haiku for the absent

I wear your t-shirt
cotton as soft as your hands
your smell still lingers


Heart 80s Breakfast
songs that bring good memories
I can see your smile


walking down the road
was someone who looked like you
my heartbeat halted


I still take pictures
of work done in my garden
nowhere to send them


in love with darkness
dreams unlock the door to you
all I want is sleep

copyright © 2017 KPM

waitin’ for the mail

flawed I am
with a soul that’s scarred
it can’t be helped:
my life’s been hard

mistakes I’ve made
things I can’t take back
forgive me, forgive me not:
won’t live my life on the rack

cause I’m a lowly human
sometimes happy, often blue
just an ordinary woman
a lonely soul like you

doubts I have aplenty
things I wish I could forget
but my past is what made me
so that I’ll never regret

I’ve always felt like a stranger
living in a strange land
but I am older now,
so I don’t care if you don’t understand

cause I’m human
from my truths I’ll never flee
just a lowly human
& you’re no better than me

phone me, send an email
better still, write
words from you would mean so much
they’d illuminate my darkest night

you can call me selfish
say it’s the worst kind of greed
but your familiar handwriting
is the one thing I most need

I’m only human, baby
my heart’s not made of stone
just one more grieving human
don’t let me go through this alone

copyright © 2017 KPM

Saturday Rain

help me capture
that rapture

that wonder
from when we were young
every kiss a first kiss
a poem to all the songs we sung
our shared delight
in every day
secret words
only we could say

remember it?
that rapture
the love we captured

surely, we’d
invented sex
the sensual delight
in whatever came next
every whisper
every shout
tunes that locked
the whole world out

let’s just do it,
let’s re-capture
let’s re-creature rapture

cause we both know
one thing to be true:
you only love me
I only love you

copyright © 2017 KPM

50 days

is a hateful thief
that has stolen my brother’s joy
replaced the humour in his eyes
with the look of a lost little boy

has come to play
it dances across my sisters’ hearts
tinging their smiles with a sadness
that pierces my soul like darts

me? I’m just numb
totally struck dumb
I’ve become unglued
my once familiar world
is now forever, horribly skewed

copyright © 2016 KPM

the wages of grief

I’m wide awake. It’s 5:30am, and sunlight is streaming through my heavy bedroom curtains. The light turns the edges of everything in my bedroom into soft wavy lines; I get up and make my bed, moving zombie-like through dancing shafts of early morning sunlight like liquid butter.

My mother is dead.

There, I said it. Well, wrote it. And seeing the words so starkly written like that has given me a severe stomach cramp.

My mother has been dead for 47 days.

Not that I’m counting. It’s like I’m helpless to not count – my brain makes an automatic tally each day I awaken. Like the way I can tell people when they ask exactly how long I’ve lived in Dundee…my memory has always been good with dates like that.

Right now, I’m being tyrannized by memory and experience. I made spaghetti for tea this past Monday. I love spaghetti. That question if you were on a desert island and could only take one book, one friend and eat one thing? I’d eat spaghetti – my spaghetti, it’s one of the few things I make amazingly well.

So I’m making the spaghetti: chopping the green peppers, the onions, the courgettes, the mushrooms. Preparing the sauce. And suddenly I’m in my Mom’s kitchen, a few days after her 80th birthday. She’s making me fried chicken and teasing me: “You’ll be cooking for me tomorrow night – I want some spaghetti.” And suddenly I was crying, my tears falling into the spaghetti sauce. Hey, tears are salty – added flavour, right?

I ate it. “Don’t you waste that food,” I hear Mommy saying. “Plenty of people don’t have enough to eat, so don’t waste food.” I ate my spaghetti – it tasted like dirt. An hour later I threw it back up. Wasteful.

Yesterday morning I was walking to work. As I passed the High School of Dundee, a white van with a plumber’s logo parked alongside the curb. A beautiful girl in a hijab climbed out one side, and a woman who was obviously her mother climbed out the other side. The mother adjusted her daughter’s uniform, smoothed her daughter’s hijab, planted a kiss on her child’s cheek, then drove away. The daughter stood there until the van was out of sight, then she pulled the hijab off her head, stuffing it into her backpack and shaking her long hair out before disappearing through the doors of the school.

And I remembered my mother: “You’re 14 – you are not wearing make-up. You can wear make-up when you’re 16, not before. And don’t even think about wearing that halter top to school!” And I grumbled and muttered under my breath as I kissed her goodbye. Arriving at school, I headed straight to the bathroom, where I removed the halter top and the make-up from my book bag and put them on, along with other girls lined up in front of the sink who were doing the same thing. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

My grief is a live thing; anaconda-like, it constantly strangles me. It affects me in myriad physical ways. I’ll remove an item from my purse, a dresser drawer, a kitchen cabinet, only to stand there for 10 minutes holding the item in my hand: why did I remove it – what did I want this for? In conversation with someone, I’ll suddenly stop speaking, having totally forgotten what it was I was saying. My sleep patterns are all askew: sometimes I’ll sleep through the night (usually with the aid of the sleeping pills my GP has given me), sometimes I’ll sleep 1-2 hours only to awaken, bolt upright in bed, unable to get back to sleep. Box sets come in handy at those times.

People don’t want to talk to you when you’re grieving. They avoid you, as if grief is a communicable disease. My friend Roz (now sadly deceased) once described me in a letter of recommendation she wrote on my behalf as “brutally honest”. This could be a factor in why some people avoid me now, as when they ask the question, “How are you doing?” I tell them the truth: “I am all fucked-up…I can’t get my head around this and I have no clue what I’m doing…I barely know what day it is.”

My partner of eight years recently told me that grief affects other people. And I realize he’s right. But how am I supposed to stop grieving? And why should I stop – her loss is still so new – she was my mother, surely I have a right to grieve?

Grief is not contagious. Sometimes, for people who are grieving, talking helps them. When you can’t talk about the person, when you can’t feel that person’s loss, then you are prevented from moving through the pain. And if you can’t move through it, you can’t begin to heal.

In an odd way, I thought I would find comfort in Dundee. I thought, when I returned to Dundee following Mommy’s funeral, that I would feel a little better. America has become a foreign landscape to me, especially now that 45 is in power (blog for another day). I was sure that when I returned to Scotland – the hills, the River Tay, the quality of the light in the early morning, my wee flat and my garden – would all act as a balm on my shattered soul.

Instead, the memory box opened. I walk past the McManus Galleries, and remember taking Mom on a tour when she visited. I take a shortcut through the Overgate on a rainy day, and remember the day we went on a shopping spree. I see a box of Weetabix on a shelf in Tesco’s, and remember Mom eating that for her breakfast: “This tastes just like Shredded Wheat!” she marvelled.

“Give time, time,” people tell me. “Time heals all wounds,” they say. Clichés that may be true. Right now, time is torturing me.

One of my friends – I can’t remember who – sent me a sympathy card not long after Mommy died. In the card was a slip of paper, with typed words which read:

“The angels are always near to those that are grieving, to whisper to them that their loved ones are safe in the hand of God.”

I like that. I want to believe that. Sadly, I find I am unable to believe in anything right now…not even myself.

copyright (c) 2017 KPM

Mother’s Day

it’s the weekend
a time I used to love
but in this incarnation –
I’ve become a mourning dove

Friday, Saturday,
the days are all the same
there’s a constant ache in my chest
I can barely remember my name

I used to get excited
when Friday rolled around
now I’m tortured by the memory
of dark, rain-soaked ground

where have you gone, Mommy?
why did you leave?
I don’t know what I’m doing
all I can do is grieve

I can’t sleep – I can’t eat
food is unappealing
can’t even lose myself through sex
cause your death has left me reeling

I’ve plenty friends who love me
they support me in my pain
still I weep – I can’t accept
you’ve moved on to a higher plane

I want to believe you’re in heaven
with Daddy, & you’re both fine
tell me you’re at peace, Mommy
please send me some kinda sign

cause my life has been hell
since the Lord took you away
there’s no place to mail my card to
& tomorrow is Mother’s Day

copyright © 2017 KPM


chest no longer thrust proudly out
like that of a pouter pigeon
bit by bit each day
she’s losing her religion

a long dreaded loss
has reduced her to a wraith
28 years later,
once again – she’s lost her faith

is God in heaven, laughing?
she’s certain He’s decreed
that she’ll forever be denied
anything – anyone – she might need

the worst has finally happened
yet the Lord keeps her alive
what deity would do this?
she’s not sure she will survive

32 days in
& by sobs she’s still wracked
faking smiles for all those people
who want the “old Kath back”

well, grief is messy, folks
have you never suffered a loss?
& she has yearnings of her own,
for your opinion she gives not a toss

alone in bed, she hugs her pillow
clad in her Mom’s t-shirt
watchin’ shite on telly
tryin’ her best to deal with the hurt

asleep, she dreams of returning
to the land of her birth
but how’s she’s supposed to live in a country
where skin colour dictates ones’ worth?

copyright © 2017 KPM