Obit

JM Pod, an obscure corporate cog, died today at her desk in Corporate America. Her age was unknown.

The cause was a deadly cocktail of frustration and boredom, according to her secretary and designated spokesperson.  “She was found slumped over her keyboard with glazed eyes in a catatonic state after a prolonged conference call,” her secretary stated.  “She also had an overextended bladder, leading doctors to suspect she had been on the conference call for a very long period of time. She died shortly after finally relieving herself.”

A statement issued by her employer expressed gratitude for her services: “We are not sure who we will dump all of our work on.  Or who we will blame when things go wrong.  This is a really sad day for the entire company.”

Ms. Pod was best known for her ability to curse, write lengthy and meaningless memos and emails and render inane advice. She was frequently consulted by middle managers on sublimely ridiculous corporate matters and was highly regarded as an expert of the pedantic.

She is survived by her two children from a previous and devastatingly unhappy marriage that helped spur her workaholic habits, one lunatic dog who is addicted to floor licking and a small fish she tried unsuccessfully to kill many times if only to avoid changing that disgusting fish bowl.

The family requests that contributions be made in lieu of flowers to RIM, the failing maker of the Blackberry, a device that Ms. Pod was never seen without during her short, brutish, nasty corporate existence.

Mute

I didn’t speak because
I didn’t know what to say
At least not anymore

I didn’t ask because
I was afraid of the answers
And the non-answers

And in the end,
It’s what wasn’t said
That hurt the most

Bad mommy

Dear child,
I want to tell you that I am enjoying every godforsaken moment of your school ceremony. The one that won’t end. That I perk up with delight when sitting in an auditorium. The one that is sweltering from the heat of hundreds of camera-happy parents. That it gives me immense pleasure to watch you and all the other kids shuffle restlessly across the stage. All 600 of you.

But that would just be a big fat lie.

I hope you can forgive me one day.

Love, bad mommy

PS, not looking forward to the trek to the car by way of Egypt either.

Runaway

She ran away when she was just a little girl.

She had taken some underwear, a pocket knife, several boxes of matches and a blanket as well as a jar of peanut butter, dill pickles. a spoon and one old battered saucepan.

But she never left the backyard. And her parents let her stay out there, for how long she doesn’t remember exactly. But it was summer and the nights were mostly warm and alive with the chirp and buzz of cicadas, crickets and June bugs and the glow of stars and fireflies mixing together along the moonlit horizon.

Her father had an old pickup truck rusting on the lawn and it became her room. There was a badly cut tree stump and this became the place where she stored her food and lit small fires in the rotting hollows. She mixed together clover, honeysuckle and water in a bowl and ate it as a muddy stew. She gnawed on the green of young branches. She drank from the garden hose and washed and danced in the rain puddles.

Neighbors smiled at her and brought food in small bundles, leaning over the fences to hand down to her sandwiches and cookies. They all asked after her well being and she smiled up at them with her dirty face to show her contentment.

That summer, she dreamed up a whole life outside of the red brick box that was her house. Her friends were the rocks and leaves in the yard and around the neighborhood, which she collected by the handful. She would bring these found things back to the truck and sort them. She named them all and created stories for each of them. When the leaves started to crisp with death, she created a leaf hospital and laid them out in rows on toilet paper taken from the house and taped up their cracks and tears gently. The rocks fared better and became good companions. She always had a few in her pocket and would touch their smooth cool roundness when she felt lonely or nervous. She would read books from the library in town, rocks perched on the page to weigh it down and save her place.

When she wasn’t making up stories or reading with the rocks and leaves, she would gather sticks, acorns and weeds for eating, cooking and to feed her small fires. She would share bits of food with the ants on the neighborhood sidewalk, where she would sit and watch them march away with the crumbs. Occasionally, she would put her friends, the rocks, in their path to see what would happen. She befriended several outdoor cats and they would bring her dead birds and mice, which she would poke and dissect out of curiosity.

And then one day, her older sister arrived for a visit and in a brief episode of shame and surprise, made her come back into the house. Her sister scrubbed her clean until she was red and threw away all of her leaves and rocks and the clothes she had been wearing. And the summer was gone.

The little girl still looked for rocks and leaves, which she now kept hidden in a shoebox under her bed. When the red brick house became too much to bear, she would look over her collection of curled leaves and feel the smooth weight of a good rock in her hand.

Gift

Girls, Lizzie and I,

PJs and coats.

Twirling under snowflakes

below the moon.

Blowing iridescent bubbles

into the night sky.

Laughing, happy moment

under the stars.

And then she disappeared,

melted with the snow.

Older, I replay this scene with my own children,

a gift from Lizzie.

Stationmaster

“Either way, the lumberjacks of America thank you.”

He is the station master at my local station. He seems as old as the station itself. He wears a sweater vest and tie, no matter the weather. He sits in an office behind an old iron scrolled screen, dispensing tickets and quiet cheery humor. He has exactly the same jokes for everything – like the lumberjack line, which he always issues with his offer of a receipt for the purchase of tickets. He loves the chance to speak on the scratchy intercom to make important announcements. His biggest pleasure is a new schedule, which he carefully unfolds and lays out on his desk, like a big treasure map. He pores over every new schedule with a magnifying glass, making tiny notations in the margins and memorizing every change. I imagine that he was the boy who watched trains go by all day long and built model railroads complete with fuzzy trees and tiny plastic people with permanent smiles.

For him, I like to pretend the train has no schedule – which is actually pretty close to the truth these days. I arrive at all different times, looking confused and disheveled just so he can press a fresh schedule in my hand and tell me what train to catch next. And so he can tell me the same joke every time, at which I always chuckle.

It is our routine, the stationmaster and I, and I take comfort in it.

Bernie

He died today and I am not sad.

He called me “sister” even though I felt no kinship with him.

He made me drink a slurry of ants.

He woke me in the dark mornings with cold buckets of water.

He forced me to walk through showers of grasshoppers, leaping toward every orifice until I felt I might drown under them in the weedy plains.

He twisted my arms behind me and dunked my head into leech riddled waters.

He stuffed my cheeks with chewing tobacco until I wretched.

He ordered me to shuck corn until my fingers bled.

He only allowed me to eat what was left after everyone else ate.

He let his children devour me with their own abuses until I was bruised and exhausted by fear and pain.

He called me “sister” but there was no brotherhood in him.

He died today and I am not sad.

Shift in the universe

It was the center of gravity,

The thing that held me in place.

Me, in serene rotation around,

Quiet parabola in space.

Then I pushed away and

The formula changed,

Every orbit becoming

Escape velocity. Estranged,

I drifted into cold darkness.

But when I looked toward the coming sun

I saw that it had simply been

A bright star to wish upon.