Archives for category: mortality

Lost

The official letter
she had been holding
trailed to the floor
and she fumbled
with a bowl of aphids,
suddenly lacking her
usual appetite for them.

Feeling clumsy,
she set them free
by a windowsill.
The world outside
seemed unreal—
slow and dream-like.
“I must be in shock,”
she mumbled inaudibly.

The letter bore
the usual formalities
and some kind of fancy
seal that meant it was
from someone important,
someone who would
know what he knows,
and bears the responsibility
for conveying only
necessary information
and unfortunate facts.

“Ms. Ladybird,”
it began. “It is with our
sincerest sorrow that
we regret to inform you:
your house has completely
succumbed to fire, and
we were unable to locate
most of your children
in the blaze.”

The impersonal black
words on the white page
were burned into her mind’s eye.
Everything inside her railed
against the horror.

It continued.
“We were able to save
but one, who was hiding
at the time of the incident;
she will be in our custody
for the time being,
and you may retrieve her
at your earliest opportunity.
She is being attended by
our fine counselors and
receiving the utmost
professional attention
deemed helpful, as
she awaits your
return.”

“Ann! Ann!”
She cried aimlessly
into the summer air,
her eyes blurred by tears,
frantic and frozen
in her helplessness.

“We offer our
heartfelt condolences
for your terrible loss.
It is our duty at this time
to strongly urge you
to fly away home
at once, for the good
of your surviving child,
as well as for your own
welfare.”

In a daze,
she read the words
like a foreign language,
barely comprehending.

“Home…yes…home,”
she resolved, still shaken.

“But where is home?”

Claire Juno, © 2017

…inspired by the English nursery rhyme, “Ladybird, Ladybird”.
…dedicated to all who feel displaced in this world, whether by calamity or circumstance.

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The Sun Will Still Rise
…a verse to my mother.

The sun will still rise
after you are gone,
with the noise of workday
traffic in the distance,
the drone of the masses
of the living, going about
their day, unaware of
your sudden absence.

The sun will still rise,
sending its indiscriminating
rays through my window
to this bereft new world,
blinding reminders
of the ambivalence
and continuance of things,
in spite of a loss that seems
to suggest, at least to me,
that everything else
should cease to exist,
in memoriam.

Just Doing My Job
...a verse in defense of the Sun.

I rose that morning
like any other,
only to find her glaring at me,
as though I had committed
some grave betrayal.

Why are you here,
she demanded to know,
and suddenly it dawned on me,
it was not that I had no reason
to be there, it was that
she could not face the day
I had brought to her.

Claire Juno, © 2015

A Leper’s Wisdom

There is so much I do not know,
for I did not live a life full of beauty.

Mine was something else,
but in spite of that, or perhaps
because of it, I know something
about faith, instead.

About the gift of simply
being here. About what can be
endured, survived.

About why the sun bothers
to rise over my humble terrace,
just as it ascends the gates of some
grand distant castle.

Quit trying to make perfect
an imperfect world—
propping up one thing after another
in desperation, when everything
is perpetually on its way
to the ground.

Dear one, great skeptic
of the inevitable, you are
duped by this futile notion
again and again.

Stop wasting time.

Claire Juno, © 2017

Muse

In dreams she appears,
telling him there is love,
still love, and to find it
for himself once again.

He shuts his mind,
out of eternal loyalty
to the one who claimed
his heart, and to whom
he surrenders it still,
even in her absence.

He will not allow any
alteration. This must be
a false message, a cruel
sprite urging him on
toward some mischief.

He tries to put it out
of his thoughts. This
is not she, he supposes,
and yet as plain as any
cherished snapshot,
she appears, the moon
in her ethereal eyes,
coming to him

night after night,
crossing the celestial
chasm between them,
ever-attendant, bringing
a message he refuses
to consider. Love,

brushing against
his cheek in a manner
he might mistake for
a night breeze—
she implores him to seek,
even as love seeks him,
not yet knowing
his name.

Though she is gone
many years now,
she loves him still,
and so she slips through
the cracks of his spartan
heart, long in need
of love’s repair, gently
inspiring love’s return.

Claire Juno, © 2016

The Mind’s Value

This disembodied love
gently retires to the
spirit-corners of his mind,
the way a grown child
lays her beloved doll to rest
for a seeming eternity
in its little bed,

now a container for love’s
history, a personal context
perfectly preserved,
glass-eyed and unaltered
by the years.

That it is there, waiting
for him, ever-expectant,
was a needed security at first,
then a familiar comfort.

This relic of his heart
remains undisturbed
beneath layers of dust
and seasons, like a truth
even tender children
eventually learn.

Claire Juno, © 2016

The Collector

He surrounds himself
with art, as his way
of bringing her back,
or at least finding ways
to be close to her again.

Free-form sculptures
become a silent homage
to the one who inspired him,
who breathed life into his
once-nascent understanding
of everything.

The halls of his home are full
and empty at the same time,
a solemn procession of tributes
to the very one who cannot
return to see them.

All are cold, smooth,
motionless— just like her pale lips
on the last day she was here.

Claire Juno, © 2016

 

Letter To A Totem

Dear Red-Bird-Dotting-the-Snowy-Field:

For a minute,
I thought you were my grandfather.
And where is your olive-hued wife?
She is your perfect complement,
with a modest beauty, just like
my grandmother.

In January’s dark branches you perch,
perhaps as my beloved ancestor,
reincarnated into this feathered creature
to twitter away the bitter cold with me.

Your vivid presence calls to mind
the red dirt of southern family farms,
a yellowed ancient telegram delivering
news of your daughter’s birth to you
on a military ship,

and pole beans drying in the garden,
where your father died one morning,
leaving your mother too soon.

Claire Juno, © 2017

…dedicated to my grandfather.

Jacob’s Dream

You took me to a concert
in a darkened auditorium.
The spotlight was cast upon you,
reflected in your glasses.

You were in the lucky seat,
and the band, grooving
in their sparkly costumes
and afros, beckoned you
on stage to sing along
with them. As always,
you were game.

The crowd enjoyed the
spectacle, and cheered
your efforts, but then grew
restless, wanting to hear
more from the band.
You hopped down and
rejoined me in the audience,
just happy to be.
Joy.

We left, making our way
down a long flight of broad
white stairs, flanked by walls
on either side. We talked
comfortably, as though
we saw each other often,
but I cannot remember
what we discussed. There
were so many stairs.

A young man
with a head wound
grinned at us with a
sheepish jubilance
as he passed, going up
the same set of stairs.
We smiled back at him.

Eventually, I said something,
and you responded in turn,
the last words of an ordinary
conversation, the kind we’d had
many times before.

This must have been as far
as you could accompany me
as I descended, because then
I woke up this morning, nearly
nine years after your death,
feeling like I had sampled
someday’s home, ready to savor
today’s promise.

Claire Juno, © 2017

…dedicated to my brother.

Junebugs

The sun is warming our backs
and we are on top of this giant grape leaf
and I am on top of you and we are
a conjoined lump of gold in this
afternoon light.

How could this be any more perfect
for two such as us, who happened
to come into this world with only
a year’s worth of days to our names
to live out our purpose, which is mainly
to further our kind forward in time
by sitting on this leaf together
one on top of the other,
glinting golden in the sun?

Later, perhaps, we’ll nibble shamelessly
at the deep pink roses in their garden,
spoiling the buds before they can fully bloom.

But they can hardly blame us,
even when they flick us off the flower
right in the middle of our indulgences.
We only have a year together,
and must use our time judiciously.

Claire Juno, © 2014

Prey

I know my lot,
though you’ll never hear me say
I agreed to it.

I just came in this way.
The forest floor and the sunlit
canopy above me are my only
witnesses to the perils I face daily,
just to make it to sundown.

I know I was meant
to be hunted, consumed
and returned to the earth.
To transfigure whatever remains
of my flesh into bitter dandelion
greens for some distant kin.

I am one of many,
and that is why we survive at all—
to give the world more of us.
Since we are too many
to begin with, fate steps in
and thins out the excess.

I have lost too much
to suppose it is not my destiny
as well. This may sound too much
like resignation. That’s just the
way it is in my world.

Once upon a time,
I was very young,
and when you are young
you do not know enough.
Your eyes are wide open
to the newness of the world
and you are slow and innocent
in the presence of danger,
because you have not learned
what danger is.

It was a fast education.
Each time I survive, my pulse
resumes its steady beat.
I feel life flowing through
my neck and limbs, and
my head feels clear.
Everything seems new again,
as though I am experiencing
life for the first time.
Terror is cleansing
in some strange way.

And I hop away, looking for
dandelion greens grown from
those who came before me.

Claire Juno, © 2015