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The Years of Miriam, The Brief  Years

A horrible person of no consequence has  just left us.
Hundreds of poems are now being  written.
She simply went indoors and sat down, 
Probably in that chair where the sun falls in through the sliding glass door,
On the paneled screen of  poem-paintings,
To read a letter.
Too long. Enough.
The bright effort with no  companion.
This most sociable of all persons, with  no one to scold daily, 
No one with whom to make the weekly protest  march.
This lavish lady old enough to be my  mother 
(Who happened to have had an abortion the year I  was born).

This horrible lady who fed us coffee,  scrambled eggs, cream, butter, strawberries, 
And those pseudo-Scandinavian meat  spreads,
Whose letters and cards will not come again.
Who had taken of late to writing advice: Move back to California! Don't work!
Once  in a place we did not know, 
We  happened to discover Miriam in a hospital with a broken leg.
For once she was speechless as we  appeared in the door of her room.
Quickly recovering, screeching, "You horrible people! What are you doing here? "
So we trundled up and down the elevator,
Sharing bad coffee with a morose Laurent
On the hospital patio in the greenish air near the mountains.
Talked of the usual matters, wars and poetry.

Again in that same place we none of us  knew, later, 1997,
I was impatient with her, not because  she was old but
Because she was mad at everyone at  Naropa and
Because she wanted to sit up all night  in the motel room and I wanted sleep,
Because she was on her high horse -- 
Laurent wanting to attend events, every event, but not she, 
Not any event, and
Because they must have regular dinners  with meat and potatoes and a salad in front 
And dessert at the end, and not some fly-by-night 
Vegetarian concoction at the college lunch stand, 
Because she was cranky and bossy, and
Because they must rent a car --
But, thank God, I gave her one minute particular  pleasure,
Taking her and Laurent to Dairy Queen
Which brought smiles and forgiveness all around.
I was horrible.
It became our ritual nightcap treat that week, sitting in the  dark, nibbling our strawberry  sundaes.

I miss you now, though I won't call you back.
The little Sierra Court house, the panels, the festivals, everythintg, everything,
Because we were there together,
Because you are passing away and in some different kind of  way
I and my life and family and everybody else is passing away  too,
But you know, if your voice could suddenly shout down from  that sky, 
I know what you would most certainly say:
            Abolish Capital Punishment!
            Unionize!
            Stop  the Wars!
                           (and I think)
            Have  some meat!

- Zoe Climenhaga
March 12, 2000

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