By Matthew Dickman
When grief comes to you as a purple gorilla
you must count yourself lucky.
You must offer her what's left
of your dinner, the book you were trying to finish
you must put aside,
and make her a place to sit at the foot of your bed,
her eyes moving from the clock
to the television and back again.
I am not afraid. She has been here before
and now I can recognize her gait
as she approaches the house.
Some nights, when I know she's coming,
I unlock the door, lie down on my back,
and count her steps
from the street to the porch.
Tonight she brings a pencil and a ream of paper,
tells me to write down
everyone I have ever known,
and we separate them between the living and the dead
so she can pick each name at random.
I play her favorite Willie Nelson album
because she misses Texas
but I don't ask why.
She hums a little,
the way my brother does when he gardens.
We sit for an hour
while she tells me how unreasonable I've been,
crying in the checkout line,
refusing to eat, refusing to shower,
all the smoking and all the drinking.
Eventually she puts one of her heavy
purple arms around me, leans
her head against mine,
and all of a sudden things are feeling romantic.
So I tell her,
things are feeling romantic.
She pulls another name, this time
from the dead,
and turns to me in that way that parents do
so you feel embarrassed or ashamed of something.
Romantic? she says,
reading the name out loud, slowly,
so I am aware of each syllable, each vowel
wrapping around the bones like new muscle,
the sound of that person's body
and how reckless it is,
how careless that his name is in one pile and not the other.
We are away! I had a somewhat chaotic morning of packing that was greatly enlivened by a visit from the wonderful cidercupcakes, who is newly back from Australia and brought me a stuffed kangaroo! I fed her and the kids unexciting sandwiches, stuffed my suitcase full of t-shirts and shorts, and made sure I had all the right camera lenses. We had a beautiful early drive heading into Pennsylvania and saw the beginnings of a colorful sunset in the mountains, but after a Turnpike rest stop dinner, the sky opened and we had dramatic lightning storms for quite a while.
As the sign says, this was the first US long-distance turnpike, and Midway is one of the original service plazas.
The entrance to the Allegheny Mountain tunnel...
...and the view inside the tunnel, shot through the windshield at driving speed.
We weren't far from coal country outside of Pittsburgh...
...but apparently there's some experimenting with solar and wind energy going on.
And, after the thunderstorm, a beautiful pink and purple twilight.
I was pleased to read Mars' announcement that it will sequence and analyze the cocoa genome with IBM and the Department of Agriculture to breed genetically superior specimens. And very, very pleased to learn that after many delays, Kiss of the Spider Woman is finally coming out on DVD! But once again I have been given a sign from higher powers to Get Out Of Fandom Free. If I had a moment of wavering, thinking, oh, maybe I will go see Daniel Radcliffe in Equus after all, like all the popular girls, now I have a rock-solid excuse for not going: Kate Mulgrew is playing the magistrate on Broadway! I'm wondering if ticket sales haven't been as hot as expected, if they're wasting money on more genre star power instead of hiring someone less famous and more suited for the role.
Friday is a long driving day from here to Madison, Wisconsin, passing through Chicago but not stopping at our onetime home there. I shall wave in the direction of the Hyde Park parrots.