Little Words

MC Escher Three Worlds I
M.C. Escher Three Worlds, 1955

This morning I am thinking about a friend I use to know, when I lived in a different town.  I’ll call her “N”.  N has brain damage caused by an accident and a stroke.  I do not know how or when she got it; I never asked.  N has a speech tick, which means she communicates using only three, very limited sentences:  “Oh well”, “Oh, I don’t know about that”, and “Yes”.  She only shakes her head for “No”.

She smiles constantly.  It’s rare to see her frown or upset, because little upsets her.  N’s smile, crooked as it is, is horribly contagious.  She uses it to every advantage, often for non-verbal communication, such as *smile* Yes, I want that book, or *smile* More water please.

“Oh well” is her favorite phrase to use.  If we were playing a game and she didn’t win, Oh well.  If her drink spills over, Oh well.  She says the phrase in the exact tone, with open arms, EVERY TIME.  N and I met up about once a week for over a year.  In a “normal” relationship we would have known too much about each other by then, instead we built up a “getting use to each other” bond.

 

GETTING TO KNOW YOU?

I grew to like N.  I would come over and play BINGO, and read to her.  There was something more behind those eyes that made me curious.  I just didn’t feel like it my place to ask too many personal questions about her, so I didn’t.  However, the artifacts in her room gave a few hints of her life before the brain damage.  For example, on the middle of the wall, in clear view, space is committed to her full-nude self portrait, tastefully done in an abstract watercolor.  Judging by the style and frame it looked like it was from the late 1970’s.  She appears as a strong, confident woman, proud of her body.  Was N a feminist?

Many photos of her family, her children and grandchildren rest among books on the shelves, books about art, other languages, foreign countries, murder mysteries.  The frayed edges on the paperbacks suggest she’s read them all.  Sadly, the stroke took away her ability to read.  She holds her books, quietly in her lap; she loves to hold them, open to a page just right of middle.

 

DO YOU KNOW ME?

One month I was depressed.  After realizing my 20 year marriage was over, I walked around in a zombie state, adjusting to the thought of it.  Everything was foggy.   I analyzed and over analyzed everything.

It was fall, the season that readies us for winter.  I continued to see N.  Her big smile lit up my day.  Her unending, seemingly, optimistic attitude encouraged me.  However, I did not believe she was capable of recognizing my mood, the slight change in my behavior, until one day.

An afternoon in October, I wheeled her back to her bedroom after a BINGO game.  She smiled at me to open her curtains.  N has a wonderful garden view.  When I pushed back the curtains I was shocked to see the whole yard was covered in large, orange maple leafs!

“Wow!” I proclaimed from the window, “N, look at your yard!  All the leaves have fallen down!”

The majestic maple, older than the building we stood in, was barren of foliage.  Black branch tips wiggled like horse whips in the wind.  The once lush and lively view of iris stocks, azaleas, rhododendrons and lawn was gone, buried beneath the tree’s litter, cancelling out any hint of green.

She looked out.  Then at me.  Then out again.  Our eyes met.

With comical timing she opened her arms―“Oh well.”

We laughed together.  Her comment touched a tender spot in my heart, tears came down my face.

Tears came down N’s smiling face.

She was crying with me.

And I was thankful.

 

***

 

 

Poem: Tempest

Miranda, the Tempest, 1916
by John William Waterhouse
This morning the sky changed. Wind from a different
direction cast surprise upon and stirred up curiosity
Trees above sway to the song of Fall, make for a lovely dance to sing to
Below, wind combs threw underbrush, grabs the recently fallen,
blows them into whirlwinds
Northern Gale, breathe on me, release from me dead and dying parts
Twirl them up to the sky, lay them on the ground
Churn them into soil; all that death is good for
Compost for a garden I have yet to harvest
***
-Shannon Laws
Re mix of the 2011 poem “Winter Prayer”

Poetry: Leaf Tattoo

LEAF TATTOO
Can you feel it
In my city
The changing air
as wind folds in 
 fall’s cool weather.
Orange leaves land on
the sidewalks of Holly Street.
No worms to dance them back to soil.
Cement laden, laid upon 
the roadside in random patterns
leave a tattoo, imprint to the stone.
Five pointed star, a Tree Hand 
pressed by feet and rain
bleed the orange ink for all to see. 
By winter the marks wash away
By spring a bright green baby waves
at us from its mothers arm
born back into our memory.

Poetry: Green

Green
Oh, to be the type of green
that stays green through the frost,
when the ground is white and
branches are heavy with Winter’s weight
Brown, red, orange,
the colors of fall
most greens do fade
retracting in the cold air
Freezing, or the warm summers sun
to be green in all seasons,
fresh to the touch
ever holding the color of LIFE!