Lisa DeSiro

Grief Dreams

this is a
white knuckle chapbook


copyright 2017 by Lisa DeSiro 

for white knuckle: Howie Good and Dale Wisely

 

 

 

 

Author’s Statement

 

These short prose poems are based on dreams I had while my mother was in hospice care and in the years following her death. Recreating the dreams on paper helped me grapple with my grief and mourning. The imagery of the dream worlds was vivid and often surreal. To portray it, I tried to focus on visual and auditory elements, describing what was seen and heard, while keeping the container compact. I picture these scenes as miniature animated films.

 

 
 

ambulance-bus

As we cross the boardwalk the thin planks sink. We slog mid-thigh through brackish water, our legs pushing through the whirlpool of the tide. The closer we get to the island the more it shrinks, until it’s nothing except a few bonsai bushes on a miniature peninsula. We need to reach the beach where weeping willows cast safety nets. We need to catch the bus. But the bus becomes an ambulance, keels over in slow-motion, and floats downstream.

Lisa DeSiro                                  Grief Dreams

white knuckle

 

she faints but we have a party

Kneeling on the hospital floor, cradling her head in my lap. Her eyes blink open, blue. An x-ray chart arrives, good news from the doctor: the cancer hasn’t spread. Back home, relatives greet us in the kitchen. Surprise! Everyone can see her now, not just me. Sure, they tease. Don’t you know she’s allowed to visit?

Lisa DeSiro                                  Grief Dreams

white knuckle

 

missing quilts

Where they were hanging all over the house the walls are blank. Who did this? Who sold them? My voice panic-stricken. She tells me not to worry, she moved everything to Rosemary’s. But you shouldn’t be driving when you can’t even walk!

Lisa DeSiro                                  Grief Dreams

white knuckle

 

taking a walk

She shows me her current quilt project. Geometric patterns, colorful fabrics. The deadline’s coming up and she’s not finished yet. But she shrugs, unconcerned. Puts her arm around my waist as we stroll through her garden. Tells me, proud, I walked all the way to Gardner. Which is impressive, seeing as how it’s a place she’s never been to, in a different state. 

Lisa DeSiro                                 Grief Dreams

white knuckle

 

she ascends

Sitting at a picnic table with my aunts/her sisters under a tree. We see her passing by, in the sun, near a hill. She waves at us and strikes a pose, her arms flung wide: Ta-da! I’m cancer-free! Wearing her denim capris and the matching shirt, her favorite Birkenstocks, her stylish scarlet glasses, a touch of lipstick. Her hair perfectly curled. She turns away, strides up the hill, gazing forward toward the light, rapturous and beaming.

Lisa DeSiro                                  Grief Dreams

white knuckle

 

meeting for lunch

Late, trouble hearing her voicemail message, pressing a button to turn up the volume. Something about a medical clinic, books and buildings. Worried, annoyed when she arrives. Why didn’t you bring anything? Avoiding my eyes, she mutters: I knew whatever I brought you’d gobble it up, and… Her voice dwindles. In my head, the rest of her sentence: the dead can’t eat.

Lisa DeSiro                                  Grief Dreams

white knuckle

 

she’s despondently unresponsive

At the antique store where we’re browsing: a set of china painted with pansies. It matches the little cup and saucer she used to bring me weak tea and toast with butter & cinnamon-sugar on my days home sick from school. Mom, look! An expression of sorrow. No answer.

Lisa DeSiro                                  Grief Dreams

white knuckle

 

looking at pictures

In the family room, side-by-side on the sofa next to the silent piano, with her and her sisters holding envelopes full of photographs. She begs us Let me see and peers at each, one by one. Familiar confusion, thinking: I’m so glad you’re with us again—but, you’re not.

Lisa DeSiro                                Grief Dreams

white knuckle

 

she feels real

Waiting in a large vaulted area, like a combination hotel lobby and airport terminal. She approaches but stops at a distance. Her smile is almost shy, as if we don’t know each other. We don’t speak. Crossing the breach and putting my arms around her astounds me, because her body (soft but solid) returns my embrace.

Lisa DeSiro                                   Grief Dreams

white knuckle

 

punk haircut

She looks good, like her old self. Except her hair is dyed orange and gelled and spiked. She’s stretched out on her favorite chair, reading a library book while my father watches TV. He isn’t surprised she moved back in. But he looks tired.

Lisa DeSiro                                   Grief Dreams

white knuckle

 

she calls

My old flip-phone rings and it’s her, she’s been dead for three years now—although saying “my dead mother” still feels wrong somehow, improbable as the sound of her voice—incredulous, rush to the living room where my father’s reading the paper. Dad! Dad, you won’t believe it! Mom’s on the phone, we’re having a conversation, she wants to talk to you. He looks at me skeptical like “is this some cruel joke”—No, I’m serious—and into the phone Mom, are you still there? Hello? Hello?

Lisa DeSiro                                   Grief Dreams

white knuckle

Lisa DeSiro

 

Lisa DeSiro’s poems have been published in many print and digital journals, and have been set to music by several composers. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University. She works for a non-profit organization and is also an accomplished pianist. Read more about her at thepoetpianist.com.

re-read
white knuckle

 

Lisa DeSiro                                   Grief Dreams

white knuckle

prose poetry for the people