Life Among the Never-Winged

Once upon a time I was writing a book called, "Just Another Love Letter", about angels behaving badly. Now I just quietly ask myself each day, "What the hell am I doing?"

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Location: The Rocky Mountain Empire, United States

My friends always knew I was going to hell. My only hope is that God likes good jokes and bad redheads.

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  • Friday, September 14, 2007

    Mona's Friday Challenge -- Letting Go

    (Thanks for the advice, all you who posted and emailed. *s*)

    I wrote this back in March. At the time, it held a lot of emotion for me. Reading it over now, I see that I can let it go, and let you read it.

    It tells me too, why I've let the garden go this year, and go to seed. Next summer, I'll harvest again.


    We did our best to keep him safe.

    Winters, we sometimes kept my brother tented

    under a sheet held up by chairs,

    the vaporizer puffing out clouds of Vics.

    February, I came home with a cold.

    I stayed away. I was careful.

    I swear.

    At the hospital, the nurse

    looked at me when I sneezed,


    So that's how he got sick.

    She didn't say anything else

    until my birthday

    when my aunt brought me a gift:

    Your brother's in the hospital,

    and you get a present. That hardly seems fair.

    They sent him home

    but he couldn't eat.

    He'd always been spoon-fed Gerbers

    (I used to think the boy on the box was him; there were similarities.)

    but my mom couldn't even get that down him.

    My friend's mom was a nurse,

    worked rehab, nursing homes.

    She came over that night

    with a tube.

    It worked, but it was horrible to hear.

    I dreamed

    of a round black stone

    falling from a white one

    and a woman's voice said

    'He's gone.'

    My mother's screams

    woke me then.

    Seven A.M. sharp.

    I remembered the dream,

    and the dream time proceeding it –

    it was the day still ahead of me.

    My hardest day.

    I didn't want to leave the bed.

    I'd already lived through it.

    But you can't stay in bed with your mother screaming

    so I got up.

    Walked through the house

    to my brother's room.

    She stood over the crib

    Over my older brother.

    I looked in.

    His eyes were not closed all the way.

    His eyes were looking up;

    Slivers of pale grey and white.

    She picked him up.

    She cried out that he was dead.

    And she handed me the body.

    Hold him, she said.

    You never hold him.

    I sat with him on the edge

    of the bed my mother had slept in, alone,

    for months.

    While she dropped to the floor.

    Sat against the wall

    staring at her children.

    What should I do, Beck? She asked me.

    She actually smiled.

    What do I do now?

    And the next, well,

    it made her think

    that he was still alive

    that she had been mistaken

    when she saw him draw his last breath.

    That perhaps she was wrong.

    It was a sound.

    He's alive! She said.

    Beck, his heart – check his heart is it beating?


    It was something else.

    I held him through the death rattle.

    Not knowing what it was.

    I've only named it in later years.

    Learning of it,

    listening to that sound again in my head,


    matching description and circumstance to sound.

    That's what it was, that sound. A death rattle. But at the time, I guess

    I guess,

    I didn't have the right word, so my head made the rattle into something else.

    I thought, when I heard that sound

    That my brother's heart

    had come loose;

    actually broken from its stem

    and fallen to the bottom of his hollow body

    rattling against ribs

    clattering down a ladder

    with a sound like seeds shaken in a dry gourd.

    Reading my own thoughts now

    I wonder if my love of damp earth

    of planting seeds

    of trying to make something grow

    started there in that room without my knowledge.

    That every spring

    I bury his heart

    over and over

    And wait to see what happens.

    Back to

    Both of us in the room.

    Or really, three.

    In body if not in spirit.

    She didn't believe

    so I told her again.

    He's dead.

    She came apart;

    cried, laughed.

    I told her

    to call someone.

    Daddy, at work (he'd gone in early that day).

    Grandma, who took care of us – her own mother.

    Isn't that who you want to talk to

    when something this bad happens?

    You want your mother.

    So she did.

    She got up, went to the kitchen phone,


    My dad, first.

    Then my grandma.

    I listened from this room.

    This room I can't seem to leave.

    Things here get blurry now.

    The still frames are dark;

    perhaps burned or melted.

    I remember what I wore the rest of the day

    but I don't remember when

    or who

    took him from my arms.

    Or where he was placed

    until the ambulance came.

    How can you forget something like that?

    Or, maybe I should ask

    how do you forget the rest of it?

    But my daddy was there, then,

    and my Grandma

    and others (Grandpa? Papa? Grandmonster?)

    I remember when the ambulance left,

    a stranger going into my brother's bedroom

    where my parents sat on the bed.

    I remember watching the door close,

    my parents disappearing behind it,

    and thinking a stranger's thoughts:

    Now we close the door so they are alone to morn.

    I went into the family room

    sat down in my rocking chair.

    I remember this clearly, because I had also dreamed it.

    So when she came in, I already knew

    my grandmonster would say

    Oh, Rebecca, come sit on my lap!

    and that I would refuse

    and for once no one

    would push me at her.

    She sat on the couch next to the chair

    and said

    Well. Now you have to make up for him.

    As if I wasn't doing that already.

    He was buried

    Friday? Saturday?

    I don't remember.

    I was still in the room.

    And I was at graveside

    where the priest

    couldn't remember his name,

    got it wrong.

    (But remembered us at Mass

    on Sunday.

    Talked about a burial, how strong a family was

    While we cried in the back pew.)

    And I was at the house, after.

    Where Jerry got me to smile.

    Gerald now.

    His parents, who introduced mine,

    drove across two states to be there.

    It was a Thursday.

    I was back in school on Monday

    Apologizing about my homework.

    I was excused by my teacher,

    tears in her eyes,

    and given the As I would have gotten anyway.

    In class, they had said a prayer for my brother

    on Friday. All my classmates,

    all my friends,

    who had not called, not come to the funeral.

    No one thought to invite them.

    But mine was the middle crisis

    bookended between

    Ed's mom dying, leaving behind orphans,

    And G's dad, who

    shot himself when the doc found the cancer.

    We were fourteen.

    Labels: , , ,

    17 people left me a love letter:

    Anonymous d-man wrote in a love letter...

    I cried.
    Ninjas don't cry.

    1:03 PM, September 14, 2007  
    Blogger Mother of Invention wrote in a love letter...

    Wow..this is so raw and powerful. So well done. I love your phrasing and line breaks. I don't really know if any of this is autobiographical since I'm a fairly new reader, but if it is, I'm so sorry this happened to you and your family.

    I'll think about this one for awhile.
    My poem was pretty frivolous and silly in comparison.

    2:28 PM, September 14, 2007  
    Blogger meno wrote in a love letter...

    I am speechless, and crying.

    5:19 PM, September 14, 2007  
    Blogger Scott from Oregon wrote in a love letter...

    I shed a tear too, for you...

    But only ONE damnit!

    6:02 PM, September 14, 2007  
    Blogger Irrelephant wrote in a love letter...

    The things that shape us. The things that move us, that warp us and straighten us up again, never to be quite the same shape again. I'm very terribly proud of you, Nancy, for finding the strength to let this poem go. For letting us be with you when you let it go.

    6:15 PM, September 14, 2007  
    Blogger Schmoopie wrote in a love letter...

    Your ability to share the "letting go " of your pain humbles me. I am choking back tears and wishing I could give you a great big hug.

    To be present, holding him while he took his final breath...some view that as the greatest honor (I do.) He waited for you, Pants. He felt safe to let go, wrapped your embrace.

    9:00 PM, September 14, 2007  
    Blogger Stucco wrote in a love letter...

    You didn't make him sick. I'm sure.

    9:03 PM, September 14, 2007  
    Blogger Des_Moines_Girl wrote in a love letter...

    Beautifully written. Very sad. I think the adults in your life at that time were clueless and unfeeling toward you. It would have been extremely difficult to an adult to have coped with what you went through - let alone a 14 year old.

    I've known you a long time. And you've told me bits and pieces of what you went through. But I don't think you've ever told me the full story - at least not like this.


    6:41 PM, September 15, 2007  
    Blogger Esereth wrote in a love letter...

    Oh Nancy

    8:59 AM, September 16, 2007  
    Blogger JustCallMeJo wrote in a love letter...


    Iàm SO proud of you for posting it. I LOVE this.

    love gobs an gobs an gobs

    10:41 AM, September 16, 2007  
    Blogger ms chica wrote in a love letter...

    Jet-lag = inarticulate.

    At the risk of repetition, moving and humbling...

    8:40 PM, September 16, 2007  
    Blogger Mona Buonanotte wrote in a love letter...

    I tried so hard not to cry (at work) over your beautiful, heartbreaking lines, but I lost the bet on that one. I feel like you just told me a dark secret, and I thank you for sharing that with me.

    5:17 AM, September 17, 2007  
    Blogger Lynn wrote in a love letter...

    Oh my...your brother was lucky to have you for a sister. Thank you for your telling of this. ((hugs))

    11:26 PM, September 17, 2007  
    Blogger Nancy Dancehall wrote in a love letter...

    I'm sure it was just ninja eye dust, D-man. *hug*

    Thank you, MOI. *hug* Yeah, it's completely autobiographical. The world needs more happy. So I need to head over and read your poem. :-)

    Meno, thank you. *hug*

    Save the tears for Idol, Scott. ;-) *hug*

    Thank you so much, Ir. *big hug*

    Schmoop, I know you get it. *hug*

    It's taken me a long time to accept and let go of that, Stucco. Thank you. *hug*

    *hugs* DMG. One of my oldest and best listeners. Thank you.

    Es, I know you get it too. *hug*

    Thanks, Jo. Love you too. *hug*

    Ms Chica, even on your most inarticulate days you make some of us sound like were speaking other languages under water. Thank you, dear. *hug*

    For a long time it _was_ a dark secret, Mona. I hated seeing people get uncomfortable. There are still people who know me and have no idea I ever had a brother. Thanks for letting me share it here. Thank _you_ especially for the chance. *big hug*

    We were lucky to have his example, Lynn. He was not lucky to have the life he did. But because of him, there are people out there suffering from spina bifida and encephalocele who would be living in far more pain and for a shorter time. *hug*

    1:23 AM, September 18, 2007  
    Blogger Maggie wrote in a love letter...

    Crying too. Sobbing actually. Difficult to write.

    Nancy, you have so much magic in you.

    1:56 PM, September 18, 2007  
    Blogger Nancy Dancehall wrote in a love letter...

    Thanks, Maggie. That is a high compliment from such a talented poet. Thank you.

    11:01 PM, September 20, 2007  
    Blogger amusing wrote in a love letter...

    Oh, sweet girl.

    7:48 PM, September 22, 2007  

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