contemplation

i have been thinking a lot
about crossroads
decisions
choices made
going the wrong way
like a runaway truck
i have been
thinking
a lot
about fear
why was i so afraid
of you?
why did i run away
every chance i got?
i have been thinking a lot
about needs
about spending my life
unwilling
to need
anyone
would you believe me now
if i said
i am ready
willing
able
to need you?

artist’s note: do you ever get done with a sketch, just waiting for some ink to dry, admiring your work & feeling pleased with yourself, and then the small children chase the dog over to where you are working & before you know what’s happening, the dog jumps up and paws your wet ink? i am pretty sure this is why virginia woolf told us to find a room of our own…..

strong in the force

i can feel you
in my bones
like a nostalgia
you can wear
snug
& warm
comforting but suffocating
i can feel you
& i watch
for you to
somehow
wander back into my
life
while telling myself to
knock it the fuck
off
i can feel you
in the tears
i can no
longer
cry
but
still
do
i can feel you
like an impending
thunderstorm
the smell of rain
anticipation
hope.

it has been almost five months since i have looked at his instagram. but i did look, after the dreams started. and he is in illinois. chicago, at least.
and i can imagine him coming to see me.
i can imagine it so vividly.
the look on his face
what he would say….

there are just two men whom i have actually, truly loved out of the dozens–yes dozens–of men whom i have known, you know, biblically….
once loved…always loved. that’s how i know the love was (is) true.
how do you forget something like that?

you don’t.

it pops up in your dreams to haunt you & you find yourself doodling him as the leia to your luke. (before it was known they were actually siblings)

haunted

in my dream
i was on a blind date
i knew it was not
going to work out
but i ordered pad thai
anyway
& tried to make
conversation
when
suddenly seymour
you were scooching in
next to me
your arm slung
over my shoulder
whispers
in my ear
in my dream
you filled my senses
& my date
was forgotten
of course
i left with you
& when i woke up
i was left
without
you
but i clung to the dream
the feeling
not letting it fade
i held tight
like every other time
i dream
of you
i clutched it close
& wondered
if you knew you were in my dream
& wondered
was i in
yours?

is it because it’s christmas-time? is that why my brain is torturing me? or is he thinking of me & i am so fucking empathic that i can feel it three states away?
or is he closer? home for the holidays?
oh my god. i was barely thinking of him. i thought i had let him go.
is that why he is back?
fuck a duck.
i had the dream sometime during the night. it was not the only dream he was in, but it was the one i held tightest to & kept with me until morning, etched into my brain so it would not fade away.
when i got up in the morning and walked into my kitchen, of course the time on the clock was his birthday.
7:28
how many times do i see that on my clock and try to pretend it means nothing?
well, merry fucking christmas.
i got a haunting.

my “m”

the following is an essay i wrote today for my brother’s oldest daughter who is putting together a collection to honor him on the 10th anniversary of his death. 

Mike was my “m.” It was a family joke. Our initials, in birth order, were
M-P-S-M-P-S.
He was my “m,” & i was his. We would all tease each other by saying what the different letters stood for. Such as, “p is for perfect”; “p is for prude”; “s is for silly”;“s is for sarcastic”; “m is for moody” or “m is for money.” Of course, Mike & I knew that m stood for magnificent.

M also stood for movies. All of us loved movies, but I think Mike & I were possibly the most manic about movies.

We didn’t have a lot of money for things like movies and rarely went to theaters, but I remember the spring of 1980 when we went to see the long anticipated sequel to Star Wars. Mike drove us to see it, possibly in his Chevy Impala that he seemed to be constantly working on. Was that the time the Impala broke down in East Peoria, and we all feared we would not see the movie? But Mike got the Impala rolling, and we all tumbled into the theater to see The Empire Strikes Back. The ending came with a foreshadow of the next in the series with Yoda telling Obi Wan “there is another.”

Walking out of the theater to the car, Mike simply said, “It’s Leia. They were talking about Leia.”

It seemed like magic that he knew that. Mike paid attention to detail & the subtle hints that now seem obvious to those of us who have watched the movies a thousand times.

The summer of ‘81, he loaded us up to take us to another movie. I remember complaining that Raiders of the Lost Ark sounded like the most boring movie ever. However, I was blown away as we left the theater. I would eventually learn to trust Mike’s instinct with movies. His recommendations rarely disappointed.

Once he was away to college and bringing home VHS movies for us, a whole world opened up for me. I will be forever a fan of dystopian plots after Mike’s introducing me to Blade Runner, Terminator, and even A Boy and His Dog. I remember sitting in our downstairs room where we had a TV, VCR, and hundreds of movies, watching Terminator for the first time as Mike would gleefully exclaim, “Surely he’s dead now!”

The last time I watched movies with Mike was the Christmas of 2001. I was living alone in Lexington, Kentucky when he called me up out of the blue and invited me to have Christmas with him & his family. I was so grateful for the invitation and drove right up to Ohio where Mike, Heather, and the kids welcomed me into their Christmas.
I brought him some Knob Creek from Kentucky, and Mike took me to a pub and introduced me to the local beer, Great Lakes Brewing Company, by buying me their Christmas Ale.

To this day, I still buy Great Lakes Christmas Ale every Christmas season & drink one in his memory while watching one of the movies he introduced to me. This year it was Terminator, which I finally let my older children watch with me, gleefully waiting for the chance to say, “Surely he is dead now,” never suspecting that my oldest son would beat me to the punch.

Magnificence must run in the family.

ps. i am the one in the picture in a white t-shirt & jeans who looks like a 12 year old boy 

my big brother

while i typed novels
that no one
would
ever
read
on an electric
typewriter
he led the way
in that whole website fad
making a fortune
designing political
websites….
while he wore
a tie
& his million
dollar
smile
rubbing elbows
with bushes & kochs
i was
stomping about
in my doc martin
boots
head
half
shaved
& packing up my
compact car
at a moment’s notice
to go
where
the wind blew me….
we both kept pictures
of the other
to show off
with a laugh
& bipartisan pride
“can you believe we are related?”

twenty-nine days after all saint’s day (day of the dead) is my brother mike’s birthday. nineteen days after that is his death day. i spend a lot of this time of the year thinking of my brother.
so when i saw sarah’s post on her blog “fresh hell” about her amazing brother, i had to chime in in the comments.
and, of course, that wasn’t enough.
so it became a journal page of it’s own.

in my dreams

you were in my dreams last night
all of them
sweet dreams where i laid my head
on your chest
& hoped
that i would always feel that way
as i stared
into your warm brown eyes
hoping that you would always
love me.
how am i supposed to live like this
without you?
how am i supposed to embrace
the loneliness
of a life
without
you?
you are the ghost that haunts me
the haunting that leaves me
repenting my sins
you filled my dreams
last night
& now
i just want
to go back to sleep.

my dead brother

having someone in your life die changes you as much as, say, having a baby.
i would not be the artist i am today if i had not become a mother. i would be a different artist.
and i would not be the person i am today if my brother had not been killed eight years ago today. i would be a different person.

my big brother…sigh.
he introduced me to movies. that is one way i remember him. he took me to see raiders of the lost ark when it was in the theaters and i was all like, “this movie sounds stupid.”
and then i was all like, “that was the best movie ever!”
he took me to see the empire strikes back when it came out
and i remember as we walked back to the car after the movie, he said, “it’s leia. they are talking about leia.”
and i had no idea what he was talking about until return of the jedi.
he brought a copy of terminator home from college and as i watched it, he would say, “surely he’s dead now” every time they thought they had destroyed arnold schwarzenegger.
he introduced me to one of my most favorite movies ever blade runner.
and to another dytopian influence a boy and his dog.

self2

these two pictures were done for a drawing class where i was supposed to do two self-portraits that were meant to be hung together. the top one is from a photo of me as a baby with my brother mike.
the second one is a self-portrait of me in tribute to the polaroid taken of sarah connor  at the end of terminator.

his life and his death are both heavy influences in who i am today.
sometimes i don’t know how to feel about that.

here is a poem i wrote in a writer’s workshop about it:

heavy

when someone close to you
dies
it becomes part of your description
she has brown hair
a nice smile
and her brother is dead

birthdays are the hardest
his last one
i didn’t know
it was the last
his voice sad on the telephone
my pledge to keep in touch
this time

we live in a world
where I can obsessively search for
intimate details of his death
available in short video
burning plane
gray matter splattered on a playground
his last words, “oh, fuck.”

notorious IT guy for the other side
the forrest gump of stolen elections
everything reminds me
of him
the sound of a single engine  plane
sad songs on the radio
politics, christmastime, and charismatic men

i drink irish whiskey this time of year
but it was scotch at his wake
four years now
four years since the last election
four years since the plane crash
a conspiracy theorist’s wet dream
murder republican style

when someone close to you
dies
do you let it redefine you?
hello, I’m connell
a mama, a student, an artist
let me tell you
about my dead brother

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