Hello to My Serrated Soul // Aviva Siegel


Waiting by Claire Ibarra

I.

I offer a blessing for the people who keep vigil for the phone call from jail.

I offer a blessing for those who accept the stretched-across-states, tinny blue lines of that collect call.

I offer a blessing for those who drink stale coffee and fresh hurt at Al-Anon meetings.

I offer a blessing for those who refuse to swallow the serrated lies.

I offer a blessing for Heather, my best friend from law school.

I offer a blessing for the ones whose hands bloom open in helplessness and supplication.

I offer a blessing to remember the girl who studied Black’s Law Dictionary with me until hours fell into days.

I offer a blessing to remember the friend who taught me all of tax law before the final because I’d slept through the course, eight months pregnant.

I offer a blessing for those of us who see the hummingbird beauty behind her green eyes.

I offer a blessing for the four-year-old waiting at home for his mom.

I offer a blessing for my sister-in-law who says, “Everyone needs a white trash friend.”

I offer a blessing for every day that Heather stays sober.

 

II.

In my dream, my neighbor is angry with me because I wrote a poem about her client, not respecting her client’s privacy, but my husband says, “No, no, she’s a poet. She's allowed to do that.”

 

III.

The National Institute of Drug Abuse reports that 40-60% of addicts suffer relapses.

 

IV.

You are driving carpool to your son’s school and stop at the light on Wadsworth Boulevard and Hampden Avenue. You know the homeless man on the corner is Richard, because you asked him once. You roll down the window to give Richard the tuna lunch you and your son bought at Costco and put in the minivan.

Your son says, “I like doing mitzvahs, Mom.”

It's spring, and Richard stands in brown dirt, shifting his weight, one grey tube sock rolled down, showing his bony ankle. He leans on his wooden walking stick, a feather tied to it, reminding you of your grandfather. When the early morning sunlight shifts, you see the map of wrinkles tracing a path down his face, the color of cowhide. 

“I’ve been eating all day, no thanks,” he says.

The light turns.

Your son says, “This sucks.”

 

                                                               V.

“I am carrying a fierce anger in my body every day and I can’t seem to find my way out of it.” 

Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things

 

VI.  

What I Told Myself

That I could order up rehab for herlike Burger Kingand have it “my way.”

That I could understand the nature of addiction.

That I could forgive the lying about the affair.

That sins of omission are different.

That I could trust the parts of her that are separable, like a Russian nesting doll, the truest parts of her are still hiding inside their smaller containers.

That her addiction wasn’t something she was doing to hurt me.

That I could still love her the same way.

That I could not worry about her boy and how many hours of Barney he was watching a day or that he wouldn’t get left at the grocery store.

That the lost sleep wasn’t stolen from my own family.

That I could forgive her.

 

VII.

I’m driving my son Mitch to his school across town. We stop at the light on Wadsworth Boulevard and Hampden Avenue. We talk again about doing mitzvahs, good deeds. Richard, the homeless man I’ve met before, stands on the corner. I roll down the window to offer him a tuna lunch I’m proud we bought at Costco and remembered to put in the car for him. “Poor people’s lunches,” my four-year-old calls them. Mitch is smiling.

Richard says, “Thank you, little sister. You are saving my life.”

 

VIII.

In Heather's Hands

Here are the broken wrist bones from playing soccer goalie in college, scars of grit and gristle.

Here are the small fingers that soothed her son’s cries when he was ill as a baby.

Here is knowledge of law, of researching landlord tenant law, writing contracts for grocery stores, helping people by arguing their lives before the judge.

Here is the wisdom of lessons, teaching young girls to shoot soccer balls, young boys to solve algebra equations, and her own son to swim.

Here are the memories of the language of friendship, cups of coffee, Dairy Queen Blizzards, love between grown women, not fiery red flames but steady orange coals.

Here are tiny, delicate hands, plunged cold into sorrow, cracked open and bleeding.

 

IX. 

The National Institute of Drug Abuse reports that 40-60% of addicts suffer relapses.

 

X.

Friendship not only makes us happier but also contributes to our health. The renowned Harvard Medical School Nurses’ Health Study found that a woman with more friends was less likely to develop physical impairments as she grew old and was more likely to live a joyful life. The results were significant because the researchers’ conclusion was that not having close confidants or friends was as detrimental to your health as being overweight or smoking.

 

XI.

And losing you, whom I have blessed and been blessed by, will be as detrimental as carrying extra weight, as terrible for my lungs as smoking, as difficult for my heart as cardiac disease, as lonely as being on a planet by myself. If only there were mitzvahs for this, tuna lunches from a minivan, the steady orange coals of love.


 

Aviva Siegel is a poet and writer who has studied with Dorianne Laux, Ellen Bass, and Sheila Bender. Her poetry and creative nonfiction focus on exploring family relationships, our own identities, and the places we call home. She lives in Denver with three kids, two hedgehogs, and a husband who leaves the poetry to her but loves a good mountain bike ride.

Claire Ibarra's photographs have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Roadside Fiction, SmokeLong Quarterly, Alimentum~The Literature of Food, Stone Path Review, and Blue Fifth Review. She was an artist in residence for Counterexample Poetics and is currently art director for Gulf Stream Magazine.Claire's work was included in the "Finding the Light" Exhibition at the PhotoPlace Gallery in 2014.