Urban Twilight

Neon lights taser early evening shadows of the day

and dance off windows ever-reaching for the sky

Blazing, burnt orange sun makes its slow slide into the Hudson

Pours her liquid sunlight across the city spaces

between buildings, and down crowded streets, across the trafficked avenues

Something electric runs through the veins of life in the streets

The city, she feels more alive, more alight than before

Remembrance

“I’ve forgotten how to be in my own body,” she said

“I feel like I have woken up in a foreign land”

I took her by the hand

Led her down the the sea

“Sit down and let the waves remind you,” I said

We lay back, and with closed eyes

Became one with the ocean

The undulation, the caress and push-pull

We let ourselves be swallowed

And we became mermaids again

Bodies arching, diving

Arms moving through the water

Embracing the flow of the tide

She started crying tears of deeply relieved joy

And so then did I, to see her find home again

Our salt tears mixed with the salt of the sea

And when we finally returned to the shore and found our legs again

We took the ocean with us in the sway of our hips

And the pulse of our hearts

Inspired by The Daily Word Prompt: undulate

Viable

Mightn’t I just lay down now

I’m so tired

Passed bone-weary last year

Let me just go to sleep

And never waken

Wish my beloveds a sweet farewell

There’s never been a moment of peace

I think I’ve earned some at this point

Maybe this has all been a random experiment

And my cell, never one that was expected to live

Maybe I beat the odds having come this far anyway

Maybe the Universe will sigh a sigh of relief when I let go

Maybe

Inspired by The Daily Word Prompt: viable

Kinship

Through marriage, I now have a large Irish family.

This is a continually astonishing gift. I come from a comparatively small family which, as I wrote about in my former post “On Weddings,” has become even smaller over the thirteen years I have been with my boyfriend-turned-husband through a series of losses. It is now just my oldest brother and his wife and two kids, my three aunts, an uncle, four cousins and their spouses, four cousins once removed (my cousin’s kids,) and a few of my father’s cousins, and their kids-that-are-sort-of-like-cousins.

My Irish family is comprised of 8 siblings-in-law: 6 sisters-in-law and 2 brothers-in-law. I always wished for a sister. Now I have 6! Actually, I have even more than that, because the two brothers have wives, so that’s 8 Irish sisters-in-law (in addition to the incredible woman married to my brother.)

These women, my husband’s sisters and sisters-in-law, welcomed me into the family with such love and warmth. As did his brothers. And their 23 children! Yes, that’s right. There are 23 nieces and nephews. Add to that the children those nieces and nephews are now having. I think at this writing there are 17 grandnieces and nephews, and…wait for it…2 great-grandnieces! (We go over at least once a year for weddings!)

And that is just the immediate family. My husband and his siblings all have cousins who have spouses and they have children, and those children have children.)

I love my Irish family. I come from the midwest, from people who were of Protestant stock. My people are stoic, hold-your-cards-to-your-chest people. We get together in small batches of time. There is love, of course. But it’s, well, a bit more subdued. There’s not a lot of hugging. Storytelling and laughter, yes. Just in short spurts.

My Irish family? These people truly love being together. They gather for epic periods of time!

And any time they gather, it is certain that there will be the “sing-song” and “a bit of craic.” (Craic is a term for news, gossip, fun, entertainment, and enjoyable conversation, by the way. Pronounced like “crack.”)

This entails each person taking attention to perform a song, or play an instrument (there’s alway one around it seems, spoons if nothing else.) Or recite a poem, in what they call recitations.

This reverence for the spoken or sung word goes way back in the Irish culture. It is truly important and meaningful part of their life. And the love of song! The stories told through song are passed from generation to generation. It seems a rite of passage for one of the “young ones” to start singing or reciting a “piece” that then becomes known as their “party piece.”

At first, these sessions (and they truly are sessions — they often last 10 or so hours, literally into the early morning) were totally overwhelming to me. In so many good ways. I was literally mesmerized by the love and the effusiveness. The laughter! My face and sides would ache.

Of course, I was asked to join in from my first trip there. You would think that as a singer and performer that it would come naturally to just jump in. But I was hesitant at first. What they do is different than get up and sing a song. They sing songs well known to the Irish people, and to their family in particular, and people join in and sing along with each others’ songs. And there is some drinking going on, too, which adds to the joviality of it all. They are usually singing a cappella, or without instrumentation. I mainly know American pop songs and show tunes and am used to singing crafted arrangements with piano accompaniment! I wasn’t sure how to fit what I do in with what I was seeing and experiencing.

When I finally did give in and join in, I was well-received for what I had to offer, and so now I have my own party pieces to do. I also think ahead for songs to do that everyone may know so they can join in. (It feels OK to sing one song that only I know – more of a performance – but it feels weird to me to do more than that.) It is more fun to have everyone singing along. I have taught a round to the group that they love to do (as loudly as possible!)

I have had to develop new muscles for the trips to Ireland for the weddings that bring us back each year. Not only stamina for the epic hours spent together into the wee hours of the morning, which can be additionally challenging while adjusting to the time change. But for the sheer volume of human interaction that occurs.

Being a mostly introvert person, I do love people, but I also need refill-the-well time. I love going deep in conversation; not so much the small talk. I have found my own way while over there. Fortunately, I can just sit and listen a lot. I can take little power naps if need be. No one judges. Being “the American” buys me some wiggle room: I am given some leeway.

But mainly, I just love every moment. I bask in the love and the music. I do my party piece and enjoy their appreciation of what I have to offer.

I am blessed with this extended Irish family. It has been the gift that keeps on giving, this marriage to my husband. I am surrounded by love that helps keep me from getting too blue over the key family members who are no longer here.

And I get to study with true masters the art of storytelling through song and spoken word. It just doesn’t get better than that!

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Post: recite

Stalled

This time, I was gonna get it right.

I waited in the bathroom stall

until the other girls were gone

and I silently prayed as hard as I could.

Please, God, make me be better.

Please, please, make me like Katie.

She is so perfect!

Her long, brown hair so straight

she can sit on the ends if she wants to.

She’s so thin and pleasant and neat.

Not like me – plump, awkward, shaggy-haired.

If I pray hard enough, it will happen:

I will become her. On the count of three.

One — Fingers crossed tight….

Two — When you wish upon a star…

Three — please please please please please…

Ok. Here I go. The new me. I am Katie Koening now!

I open the stall and look in the mirror.

I seem taller. I smile her smile and think Katie thoughts.

Head out into the hall, head held high,

floating on my hope.

I get to the classroom

and enter, waiting for heads to turn.

My heart dives back into my stomach.

No one notices a thing as I go to my desk.

I am just same old me.

God has failed me again.

 

Inspired by The Daily Post word prompt: better

 

Comes the light

When you live in darkness and the light finally comes

The dark doesn’t just “fall away” the way the say it will.

It’s still there, waiting for you

like a terrified child awaiting an adult’s comfort.

So there’s that.

But what about what’s in-between dark and light?

There’s all that gray.

Harder to look at than the deep of dark

or the bright of light.

Easy to dismiss what’s in shadow.

But something important that lives there

needs freeing too.

Inspired by The Daily Post Prompt: Gray