
to take care of any ills

can’t forget that lovely garden
with its sweet-smelling flowers
here she finds her greatest peace
digging & weeding for hours

does she miss her family?
hell yeah – they were there first
sometimes she misses them so much
she fears hear heart will burst

but there are many folk who love her
she thinks this every day
folks whose smiles hold her up
when grief wants to stay

when her tears fall,
when there’s nightmares,
when heart breaks & bleeds,
her mother’s memory reminds her
that she has everything she needs

copyright © 2019 KPM

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spoon fed

you gotta eat something
so eat baby, eat
cook something you like
buy yourself a special treat

salmon on toast
a juicy grilled steak
homemade lentil soup
steamed broccoli with grilled hake

what about this:
there’s Deliveroo
you can get a Double Whopper
Burger King pleases you

Ma, I might if I weren’t skint
just look at my bankbook
better still, look at me:
I’m in no shape to cook

but you need to eat something,
so eat, my darling child
your grief (& your stubbornness)
are driving me wild

you could make spaghetti
the one thing you made better than me
what about your love of seafood
scallops fresh from the North Sea

Ma, I am sorry
I know you mean to be kind
but ever since you left
food’s the last thing on my mind

pray for me, Ma
cause I no longer know what to do
I feel as if I’ve ruined my life
can’t bear the pain of missing you

copyright © 2019 KPM

funny

Home from work, safely behind a locked and chained door in my favourite fleecy Eeyore pajamas that were a Christmas gift from my best friend of 57 years and her daughter, whom I jokingly refer to as my surrogate child. It’s mid-April but this is also Dundee, so the heating is on and I’m wrapped up in the duckie blanket, a parting gift from a little boy I once taught when I worked for a nursery school in the US named Blake who was taken by social services. They came right in the classroom, flashed their ID badges and took him, right in front of me and Blake’s classmates. When I protested that they needed to wait so I could give them his naptime blanket – blue and patterned with gay white and yellow ducks – Blake said to me, “Keep it, Miz Mack….you’ll need it more than I do.”

He was four. How did he know that…how could he know that? How could he know that I would love that blanket the way I loved him, that almost 40 years later, I’d sit on a sofa wrapped in that blanket for comfort?

Funny, ain’t it.

The past two weeks, I’ve thought a lot about things that strike me as funny. They may not be funny to so-called “normal” people, but I have a quirky, offbeat sense of humour, and I well remember, during one of those arguments my Mom and I had during my teenage years Mom shaking her head at me, muttering under her breath as she left the room “why can’t you be normal?”

Funny, right?

Know what I find funny? The way people insist on labeling things, on labeling people. The way the new order – otherwise known as the PC Brigade – are now offended by everything to the point where one can no longer joke about anything. Though I suppose that could be considered more pathetic than funny.

Wanna know what else is funny to me? The way people – the way I – continue to do things long after the reason for doing them ceases to have any real purpose or meaning.

Take house cleaning. Why do I clean the way I do…mopping, vacuuming, dusting. I live alone, it’s not like I make a massive mess. Surely I can get away with house cleaning once a month instead of once a week.

Why make the bed every morning? All I’m going to do is get back in it, so why bother? The time I spend making the bed every morning could be better spent having an extra cup of coffee.

Why bother painting my nails? It’s gardening season, I’m going to get dirt under my nails, but mostly, they’re going to break, either from gardening or from opening boxes at work. In the same vein, why do I bother painting my toenails? Sandal weather isn’t that long or that steady where I live, and at my age, bending over to paint my toenails sometimes hurts. And don’t suggest asking the BF to do this: feet gross him out.

I realise there are some things that remain necessary, like laundry. Clean clothes remain a necessity, and I like – weather permitting – hanging my washing on the line outdoors.

Feeding my fish and cleaning their tank remain a necessity: I love them, and I don’t want them to die. Same with the houseplants: I bought them (though some my BF bought) and I love them, so I must care for them, even the ones that I foolishly hung from the ceiling in front of windows that require a ladder to reach.

I’d add cooking and eating to the list of necessary things, but even though I like to cook, since my Mom died there are many days when I just don’t bother: I’ve no appetite, and I’ve developed the mystifying and annoying habit of puking (involuntarily) after eating. Roy (my grief counsellor) says this is one of many side effects of grief.

What remains necessary to me is sleep. If they had an Olympics for sleeping I’d take the gold. Roy says this is also grief related, and on this I suspect he may be right: I sleep a lot, hoping to see my Mom in my dreams. Which sometimes I do, and these dreams are good, they’re comforting, they make me happy. I run home from work and jump into bed…I fall asleep on my poor BF at the weekends. Asleep, I am happy – I am safe.

As a kid, as a teenager, I was the child who slept a lot. Mom used to always tease me that I was sleeping my life away.

Funny, ain’t it.

harder

it would be a hard task
ripping off that mask
unsure if she’s ready to share
certain that no one would care

new lines in her face point down,
down
grief makes her tired
it makes her frown

there’s no one
to apportion blame to
she’d ask for help
but she’s ashamed to

is she mad? she wonders,
are strangers really staring?
such a burden this is,
a load she’s tired of bearing

how long in the ground
before a body grows cold?
sorrow seductively questions
the point of growing old

lines deepen around her eyes,
eyes
that saw a bright future,
now dimmed by daily cries

copyright © 2019 KPM

house cleaning

it’s a dreich day
in my bonnie Dundee
but that don’t bother me
cuz I’m where I wanna be

even though I got
no money in the bank
peace is what I feel
as I clean my fish tank

my brother & my sisters
may be far away
but as I mop the floors
I find joy in this Sunday

surrounded by all kinds
of bric-a-brac
bits of love from people
who always have my back

a warm hat from my sister
wee Christmas tree from Jude
CDs from my boyfriend
music for my every mood

the pink fleece jersey
from my mother
African statues
from my brother

jewellery, booze & beach glass
Eeyores everywhere
all these signs reminding me
that I’ve loads of folks who care

so gratefully I clean my house
removing any mess or dirt
happy that today I’m free from
any mental or physical hurt

I’m thankful that I have a job
close family & friends to love
& my angel Mother & Father
guarding me from above

copyright © 2019 KPM

a Christmas nightmare

the holiday scene before me
is fuzzy & unclear
muted voices, blurry faces
why are these people here?
the long table is covered
in shiny bottles of Christmas cheer
so I pour myself a tall one
hopin’ to drink away the fear

the Christmas cactus on the mantle
has one lonely little bloom
faint sounds of 80s disco
float from some unseen ballroom
in this house I’m a stranger
lookin’ for a familiar room
while outside lurks winter darkness
skies that promise snow & doom

& then I feel his hands
even before I hear his voice
I can’t resist – I turn around
because I have no choice
“you’re mine,” he says, “you’re mine
you cannot run, you cannot flee
eternally you’re mine
always you’ll belong to me”

he pulls me close to him
my freezing hands he clasps
icy kisses on my neck
like Cleopatra’s asp
our breath mingles
in tortuous rasps
& all the while he pulls
he grips, he grasps

am I in Cleveland?
am I in Dundee?
where did he come from?
what’s happenin’ to me?
“Merry Christmas,” he says, “you’re mine
mine for all eternity
I shall always be with you,
forever you’ll belong to me.”

copyright © 2018 KPM

long time’ comin’

lassitude lies heavy
her own private laissez-faire
the fibre optics twinkle
tree’s pretty, but she don’t care

it’s that old song
about the tears of a clown
the smiles she shares are fake
all alone, she melts down

‘n the ache in her chest
is a banjo strummin’
hidin’ in the loo at work
wipin’ tears a long time comin’

there’s food in the fridge
(thanks to a boyfriend who’s too good)
all too often she’s not hungry –
she don’t eat the way she should

she’s a shadow; a woeful wraith
of her former self
there’s no Christmas card from Mom
so fuck a elf on a shelf

‘n the pain in her head is endless
neuralgia’s relentless thrummin’
all alone she weeps
bitter tears that just keep comin’

copyright © 2018 KPM

Firsts

Today marks one year since my Mom passed. It’s raining in my bonnie Dundee – appropriate, as it rained – a proper thunderstorm – the day my Mom died.

The year has been a hard one; I can’t believe I’m still here. It’s been a year of neuralgia and nightmares (when I’m not in the grip of insomnia) where I awaken myself screaming and crying, where I awaken my poor partner because I’ve been shouting and hitting him in my sleep. A year of forgetfulness: forgetting to feed my fish, running to the bathroom three times in the morning to put on deodorant because I can’t remember if I put any on. Talking to people and stopping because my mind has suddenly gone blank. A year of puking after eating. A year of therapy and various antidepressants and anti-anxiety meds.

It’s the news of yet another death that sends you into a total meltdown and you don’t want to think and you can’t bear what you’re feeling and you just wanna sleep so you take one pill and then another and another and a few different ones and drink some gin and your friend’s been trying to reach you for hours so you’re awakened by the sound of the police shouting your name as they bang on your living room window. “I didn’t really want to die, Officer….I just wanted my head to be quiet for awhile.”

A year of “firsts” you never wanted: the first birthday I didn’t get a card from her; the first time I couldn’t send her a card for her birthday, Mother’s Day, Christmas. The constant assault on my memory: making spaghetti for tea and remembering how I made spaghetti for Mom. Walking down King Street in Broughty Ferry and remembering taking Mom there when she visited Scotland and her delight in everything. The daily agony of coming home from work at the end of each day and rifling through the mail and none of the envelopes bear that familiar handwriting.

It’s fear. Not for yourself, cause you’ve become indifferent to anything that may happen to you, but fear of losing someone else you love. So you make your partner crazy: why are you coughing like that? Why are you limping – what’s that mark on your arm? It’s praying to a God you’re no longer sure you believe in to keep your brother and your sisters and everyone in your Cleveland family and Dundee family safe.

It’s trying desperately to function “normally”. Work, clean the house, cut the grass, talk to people. It’s Skyping with your best friend’s daughter and having her tell you “It’s good to see you smile, Aunty Kathy.”

“I smile,” you protest, shocked. Surely you smile …don’t you smile at people at work every day?

“It’s not the same smile,” she says. “It’s not in your eyes anymore.”

And time continues to pass, and you wake up on a rainy Saturday in Dundee and it’s been one year since your Mother squeezed your hand for the last time.

I miss you, Ma.

 

sprawlin’ on Sunday mornin’

she’s still mostly sleep
when she feels him pull away
tightens her grip on his waist
to force him to stay

the double bed shifts
his feet hit the floor
there’s a soft snick
as he closes the bedroom door

she hugs his pillow
inhales that familiar smell
listens to the winter wind
& the sound of the first church bell

stubborn rays of sun
through closed curtains start to creep
but she’s determined
to go back to sleep

the tempting smell of coffee
wafts through the halls
she squeezes her eyes shut
& sleepily sprawls

there’s nothing she has to
do today
so she lets the next dream
pull her away

copyright © 2018 KPM

the 11-month mark

so what was dude thinkin’
safe up in His cloudy sky
when He decided the people you love
would one day hafta die?

did it not occur to Him
that some could not withstand their grief?
was He indifferent to the many
who’d now abandon all belief?

& while I’m at it, God,
what’s up with free will?
surely you must’ve known
your creations would mindlessly kill

tell me why you do it:
are you a sadist, or just odd?
I still wanna believe,
so I’m waitin’ for an answer, God

wives bereft of husbands
husbands missin’ wives
children longin’ for their mothers
endless tears for all the lost lives

nightmares & neuralgia
terminal grief & guilt
doubting all your choices
& the worth of the life you’ve built

I know I’m a sinner, Lord,
but show some mercy – take me off this rack
I swear I’ll believe again
if you’ll just give my mother back

copyright © 2018 KPM