One night at Wednesday Writers, Chet was telling us about his experiences in Chile and the stray dogs that roam the streets – even ride the buses, knowing their stop and trotting off on their unknown missions. We decided to come back the next time with a poem about strays, whatever that meant to us. Here is mine, framed in my work as the owner of a tea room and floral shop, the favorite haunt of widows and retirees…
They trickle in, one at a time,
eyes grazing the board for today’s special
Before gravitating to the table they share
Presbyterian, Methodist, Agnostic,
Retired, Working, on Social Security,
Bemoaning the odd ache and grey hair and
Lira, Lila, Pat, Barbara,
Ann, Muriel, Violet, Jean,
They laugh and celebrate another year
and never speak of their silent mates
I bring them dessert and
endless cups of coffee,
Taking my place on the fringe of
Time makes strays of us all.
One death follows another,
But without the fanfare,
The sympathy cards
Of the First.
A long-time friend is uncomfortable
with your grief
and departs in a murmured apology.
They really have become so busy,
But do call if you need anything.
The congregation looks askance,
Wondering what you did to deserve
An army of Job’s comforters
Twisting scripture into a
Cat ‘o Nine Tails.
The fatherless child taunted,
The inflated bill from the workman
The lazy man requests a loan.
Like a lover’s blows,
Only the first punch surprises.
The rest rain down
and are hardly felt.
For those who are meeting grief for the first time, it can come as a shock that life (at least for everyone else) returns to normal so soon. And that the widow radar comes out and creates a target on your back for every shyster in the tri-county area. Or that those around you can be so callous as to suggest that you – or worse, your child – need to develop a thicker skin.
I hope that you, if you find yourself in this unenviable position, are able to turn inward and recognize the traits of PTSD that you are probably experiencing. That you put everyone else outside the fence of your existence and focus only on what has a right to live in your space. You may not be able to stop the assault, but you can let it wash over you until you are stronger, knowing that it is their burden and not yours.
She is not your friend,
But she knows which one of you
Makes her look thinner.
We’ve all dealt with that toxic friend who we mistakenly believe feels the same way about us as we do about them. The one who smiles and shares and seems to have all the qualities of a caring companion, but who is rotten on the inside, jealous of our achievements and using our vulnerable spots to their advantage.
Hopefully, you’ve successfully detoxed these people out of your life. (If not, do it now. It’s going to happen one way or another, and you might as well be hurt less now than more later.) But it can be even more helpful to express your experience through words or art. Betrayal is an interesting theme, and one which just popped out in this haiku (above) while I was thinking of something else.
Have you written or drawn or composed anything that represented a friend’s betrayal? Did it help you to move on, or to solidify your decision to step away from a toxic relationship?