New Rules + New Post

1) No blogging required when I am on meditation retreat, when I am sick, when I am flying somewhere, or when I am spending the night somewhere unexpected and to track down a computer is nearly impossible.
2) Permission to skip one day out of every seven, if needed.
3) Occasional forays into poetry are permitted.
4) Same first-draft only, no going back, be honest and fair rules apply.
5) Word limit (250-1,000) will remain the same, but only as a rough guide now.


It is after midnight, Sunday night/Monday morning and I am driving home from working a party at Tasty Dirty Wad. It was JR’s 70th birthday party and it’s not difficult to decipher that anyone who makes trash art for a living has a way of finding the poetic in life. The friends and family, some who traveled across the country for the party, are such a testament to this that even viewing the party from an outsider’s perspective is enough to fill my well with warmth and laughter and the light of friends.

But when I get home there is a note in my mailbox to call home. I let myself into the cabin and there is another note, this one taped to the stairs leading to my loft: KATEY, CALL HOME WHEN YOU GET IN.

All of my life I have known death when it comes like this and I lunge for the phone, unsure of who it will be. Mom answers and all I have to say is, What’s wrong?

“Oh Katey,” she says. “It’s Sherrill. She’s gone.”

Sherrill, for whom I wrote this poem the second time the melanoma came back:

For Sherrill

There is a place inside me
where your tumors grow.
Green, swollen, aching.
I try to imagine
tiny goldfish swimming around in your chest,
eating them up.
I close my eyes and see
cool, white, foamy, light
reflecting off your chest wall, dancing;
endless, like the tides of your outer banks childhood.
Everything you need is within reach.
You are already a miracle,
so how can I ask?

There is a no need to say goodbye to mom, hanging up the phone will suffice, and when I catch my breath I frantically begin foraging through my recent letters. Within minutes I have Sherrill’s letter in my hands and sob over the pages. Her final words to me, though no one would have guessed.

At the post office this morning I see her everywhere. Here is where she would stand sorting her papers before buying the stamps. Here is where she would have stood to check her PO Box. Oh yeah, and here, here is where we stood once in the parking lot for half an hour gabbing in the late afternoon sun.

“Can I help you?” the postal worker says.

I hand him my latest packet of new writing to mail to my professor. The walls are white, silent, empty and nothing really seems to matter.

“Sign here,” he says, handing me the receipt for my credit card charge.

I reach for the pen, the same pen, I think to myself, that Sherrill surely gripped one hundred times at this same post office. The metal chain clanks and dangles loosely over the edge of the counter. One end of the chain is attached to the pen, the other end is taped awkwardly to a black plastic holder, supposedly to keep people from wandering off with the pen. I tug a little at the chain to get slack and the tape around the base crinkles and loosens in retaliation. I hold the pen and think of Sherrill’s silky fingers, her naturally groomed nails, the warmth of her grip.

“Sir, I’m sorry, your pen is out of ink,” I say.

“Oh, it must have passed on then,” he says, then rips the entire unit from the countertop with God-like force, tape screeching and tearing at the edges, the base flying backwards into the air over his shoulder. The chain whips across my field of vision and in a flash I see her, the IV dripping, the pain – or was it peace? – I pray it was peace right before she left. He throws the pen in the trash.

“Guess I’ll have to find a replacement,” he says.

“No, no, you can’t. There will never be a replacement,” I say, stepping away from the counter, then swoosh, out the doors, hot pavement, stuffy car, zipping away from the lot, windows down, mountain air rushing in, the wind screaming across my ears mixing with the sound of my own voice.

  • Trebuchet

    You’re so smart — a word limit is exactly what I need.

    Who is it who first said “brevity is the soul of wit”? They were right. And unfortunately, if that is the case, I am brevity’s muscle.

    Plan to come back more and read when I can spend more time here. How do you feel about me linking to you?

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