My mother bites her lip, fishes the depth of her purse, rummages through lipsticks, combs, and compacts, to offer something, anything to sweeten the journey and soften the grief.

“People disappoint,” she says. “Best get used to it.”

Words drop. She is tired of the narrative. Her eyes fixate on the contents of a purse, scattering her lap, rolling out of reach.

“Ah- here it is.”

I watch as she lifts a tissue bundle, holds it mid air.

She regards peppermints as medicinal. A sugar salve to cover grief and sweeten the moment.

“Take one,” she says. “It helps.”

She tucks the peppermint bundle beneath a stashed scarf, clicks the clasp of her purse.

“Grief aches like a broken bone,” she says. “The good news- you learn to carry on.”

I watch as she squares her shoulders and stares down the end of the road.

“For awhile, it’s horrible. You speak it. Words pour out, ugly, pathetic. You stop speaking. People say, ‘Find peace.’ You wonder, How? There’s a hole in your heart and it won’t heal.”

She shrugs. “So- you throw yourself into charity, community, family. You summon new interests. Delight in passionate pursuits. You dare believe you can write your story.”

She turns to admire a grove of trees on a distant hillside. Their limbs seem as if adorned in scarlet ribbons, lit by ochre light.

“How beautiful,” she comments. “I used to rake the leaves of the chestnut trees lining the boulevard. Oh those leaves. Such a rich shade of green. You do recall?”

I nod. How to forget? Year after year, the trees grew taller, more abundant. Today, they form a canopy overhead. I do not tell my mother. In autumn, I return to the block. I choose one chestnut.

My mother speaks. “You’d toddle along, amusing yourself, collecting chestnuts. Only a certain few stayed in the wagon. As the pile of leaves grew higher, you grew bolder. Arms high, face first.”

She places her hand on mine.

“You learn to go on. Softly, softly. Forward.”

***

My Grandmother ends each visit with an offering of peppermints placed in tissue.

“Just a moment,” she says.

Bags rustle on a pantry shelf. Fingers fumble. She centres five peppermints, twists the tissue and presses the bundle to the palm of my hand.

“Tuck this away. Later, when you take tea, slip one. Don’t share.”

I meet her gaze.

Her eyes are oceans.

We come to understand. Life is loneliness and then it is joy. It’s sweet, tiny moments and sacred silence. We laugh and then, we’re overcome by sorrow. It’s a question without an answer. Scar tissue thickening on a soul. We seek the road home. It’s a song on the radio, a photograph that slips to the floor and then, everything collapses.

Draft Two

Tiny Struggles

Fiction

I could see she was weary, a shadow of her past. The light  that had once shone from her eyes, now dimmed. Words failed her. She had emptied out a million little broken pieces. It was sad. She had been hurt so much, she accepted it.

Her voice, a mere whisper, spoke. “When will we understand? To hurt one is to hurt all. This is the fault in our stars. It is the simplest of truths; we are all connected.”

 I loved her more in that moment: beaten down, raw, and still standing.  She was the strongest woman I knew.


If only I could bring you back,

start you over.

 

I’d tell you: ‘worth’ isn’t a tailored suit, a fancy car, or the next big deal.

 

It’s about the ones who sit with you in the dark,

count stars, and hear you in your silence.

 

It’s about the ones who find you, dust you off, and blast the radio in your car.

~ Car Rides

 

words

If you were a book, I’d slip upon the page

and write you a hymn: To Love

The text, an alchemy of lost, of found

Shed tears and tangled blooms.

 

I’ll write you a boulevard cradled by oak

Swept up in a crescendo storm

In an empty room, beneath an altar of glass,

Captive, we’ll pray.

 

Words dance through pain, tussle with greed, as we swallow shots of shame

To shiver in the reckoning: Love never fails

 

As you gasp, breathless

Upon rumpled hope

I’ll soothe your sleep to dream.

 

In the still of morning, you’ll reach for me

Words beneath the cover.

 

 

~Seraphs’ Blush

Draft

 

A View From A Window

dropping into another scene~

 

Roy’s arms reached for her and he whispered to no one. They existed in two worlds. A pane of glass separated him from his reality and Ella. A Sarah Vaughn song lulled his thoughts: ‘Lover Man.’

Meanwhile life went on. He knew this truth. The kids needed new shoes, Jacqueline nagged about a leaking tap, and the garage waited for paint.  

 

In a garden, thirteen blocks across town, Ella paused beside a rose-bush and turned. A gentle wind wrapped itself around her. She imagined a presence, felt a hand warm her waist. A low voice whispered into her ear, “Wish that you were here.” 

Ella turned, no one was there. She went back to her rose.

Across town, Roy rested his forehead against the glass. From outside he heard his daughters’ laughter.  He’d paint the garage for his father in law.