Go to the Door Laughing
October 7, 2010
The Other Side of the Wishing Coin
July 14, 2011
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I.
I can’t get his words from my mind.
Not all of us are blessed with a Tink.
You are a fortunate soul, Angi Sullins.
Fortunate.
Yet I sting.
I sting with the memory
of her body in my arms.
Pierced by a rattle snake
seized by a heart attack,
her back arched in a sudden
and violent spasm,
her bladder voiding
on my red tshirt
in the final moments of release,
the inevitable collapse
against my chest
as her spirit flew away.

She left me
in the purple of twilight
in the silence of the first stars.
No warning
no explanation
except the snake in the garden
like Eden, without the gifts.
Silas captured the snake
and tossed it over the fence.
But I fell.
Like Eve, I fell
tasting the first fruits of separation
I fell
I fell
And the sting in my heart
at the sound of his words
You are a fortunate soul, Angi Sullins
tells me I’m still falling.

II.
He left me at the ashram
the one dedicated to Hanuman,
god of protection and strength.
He left in the heat
of the day, as if to say
he’d had enough.
I’d snuggled him in the cool shadows
of a cotton tree
for a nap.
But as the sun shifted and I lingered to
sing the praises of creation
he burned, the candle of his life
melting to the quick.

I found his body stretched out
in the sun. Motionless.
In the palace of protection
I had left him unprotected.
In the shadow of the guardian,
in the palace of protection
I am stabbed by guilt.
Shamed by the sun.
The sight of him rips me
into jagged pieces.
I grab his little body
hoping to force air into
impossibly tiny lungs.
Tired lungs. Burned lungs.
I sob into his fur
pushing air from my chest into his
through nostrils the size of pin heads,
the praises of creation
dying in my mouth.

III.
Still I can’t keep his words from my mind.
You are a fortunate soul, Angi Sullins.

IV.
It is the longest summer of my life.
The sun refuses to stop shining,
its heat burning me
as soon as I step
from the shade.
And I resent it.
But mostly, I resent myself.
I am Lost, with the keys
of Found in my pocket,
but I refuse to take them out, use them.
It is easier, far easier,
to be lost,
and I need the ease.
But still, there is the dream.
The one I had the night
Zeus died, the waking dream that put
the keys in my pocket.
Lost and Found is a choice, not a condition
the dream said.
You get to choose what you will be.
And just like that, I saw it.
The truth so simple
and delightful
I laughed in my tear-stained sleep.

On one side of the vision,
the word Lost
and under it, all the feelings
I experience
when I think on what I’m missing,
the life we’d lost:
Despair
Separation
Loneliness
Lack
Resentment

And on the other side of the vision,
The word Found
And all I feelings
I encounter when I think
On what I’ve found,
the life we shared:
Happiness
Connection
Love
Abundance
Gratitude

I bolt upright, intensely awake,
to write it all down.
It doesn’t feel like a dream.
It feels like a visitation,
one that has slipped powerful keys
into my pockets.
Keys to unlock doors of grief.
Of shame.
Of suffering.
In the morning I wake
to a living nightmare.
He’s gone. It’s real.
I’m Lost.
I can’t remember the path to Found
or how to unlock the grief.
Still, there are keys in my pocket.
Sometimes I hear them jangling.

V.
While summer blazes, The Fall begins,
my descent into depression one giant
scorching free fall.
The sun refuses to yield.
It glares at me,
accusing.
I answer emails, visit the dentist,
feed my family,
remember laughter,
but my curtains are
drawn tight to keep out the sun.
I need shade.
Autumn will never arrive.

I board a ship bound for Athens,
a city named for Athena,
goddess of war and wisdom,
patroness of weaving.
I need her skills.
There’s a mouse-shaped
hole in my heart and
a torn, haunted place
where Neverland used to be.
I yearn to weave these hollows shut,
mend the tattered fabric,
make of them an offering
or a lullaby.
You are a fortunate soul.
I shake my head, where fortune and grief
rumble like thunder, rattle like rain,
jumble like the keys in my pocket
I can’t quite claim.
Athena, bring me your wisdom,
for my mind is at war.

VI.
On a too-blue day
I visit the temple of Zeus
and marvel at the ruins
surrounded by the buzz of tourists and taxis,
busses and motorbikes,
shops selling busts of the god
and his daughters, the muses.
Everywhere the sound of life moving
and these pillars standing still.
And still standing.
Marking the spot of worship
both ancient and modern
as pilgrims arrive each day
laden with cameras, video and sketchbooks
and me, with the ghost of a mouse,
the wings of a Chihuahua.
The sun glares, pierces,
so I sit in the shade of an olive tree
one branch extended over my left shoulder
as I drink a beer called Mythos
in a place where time moves
and stands still.
I scribble words
of lost and found
in my journal,
my heart in ruins.
But my love, in the center,
a temple, still standing.

VII.
Near the Acropolis
I spot a silver snake in the
window of a jewelry shop.
It twists and turns in circles,
like those, centuries-old,
worn on the arms of women
in one-shouldered gossamer gowns
belted just below the breasts.
I stand at the window,
bitten.
The garden. The snake.
The arch of Tink’s back
as her spirit left only her
body in my hands.
The snake is poison.
The snake is medicine.
Always has been,
depending on the story.
In the hands of Genesis,
a serpent in the garden
leads to paradise lost.
In the hands of Asclepius
son of Apollo,
the snake leads to healing,
shedding its death-skin to reveal
new life. Transformation.
It all depends on the story.
What’s my story?

I walk into the cool of the shop
and ask the crooked-backed bronze man
with the caterpillar eyebrows
“What’s the price?”
but really, I am asking
myself about the story.
He walks to the window and
removes the silver coil,
placing it on my left arm between wrist
and elbow, like a guard.
I feel a bit like that woman of wonder
with her bracelets of power
forged to deflect bullets,
and her sisters, the Amazons
who wore metal cuffs to remind
themselves of the slavery
they would never endure again.
Slavery. Power.
Poison. Medicine.
Lost. Found.
Two sides of the same silver coin,
and me, like a snake shedding its skin
deciding which it will be.

As I slide green paper
across the counter
and leave the cool confines
of the store,
I already feel the alchemy
melting me down,
the snake on my wrist, at once
my pain, my power.
I walk down a cobblestone path
the words of ancient healers
ringing in my ears:
The medicine that heals
is found inside the wound.

VIII.
At the sanctuary of Olympia,
the ground of ancient spectacle,
where Heracles and his brothers
are said to have trained their bodies
into feats of heroics,
the day is sunny and warm,
though there is lightning and rain.
When thunder cracks through her narrative,
the tour guide jokes
that Zeus walks among us.
If only she knew he was in my bra,
or his likeness, anyway.
I have crossed several oceans
and two continents
to visit the father of myth
and the mother of wisdom
to weave my own story.
But traveling with ghosts is not enough.
I carry a grey plush mouse
in my bra, snuggled next to my heart,
a symbol of the tiny being
at the heart
of this Odyssian voyage,
the ultimate Little-Bigness.
(If only John Crowley could see me now.)

Some people may think I’m crazy
A grown woman
traveling with a toy mouse.
But the woman next to me
on the bus
nods in understanding
when I tell her a mouse sent me on this trip,
a mouse named Zeus
who changed my life.
She says “It’s not the size of the being.
It’s the size of the love.
Big love comes in all shapes and sizes.”
And I know I have heard Athena.

An hour later, when this woman is
pulled onto a dance floor by locals
dressed in traditional costume
dancing Zorba-style
she grabs my hand,
forcing me into the circle
of rhythmic clapping
and shuffling feet.
I am going through the motions.
I am playing Happy Tourist.
But when the music picks up,
our arms interlocking,
the woman looks over at me.
The dance is in her eyes as
she yells above the ringing music:
“I can’t believe Zeus is missing this!”
When I pull him from my shirt
and place him in the
center of dance, the air erupts
with a chorus  of “Opa!”
Faces are grinning
with surprise and delight.
Voices are laughing.
Eyes are twinkling.
Keys in pockets are jangling.
Happy Tourist dissolves
as I give myself over to the music.
The world is a circle
and the circle is dancing.

IX.
As I prepare to leave Athens,
boarding a ship that will sail me
over the Black Sea, the Agean Sea,
the Ionian, Mediterranean and Sargasso seas,
over oceans made from a thousand tears
and waves the sound of sighing,
I glance at the wall
behind the registration desk
of the ship that will sail me home.
Hanging there is a framed engraving
of a winged woman.
She carries a lamp
over a mountainous village,
in the distance, first stars.
Her bare feet balance on something
that looks like a wheel.
I mention her to the man
who’s processing my identification card.
“Oh that’s Fortuna,” he says.
“Goddess of Fortune. She guides our ship.”
He smiles, revealing thick white teeth
too big for his mouth.
“But fortune?” he says, “I believe
we make our own. Fortunate. Unfortunate.
It’s really all a matter of perspective.”
He hands me a plastic ID card
and as I turn to find my cabin
I hear it again.
You are a fortunate soul.
And this time, I feel it.
I walk down the long hallway
toward room 5017
knowing it’s time to take the keys
from my pocket.

X.
It’s the longest summer of my life.
Only now it’s no longer summer.
Autumn never did arrive.
I sailed from summer to winter,
The Fall an interior season.

It is a cold day today,
but hot next to the picture window.
I sit, a glowing ember,
toasted by a gentler sun
as the first fat, white flakes fall
to Taos ground.
It is Thanksgiving day.
In a tradition of my own,
I am lighting a fire
and am listing
all the reasons
I have to be grateful.
This is not where I get plucky
and claim that life is better,
that I am blessed
because my friends have died.

And all that Rainbow Bridge stuff?
While I appreciate the sentiment
and like the imagery, the idea has never
really worked for me.
I need something here, now.
I need to salve the grieving questions
with answers other than “someday.”
And so I use the keys.

When I feel lost
as I some days do,
I pull out my memories
of Found.
I fill the mouse-shaped hole
with appreciation
for all I got to give,
all I got to receive
all I still receive,
if I let myself be open,
stay open.
I walk into the Neverland hollow
and sprinkle gratitude
like pixie dust.
For someone once said
that the reason we miss anyone
is because that someone
put us in touch with love.

And love? It doesn’t disappear.
Like energy, it cannot be
created nor destroyed.
Love lives.
Love is.
We embrace it or exclude it
but it’s there nonetheless.
It is our natural way
of being in the world,
if we can just
remember.
Remember who we are.

And these someones who love us?
Who make us feel like we can fly?
It’s not them we crave. It’s the energy
inside us,
the love we feel,
when we’re
around them.
Think it passes with their bodies,
and we are lost.
Know it lives
within and around us,
know it is us,
and we are found.
So this is my thanksgiving.
This is me, giving thanks.
For the journey between
Lost and Found.
Sometimes between continent and ocean.
Sometimes between living room and kitchen.
The journey is made every day.
A choice.
A choosing.
I embrace Lost,
but I choose Found.
Whenever I can remember.
Remember who I am.

And now winter.
Have I mentioned my hair
is turning white?
In the months since the deaths,
my hair has gone from red to white,
white like the ground that is
now packed with virgin snow.
Endings. Beginnings.
The sun has softened now.
I’ve been sitting at this window
for hours
and soon twilight
will enfold me
and I will shake hands
with the dark.
Purple night will cloak me
in the first stars
and I will sing
the praises of creation
knowing lives are sometimes lost
but love is always found.

 *********

A Post Script:
If by chance
you should happen to be
in Athens,
named for the goddess
of war and wisdom,
patroness of weaving,
and should you happen to visit
the temple of Zeus
named for the god of myth,
father to muses,
and should you happen upon
a certain piece of paper
torn from a journal
and shoved into a fissure
in the rock wall’s surface
you might happen to hear the following:

Amazing Grace
how sweet that sound
that saved someone
like me
I once was Lost
but now I’m Found
was blind
but now I see.

and should you turn
the paper over
you could happen upon these words
scribbled in lost handwriting
and stained with Mythos beer:
Today, in the ruins
I remember who I am.
I am a fortunate soul.