Letter to a dead friend at 5am

Natalie my friend.

Because you are you know. A real friend.

Though you lie beneath your roses now and I

feel as if I lie beneath them, with you.

For I am not as alive, once, twice, three times

as you ever were

you, who were beloved in life, you, who passed too soon, too well

into the light, beyond to your garden

where those who loved you and there were many

sat cross-legged waiting for you to tell a story

make us laugh, make us smile, radiate with your old world charm

for you were one of the last ones, the best generation

reminding me of my grandmother, those fine ladies of yester year

who did not have our mistakes and our errors, the Booming Boomers, befuddled Gen X kids, lost Millennial’s who

never quite learned, how to wake up early and brush their hair, until

it gleamed.

I keep your photo, I retain your last message to me, I have a quote on my

desk you wrote

and mindful always, you told me; Listen, don’t give a shit

don’t!

People will hate you, especially if you are good

it’s the way of the world, you told me, smell the roses, don’t give a damn

and don’t forget to swear copiously …

I have forgotten many things, my rule book is sabotaged, I keep making

the same mistakes, *stop it!* (say nothing, it’s safer!) I blunder as if I were a child sometimes, unsure

of the etiquette, not able to read minds and plunge my hands into

the mass of wriggling thought, to harness something tangible

I never understood humans ever so well (why are they so cold?)

their mascinations, their secret selves, it were as if being

an only-child I watched from the outside with bemusement

(or horror) (or incomprehension) why do they survive without needing

something? Someone? More than ego? Self-satisfaction? What

urges them to action? If not something meaningful?

One minute they would be saying, they loved me and the next

turning a cold shoulder, the variations, the deceptions, the quiet

subtext I did not relate to, what ever did they mean when

they went silent and I dropped like a dying star (autism is

more honest than what we deem normal, i’m certain)

out of their orbit? How to tell? What to care about? (I am

afraid of not mattering to anyone, and everything I do being futile, I don’t

want to go my entire life as lonely as now, with that hollow

fear inside my mouth, unable to come out, lodged deep

like a burrowing moth will press itself like unbidden velvet).

Natalie – – you said; Child, don’t care so much

for nobody cares as much as they say they do

unless God is watching and even then, they would be loved

without putting forth effort, they would have worship without

knowing the feel of ground skinned beneath their knees

few will truly care, this idea you will have a devotional

following, is only for the wicked and the vain, if you are lucky

I mean — really lucky

you may have friends you can count on one hand

who truly, when the chips are down, and before dawn has come

will turn to you and rise you up

from sickness, in health, in death, who will come and pay their respects?

I recall your funeral, how we passed down the long line

many were your contemporaries, women you said used to

criticize you for swearing overly, even accused you of making it up

about your mother, (surely her life wasn’t that hard!) but that’s why I love you, you said

for you believed me straight away and with the innocence

of children we came together, I had my first seventy year old friend

staying long at the coffin, flowers on top, clouds filled with rain as

if God were waiting until we passed, to let loose his tears

I didn’t believe in God, as you did, I did believe in you and you

were faithful and hypocritical like the best of us

a flawed, imperfect, relic of a human being with

magnificent hair and a dirty laugh.

I should have come visit more often, I said,

as we all say when someone meets their grave and the

smell of dirt is in our nostrils, time being as it is, so fickle

and short, and we, who are still young, think we are far

from this hour, not so far, not so far.

You told me, listen, forget what you’ve learned about

piety and mortality, people are beasts, the world is cruel

but if you can find someone who loves you, then hold on

for dear life, and do your best to help them through

for there is nothing sadder than loneliness in a room

full of people and there is nothing better than one hand

reaching for you in a crowd

pulling you out

into fresh air, where if we were the same age

I suspect I would have stood up to those who bullied you in

your thirties and told your mother to go hang when she

said she found you a disappointment

I know how that feels Natalie, we shared the same stories

forty years apart, when you were born I was not

still feel I am not, I miss you because

you were a riddle in a lesson in a riddle in a lesson and I

don’t meet people like you very often, nor have I in a long while

stood in your garden and smelt the roses, they bloom just

before the light you said, just before it begins to dawn and

that is when I would most like to close my eyes for the last time

and sleep forever.

On that day you died, I watched out of my window

for surely there would be a sign, something of you

gathering into the ether, if I took my glasses off and squinted

maybe I could see in the unyielding darkness a little of what

you spoke about, that stirring of Gods and tempests and

humans lost on their own gloat, people who exist without

giving a damn about, each other, or the basics of care, I never

understood, even if I were well versed as you, on parents who

didn’t really want (me) (us) (you) (I) (anything).

Last night I dreamed of going braless to the store and seeing

an old lover who stared at my chest the entire time, I dreamed

of boarding a plane with nobody on it, except waving oxygen masks

I dreamed of you and I dreamed of my mother

in the dream of you, you were walking through the rose

bushes and in time you were out of sight, and music I liked was

playing through an open window and I saw you take flight

and soon you were high in the sky and my eyes could no

longer follow your trajectory and I thought – – maybe I should

let go, but I don’t want to, I never have wanted to, I can’t

it isn’t in me to let go – – – (God I wish it were!) and the dream was about my mother

and she had always been gone and wasn’t there and

I was (holding her hair brush)

and I was (stepping into a lake)

and I was (still)

left behind to take these memories of people and sustain them

as if a bomb had obliterated everything but my recollection

be it real or wrong or scattered like pollen, I don’t know

I don’t know what to do Natalie, to be loved? Be glad of shrugging

them all and living in a cabin in the woods? Or to matter, to

be of consequence, like I felt with you. Was it because you were

old or just kind or just hurt or just battered by your own mother who

you said told you she had wished she had

a boy and not a girl and not you and not you and not you.

Why do the good ones die? Why will one day I watch them

throw flowers for my mother and long then, to have had her

tightly woven around me like clay

but untouchable is untouchable and yearning is for children

(she won’t have a funeral anyway, she doesn’t believe in God

either, and she won’t invite you, no she won’t invite you least of

all to a wake without a wake).

So grow up and put your shoes on child, your feet will get muddy if

you continue to walk bare foot when it rains and the thorns

will always sting even if you are pricked countless times

there is a sharp edge to beauty you said, did you know, I was once beautiful?

I know I replied, I can tell, you still are, because a woman with

wrinkles like ships on her cheeks can smile just once and

a room is devoured by her radiance

if others can’t see that, it’s all right

I think of you now, and then and in the future

alongside my day as I work beneath the fan, it is still hot

in September, yes you said, it always was in bloody infernal Texas.

People remain alive in our memories or they are forgotten

as I am, before they die

it’s all about how much they exist and what magical

recipe keeps them real and how much glue they possess

and whether they hold on, out of sheer bloody mindedness

or just for the hell of it

or perhaps they swear a lot and eat three over-easy eggs for breakfast

when the sun rises and the day is golden

and we begin over

like fools

like humans

like lovers of people who are warm and good

Natalie, like you.

Brother

th

He had your ruddy skin

capturing sunlight

even as cold

his fingers interlaced

asleep in formaldehyde

his eyelashes like a girls

wet in regret

nobody should die yet

he would have said

his lips pursed for thought

devoid now

the little children crowded

coffins edges like spectators

in miniature

would he arise? like the wooden Christ

over-seeing his funeral

and shaking off his death

make them scream in delight

and run

like birds fanning sky

sudden and vital

defying nature’s flute

calling him home

long has he slept now

beneath the weight of grief

like a man who is bewitched by

lips of woodland nymphs

too red, too soft

to know not