Death & Chocolate

Halloween brings thoughts

of decay

and the permission to eat

chocolate.


Neringa ripples toward me

as I approach down the slope

of her wet leaves.

Immediately,

I want to consumate our movement–

drink her up,

have her take

me.


Neither will do,

so I continue up the road

on this Hallow’s Eve Day,

sensing the transparency

of the worlds

in my bones.

The air mysteriously moves

through

me,

mocking the illusion of

separation.


With eyes no longer

drawn up

by Autumn’s fiery reds,

my gaze

sinks

to the earth–

to her rich

colors of

death.


I float to

the place and  beauty

of my own

mother’s

passing

until I discover a half-dozen

trees

missing

from the banks

of the pond–

beavers,

hired

to clear my view.


Turning toward home,

I find four trunks

huddled together,

branches wrapped around

each other’s

back,

bare–

except for lichen,

a soft, sickly green

creeping up each body,

dangling

from each limb.


On this dark day of souls

I wonder~

Does the ghost of sweet

Jesse

roam

these

hills

like me?

Kelly Salasin, Oct. 31, 2009

Love’s Hiding Places

kelly salasin


In tippy-toed embraces

and

arched-neck kisses

I learned

about Love

from

my

Mommy

& Daddy


But

Love was Lost

when they Divorced

Turning Numb

and Cold

and Hiding its Face

among the stars


I never thought to

see Love again

Never wanted to


Yet to my unabashed

Surprise

It reappeared

Many years later

when I myself

was a Mommy

tippy-toe kissing a Dad


I found it

in the strangest place…

Hiding

in the

Spoon-Cuddling nap

of my Father

& stepMother


Who would have thought

that it’d be there

just waiting

for me

to notice…


As I grew older

Love was less shy

about showing itself to me:


Once

it was

so Bold

& Brazen

it made me cry,


As I watched my “stepFather”

hold my mother’s hand

while she died

The Elevator

by Kelly Salasin

in memory of my mother & friend, Bonnie Kelly Bradley, Christmas Day 1942 to September 8, 2000

Now that This
is done
She’ll die…

Leaning against the
toilet, Crouched
in a Puddle
of  blood
Wrapped
in bath towels
Cold,
even though
it is Warm-
August

He breathes
against me
the Two of us
Come through
a Storm
Neither particularly
loving the other, Collapsed
into this new
expression
of Separation

I have never Known
my Body like
This before
that Something
the size
of a Cantaloupe
could Push through
Me
like a Train
Reconfiguring my
Everything!
in an
Instance

I’d take that
Elevator with him
to summer’s End
1957
on the Curb
of a boarded up Motel
A covert block
from the cross-shaped
high school
my mother and I both attended,
two decades spanning
Our sophomore years

I’d find Her
there
in knee socks, buckled shoes
straight barreted brunette hair
shin-length pinafore snug
across emerging breasts
Heaving a sigh
of Relief
That I wasn’t
a Nun come upon her As
she takes the First
drag
of her First
cigarette till  the
End
of her Life…

Shrouded
in her exhale
we  Lock
eye to eye
and with babe in arms, I plead

PLEASE, Don’t.”

Because some
day you’ll be
My mother
and he’ll
be Your grandson,
and Together we’ll
Watch
you
Die.”

The Ring

Kelly Salasin

Contributor, Chicken Soup for the Mother & Daughter Soul

When the one-year anniversary of my mother’s passing came around, I found myself in the kitchen preparing some of her favorite dishes. I hadn’t planned this, but there I was one hot August afternoon, making her famous soup from the turkey I had roasted the day before.

As I poured myself into cooking, some of the deep sadness I was experiencing at this one-year mark moved through me. I loved my mom’s turkey soup, how she cooked the egg noodles right in the broth, and how they soaked it up and tasted almost like dumplings I remembered the time she made some especially for me. It was summer then, too, and I had a terrible head cold. She arrived unexpectedly one afternoon at my work place with a huge jar of her turkey noodle soup. I thought about the bread she used to bake and about how much butter she would slather on it, and how we loved to dip it into the broth. I began to feel a little more buoyant amidst the pain of losing her

.

While the noodles boiled in the broth in my kitchen, I realized that I was reconnecting with my mother through food. I laughed a bit at myself when I reflected on all the dishes I had cooked that week. Without knowing it, I had created a beautiful ritual to honor my mother and to comfort myself at this vulnerable time. I suddenly felt my mother at hand and was filled with her presence. I was so uplifted and excited that I began talking to her, imagining she were there

“What else should we make?” I asked of us both, wanting to keep the ritual from ending.

“Irish Potato Pancakes,” was the reply.

I hesitated. The thought of these brought up another loss. The last time I made potato pancakes was two and a half years ago. I had taken off my engagement ring to make the dough, and never found it again. Since then, I resisted using that recipe even though I really liked those pancakes. It’s sort of silly, but whenever I considered making them, I felt resentful of their participation in my loss, as if they were partly to blame.

My mom should know better than to suggest these, I thought. (I don’t even remember her ever making them.) She knew how upset I was about losing my ring. I had always called her whenever I lost something, even when I was away at college, even from across the country, even when I traveled abroad. She had a knack for helping me find my way to lost things, except for this time.

But despite these hesitations, I found myself caught up in the joy and celebration of the moment, and I reached for the cookbook without another thought of the ring. My mom did love Irish things, and these were delicious. I opened the large coffee-table cookbook and turned to the pancake recipe. At once, something at the bottom of the page caught my eye… It sparkled! I gasped in utter amazement! There, pressed into the pages of this book, was my diamond ring!

Chills ran up and down my body as my mind raced to ponder how this was at all possible. Hadn’t I used the book for other recipes in the course of almost three years? Wouldn’t the ring have slipped out during the packing and unpacking of two household moves? Hadn’t I checked the book for the ring when I had lost it?

My mind was subdued as my heart overflowed with the magic of gratitude and wonder. I slipped my ring onto my trembling hand, and a smile filled my soul as I whispered, “Thanks Mom.”

That day, I made potato pancakes in the shape of hearts.

the Sea of Miracles

for Jesse and Susannah

by Kelly Salasin

“And as to me, I know nothing else but miracles.” Walt Whitman

I want to write about miracles, but I don’t know how. There must be some outstanding event from my blessed life to retell, but no single moment splashes up for attention. Has my life been without the miraculous? Indeed, no. It has been so flooded with miracles that I cannot distinguish a single one… until I take what comes.

This past winter, a young friend of ours died of Leukemia. His name was Jesse and he was 19 years old. My family and I rode out the month of December with him in prayers and rituals and tears.

Tucked under our Christmas tree this year was a book entitled, The Way WE Work. Driven to comprehend blood and bone marrow as Jesse’s deteriorated, our bedtime reading ritual was heightened. We delved into a greater understanding of this amazing human body, and I was struck- STRUCK- by how absolutely miraculous our bodies are. In comparison, the miracle of Jesse’s recovery seemed a simple request.

When we got word, just after the holiday, that “Jesse wasn’t going to make it“, I wondered about prayers. So many had been sent from so far that I didn’t understand how they could be left unanswered. Were they gathered there outside the hospital doors, unable to get in? Did the Critical Care Unit refuse them? Did God or Jesse have some other unimaginable plans?

My son Aidan, age 8, couldn’t bear the news and ran up to his room sobbing. We all joined him on his bed in silence until he lifted his head from his pillow and demanded, “How can they be sure Jesse’s going to die?!”

In the face of all of our bright hopes, it was a heartbreaking thing to answer. “Death is like a birth,” I began, tentatively. “There are signs that a baby is coming and there are signs that a body is ending. No one can be certain of the exact time, but they know when it is imminent.”

Through all of our tears, I whispered again that death and birth were- both- truly miraculous; and though unfathomably painful, it was also quite beautiful that Jesse’s mother and father would be with him when he left this world as they were when they welcomed him into it.

As is the Jewish custom, friends and family sit with the body after death until the time of burial. At an hour when we would typically be heading up to bed, my family walked outside into the hushed snow and drove twenty minutes to town. We arrived at the funeral home just before 9:00 under a bright full moon and took our place beside the pine box that held Jesse’s body. We brought Rumi and lullabies and sat in sacred silence before turning over Jesse’s care to his grandmother and aunts–and finally to Lisa, his mother.

It was a magical night, holy, like Christmas Eve– perched as it was on the threshold of life and death. The next bitterly cold afternoon, we stood atop a mountain and buried the beautiful box with Jesse under the earth. Shovel upon shovel upon fistful and tears. Aidan snuck a clump of dirt from the pile and brought it home with him through the deep snow. We lit the yellow candles we had burned for Jesse each night since the New Year; and this time, we let them burn out.

Emptied in our grief, we did not find the one shining miracle we had wanted; that one defining moment that could shape a story so spectacularly such as this for you. It’s the story I had imagined retelling… the one where Jesse recovers and goes off to college like he dreamed. Because of prayers. Because of a miracle.

Who knows how miracles work… when they come and when they don’t! Isn’t it the job of a miracle to fit our expectations?! Aren’t miracles measured by specific outcomes, or is it by something else… by their effect, maybe?

If the latter is the truest account, than Jesse’s life and Jesse’s death were one and the same- miraculous.

As I type these words this morning, snow falls and falls and falls upon soft spring roads. Pondering life through my tears, I don’t know where to end this unlikely tale of miracles. Until the phone rings…

It is my sister, three thousand miles away, announcing the birth of her daughter, Susannah.

Another miracle splashes into my life

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