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Remembering Barbi

Remembering Barbi


By Richard George

Copyright 2015 by Richard George

Shakespir Edition

Verses encapsulate moments in time. I came home from a conference to find my kid sister dead. These poems reflect some of the sorrow I feel around her passing. May whatever gods may be keep her soul safe through eternity.


I was away when Barbi died.

She walked that lonesome valley alone

As all who went before her had done

Both the lowly and the deified.


I thought I’d be the first to go

Eldest of us three as I was.

And here I sit the last who is

Walking the earth to and fro.


The emptiness is all around

My grief has muffled all my senses

And I am blind to any offenses

I commit, or on the other hand


Any comfort others propose.

I was away, came home and found her

Gone forever. I’m left to wonder

If living still has any use.



And why am I the one surviving?

I was firstborn; the others died

Before me, the why unclarified,

Obscure, as always, to the living.


They left a lot of clutter behind,

A jumble of jewelry and figurines

Of puzzles and books and tambourines

And odd collections of every kind.


This is my charge, to sort and sell

The remnants of their earthly estates.

When I have done this, what awaits

Me, Heaven, oblivion, or Hell?



Her time was up as spring sent shoots

Of new flowers out of the ground.

That day I came home and found

Her body sprawled upon the sheets


Still haunts my sleep. Dark winter comes.

The cold grave gapes wide in my mind.

Promising snow before the end

And ice to chill my troubled dreams.


Perhaps the dead trouble us

Because the afterlife is lonely

And spirits weary that they only

Wander mansions in God’s house


Instead of having a permanent place

For their weary souls to stay.

The dead, perhaps, forever stray

Without the solace of a house.



Life stretches between birth and dying.

Two portals mark life’s start and end.

Some hold that we will die to ascend

To glory. Others deny such inferring


From scriptures written round the world

That any future awaits our death,

That talk of beyond is wasting our breath.

There is a yearning lying curled


Amid the hopes our hearts hold close

That Paradise is still to be

A destination we will see

When our end occurs for us.



I wake while night still fends off day

With darkness. She has been in my dreams.

I’m half-awake; to me it seems

She came to me with something to say.


Whatever message she meant for me

Faded away as I woke up.

I fumble through my dream to grope

For clues she left. It shall not be.


Some claim the dead return to shield

The fragile living against some evil

Or to rescue them from the devil

Who keeps their souls in stranglehold.


I don’t believe the dead ones care

What happens to us living folks.

They’ve written all their history books;

They won’t scribble any more.


I woke in the dark and moonless night.

I dreamed of her as though she stood

Whole beside my rumpled bed

Gowned in cotton and crowned with light.



Other folk in other times

Relied on religion to ease their sorrow

Believing in a holy tomorrow

Where angels sang unending hymns


And reunions with the departed dead

Were commonplace. No angels sing

In the quiet I imagine; no ring

Of bells. Silent repose ahead


Is all I see in my mind’s eye.

No apostle-managed gate

With one door sheep and one door goat

No joyous harps playing for me.


Empty dark is what I fear

Waits for me, starless and cold,

Un-mooned, a place of frost and mold—

Is this the void that swallowed her?



In the dark a bright light shines,

Or so St. John declared was gospel.

It’s held as truth by many people

That John’s bright light forever defines


A Godly promise for all time

To stir the human heart to hope

For greatness beyond the human scope,

For verse beyond the human rhyme.


The light shines on St. John avows,

And darkness fails to conquer it.

O John, I hope you’ve got it right

That you’re the one who really knows


The ins and outs of the afterlife.

That Barbi waits for me to come

And dance with her where planets hum

A counterpoint to droning grief.



I weep for her in quiet hours

When the night is dark and deep

And I’m too sad for restful sleep.

Somewhere an ocean wears its shores,


White surf gnawing at the sands,

Where killdeer scramble up the beach

Beyond the ocean’s tidal reach

Beyond the wavelet’s grasping hands.


Sometimes I think my tears make seas

Salty and full of brine on my pillow

And afterward a quiet sorrow

Gives my grief a brief surcease.



Shadows pool in the afternoon

Promising twilight will be here

To tell us darker night is near

Silvered with the glow of the moon.


A chill wind rattles the leaves outside.

It carries the song that distant dogs

Sing to the coyotes laired in crags

Atop the hills where lone deer glide


Across the flower dotted meadow.

I sit alone remembering them,

My dead who left me here to dream

I see their faces in every shadow.



I turn at times to say to her

Some witticism or bit of news

But she’s not there to hear my views;

There’s no one near enough to hear


What I think a cheese should cost

Or who should win a baseball game.

The dogs treat all my words the same:

Unless there’s food they’re unimpressed.


The silence now is loud with lack

Of sound as though the world must withhold

Comment until the spheres have rolled

Around their orbits forth and back


The heavens whirl in accustomed dance.

Jupiter’s moons do do-see-dos

Old as time and old as skies,

And I throw words in emptiness.



The autumn heralds the winter to come

The last few tattered leaves are falling.

Overhead the geese are calling

From the sky’s unclouded dome.


The afternoon holds its breath

Until the geese have sung their song.

The twilight comes creeping along

The sagebrush scattered on the heath,


The stars are waiting in the wings

For their cue to take the stage and dance

Across the Cosmos, and wheel and prance

To charm the commons and the kings.



Rain at last has come to wet

The parched dust in the yard and bring

The green back to the lawn. The spring

To come should fill the farms with fruit


Enough to feed a hungry people.

A fertile season seems to me

To be quite contradictory

Since she is dead I think it simple


Logic to expect the earth

To grieve as I must grieve. Her voice

Is stilled. We cannot hear her choice

Of words to draw a shy one forth


Or teach a novice what to do

When all the protocols have failed,

Or speak a belief she closely held

Or analyze a problem anew.


The quiet creeps along the gloom

Pooling in the room, The rain

Falls steadily to wet the lawn

And promises that spring will come.



She fancied crochet for making throws.

She painted ceramic cats and fired

Them in her kiln for gifts she shared

On birthdays and other holidays.


Her skeins of yarn and tubes of paint

I’ve stored in boxes and plastic bags

Whose contents I have marked with tags

And set aside for sale. I want


No clutter of things to cloud my mind

When I remember her, sweet sister;

If there be gods they’ve blessed her

Above all other humankind


I’m certain. Let the word escape:

Her spirit persists in things she saw

As beauty’s material in the raw

Ready to smooth and scrape in shape.


Let these things lie quiet and still

She is not here to make of them

The objects she saw in her dream

From bits collected and made whole.



She is gone beyond my reach.

Lectures I have for teaching sisters

To avoid the touch of unseen disasters;

I have no pulpit from which to preach


Cautions for her. She does not feel

My brotherly care or my concern.

The dead lie unaware of the turn

The planets make in their quadrille


To keep the beat. The dead don’t care

If oboes are flat or trombones sharp

Or if the string choirs twist and warp

Some concert master’s favorite score.


The dead don’t mind the band’s off-key.

Or that the strings are late to start

Their ears are stopped with graveyard dirt

They can’t hear the symphony


Ringing in the welkin’s concert hall.

Mud plugs their ears. Perhaps they sleep

More soundly in sepulchers that keep

The star-songs quiet and moon-songs still.



I think I’m most offended to see

The face of my own death that waits

For me, this wondrous me that sits

In my flesh and lets the world go by.


Bowing to both the stars and moons

I feign my resignation to fate;

Inside I seethe with fury and hate

That she is dead. The many suns


Dance their cosmic waltz to songs

Old as time. They will dance until

The cosmos ends and God fulfills

The balance sheet of rights and wrongs.


My end offends me; I would rebel

If my anger could win the day.

I raise my fist in futile display

Knowing my defiance will fail.



The dead, men say, shall tell no tales.

Their histories are all complete

Written down by angels and put

On shelves near Heaven’s judgment scales.


Does some jury of seraphim

Review the stories written there

Lest falsehoods the true records impair

And expose the angelic host to shame?


Or do the angels write things down

With fiery quills on pristine sheets

Split from marble? Do they take notes

So every stroke is rightly done?


Or do the angels stand amazed

As humans ramble through their times,

Their petty couplings, their paradigms

Of right and wrong, their squabbling ways?


Who knows what angels do for fun?

Or are they ever solemn folk

Who pass their time in sober talk

About what God has lately done?



It stormed last night. I heard the rain

Hammer the roof. I think it fell

On her grave, soaking the barren soil,

Striving to wash away my pain.


I did not go to cry in grief

Or whisper masses for my dead.

I’ll wait for sunny days ahead

To call on gods for my relief


Let the rain come down unbound.

The dry land needs the water’s kiss.

The pious have prayed the drought will pass.

She sleeps forever underground


And all the prayers I can devise

Are powerless to change that truth;

My orations are wasted breath,

I doubt the dead will ever rise.



Begin the search for answers now.

My time grows short to find out why

Death took her and passed me by.

As if it comforts me to know


The answer. Death awaits us all,

And why Death comes and when’s obscure.

We catch the disease that has no cure;

It engineers our final fall.


Death, be not proud; the crop you reap

Is ripe to harvest. If the grain

Is still green you cut it down

Untimely. Mortal lives must stop


Because you pass along the way,

Sickle flashing left and right

Through days of sun and moonless night

We folk born of earth and clay


Bow before your final decree

Unwilling to come away with you.

Tell me what wise things I should do

To know why you took her, not me.



Somewhere near a coyote calls

Hopeless love for the moon above.

We put her in an earthen grave

And filled it with dirt and our farewells.


The coyote’s hymn infuses me

With melancholy. I am sad;

There’s discord clanging in my head.

A voice declares this should not be,


That I’m alive and she is not.

I flounder lost in nighttime gloom

Huddled in a darkened room

Recalling how she loved her cat.


The hapless coyote tries again

To woo the moon with ballads. Fool

He is to hope, for he will fail

To win the stony-hearted moon.



It should not be, but it is so

That she has died and I survive.

It seems to me that she should live

And I should be the one to go.


Whatever god may be in charge

Has erred. I should have been the one

First coffined if justice had been done.

Instead I’m left to drone a dirge


For her. Moaning with my sorrow

I stir my dogs to sympathy.

They take my lap to comfort me

And bid me live for some tomorrow


Whose emptiness echoes with the noise

Of words she spoke a long time since

That I remember hearing once

When the air still quivered with her voice.



I do not welcome the winter cold.

It plagues my bones with painful joints.

That hurt so much that even saints

Curse the winter, or so I’m told.


Add grief to this brew of misery

And I would weep through all my hours

For her and my bones. I have done with tears.

Reality has come for me.


The dark comes down to rest my soul.

My joints cry out for some relief

My heart cries out to ease my grief.

Around me lighter shadows pool


Against the dying day. Tomorrow

Will be warmer pundits say.

I’ll struggle through this winter day

And set the night aside for sorrow.



The hollow gurgle of summer streams

Flowing over rocky beds

Murmurs in my ears. The clouds

Above drift with the grace of dreams


Through skies painted brass and blue

By the summer sun. She is not here,

The last of my generation. Where

She spends her days I do not know.


Last April brought a cruel spring.

It bred no lilacs from cold ground

But death with sharpened scythe came round

And forestalled all my bothering


To provide for her when my time came.

She died untimely, much too young

She had more harmonies to sing

She had more future scenes to dream


But all that planned retirement went

Away in scattered tendrils of smoke,

Wisps that drifted until they broke

And all their dreaming power was spent.


I hear the silence reverberate

With echoed memories of her

Reciting reasons she would share

For sacrificing all for her cat.


The silence has become my friend,

A bulwark against the emptiness

I wallow in. My days are less

Each sunrise marks the approach of my end.



Her chosen totem was the cat.

The feline kind enraptured her

At three. Our old cat with great care

Brought home a kitten and from that


A long cat line of pets ensued.

Frequently stroked, seldom reproved,

Each one was individual and loved

Like the children she never had


Would have been. Though dogs she met

Or chickens, even crawling creatures

Roused her tender heart and nature

None ever got the love that a cat


Could excite in her. Now I

Am left to care for her cat. This

Is the respect I give her wish:

Care for her cat if she should die.



The feast days loom ahead

With viands traditional for the date.

I dread their coming. How or what

I eat means little when she is dead.


Life does not hold much merriment

For those who linger here behind;

Solemn things weigh down my mind

My fund of joy is drained and spent.


I’ll eat of course; the flesh requires

Maintenance. I sometimes wonder why

I keep my habits from years gone by

But then the roast my gut inspires


And so I fill my plate with food

From rim to rim and slowly fork

It down. No matter beef or lamb or pork—

I eat it all and hold it good.



I tell myself to let it pass,

The dead are dead; they do not hear

The discourse we the living share

Standing on the edge of the abyss.


They’ve had their time and now are done

With the chatter of living things.

Perhaps somewhere an angel sings

A hymn of praise for an unseen sun


Thus stopping their ears with melodies

Beyond my ken. Perhaps the dead

Hear nothing under the rain-soaked sod

And nothing in the stormy breeze.


Talk’s for living people. We speak

To hide our fears, hoping our words,

Which we chatter like fledgling birds,

Obscure the silence of dead folk.


Remembering Barbi

These twenty-five poems, written using the In Memoriam stanza form, reflect my reactions to my kid sister's death.

  • Author: Richard George
  • Published: 2015-11-13 00:20:17
  • Words: 2788
Remembering Barbi Remembering Barbi