Mancala: Many Hands, Many Voices

This message sent 61 days ago:
Yesterday, buried my dad Too wrecked to go out Maybe tomorrow

The game begins against our will

tinted glass stones slip with clicks into shallow bowls  61 days ago?

smoothed into a bamboo board  So, 62 days ago

click, click  I stood frozen over my father’s casket

 63 days ago, we calculated prayer cards, coffee cups, and parking spaces

and whistled, he would have beenmancala 2

12 bowls, six and six, running  90 today

the length of the board

troughs on either end

12 days before that, a 700 mile countdown

across 5 states   and now we look up

one fist suspended above the board

stones willing themselves a race to spend

to fall 5 eternal days dividing 6 hour shifts

figuring 3 people per shift can sleep 4 hours each

measuring 2.5 every 2 hours  handfuls of gems

and something else every 6  shimmer in the light

we heard  click clink click clink

11 children

and  click click

married 56 years

counted spoonfuls of Popsicle, shirts cut up the back, beads on a rosary,

stitches across a quilt

parsed 80 words in a poem, studied 90 images in a video montage

counted breaths and arpeggios of time

between breaths  A stone falls away

from the board and we glance guiltily down

at the piles of colors, glance up to catch a bird

we counted on God  Flitting

and on each other  Outside the open window

under a vanishing sun

61 days? 70 days? 90 years?

click click clink click

our game ends gently

who won?




After this visit, I drove away along tree lined autumn parkways, past the French Meadow Bakery and the CC club, through downtown, toward home. I put each of my babies into colorful nighties, under yellow orange green sheets in lively rooms. I wondered, one day, will they blow a kiss to say goodbye? Will they cry out for me, 90 years from now?


Getting There Takes Some Time

Eileen sleeps the sleep of a traveller

Fitful, pulling at her own translucent limbs

transparent skin gathered up and quilted together by scabs and small bruises

at 93, this is life


at 23, this life

applying final touches to pursed ruby painted lips

she blows a kiss to mother and then away, down the steps, a man there waiting,

or a gaggle of girls There is a war on

Friends admire her raucous laugh, tease her for dancing clumsily, share secrets

she will take to the grave

Now, frail and pointed, a body uncovered and empty, she carries only these

Eileen reaches out Cries out for Mama, for Mother

She accepts a stranger’s hand, calms, lets go a tear which travels

over her desert cheek in a sideways trajectory

gradually finding its way along the cracks and fissures left there by time

Through plastic blinds, the moon blooms into fullness, a moon just made for traveling

Tonight Eileen will be traveling


Hospice Doesn’t Have to Be Heavy

Last night I wrapped up my 102nd draft, my final, final draft of a really important book. This book is going to help a lot of people. This book is important. It’s compelling. It’s two years in the making. And it’s the most morose thing ever written. Does hospice have to be sad? NONONONONONONOOOOOOOOOO. It doesn’t. Hospice, writing about hospice, has to be honest. And if anyone who has, you know, been there, done that, is honest about it, hospice isn’t sad. It has its moments, for sure. I mean, if you’re going to read a book about hospice, you’ll probably want to start with a box of tissues at the ready, just in case. But great hospice experiences cover the whole emotional map.

This is why I called my brother at 10pm last night. Thankfully, he answered. Blessedly, he saw my point, was not offended, and agreed to help me out. You see, I had been noticing the white space at the end of some chapters in my book’s final, final proof, and I started thinking, What is missing? I’m a liker of white space, generally, but this time, the pages seemed to be saying, “Take it a little further,” and, “Go deeper,” and “C’mon, I dare you!” Okay, I’ll bite, I told those pages. I called up the only person I know who could do justice to my cause, he answered, and now we’re on our way. Cartoons. Yep, cartoons.

You can buy the book on right now. It’s called Hospice Isn’t a Place. But if you wait a couple weeks, the newest version will have cartoons. And it will be finished. At last.