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October 31, 2011

Gifts of Friends and Friendship

The blog's current theme has helped me pause and remember ways in which friends blessed me and helped me in the face of loss. And, in some cases, it was the friends of my deceased loved one that reached out in friendship to me.  I share these memories:

The day my father died, Sally showed up on the front porch. She had a gallon of chocolate ice cream in her hands. She said, "Here." She handed me the ice cream, gave me a hug, and left. This may sound surreal to an outsider, but Sally is a longtime friend and fellow church member. Also a very cool, artistic person. Yes, the ice cream came in handy for desserts for visitors the next few days, but it was her simple showing up with something--anything--in hand that mattered. The look in her eyes. Her sharing my grief. Her own loss of her dear friend, my dad. I'll never forget it. 

On my sister's last night on earth, I stayed by her side at the hospital. In the next room was one of my sister's closest friends. Penny was willing to keep vigil with me. She loved my sister as a sister herself, but she also knew how frightened I was. I did not know how I would or could survive my sister taking her last breath, but Penny's presence kept me from feeling completely cast adrift. I am not sure that there has ever been a moment in my life when I was more grateful not to be alone. My company was a woman whom I had known for only a few weeks, but who treated me like her lifelong friend.

One lifelong friend, Laura, has appeared by phone, by email or in person, as if she had a sixth sense about when I needed to hear from her. She, my sister and I grew up together. A card would arrive from her in the mail--for no "reason"--yet it would come on a day when its message was the buoy I needed to keep from sinking. On the anniversary of my sister's funeral and my father's death, Laura called to let me know that a swarm of dragonflies had accompanied her as she watered the lawn that morning. She could not have known that a swarm of dragonflies had appeared at my house on the first anniversary of my father's death.

In the ink-dark sky of grief, these acts of friendship stand out like brilliant stars. They stay with me and remind me that death is inevitable, but these kinds of friends are not inevitable. They are never to be taken for granted, never to be forgotten. These three women--and other friends whom I will write about later-- have blessed me unreasonably, shared in my pain and hardship, and knew there was no pleasure to be found in my company in those moments. But there they were, showing me that true friendship is not so much about "company" as communion.

October 25, 2011

Longing for ...

This poem by Nagore Sedano describes in a haunting, haiku-like way, the longing that comes with another’s absence—whether that absence is temporary or permanent.

Nagore Sedano

I wanna hear the echo
of my whisper in your ear,
touch the warmth of your depth
through your restless tear,
render the afterglow motion
of your straight waist,
catch the perfume of your beauty words.

Nagore Sedano was born in Bilbao, Spain, where she lived until her early 20s. While studying for her bachelor’s degree in communications at the University of the Basque Country, she studied abroad at the University of Worcester, England. Upon graduating in 2008, she received a fellowship from USAC (University Studies Abroad Consortium) to conduct a research program at California State University. While at CSU, Nagore was a Spanish teaching assistant and wrote for magazines. She has also lived in Idaho and Switzerland, where she worked as a Spanish professor and news analyst, respectively. She is currently a teaching assistant at the University of Nevada, Reno in the U.S. She writes in Basque, Spanish, French and English.

Post Poem & Text, Copyright Nagore Sedano, All rights reserved.

October 19, 2011

Silence Filled with Remembrance

Silence Across the Sideyards 
Mary Langer Thompson      
for Diane

The eve of your daughter's wedding
I am drawn toward home.
I park in front
of where we used to live.
Two houses,
side by side,
repeopled, remodeled,

Fresh from Chicago
we moved in.
California, 1956.
Dad cleaned and scrubbed,
unable to find work.
Mom took a job at Citizen's Bank.

Tired of Our Miss Brooks
and Mr. Ed's peanut buttered palate,
I wandered outside
dissolving a grape fizzy on my tongue.
There you were,
ten years old with blonde braids.
Of course your eyes were blue,
and we hula-hooped
from strangers to sidekicks.

You taught me to polka
down your hallway,
past your room
directly across from mine.
Soon I started to whistle
across the sideyards
whenever I had news.
You would appear,
see me
curlered and Clearasiled.

After school we'd dance
to American Bandstand.
Overnight, we'd ride Route 66
to see Steve Allen.
You learned to drive first.
Of course your car was blue.
A whistle
and soon a light
to share moments from dates,
while your dog, Lucky,
paced beneath our windows.

Between learning and teaching
we married.
I stood in your wedding--
(of course my dress was blue)
and you in mine.
We birthed our babies
a month apart.
Yours will marry tomorrow.

The disease
bombarded your blood
and took you quickly.
Within three days.
We buried you in blue.

A woman now collects
autumn leaves,
and rose petals,
like tears,
lie on the lawn.
I strain to hear
a whisper of a whistle,
but all I hear is
silence across the sideyards.

Mary Langer Thompson has published poetry, short stories, and articles in a variety of anthologies and journals, most recently Quill and Parchment, Silk Road Review, and Off the Coast. She is a contributor to The Working Poet (Autumn Press, 2009), a poetry writing text. A former elementary school principal and secondary English teacher, Mary is an active member of the California Writers Club, High Desert Branch.

Poem, copyright Mary Langer Thompson, All rights reserved.
Previously published in So Luminous the Wildflowers: An Anthology of California Poets, edited by Paul Suntup.
Images copyright Ysabel de la Rosa, All rights reserved.

October 18, 2011

Completing the Circle: Final Day

This is the final part of my poem cycle Inside the Circle, dedicated to Mil Lubroth. To read from start to finish, scroll to the first post titled Inside the Circle, below.

Tuesday, the 8th day


What remains is a circle drawn
by you, one in which so many of us stand—
family and friends, students and teachers,
beret-wearers and Scottish dancers, speakers of
languages, builders of bridges, cigarette-smokers
and diplomats, research librarians, makers of good art
and some not so good, hobby philosophers, household help,
foreign correspondents, starry-eyed expatriates,
the famous and the not, a poet or two, and other
assorted “strangers in a strange land.”

The flower of you is gone, but the seed of all you
were stays planted in our hearts, warmed by memory,
watered by laughter and tears, forever growing in love,
that full-forever-circle state-of-being that
knows no, has no end. 

You’ve left your circle for us, as you move
one circle farther on – “practically next door” –
and though I cannot say or know or even dream how this can be,
I know you will move with us and within us
as we must now move on. It’s true:
It isn’t possible for You
to be gone. 

According to the circles
in the calendar,
it is time now   
to turn
            the page
                             with love –


Image: Brisa Nocturna by Mil Lubroth, all rights reserved
Text: Ysabel de la Rosa, all rights reserved.

October 17, 2011

Inside the Circle: Days 7 and 8


I get lost a lot.  Maps don’t help.  Instructions
perfectly clear upon the hearing turn nebulous
upon the driving. I went to an expert famous for
rerouting inept minds. 

“Tell me the one place,” he said, “where
you were never lost.”
“My college campus.”
“Describe it.”
“It’s a circle.”


This year I bought a new calendar: all green circles
on cream pages, no squares anywhere. 
Six circles surround one center circle,
and all seven orbs gather inside one circular whole.
I look at this calendar often. It feels good. 


Fourteen circles ago, the news landed in my world. 
You: ill. The end: near.  I called.  We talked. 

Seven circles later, you called. We talked. 
You said the flowers were beautiful,
described their colors as observed by
your artist eye.  We covered our usual
subjects:  the children, life, art. I said, “You are very
important to me.”  You said, “It’s important to say
these things while there’s still time.” 
And then we said – we had to say – goodbye.

That night I walked into the circle
in front of my house, a grassy diameter
harboring young and old trees within.
The half-moon rose high, encircled
by one, unbroken Zen brushstroke of cloud.

Another seven circles passed, and
you slipped away.

Text, copyright Ysabel de la Rosa, All rights reserved.

October 15, 2011

Inside the Circle: Fifth and Sixth Days


Shabbat Shalom
Shabbat Shalom

The rest is upon us
               and may
the peace come soon
               come soon



Hard work: making peace with letting go. 
Process without recipe, no steps to follow,
or instructions. 
You just
            have to
            let go
or not.

You can fight. I know. I’ve waged a lifelong
battle, and more than once, shaken my fist
at heaven, ordering G-d to grant me power
and permission to keep my territory intact
despite death’s frequent invasions. I planned
to “win” by never losing anyone I love. I was – I am – 
like a child playing army in her front yard,
and, just as defenseless, I face once more
the ultimate improvisation, the act
one cannot train for, but must
against all instinct, do:
                        let go
                        let go

and when the pain grows great, read
Tagore and know: “The loss of that
which must go is unseemly when obstructed.”

In the name of the flowing and the graceful,
for the sake of the unobstructed view
that delivers our gaze into art’s true vision,
I ask G-d for the strength and the submission to
                        let you go
in spite of all that I want
because of all that I know to be true
and because you helped me discover that
clutter and clinging never border the
path to Beauty.

Image 1: Torah by Mil Lubroth
Image 2: A Place for Beauty by Mil Lubroth
Text, copyright Ysabel de la Rosa, all rights reserved.

October 14, 2011

Inside the Circle: Third Day

I've included two poems in the cycle in today's post, because that puts the poem in sync with the actual days on which I am posting, today being Friday in my part of the globe. See post that begins cycle here.



I remember:
The arrows on the sign out front pointed to each other,
I wondered where        that meant        you were.
I wondered how           to find                 the Studio. 

Your art swept me in, became a fluid new home for my vision.
“Dive in,” the pictures said. “Float or go deep, it doesn’t matter,
there’s life / meaning / beauty at every depth.”

Outside, the pomegranates ripened on the tree
while I in rich-rewarded wonder roamed
through your high garden of art.

I remember: Paradise has an address.
To find it, go behind / beyond the arrows,
defy the visible daily instructions.
Take Kandinsky’s words with you: 
“There is no must in art, for art is free.”



Shabbat comes soon.  I must look for you while I can,
before the rest begins.
                                                There you are
in the classical face rising from the lake,
eyes meeting sky
                                                There you are
in the matriarch robed in red, holding a luminous
orb. I named her “Queen of Between the Worlds.” 
You smiled and said, “I’ll write that down.”

                                                There you are
in the matador whose face forever hides from
our view, his traje de luces flashing green and gold

                                                There you are
in the young horse running over pale blue sand
and into silver waves

                                                There you are
in the almost-Hindu goddess smiling, turning
to greet those who approach. She gestures to an
empty vessel–urn or vase?

                                                There you are
in the photo of the two of us together,
shoulder to shoulder at Passover.
When my life ends, when my soul passes over,
will I have the opportunity to say,
                                                There you are,
                                                my friend?


Image 1: Untitled by Mil Lubroth
Image 2: Mientras andaba by Mil Lubroth
Text, copyright Ysabel de la Rosa, all rights reserved.