Prompt: Ephemeral

Prompt: Ephemeral
Life, ephemeral. Grief, perpetual.
How deep her knees burrow
into soil. A thumb of tallow,
a gasping candle, swallowed by gusts
of ramming winds. From the gravel,
handless arms rise, and tremble.
Endless sorrow, its cries guttural.
Those left after death face pain, insurmountable.

Art by FallanDark

Mama’s Favorite Flavor is Grape

Mama’s Favorite Flavor is Grape
Mama’s favorite beans when cooking are black beans.
Jade Seneca, the Chinese place a block up, and around the corner,
she orders chicken and broccoli. When someone’s sick, we order 
chicken and rice soup. Sometimes she makes Lipton 
with a packet of Sazon and sofrito, a cube or two.

Breakfast on the go is a cherry danish from the coffee stall in the city.
Hot chocolate all winter long. 
In New York, the winters are long.
If you stop by here when it’s winter, guess what you’re getting?
Quiere chocolaté? We’ve got plenty.

At the Japanese place downtown, by Chambers, I think?
She orders lemon chicken. Never sushi.
She doesn’t like mochi ice cream, so she lets me take it.
She doesn’t drink. Only a pina colada. It has to be virgin.

While we’re shopping on Myrtle, to cool off on a hot summer day,
there’s a pidaqua stand on the same block as Payless. 
Her pidaqua is either grape or cherry flavored.
When we’re buying candy for the theater or at home, her favorites 
are Mary Janes, Peanut Chews, and Snow Caps. Random days my dad will come back 
from the bodega with Sno Balls to surprise her.

She hates olives. She uses her fork to take them off her plate, and drop them onto my father’s.
At the dollar store, she grabs a pack of jelly rings, chocolate covered cherries,
and when it’s Easter, it’s Peeps, and chocolate covered marshmallow eggs.

Whenever I visit, and I’m homesick, she makes fricassee de pollo for lunch.
At the all you can eat Chinese buffet, my mother likes crab legs.
Ice cream from the Mr. Softie truck, always vanilla.

Grape juice, cranberry juice, apple juice — always juice in the fridge. And iced tea.
My mother bought the frozen kind, concentrate. 
Where she mixed it with water and stirred it in a pitcher.

She doesn’t like spicy. She buys Franciso Rinaldi
pasta sauce. Meat flavored. So she doesn’t get heart burn.
Always Tums in the house. Heart burn is something she always has.

She expects nothing less than Whitman’s chocolate for Valentines Day.
If we’re making a trip to the bodega for munchies, honey BBQ chips it is.
Come church events, she’s bringing potato salad.
Sunflower seeds on the train, we spit our shells in the plastic bag.
She’d always tell me, when your father and I were dating, 
he took me to Outback’s.

Burgers and steaks, always well done.
Applebees for birthdays.
McDonalds: Big Mac, Burger King: Whopper, Wendy’s: 
Either a taco salad, chicken sandwich or baked potato with cheese and broccoli.
I know all her favorites, and all her orders like the back of my hand,
even though I don’t remember what I ate for dinner yesterday.

I’d do anything to cook for her. She doesn’t have to cook for me.
I’d do anything to eat with her again. 
I’d do anything to treat her again. 
To meet her for lunch during my work break.

I’d do anything anything anything
	everything
to just share that last piece of cake 
we baked together from the box
always white cake mix
always vanilla frosting or cool whip on the top.
But I can’t, because it’s four years later,
and my mama’s still gone.

And I still use present tense because these things I know about her
still are.
Just like she still is.
In my memory, in my dreams,
even if not physically. 
Here
with me. 
She’s in my heart.

I hear Jade Seneca closed. It was our go to Chinese restaurant ever since I was a kid. The place was probably as old as, if not older, than me. I think the pandemic must’ve hit it hard. Was sad to hear it’s gone now.

The Roads Our Hearts Know

The Roads Our Hearts Know
We know all the avenues, and all the roads.
I can walk to Mrytle, Wyckoff, or Knickerbocker 
with my eyes closed.
And I do. 
More than you can imagine.

The way to the post office, the supermarket, the cuchifrito.
Street fairs, and flea markets.
All across Brooklyn and Queens. 
Times Square, 34th Street, and Broadway.
All the bus lines, all the trains.

My soul aches 

the way people’s broken bones ache
on rainy days. Except for me
it’s every day
when my eyes are open.

We roam Bellevue, Memorial Sloan Kettering,
the dollar stores, and the parks.
All the places I don’t visit anymore
in New York. We’re like ghosts 
replaying records new and old. Except one of us
is alive, 
and alone.

All the time,
I hang out with my mother.

Nowhere fancy. Nowhere grand.
Just a mother and her daughter buying groceries together
every night
since she passed.
I dream, and I long
for the roads our hearts know.
And for the life mama, and I
no longer have.

Ice Chips

Ice Chips
Ice chips.

I gasp from a night’s fog.
Ghosts came home with me from the 9th floor.

Ice chips.
None of the nurses said anything to me 
whenever I entered the employee only pantry 
with a styrofoam cup to get

ice chips.

Unstrapping the bi-pap mask feels like
apologizing for plunging my mother’s head into water.
If we’re lucky,
I can slip a third ice chip into her mouth before
I re-strap what must feel like a bear trap 
of air wrapped around her head.

She points out the window.
She flicks invisible shackles 
off her legs before trying to swing them over the side of the bed.

I ask her where she’s going every time,
knowing that she can’t answer until
finally 
I ask:
“Do you want to go home? Is that where you’re trying to go?”

She nods yes —
delirious.

I clutch my heart,
clutch her hand
and, tell her,
“Yes, you can go home if you want. Don’t worry about me and daddy. We will meet you there.”

Every hour I flinch now.
Ice chips.
Bed up.
Bed down.

Mama there’s nothing behind the curtains what are you pointing at oh my God.
Whatever ghosts were at her bedside followed me, 
and jolt me awake as my leaden body 
moves to get 

ice chips.
Except I’m already home.
Without her.

I wrote this is in December 2018 when my mother was rushed to the ER, and she spent one night admitted on a regular hospital floor until her ICU admission the following morning. Only one person was allowed to stay with her. No one else volunteered. I wasn’t going to leave her alone.

I didn’t sleep that night. Was not at all prepared physically or mentally. Every time I was about to drift off, I jolted awake for one reason or another.

Oxygen deprivation makes you hallucinate. So does sleep deprivation.

It was traumatic. No one else, but my therapist, know the details of that night. I had nightmares about it after where I’d wake up in my own bed, and swear I was still in the hospital, already halfway up to get my mom some ice, or fix her blankets, or move her bed, or keep her from trying to leave the bed, or or or or…

I know it’d hurt her to know how much pain this memory caused me. And at the same time, I would do it all over again. When faced with the hard stuff, you see just how much effort people are willing to put in. In the months leading up to her passing, I did the hard stuff when no one else was willing.

Why? Because I was an asthmatic, hard of hearing, anemic, colic, preemie, and my mother took care of me all her life. Surgeries. Hospital admissions. Doctor’s appointments. Chicken pox – twice! Cracked my skull open once. Ear infections so bad, I would literally scream like someone was stabbing knives in my ears. I remember her breaking nights to slip the nebulizer mask over my face or to give me some nasty medicine. Even after I was an adult, and lived on my own, sometimes if I had a doctor’s appointment, she’d go with me just because. And when she got cancer, I tried to return the favor. My efforts definitely pale in comparison compared to the years she put into me, but I still did it because I loved my mama.

And while the pain has… become more of a scar that aches really bad on some days. A limb I was forced to live without, but life has never the same. I don’t regret being there for her. I’d do it again.

Imagine

Imagine

There is no sound

more deafening

than the silence of your name

never being spoken.

 

There is no space heavier,

more suffocating — full, and yet,

so hollow, and

empty,

than your absence

in this world.

 

My nightmares awake are long.

My sleeping dreams of you

are brief.

 

Nothing gives me less purpose,

less drive to get out of bed,

than knowing you might be

behind my eyes.

 

I only have to go there, and

hope that I run into you.

 

Imagine an ocean,

never combed by the moon.

 

Imagine a wind

that never breaths.

 

Imagine birds,

grounded and mute.

 

Imagine veiny trees,

desperately reaching, and naked,

all year long —

forever.

 

Imagine that the black behind your eyes

is more beautiful

than a night’s starry skies.

 

– Rachel R. Vasquez, 2018?

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Another grief poem pulled from an old notebook. Despite how inactive my blog is, I have a lot of notebooks full of stuff. I don’t often get to the part where it goes from my notebooks, to a digital form. (sigh)

I Die

I Die

I die

over and over.

 

I used to think I wanted to.

I used to flirt with death using the same razors

mama used to shave calluses from her

hard working heels

but now I know better

 

when walking feels like

dry heaving my broken insides

when it feels like vomiting

the pieces of me

of her

that have loosened in me

since she left

 

pieces trying to force themselves out of my body

 

but I hang onto them

no matter how sharp

 

and I die

from doing this.

 

I die when I remember her face

turn blue

 

I die when I can feel how soft her hand was in mine

in my mind and

I realize

I can never feel it again.

I die.

– Rachel R. Vasquez, June 2018

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

I wrote this around 4 months after my mama died. Grief feels very surreal in the beginning. Our culture truly does not give grievers enough time before they have to throw themselves back into the daily grind.

I went back to work about a week and a half after her passing. I remember walking in the streets, physically straining to hold myself back from what felt like dry heaving. I can’t describe it. It wasn’t necessarily about being nauseous all the time. It was like, being a water balloon ready to burst and with any poke, gentle or otherwise, the balloon will splatter into a mess. I felt like I was literally hanging on by a hair, trying to keep myself from literally collapsing in the streets in pure agony.

Sometimes it did feel like “Fuck, I’m going to throw up,” because the horror of loss and witnessing death feels that way. Sometimes it was more like an unfathomable sorrow and pain that I could barely contain within myself in silence.

It’s like being punched in the gut multiple times. There’s only so many times you can let yourself get punched without ever making a sound. Sometimes the pain is so great, the only relief is to make a sound – to cry, to scream, to release.

There were many times I couldn’t hold it back, and I had to pull myself into a restroom stall or even face a wall in the subway to just break down. Let some of the tsunami out just enough so that I could return to appearing “normal” and walk that fine line between sanity and the insanity that is grief.

There were mornings I didn’t make it to work, and the mornings I did, it felt like a drunken haze, an alternate reality I was being forced to live in. How do people laugh? Go to work? Keep going about their lives when this life is missing from this earth? When this life has been snuffed? How does no one notice when the sun is blotted from the sky?

I wrote this back then. It’s been a year and 4 months since she passed now. While it’s no longer a physical strain on a daily basis to hold back my grief, it still comes in waves. Ever since, I’ve been following only a single line of advice. Take it one day at a time.

#VSS365 May 2019

Once again, trigger warning for grief related stories below. May is not only the month of mother’s day, but it’s the month of my mother’s birthday. Needless to say, May hits me hard. This is the second time around since her passing.

 

#VSS365 April 2019

Warning – the first few “very short stories” I wrote in April may be triggering. I’m still grieving the loss of my mama. I write in an effort to comfort the ever present void in my life due to her absence.

#VSS365 March 2019

 

#VSS365 February 2019