Archives for category: mortality

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

Family Portrait

Brother is checked in
at the lodge where
the door is always open
but locks behind you, tucking
the life he leaves behind
into an assigned locker.

Father is in a faraway land
hooked to a monitor and
sucking on emergency
chocolate, searching
for his kitten, who watches
him through the window.

Sister is having babies
to put between her
and the bottle of pills,
drifting sideways through
life like a rabid dog, wild
and ready to bite those
who dare to come close.

Mother is long gone
and golden, nothing bothers her
anymore, waving blithely at us
from across the River Jordan.
Just as it should be.

And I have taken
to jumping off the garden wall
in dark masks and miles of tulle,
a timeworn street mime giving
silent instructions to my children
to remind myself that I am
still among the living.

Claire Juno, © 2016

Thresholds

Thresholds were meant
for crossing, but you linger
in the shadows, pondering
which way to fall: on one side,
music and jubilation among
gleaming strangers;
on the other side, the frayed
ends of a tangible mortal struggle.
Neither beckons.

Words swirl around your head,
and sun-faded images of your gilded past.
Wires and tubes tether you gently in place,
lest you float away.

That beeping noise does not sound
like my heart, you think, as you slip
back into sleep and resume your post
by the ethereal door.

Claire Juno, © 2016

…please pull through.

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

The Ancestors

There was Frank, who returned safely home
from the war only to be murdered along the railroad
tracks walking out of a bar; like any soldier,
he really does not want to relive this irony.

And the beautiful melancholy Daisy, whose
gambling husband wandered off, so she took herself
out as dramatically as she lived, with a rifle
to her head. Do you really need to dredge her up again,
asleep in Jesus in her favorite nightgown?

Why pick on us, when we have been busy disintegrating
all these years, silently minding our own business
ever since we dropped off the mortal sphere?

Whose story would you next like to retell as though
it were your own? The hoarder recluse? The boy who
fell out of a high rise window? The aunt who died
in a house fire set by the wayward orphan she raised
as her own? The miner turned faith healer?

You already know the stories so I don’t know why
you have to go and dig us all up again and again,
as though there is something more to see here.

Sure, I guess we’re interesting in an eerie sort of way,
and it is clear there is something we offer you by proxy:
a kind of context. Though at times we question
whether you are just living vicariously through what
you have unearthed about us — that because
we came before you, we are a part of you.

I suppose that is true in a sense, but our stories
belong to us. These were not your lives, your losses.

These were not your orphans, your murders and
suicides, your deadly mine collapses and miraculous
faith healings, your plane crashes and car wrecks,
your broken bones and broken hearts, your wooded
hollows, your backyard inventions.

So before we roll over and return to our eternal nap,
we are going to offer you a bit of advice.

Live your own life.

And if you are lucky — or very unlucky — you will
create your own tales of drama for the generations
to come. And someday they will poke around at the dirt
in the family plot and you will finally know how we feel.
Now leave your flowers and let us rest.

Claire Juno, © 2015

…for my father.