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Poem- The Last Day

by Crystal Torres on November 18, 2016

Tomorrow, I’ll clear the marigolds from the mantle
and take down your poetry
and know that I have grieved
but I have not died
Today is the last day
that I will ask what-if
hold my half of conversations that cannot be answered
allow myself to live in the past
Today is the last day
that your poetry will be my wallpaper
that I will ask your ghost for approval
or wonder what you would say
Today is the last day
I carry your casket around my heart
lay my pillow like a headstone
wrap myself up in the chill of your absence
Today is the last day
that I can remember
you were alive
a year ago today
My editor and very dear friend died a year ago today. I think the first year of grief is the hardest. There’s this constant incongruent meeting of the new normal and the old, all of the things that come up that would under any other circumstances be shared with the deceased. From here on out, I’ve gotten through those things without him at least once.

This month I haven’t been remembering normal. I’ve been remembering that a year ago he was in the hospital, that he was dying and that it was very important for me to pretend like he wasn’t. If I gave up I felt like that would give him permission to give up. I refused to give him my permission to give up. Not that he ever gave a damn what I wanted in such matters.

A year ago yesterday, I posted this to my personal Facebook-

“Tonight I want to write horrible things. I want to mix my metaphors and speak in trite cliches. I’ll use too many words, leave all the fillers in, repeat myself redundantly and and be careless with my typos. I want to use that word that technically means the right thing, except the connotations are all wrong. I want to put sentences together that will grate like nails on a chalkboard to anyone who has ever cared for the English language.

I want to annoy my editor into being well. There is still so much he has to teach me about writing beautifully. My poetry is always so much better after he has run his hands over my lines. He cannot make my passionate rambling resemble his concise eloquence, but he extracts from my first drafts the very best of me. I want him to hack my words down to what they’re meant to be.

I want him to tease me again, jab at my soft spots, call me names. He has a way of making me want to hit him upside the head and say thank you, all at once. Somewhere in the taunts is the gift of feeling really seen. I don’t feel like friendly teasing tonight. I want to scream myself hoarse, but I won’t. I’ll keep my composure. I’ll keep my distance. I’ll keep it all inside. I’m hoarding all my tears, even if the weight is enough to make the floorboards buckle.

There is nothing to cry about. So what if he’s in the hospital? So what if the only thing I’ve ever known about heart surgery is that my grandfather died post op? Those are just my fears, they have nothing to do with my editor. My fears forget where he’s been, where he’s from, he’s made of tougher stuff than this. He and I are good at surviving and collecting darkness along the way. From darkness humor springs. Our demons are freaking hilarious and that is why I choose him as my friend.

He gets it when I laugh at the things you are never supposed to laugh about. I can’t seem to laugh about anything lately, but I sure as hell refuse to cry. This is just a momentary setback. He’ll be all better and humbling me with red ink soon enough. When he is all better, I’ll tell him what for. Yeah, I know I got an extension on my deadline, but that’s no excuse for lying about in bed all day.

There is so much I still need from my editor, from my friend. There are more than enough years left to get all that from him and to maybe find some way to pay him back for everything. When he’s all better, I’ll tell him some of this stuff, how angry I am, how scared, how much his friendship means to me. I mean, I won’t get all mushy about it or anything. I’m just saying there will be a time for telling these things to him. Tonight is not that time, so I’m telling all of you instead. I’m sorry.”

Having that come up in my Facebook memories has made me face that I’ve spent a year living with death. I have shook my fist at death, and said angry things as if I could hurt it. I have surrendered quietly and let my grief rock me to sleep. I have written and written and written until I felt as empty as when I cried and cried and cried. I have refused to write as if my petulant silence could change anything. I have grieved every way I know how. It hasn’t changed anything.

He was an amazing man, an exasperating friend and he meant more to me than mere words can express. Still, it’s time to let go, to move on, to live fully again.

“No llores porque ya se terminó… sonríe, porque sucedió.” (translation: Don’t cry because it ended, smile because it happened.) — Gabriel García Márquez.



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Tea and Sympathy

by Crystal Torres on August 2, 2016

In today’s adventures of Crystal the Wonderklutz, I made myself a cup of tea. I made myself a cup of tea because I was woken up this morning to the sound of a ceramic bowl crashing off of my mantle into more pieces than I care to count. I’m borrowing a couple of cats right now, partly because I have a mouse problem in my new place and partly because I have a friend who is in the process of relocating to a new city and hasn’t yet found a place for her and her kitties. It’s a whole lot of win-win, but this morning, a little less so. Skittish Kitty, broke a lovely ceramic piece that another friend had made and that is among my few nice things. Today, Skittish Kitty, is why I can’t have nice things.

I didn’t want to deal with it, but ain’t nobody else gonna. At the end of the day, all responsibilities are my responsibilities. I decided to give myself a little tea and sympathy before tackling the mess and then getting on with my day. Tea is one of those few indulgences that isn’t fattening, beyond my budget, or dependent on the cooperation of someone else. I try to take comfort where I can. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it fails epically. Today was an epic fail kinda day.

Shortly after pouring the hot water into my mug I burned my forearm on the hot metal kettle. This made me flinch, knocking over the mug, pouring steaming hot, not yet fully steeped, tea over my belly button. This made me cry, not because first degree burns are so awful. I have a respectably high pain tolerance. It’s just that right then, with a mess of ceramic, that used to be one of my favorite things, scattered over the living room and a mess of, just steeped enough to be more messy than water, tea poured over the counter and myself, dripping from both onto the kitchen floor, I really hated being alone.

The loneliness of being alone can strike me at the oddest moments. Still, it’s an easier pain to bear than the loneliness of being in the wrong relationship. Yeah, I have to clean it up all by myself, but at least I don’t have to argue with anyone about that, or endure lectures about where I should have placed the bowl, or the kettle, or the cup, etc. This is a simple, honest, lonely. 

Most of the time, it’s not even that lonely. I have kids. I have friends. I even have pets. I’m not lonely for a conversation, or a diversion. I’m lonely for touch. Right then, when I started crying, what I wanted more than anything was a chest to bury my face in and arms that could wrap around me. I needed a hug from somebody who could make me believe that it was all going to be okay, and maybe a kiss on the forehead. Some days, I really need a kiss on the forehead. That’s not the life I’m living though.

I want to be loved well, more than I want to be loved soon. My life is progressing by means of hard work and determination, and a whole lotta help from my friends. I don’t particularly want to be distracted from that. Except for when I do, when the cat breaks the ceramics and I spill the tea and it’s nobody’s problem but my own and suddenly it hits me that, for as far as I can see into the future, nobody owes me anything. I have to do for myself, even when I’m tired and cranky and having a bad day. It’s all on me now, and for the foreseeable future.

At least I have sangria, a gift from the cats’ rightful owner. Tonight is going to be a good night for sangria. That is, as soon as I’m done taking care of ALL the things, like I do.



This is the House That Love Built

July 31, 2016
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I am okay. Today, I am okay in that there’s nothing particularly wrong. Some days, I am okay, in that the things that are wrong will not destroy me. Other days, I am okay, because I have to be, because to admit to anything else would loosen my grip on the shore and let the […]

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Poem- All I Ever Wanted

June 24, 2016
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All I ever wanted was to love and be loved Until I was married, then I yearned for kindness a safe place to grow to be I fought my way free to this falling Now I’m extending like a hand that no one else is shaking aching for an embrace to bury myself six feet […]

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Head of Household

June 13, 2016
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I think it was a combination. I had been pushing against the door for so long that when it finally opened I couldn’t help but stumble into the lack of resistance. It’s not that I liked the fight, it’s just that I was used to it, freedom felt strange, and I felt lost. Also, the […]

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Poem- Hope

April 9, 2016
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I hope I get to kiss you, someday just once and I hope it’s terrible I hope our lips get pinched against our teeth clanking together as our heads angle all wrong I hope we don’t know what to do with our hands and end up just standing there pressing our mouths awkwardly into each […]

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Poem- I Give Up

April 7, 2016
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I’ve tried to give up poetry but it keeps coming back It gets into my bones like the winter cold like spring love like my thoughts of you marrow deep If you want to love me give me up take up a hobby or a sport something that leaves you exhausted Then, if everywhere you […]

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Just One Thing

January 18, 2016
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Tonight, I made one hour roast vegetables in the pan with what unexpectedly turned out to be a two hour roast chicken. I hold to my position that it’s better to serve overcooked vegetables, than undercooked chicken, so we waited impatiently as the meat thermometer made its slow ascent. It turns out, my kids are […]

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Poem- Heart in a Box

December 11, 2015
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The queen was deceived by the woodsman when he gave her a heart in a box We do not have that color green in the desert where I live the green of forests of grassy hillsides of graveyards I try to remember or alternately to forget the colors of that day Green grass Gray sky […]

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Poem- The Fall

December 4, 2015
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Wendy was the first leaf that trembled before Julie fell Maybe it really is as natural as that Gerald felt like an entire branch when he left my life His friend read Ecclesiastes 3 and I turned against the season of leaves brilliant with sunset reds and ambers against the memory of spring’s green against […]

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