Inner Child


In the dream there is a little girl, sitting on a bed.

I am offering the soldiers chocolates, and candied almonds. The soldiers, apparently, are guards in some type of corrupt regime, of which we are being held captive. They take the candy from my trembling hands absent mindedly, while laughing amongst one another, hardly looking at me.

Perhaps this will work to spare lives, I think, at least some of the captives’ lives -serving men candy. Someone had suggested I be the one to do it, one of the other adults.

I notice the little girl’s black dress is wrinkled and too big for her, bony knees sticking out. Adella reminds me of a slender young calf. How long has she been crying, forgotten, sitting alone on that big bed ~ her face pale, surrounded by long, dark hair, escaping it’s plaits and any attention from a mother’s comb?

I see out the window in back of her Marta, Mieta and Hans.

They are running across that large expanse of empty field. Running, fleeing for their lives, in their own tattered clothing, that they might make it to safety. I am glad because I love them in the dream, these people that I don’t know.

While Adella says softly to me, still weeping, “I can’t run unless you’re holding my hand”.

She looks up at me then with large, soulful eyes, such a hungry child. I try to move towards her but my injured legs don’t work at all, and they feel like lead in my body.

I don’t have a crust of bread to give her, let alone sweets for her journey. The chocolates and almonds are all gone.

She slowly gets off the bed then, walks out the door, and sets out across that barren field all by herself, head held down. I stare out the window watching her, my heart breaking, my throat constricting. She is trailing so far behind the others.

With one last effort, I manage to stumble to the door, moving in slow motion as one often does in dreams, as if with each step I bear the weight of the world. But at least Adella will see me and know I that I tried. I am trying not to leave her all alone, or behind, and this way I finally catch up to her, my pain uncompartmentalized now, as if I’ve unlocked it to let it course freely at will.

And reaching out to her, grabbing her little fingers I say,  “I’m so sorry Adella, forgive me Adella, I love you Adella…

I can’t run unless I’m holding your hand”.








Remembrance


When I was a little girl my family and I lived in Heidelberg, Germany.

My father was in the Army and I remember him buying me a little, German-made stuffed rabbit, from the PX there on post. It was an old fashioned kind of toy, stuffed with real straw.  My mother, my “Mama”, made Bunny “talk” to me, and when the fur wore away near it’s tail and it developed a hole, she resewed it several times. Like the Velveteen Rabbit, with the help of my mother’s voice, my bunny became real. It was loved into life. So when I came into Mama’s sewing room one day by chance, and to my horror, saw she had opened Bunny completely up to replace all the leaky straw with modern stuffing, to me she had skinned it alive.

I guess you could say that’s when my mother and I had our first disagreement of sorts, over what was real, and what was not.

My mother said the rabbit wasn’t real, and that’s why it couldn’t feel pain.

But she, a religious woman, had also taught me God’s love for us gave us a Soul, so I imagined my love for my toy rabbit, had also given it a Soul.

I remember contenting myself with the notion that Rabbit’s Soul was the real part of Bunny. And it couldn’t ever die or feel pain, or have anything wrong with it, unlike the shabby pink material, that now lay strewn across her sewing machine.

To tell you the truth, I still believe something along those notions to this day.

I remember my mother also sewing lots of clothes for me on that sewing machine, mostly dresses, as well as clothing for my dollies, and even some for my friends and my friend’s dollies. Mom loved to sew, and one of her first jobs had been working in a sewing factory. In the last year of life she imagined life could be better again, if only she still had her sewing machine.

It is true that in the days when my mother was young and busy sewing, rabbits came to life, and back to life again, entire wardrobes could be created like magic for little girls and their dollies, and life was very happy.

My Aunt Millie, Uncle Frank, Uncle Vic and Babci even flew in to Germany from America on occasion, and we traveled together to see places like France, Holland and Berchtesgaden.

I don’t remember the timeline or everywhere we visited, but scenes play through my mind of candle and cheese factories, beautiful castles that made me dream of being a princess, and fields filled with tulips. But I also remember seeing stark, underground tunnels bedecked with frightening images of horribly mistreated victims.  I remember looking way up high at a balcony where a man with a short little mustache had perched, and at one time captured the attention of millions.

And I didn’t get the impression this man was a very good man, though I’m sure at my age, there was an attempt to shield me from the worst of it, the worst of the horrors of the Holocaust.

Especially by my mother.

At that time, my mother was only brightness and hope, as if she was really one of those beautiful princess creatures I had seen in books and imagined myself one day becoming. I loved her and my father with all of my heart, and all my Soul.  There are no words, really, adequate to describe the love I had, and still have, for both of them.

Nonetheless, I remember my happy world, when I was a child, crumbling a little with a disturbing realization. This realization kept me awake at night, long after my mother had tucked me in bed, which was always, unfairly I thought, much earlier than my older brother. I remember crying and crying for her to come upstairs, and when she entered the room asking, “Mama, are there bad people in the world?”

I remember her focusing on rearranging the bedsheets, assuring me “bad people” couldn’t get me, and that I was safe because God was protecting me… something like that.

But that’s not what I had asked her, so her answer didn’t fit quite right.

“Mama, are there bad people in the world?”

She tried to divert again, saying something about God can make people good again, something like that, something which didn’t satisfy me at all.

I was still crying really hard the way children do,  gasping for air. I asked her again, “Are there bad people in the world? Please tell me there are no bad people in the world.”

And I remember, finally, my mother giving in, telling me “There are no bad people in the world. God doesn’t make bad people. There are only people who do bad things”.

This satisfied me.

I felt now this, was theologically sound.

And I could now go to sleep.

Now that there weren’t any evil people, who could really intend, really deep down inside, anything inescapably evil.

But I remember first feeling a little bad for Mama, a little concerned that she didn’t really believe the truth that she had just spoken, that satisfied me simply because she had spoken it.

My mother grew up in a world in which her own family loved fiercely, but women were expected to take on the guilt and culpability of the very traumas that were imposed upon them, even if it severed them so to speak, from the inside out.

And my mother was severed.

Though brilliant, generous, funny, sweet, gentle and kind, those attributes one can, with all intellectual honesty, tuck handily into an obituary or a eulogy, my mother had suffered a great trauma in her youth. It was one of “those kinds of traumas” where she suppressed the pain of it, like so many women of her generation did, and as a result of that suppression, suffered diagnosed, episodic, paranoid schizophrenia.

And that schizophrenia left her, episodically, not brilliant, not generous, not funny, not sweet, not gentle …or kind.

Real ladies didn’t tell – anything the culture of the 1950’s or 1960’s – or the culture of a very patriarchal church or institution found scandalous, even if suppression of trauma, abuse, injustice or pain – the truth of them all – made the “ladies” in question, mentally ill. This is how ladies “protected” their family’s reputation, and families, supposedly “protected” them. Yes, even well meaning, loving Polish families. Women grieved in quiet submission to the very injustices done to them, by the very systems, and men, that they felt morally obligated to consider flawless.

Of course it all backfired, not only on my mother, but on me.

Because Mom began, as Dad (who was not at all about suppressing truth or tolerating injustice) put it, to project her pathology on me. She “targeted” me, especially as I entered my teen years, then even more dramatically, when my father died and Mom went off meds Dad had made sure she kept taking, for almost all of my life.

And my mother’s targeting of me became the most apparent when I started filling my father’s shoes as Mom’s primary caretaker, and now, as the only mental health care advocate in the family, could not get her back into that treatment.

The same loving mother who had made Bunny come to life with her voice, and sewn it back to life for me, now spun horrific tales about me that had social workers checking her for bruises, and neighbors and even some relatives believing.

And she didn’t just make clothing for me as a child, she had expected me to still wear little girl dresses when I was sixteen, seventeen, and eighteen.

When I was a teenager returning from one of my first dates, she yelled out the window late at night, so the entire neighborhood could hear, that I was a slut.

When I was in my forties, she committed business fraud against me, and I had to close my business and become her financial dependent, so that I could give her round the clock supervision, just to keep her alive. During the period my business was being destroyed, there were times when I had to move a heavy chest of drawers against my bedroom door to ensure my own safety, as she had been roaming the hallways, threatening my life.

So whenever I’ve thought, over the last few days, about what to write or say about my mother in remembrance, it releases a complex flood of emotions –  for the beloved lady whose last words requesting “water, water… Judy, give me water” – called to mind our Lord’s on the cross when he said “I thirst”.

Not unlike taking a side excursion on vacation to tour Hitler’s underground bunker, you can rightly suspect, I am actually leaving the worst parts out.

Some have advised me to only focus on the positive, as if speaking the truth about my mother’s mental illness would be inappropriate, to speak ill of her, or to do an injustice to someone who cannot now “defend” herself. As if my motive for telling the truth about my mother must be anger, or might get me upset, all over again.

I laugh.

I am here to tell you the opposite is true. 

I contend it is only this suppression of truth that would silence and prevent a full and unapologetic expression of love for my mother. It would also be a final, last injustice towards her. My mother, my real mother, deserves much better than that.

She is not the content of her pathology. She is neither the material trappings she came in, like the material skin of a stuffed rabbit, or her own material remains, reduced to ashes and placed in a box. 
She is not the things she did or did not do. And I believe no one else in the family, me being the most often targeted victim of her negative, sometimes violent behavior, has a better right to say that, believe that, and truly know it.

My mother is the unique, exquisitely beautiful and unlimited Spirit or Soul which I always viewed her to be.

I even believe we worked as a team, my mother’s Soul and my own, especially this past two decades. Together, when I was trying to get my mother back into mental health care, we spoke the paradox of unapologetic truth and love to broken systems, to people in positions of power and authority,  who have the power to effect change, should they choose to be a part of the solution for the most vulnerable among us, rather than part of the problem.  I believe the expression “unapologetic truth and love must walk hand in hand”, because that is the only way they work, and the only real way human life and worth can be defended.

For in the end, though it was a long battle, in the last two years before her death – my mother and I ultimately won – over those that seemed to be only interested in protecting her pathology and hastening her death.

I had found my mother in medical neglect while she was visiting her son in Connecticut.

Taking her to the emergency room, my emaciated and very ill mother finally assaulted me in front of doctors and other witnesses. They had to see the truth of her dangerous and destructive pathology. They also had to see I was the only person she had left in the world, who would not compromise love for her by compromising truth or enabling self-destruction. Mom’s medications were quickly readjusted, and she was taken off those which had been accelerating her schizophrenic psychosis since Dad died.

Double rainbows had become for me a sign of my father’s continuing Presence.

And as if in confirmation of that presence, that my father was there celebrating our victory with us, as I left the Connecticut hospital to recover Mom back to our home in West Virginia that one final time, the rain cleared and a beautiful, double rainbow – streaked across the sky.

In the months that followed, our roles were reversed.

She became my child in a sense. And it wasn’t that everything was perfect. She had memory loss, cognitive decline and a pattern of sundowning, but we shared many beautiful moments again. She was generous, funny, gentle and kind. The woman that had tucked me lovingly into bed with a precious, pink stuffed rabbit had returned, only I was the one tucking her in. Not one of those times did we not exchange “I love you”s before going to sleep.

But one night, several months before her death, I heard her crying, and she started calling out to me to come into her bedroom. I came to her bedside, and quickly realized, it was just as she had done for me over fifty years ago.

“Oh Judy, I feel like there is something I have forgotten. Something really, really bad that I must have done. Something so bad that God can’t love me again, and I won’t get to heaven.”

I said “Mom, it is impossible for God not to love you. God is Love and your Soul is made of Love, because it came from God. So even if you made a mistake in your past, even if you did a bad thing on earth, it was because you were in a bad situation, or because you weren’t thinking straight, not because you are a bad person”.

Actually, I was shouting this to her, because Mom was so hard of hearing at this point that she couldn’t hear at all unless I shouted. I had to repeat several versions of “making mistakes doesn’t make you a bad person”, and point to her heart and say “God is right here with us because God is in you and in me and never left us”.

Finally I told her “Mom, there are no bad people in the world. Their True Selves can’t be bad. We are all made from pure love, and that can never die”.

And finally, she quieted.

Something I said must have struck a chord. Something I said must have worked.

She then said a really sweet thing, something I’ll never forget. She said, “Well, I guess I must have done something good in my life, one thing good … because God blessed me with having a daughter like you”.

And she was able to go back to sleep.

But several months later, unlike that evening, my mother wouldn’t be opening her eyes again, at least not in this world. I would not be bringing her downstairs for her coffee, toast and eggs in our little kitchen below.

When the Hospice staff called me back to their facility, saying my mother had just peacefully passed in her sleep, shortly after I left, I have to admit I was apprehensive about viewing the body.

Taking my long time friend in with me for support, I prepared myself for whatever my mother’s dead body would look like. Mom had suffered a stomach infection and sepsis, had not been digesting anything, and was swollen with fluids. But when I walked into that room and looked upon my mother’s dead body I was literally floored, literally felt like dropping to the ground and weeping with joy at how beautiful, maternal, peaceful, serene, and young looking my mother’s body looked. Her countenance was beatific. She was a beautiful, princess creature once again, just like the Virgin Mary.

I was stunned, completely dumbfounded.

And I don’t know, in fact I doubt, that anyone else there saw my mother’s body as I did, just as not everyone had seen her dark side, or witnessed her sick with psychosis. It was as if her Soul, now unburdened and free, allowed me to see her in that moment, transfigured. I saw her body as if through its final movement, the Soul had cleansed it of all suffering, had undone the effects of suffering in it, leaving me with no doubt, that pure Love had just returned to Source, even while still surrounding us, rejoicing, curing everything in its path.





she is shallow and lack
as well as the richness
of a starlit night
the desire to die
and the compulsion to dance
but the day of her passing
she gifts confirmation
that only the richness
the stars
and the dancing
are real ~

and they last


The Surfaces we Touch

her soul rushes forward
and she can hear the sound of it
in her ears
as she sits
at the edge of alignment
dangling her feet in the ether
it swirls about her
like rushing water

when the world disintegrates
she plunges in
down becomes up,
the cardinal points disappear

and she floats
like a free bird

what do you exactly want
they ask her
or they want her to ask it
of herself
but all she wants
is not to return to earth at all
to live in the ether forever

or if she has to return to earth
to this dry, parched matter
she wants
only to feel that which gives life –
that which lives beneath the surfaces
we touch

 

A Little Book of Intuited Grace

Thanksgiving


live life
like all the kingdom’s come,
our chariots of fire
dripping with gravy
for gone are the religions of old
in which we would
sacrifice our own
to the gods
who would eat them –
with a fork


Christmas

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unlike our bellies,
the center of the pumpkin pies
didn’t jiggle so much
when pulled from the oven
but like our minds
the light
was cast in delicate,
albeit dim

reflection
a joke?
no,
but a season –
yes
to celebrate

not only the child
in the hay
but our own
incarnation

in form


New Years

she’d been finding dimes
one, two, three, four,
on the sidewalk,
in a shoe,
pressed into

her own hand
I think he wanted to be sure
she had heard the news
that you don’t have to die
to be reborn

though he’d taken that route
carrying
a torch
the whole way
now with burdens relieved
he could lift that flame
much higher
perhaps
so that
his daughter could soar
bearing only the weight
of her own wings

The Book Collector’s Present

I once read
I think
in a book somewhere
that the word “sin”
really means
to miss the mark
like a perception
gone askew
with much relief
I might add
I found this out
for I once thought
sin meant
I wasn’t ignorant
but “bad”
nonetheless
one might feel compelled
not to be stupid
I mused
if well-intended
ignorance
hastens death
and destruction
anyhow
one can imagine
my concern
when I missed honoring
the book collector’s
birthday
with a gift
of appropriate
measure
it was after all
his eightieth plus two
and I hoped
my failure to mark it
wouldn’t shorten
his time here
or my own
(even though
it wasn’t my fault
damn that deadly
innocent
ignorance)
what do you give
the creative genius
anyway
whose birthday
came as stealthily
and silently
as the color
permeating leaves
in an unpretentious
but blithe
October?
this man has everything
and creates much
gives much
mostly himself
all away
to his friends
seemingly numerous
as the books
on his shelves
and unlike so many
who just let
books sit there
gathering dust
he has read most of his,
his books
and his persons
and has kept
their stories alive
the most responsible
and caring
book curator
in all the world
I feel
he has a way of
adding to
whatever he reads
and whomever he meets
seeing more
extracting more
than the written
or spoken word
can exhume
or tell
he is
in fact
a creative reader
who once left a
treasure map
inside of a book
about hidden railroads
and secret tunnels
for me to come across
later
as if to
help me find
my way home again
whenever I needed
the refuge
is not hidden treasure
the most
appropriate gift
found right
where we left it
already inside
one another?
so I’ve determined
the only gift
I can give
in proportionate measure
along with my own story
is a thank you
for his
and to assure
the book collector
that he
unlike some of us
never “misses his mark”
or fails
to leave its impression
because he forever
engraves
and leaves
LOVE
on the inner pages
of our hearts

Reveille

sunrise
merit road
we walk along it
like fine king’s men
our head’s held high
when will we venture
to safety
seeing our kingdom
through half strewn eyes
those in attendance
like couriers
breaching the beach
with their sand
inextricable
the guardsman,
I laugh
but I am lonely here
at the darkest side
of the table
make sure you
abandon me
that we would reunite
in a next life
endurance
the forgotten virtue
that fruit of the vine
in that time
the forgotten kingdom
come
for everyone
to wake up

Direction of the Light

the frightened philosopher
was afraid to come in here
he said
as he gently tucked
a loose tendril
of wisteria
back into itself
they were always coming loose
like wisps of hair
escaping
across her forehead
from the tangled vine
in which they grew
hanging over our heads
that marked the entrance
to the garden
his movements were
swift
too swift to see
and I wondered vaguely
do angels do such things
with a hand
or a wing
oh yes! I said

smiling
I love it in here now
you know
once I realized
from where

the light was coming
is it always like this?
do words mean
more than themselves
and the events of the day
do they always sing
in such glorious alignment?

for even when I seem to die
I know there will be
something in me
that seems to float

Morning Clairaudience


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some voices are thin
some voices ring
in my head
like imposed cacophony
but my voices
are not like hers
so I remain
in the sheets
my head singing

my heart longing
for the ones
that remove
all assumptions
perhaps if I stay
in that place
that delicious place

built
between heaven and earth
I can figure it out
perhaps apologize

for not
incarnating today
but as I roll over to hit
the snooze alarm
unambiguous says
get up now




The Last Funeral Mass



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“For what is it that kills, if not for old habits, that die hard?” ~ Anonymous


let’s build in matter’s image
said man
and construct forms,
and byways,
and strategies,
and laws
they will be necessary
for if not man
who else
will save the world?
but the sound of
wombman weeping
troubled them so,
for she would not hush
nor accept their offer
of plea bargain
she had not
contributed
to her own demise
nor was she blaming
them
for theirs
worse
it was rumored
she had conceived
without them
did away with genders
or reflected
them both
inside of herself
and they held meeting
to determine
if they could
still call her
a her anymore
because
a song had been born
from her tears
or perhaps
The Song
had been born
it was like

a burbling brook,
of crystal clear water,
a river
or the motion in it
damn it
grumbled the men

perhaps
it is the wind
this background noise
that’s persistent
but elusive
some freak
deja vu of

human nature
the men couldn’t put
their finger on it
what they feared
about this sound
that wasn’t a sound
and this mere woman
who wasn’t mere woman
from whence The Song
sprang
without effort
or strategy
and they did fear it
like sorrow,
or discomfort,
unplanned
and unexpected
a beautiful,
yet plaintive  
funeral song
that’s what it was
that she sang,
that’s what it was
that they feared
and they asked
is not this
sort of thing
illegal,
heretical,
or contagious?
they wondered if
her song
was somehow
about them
though it bore
no actual resemblance
and she seemed sad
but happy
at the same time
while the song
seemed to grow
and expand

within her
yet echoed back

at them
from inside out

of their own heads
perhaps
they feared it
and hated it so
because they couldn’t hold it,
or touch it,
to make it definable,
and containable
or give it a label
a form,
a package
or a box
to make it safe
for human consumption
hell
it was too unpredictable,
too vulnerable,
too wild,
too free,
too rapid
for thought
or human logistics
like she had already shed
her own shell
without authorization
or permission
from higher command
who did she think
she was?
and though they thought
it must be stupid,
foolhardy,
this fruit
what wombman had birthed
they feared

it must be swifter
more direct
than them
and their inhuman
prodigy
as if this spirit
this spirit
of hers
this non material
thing
this conception
always had
a mind
of its own
or worse
was a mind
of its own
different than theirs
free
from their plans
for her
and the child-song’s
greater good
didn’t the wombman
and child
know they were
in danger?
in fact
she and her own
seemed quite at home
in their lovely place
in the woods
where her table was set
with invisible fine things
she invited them
to dine
on her invisible abundance,
the invisible laughing
like a beautiful,
tinkling,
dinner bell chime
how crazy was that
how inappropriate
they felt it was
for a funeral
how dare she
who was she
how was she
even still alive
yet alone,
they wondered,
wearing
a white wedding veil
had not they created
what really mattered
a material
body of knowledge
and she borne
only what couldn’t
be seen
the ghost
we thought
we eliminated
centuries ago
for her own sake
when we condemned her
for understanding
the fruit
of the tree
the first time
around?
I know
said one
how to fix this
let’s burn her house down
let’s set fire

to her trees
that hide the new child
from us
that way he will have to
come out
and show his face
show us
who he really is
that which we cannot
contain
or reflect
in our own image
a likeness
that we
can’t even see
and they came at her
with weapons
of mass destruction
but the fire
would not catch,
or light,
or burn those living trees
that she had nurtured
with her own hands
only their suits
and their instruments
of death
caught fire
and their own hands
now matched their clothing
dirty
and marked
with inky black soot
she calmly reproved them
telling them to hurry
wash up for dinner
she said
you are like
soldered clocks
ticking no time,
while my labor
is complete
for this one last
funeral mass
this one
last time
we are not celebrating
the death of my son,

this time around
for he is my song
the Love of my heart
and is not made of matter
so cannot die
we are celebrating his rebirth
at the death
of your own
for yours is what
is no longer useful
the empty chalice,
a rusted metal vessel
all along