Yes, I’m still alive. Life has just been incredibly crazy and busy lately. I guess it’s always crazy and busy, especially when you’re a single mom, but it seems like it has been even more so recently. I constantly have ideas swirling in my head about what I want to write, I just haven’t been able to find the motivation to get them on paper – or the computer – yet. So, instead, I’m going to share a poem I wrote about my uncle. For some reason, I was thinking about the poem/him this morning, and I realized it had been fifteen years since he passed away. I wrote it for my mom, so it was really important to me that I get it right, that it be well-written. I remember being so nervous when I gave it to her. Looking at the poem now, I see how it could come off as harsh or judgmental, but after my mom finished reading it she started crying and told me that for not knowing George, I sure knew him well. She shared it with my cousin who I believe had a similar response. So, here goes . . .
(To One I Never Knew)
I can picture your brown skin
from the few times I remember seeing you,
along with the long, braided hair, black,
down to your waist,
trying to recapture and reclaim your heritage however you may.
I never knew you because you never wanted to know me,
just as you never wanted to know your own children or grandchildren,
just as you refused to acknowledge your parents and two sisters.
I never knew you, but I knew about you
and the cigarettes that scorched your lungs,
about the susceptible nature of your Shoshone blood
to the alcohol that slowly and agonizingly
poisoned your kidneys and liver.
That’s how I knew you, Uncle George—a smoker and alcoholic—
the monsters that turned you old before your time
and almost killed you—
I can only imagine the final decision to end it all
before the slow and boiling pain consumed you with its viper fangs;
not wanting to imagine the gun put to your head,
your worn, wrinkled fingers pulling the trigger,
gone at 54.
Neither can you imagine,
one who didn’t know me,
the grief that attacks me
and pushes long dormant tears out of my eyes,
yet wishing somehow you can see
that there is one who agonizes over you,
Uncle George, for one I never knew.