The Burial

One year after his death, palpably
and more quietly that when it first began
I continued to grieve in many ways.

One way: sharing a note I wrote for him.
Later, having lunch in a restaurant booth
a friend brought this up, and to my surprise

chose “emo” to describe what I’d put online,
and to tell me who I was. Who she was not.
She smiled. She almost laughed.

What do we do in the moments when
it does not seem possible to be less understood.
What do we say to mockery’s cruel face?

Ha, yeah.

Of all the conceivable responses: Ha, yeah.
He had died one year ago, but on that day
I buried him and somehow also buried myself.

(October 28, 2018)

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Girls in the Garden

Hands up with the moon
we weave between beds
flat foot to sodden ground
flowers in the dark, hiding
ourselves and the magic
–the witchcraft and illusion–
that encircles youth and
women who heal with
high mountain herbs.
Next door to normalcy but
never living in that house,
your home has long been
the alignment of the stars,
mathematics of dates and time,
the chant of spells, within
a coven that didn’t exist
there in the garden
some twenty years ago
when we raised our hands
as the midnight clock does,
all together, with the moon

(first written in 2012; revised for ColetteKay.com)

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Join Me in the Lake

Heat of summer, forever-long afternoons
of sun bearing down almost violently
have turned the lake into a warm bath.
Dark comes and this is the place to which we drive.

Four of us share this night, now a tepid oven.
Our group walks, laughing, along two edges:
where city park meets lapping water, and
where youth rushes too soon into adulthood.

The sky is black, the distant hills flicker
with neighbors’ white house lights, and
somewhere nearby is the whir of the freeway.
I do not think we can be seen

and so I remove my clothes
and wade in, up to my small naked belly
at which point I turn back to see you
still standing on the shore.

Someday when you are free enough to
revel in a night swim, then I will know,
though I will not at first say it aloud,
that I have seen myself in someone else.

(March 2, 2019)

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Ferrying to Nanaimo

The Horseshoe Bay-Departure Bay ferry crossing is long at nearly 3 hours and 43.5 miles (70 km). We readied to leave the mainland and I stood at the bow, alone until an elderly couple appeared beside me, all of us interested in the sweeping views at hand. I offered to take their photo; they took mine in return. We began to chat.

Sean and Sarah hailed from Scotland and were traveling the USA as many retirees do. It turned out the three of us had been on the same road all summer, mostly national parks and destination cities in the American West. Somehow our trio had ended up here, together, on board a Canadian ferry now slowly pulling away from its dock.

I remember these two so clearly because Sean shared a resonating truth: the more you travel, the more it takes for the next place to stand out. Instead of inspiring awe, new cities and landscapes begin to feel redundant.  What would appear beautiful in fresh eyes instead produces an “oh, that’s nice” humdrum response.

I imagine others have shared in this experience. A flight attendant friend once alluded to feeling similar dismay as she flew between (the world’s most exciting) international cities. To fight boredom she began creating missions in each destination, carrying out tasks prompted by friends. During her stay in London I sent her to Harrod’s to purchase strawberry black tea; it gave meaning to her trip.

But, on occasion a particular landscape can stun even the most weathered traveler, and this has more to do with coming home than venturing abroad. Sean had been right – but he had not made note of the enduring appreciation a person can carry for their native region. An appreciation that leaves us seeing our home region with the same fresh eyes we used when we were first traveling.

That day on the ferry I did not tire of the Pacific Northwest views but instead spent the trip’s three hours topside, cold winds tangling my hair and pushing aggravated tears from my eyes, full of life and reverence as I breathed the biting Northern ocean air once again.

(originally written in 2015; excerpt revised for ColetteKay.com)

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Regarding Music

I play music and it tells me many things:
if I am only skimming surfaces and
it is time to turn in for the night, and
if I’d like you to climb into the night with me

If you listen, it might say
let’s set fire to everything
and begin again on another coast.

Certainly you have thought this before.

At the piano I let my hands
do what they will; inevitably
the music scoops up who I am,
bares a soul that rarely breathes,
unearths what I did not know was inside.
At times I am not sure who is holding who.

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Seasons and Voices

What is winter?
Maybe like me
the unbloomed flowers
are unsure of what to say.
Do they sit within themselves
waiting to speak
holding their pollen tongues
wondering what might be best?

Is spring then a conversation?
It does sound that way when
we ramble through the canyon,
as if all the natural world
is chatting, unabashedly
dreaming ideas out loud
among friends
and to itself.

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