Lobocraspis griseifusa

This is the tiny moth who lives on tears,
Who drinks like a deer at the gleaming pool
At the edge of the sleeper’s eyes, the touch
Of its mouth as light as a cloud’s reflection.


In your dreams, a moonlit figure appears
at your bedside and touches your face.
He asks if he might share the poor bread
of your sorrow. You show him the table.

The two of you talk long into the night,
but by morning the words are forgotten.
You awaken serene, in a sunny room,
rubbing the dust of his wings from your eyes.

~From Delights & Shadows, by Ted Kooser, Poet Laureate of the United States (2004-2006), winner of the Pulitzer Prize for this collection of poems.

Poetry was ruined for me back in school. Until I discovered Mr. Kooser.

Moving On

For the past two weeks I’ve been sitting on the second round of edits I need to make to my memoir Loveyoubye and then it will finally be done.

Five years of working through all the emotions, the tears and anguish. Five years of waking in the middle of the night, filled with doubt that I had the right to tell my story. Five years of sorting through what to put in and what to leave out. Five years of memoir writing classes and workshops, learning how very different memoir is from fiction, getting past fiction’s iron clad rule to “show don’t tell.” In memoir, it’s tell, tell, tell.

I spilled my guts. And then I sent the manuscript to Thomas White, an editor recommended by my memoir writing mentor for a comprehensive edit. I didn’t realize just how comprehensive his edit would be. He picked up each line, turned it over, examined the bottom, sniffed it, held it up to the light. And asked questions. Difficult penetrating questions that made me realize that I’d held back, that there was still more to tell. His questions took me down paths that unearthed tiny pieces of the puzzle of my experience I didn’t know were missing.

And now all I have to do is make those last few changes. Easy ones, especially after what I’ve been through. But there’s been a force field around my manuscript. I haven’t been able to crack that file. I’m anxious and miserable. I think what’s happening is that I’m afraid of finally being done. I’m afraid I will have nothing more to write. I’m afraid of sending Loveyoubye out into the world where others will get a peek into what I’m about. But you know what, I have to do it. Writing this book revealed a whole lot of me to myself and provided a healing I wouldn’t have found any other way.

Maybe now that I’ve been able to write about it in this blog, I can make those changes. And get on with writing.

Lion’s Roar

Okay, another writing prompt, this one from a fellow African, “The Gypsy Mama.”  Write for five minutes on the word “Roar.”

I’m lying on a narrow bunk–in that tight “V” in the front of the boat my just-married son’s South African in-laws commissioned for the entire family for the honeymoon–alongside is my husband on another bunk.  Separated by the walkway, our feet almost touch at the tip of the “V”.  I can’t sleep.  It’s only the third day of our week-long trip on Lake Kariba, Zambia, where I’d spent many a holiday back when the country was still called Northern Rhodesia, when I lived in Nkana as a kid and then when I was married to my sons’ father.

Now, I’m an American citizen, living in the States with another husband, an American, who’s freaking out.  Mr. Amiable is not admitting this.  Instead, he seems to have shut down, barely functioning, shunning me.  This is the first time I’ve seen this side of him. At least to this extent.

He spent the entire day on the top deck, sitting uncovered in a chair under a punishing African sun nursing a single beer, despite my pleadings, my two sons’ at first jokey jabs– that’s how he’s always communicated with them; they know him as Mr. Sardonic Wit, with a disarming self-effacing side–and then hey, Mom, what’s up with him?

I will realize years later when he starts disappearing for weeks at a time without explanation after twenty-five years of marriage, before bailing altogether, that this along with a lot of other things weren’t my fault, that his attacks (oh so witty, yet oh so punishing) were defense mechanisms, a way to distance people, until he couldn’t keep up the facade anymore.  But I hadn’t caught on yet.  I was still throwing pieces of myself out of the basket beneath the hot air balloon that was our marriage to keep it afloat.

I toss and turn on the hard bunk, wanting to reach out to him, to comfort him.  Off in the distance, a lion roars, a sound unlike that you’ll find up close on a safari or in a zoo; this sound is deeper, like it’s coming from the soul of the animal, mournful and true in the night air.

I lie there succumbing to the sound and remembering those days when me, my mom and dad and little brother lived on Kantanta Street, when it didn’t go all the way down to the pump station and the Kafue river, when I could hear lions roaring  in the bush at night as I lay on my bed wishing I was someone else.  And then all those trips with my parents up to East Africa along dust ruts that passed for roads hearing the lions’s soft grunts as they padded around our rondavels at night.

I relax, comforted by the sound of the lion’s roar, feeling a deep kinship that brings tears to my eyes, that makes my heart soar and I am comforted.