An Alternate Olympics

A little over a year ago, my grandmother died. I know, that’s a terrible way to begin a story. I once read a short story where, in the first paragraph, the main characters accidentally kills an infant. I think that tops what I just did, so you should feel lucky.

She had Alzeheimer’s, so her passing was positive – it was her time, so to speak. And it was actually a blessing, because we had a week’s notice, and everyone who knew her was able to fly in and say goodbye. All the men my dad grew up with came to the house; it was where they all stayed when they were younger. They told many stories, and my favorite is this: there were five boys, all within a year of each other, that lived in her house. Every fall, each boy would invite four friends, and the 25 kids would be split into 5 teams of 5, and my grandfather would run an Olympics, with basketball games and sprinting events and a spades tournament. But the best event was hot wax tolerance. Each team would pick one kid, and the kid would hold out his arm, and hot wax would be poured on it. Whoever didn’t wimp out won the gold.

I read a poem I wrote at the funeral. I wrote it when she was unconscious, and people were filing in and our of her room, whispering about hot wax tolerance.

look at me
i have four foot wings
as thin as my skin
and the color of my boys

rising up from my bed
i am floating to a place
where the stars are halfway
between silence and noise

look at me
i am an angel
i am done with changes
i am completely released

i have held on forever
but forever is over
this is me going
away with the east

look at me
yet not while you’re crying
with your feet on the ground
and your minds set on mourning

i am a satellite drifting
but i am not drifting
i am not an old woman
on morphine

look at me
i have four foot wings
the skies are all mine
but where are my loved ones

i am a spirit
but they are still bodies
this is me saying
goodbye to my sons


Happy Anniversary

My parents had their 30th Wedding Anniversary this past Wednesday. We held a surprise party for my mother; I was in charge of greeting people before my parents arrived, and I had no idea – not even far fetched conjectures – on who some of the faces were. As it turns out, my dad invited a young man he plays basketball with at five in the morning on Tuesdays and Thursdays, as well as my mom’s aerobics instructor and her husband. It was an odd crowd.

As a tribute, my dad asked his children to all produce something for my mom. My sister painted a canvas (she always tried to give me canvases for my birthday, and I would say, “Hell no, Tanner, don’t come back till you’ve bought me a comic book”), and my brother and his friends (who live at our house) made a suptefying music video. Quick explanation: it was supposed to renact moments from my parents marriage, but in place of my mom, my brother made one of his really short, really tan friends stand in and wear a dress. And they almost kissed.

I wrote a poem. I don’t do this often, but I thought I’d post it here, since this is the place I hide thing if I don’t want anyone to read them. It’s a slam poem, so when you read it, be sure to wave your hands around.

I don’t know what it’s called.

my hair smells like grease
i’ve been told this at least
thirteen or fourteen times a week

that’s okay
that’s just me
i’m not into hygene
and let’s be straight on this issue
i don’t have to use
or soap
or water
it’s not a bother
plus i’ve found
that i can’t smell the smell
though it’s possible to tell
when it’s around

my brother’s hair smells like scalp
i’ve smelled it myself

and my sister
who knows
shoot out of her nose
so her hair
probably smells like solar flares
or oberon’s flower

but each time we come home
my mother wants to smell our hair
don’t ask me why
i won’t say i haven’t tried
it but it’s weird like a fetish
and i’m not really ready
for my mom to be crazy
so if you think this is normal
please raise your hand

well you’re lying and so are you
this is not something normal people do
i can respect eccentricies
but this is beyond interesting
it’s downright bizarre
to get out of your car
and have your mom grab you by the top
and put her nose in your crop
and tell you it reminds her
of when you were in the third grade

i have read
that a person’s smell
it doesn’t change
it remains
it stays the same

and a story is told
of a man long ago
maybe forty years old
who after two decades comes home
transfigured by war and the ocean
and his dog is the only one who knows him
when it smells him, it gets the notion
that his master once again is a boy
and clean
full of expectancy
for what life could bring

his dog, who was blind
it rolls over and dies
as if it’s only dream
was to smell his master alive

i believe
that twenty years from tonight
coming home from far and wide
i will meet my mother in the drive
and she will smell my hair another time
and she will see me when i am nine
wearing a uniform of red and blue clothes
for the first day of third grade at st. joe’s

this is why my mom smells her children
to remember us in a time of innocence
where there are no images
of wrongs we commit
or sins against
just small hands that fit
in the pockets of her dress
she can smell the version of us which is best