Theresa Griffin Kennedy – For the Dead who Live

P Theresa Griffin Kennedy LE P&W Vol 2 2019

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Poems by Theresa Griffin Kennedy

Theresa Griffin Kennedy is an author, poet and writer of creative nonfiction, and fiction. She is an activist who fights for social change through writing as a social act. Kennedy paints abstract with mixed media and is educated as a creative writing instructor and writing coach. She is the author of three books, Murder and Scandal in Prohibition Portland, 2016, Blue Reverie in Smoke: Poetry 2001-2016, and a book of fiction Burnside Field Lizard and Selected Stories, 2018. She works as chief editor of the Indie Publishing Company, Oregon Greystone Press, and publishes other Portland authors including her husband writer and author, Don DuPay. Her next book, her first novel, Talionic Night in Portland will be published in 2019, and her fifth book The Lost Restaurants of Portland will be published by The History Press in 2020. She resides in Portland Oregon where she continues to write and be published.

For the Dead who Live     

January 7, 2019

Stay, I said to the memory as it fled, smirking its truth, smacking its lips, smiling, with glaring eyes. Stay, to the remembrance of the warlight of that sumptuous basement bed. Stay, the yellowing bedspread, chenille and aged, the texture like paper. Stay, the scent yellow sunlight of an early Easter morning.

Stay, I implored, but they laughed and they ran, until I can only guess at what was said, while only echoing fragments remain. Stay, to the dead love, forever his bones covered in flesh, forever his eyes green. Stay, timeless the sweet plum mouth, the gossamer tongue, the silk shoulders. Stay, the velvet horse neck.

Please stay?

When I close my eyes, please stay?

Elegy for Rudy Alex bunn

April 18 1978 – March 24, 2019

I had to move out of the old house, that falling down house where you lived the year you were twenty eight. The year you were still shiny and new in the basement room you decorated with glimmering broken mirror shards and played your music, painted and created all those things only you could make manifest.

I had to leave behind the disintegrating swing you made from wood and canvas and paint, hanging from the Weeping Willow, swinging in the wind, swinging above the aggressive Ivy consuming all in its path where you used to rest in the late light of summertime.

Dead at forty, you warned me of your fatigue a full decade before as you sat hunched at my kitchen table. We talked about the family, about cancer, about your mother, about all the sorrows of our clan, the clan we both loved and hated: The Griffin’s.

And you smiled that wan smile, grateful, humble, sweet tempered gentle man. I still can’t believe you’re gone, when I saw you only ten months before walking in Sellwood. And I noticed your grey face and the thinness of your body and your focus, as you explained you had to transplant a cactus, smiling and nodding when I said, “I love you, Rudy!” in goodbye – my last words to you. My last words to you, “I love you Rudy.”

I love you Rudy.

I knew you wanted to go. I just didn’t know you actually would. You told me so all those years before, teasing me about the notion of leaving.“Sometimes I just get so tired of living,” you quietly said at that kitchen table. “Sometimes I think it might just be better to be dead, you know?”And you smiled at my worried face, the wide eyes, the words, “No, Rudy, no!” You whispered you were only joking, smiling, pleased to see the furrow in my brow, the love in my eyes.

You came into this world Rudy, surrounded by us and you left this world in the same way, with your thin hands tenderly held as you exhaled that last labored breath. Not alone, but cared for and among us, even if we weren’t all with you, among us still. Your Aunts were always with you, from the start and to the end. Your mother’s sisters, always with you, always for you. Born in Portland, you died in Portland, our precious orphan nephew. Our Rudy.

Your name and face and voice will never leave our minds, our eyes or our ears,

We will never forget.

That Way      

January 12, 2019

The way age transforms the sting of cranberry sauce from the mouth of a five-year-old to something flavorful and sweet in the mouth of a 50-year-old. The way I shunned cheap fruit cake from the store, to liking the fancy kind my brother made from scratch, spread thick with yellow butter. That way.

The way my stacks of collected books resting in dusty purple shadow became less an embarrassment and more a source of silent pride, narrowed down to only the very best, their colors a strip of iridescent mother of pearl undulating, undulating. That way.

The way I walked away from two husbands and lived solitary in a lonely house, the hardwood cold under my bare feet, cleaned regularly with Murphy’s Oil Soap, the sunlight bleaching the pale oak, the house silent, so silent.

The way this old man ceased being an old man, and became a lover instead, his lips identical in feeling to the boy of fourteen, who I used to kiss, and who I will love forever. That way. That way.

And it was like a gradual walking away from the fear of it. Rather an awakening that the time would come and would be welcomed, the exhaustion transparent in me, like the wings of the Glass Butterfly are transparent to the camera.

While looking at my jar of multi-colored buttons, the number like the years in a life, I was glad of the colorful hues, the pinks and lavenders like my tongue, my eyelids and my mouth.

The way I stopped caring for the quaint 1930s house ruined by meth cooks, and watched blankly as the workers methodically tore it down. They call it Deconstruction now when many of the parts are recycled and reused That way.

The way I stopped being afraid of it, seeing it as a thing to be welcomed instead, bringing it in from the cold, turning its face to mine, smiling, saying hello. Telling it not to leave. That way, that way.

© Theresa Griffin Kennedy