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written at Life Before Death,  Poetry Workshop with Paul Collis, 17 April 2019

National Museum of Australia, Canberra

 

Dead possum

Dead thylacine

Dead people

How to be alive

even when dead

How to continue

with no story

no land

How should I bury

the dead possum

in my front garden

How to show respect

How is it that today

this very day

there is death at my door

and on the radio

a program on

environmentally appropriate burial

listening while on my way

to Life Before Death

a poetry workshop

 

We need to change everything

The way we live

The way we die

The thylacine

could not change

trapped by invasion

The koala

cannot change

trapped by deforestation

We are trapped

By coal

By corporate greed

By subservient politicians

We are trapped

But trying to break free

 

Young people on strike

Urging us to escape

To do so requires change

and the changelessness

of indigenous cultures

who lived

with the land

with the animals

with the plants

with the rivers

Too late for that

But we must break out

And go back down

Down down

into the deep past

Embrace the deep past

For a renewed future

 

I do not know how

to bury

the dead possum

in my front garden

Perhaps I will learn today

The thylacine will teach me

Thank you for the lesson

I hope I have learned

Dead possum found in my front garden

 

Musical instruments from Kenya

Post script:

I did bury the possum

I read this poem.

I dug a hole in my front garden.

I used music makers from Africa

to send the possum on its way.

 

Your comments are always most welcome.

Please check out my other blog about the

novel I’m writing.  https://familyandfiction.com/

Thank you!

 

 

 

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San Francisco Sunset, from Oakland Shoreline Park

 

What have you

noticed

observed

learned

after three weeks

in Oakland California?

 

Can you live in two places at once?

Can you accept a divided life,

bringing together past and present?

You thought you had to place your allegiance

with only one

with Australia

after struggling to accept and be accepted

You evaded and avoided

the other country because of your politics

and the comfort level you had achieved

living in Australia

 

Returning to the USA

motivated

by your mother

to distribute her ashes

on the beach at Pt. Reyes

according to her last wishes

And to help your friend Martha

in the momentous change

from an academic life

to so-called retirement

Where should she live?

Where would she accept

and be accepted?

 

You returned to Oakland, California

for three short weeks

Getting a snapshot of the lives

of past friends

and current family

After initial culture shock

living in a smaller space

with less autonomy

more people

more stress

more cars

more people

you settled in

Found a pace

and a space that suited the current you

You can be both

Just like you have two passports

You can incorporate both

the past and the present

 

Returning to Australia

on the bus ride

from the Sydney airport

back to Canberra

looking at

clouds upon clouds

that I lack words to describe

rolling hills

gum trees with grey-green leaves

I am calm and comfortable

I embrace my life here

without turning my back

on previous lives in the USA

 

Brindabellas, near Canberra, Australia

Celebrating! My mother is floating somewhere in the Pacific Ocean where she wanted to be. She wrote her wishes down and we followed them.

My mother Bette Jo Hutchison Silver died 1 March 2011 in her bed, in her home at 623 Greenway Terrace, Brookside, Kansas City, Missouri. I was there. She had asked me the day before if she were dying. I said yes, and reassured her that all was well.

            Bette Jo Hutchison Silver (date 1996?)

Just before she died she opened her eyes, looked at me. I smiled and told her I loved her, gave her a kiss and she was gone. My son, Nathan Collett, was with us. Her grandson, Lawrence Andre, and his son Henry had said good-bye earlier that day.

My mom left written instructions that she was to be cremated and her ashes spread at Pt. Reyes National Seashore, north of San Francisco, California.   When I lived in the San Francisco Bay area, my mom and I frequently visited Pt. Reyes. One time, we backpacked up a steep hillside to Sky Camp and camped out together in a small tent.

When my nephew Lawrence found out about her wishes, he asked me to wait to distribute her ashes until he could come to California. So I brought her ashes to Oakland, California and set up a small altar to her.

 

Me in Oakland California with altar to Bette Hutchison Silver

Lawrence lives in Mission, Kansas, just outside Kansas City, Missouri. When my mother died, I was living in Nairobi, Kenya. I moved to Canberra, Australia in 2014. My mother’s ashes waited patiently for us in Oakland, California.

Finally, eight years after her death, we did it. In March 2019, I came from Canberra, Australia. Lawrence with his son Henry came from Kansas City. We met in Oakland, California. On Saturday 13 March 2019, we drove to Pt. Reyes National Seashore.

 

Bette Hutchison Silver altar at Limantur Beach Pt. Reyes National Seashore

 

Lawrence Andre and me at Limantur Beach with Bette’s ashes

A blue sky day, warm and windy at Limantur Beach. I read poems and tributes to my mom from family and friends. Then we opened up the box, took out the bag with her ashes and waded into the sea. We took turns throwing handfuls of her ashes into the Pacific Ocean. I threw one handful for my friend Martha. The wind carried the ashes up in an arc, then they dropped down into the ocean.

Opening the box with Bette’s ashes, me, Henry and Lawrence Andre

 

Me, Henry, and Lawrence wading into the ocean at Limantur Beach

Lawrence suggested that we fill the box that had held her ashes with sand and objects on the beach, including a sand dollar, part of a crab shell, and some small rocks. Now the altar honoring Bette Jo Hutchison Silver is back on the shelf in Oakland, California. Inside the box are memories from our day at Limantur Beach.

 

We remember you Bette.

We miss you!

 

 

Seeing the mug

Bette’s Ocean View Diner

I think of

my mother

Bette Hutchison Silver

 

I am the connection

of every member

of our family

to my mother

Bette Hutchison Silver (date 1996?)

I am becoming

the connection

to my father

 

Constructing that connection

began seven years ago

after my mother’s death

 

Discovering documents

hidden in her attic

 

Researching online

to write

a book

that is and is not

the story of my father

 

So remember

through me

you are connected

and ever shall be

10 March 2017

Mom’s Australian Hat from her visit in 1992

the passing on                                                                                                                                  from one generation to another
an object
a beloved object
my mother gave me                                                                                                                      too many objects
I wear them
I remember her
but there are so many
Is any one special
was any her favourite
no way to know

Today’s your birthday, Mom. I wish we could celebrate together.

Love,                                                                                                                                           Pamela

1 March 2017

I remember.  The final day I had with you Mom.  1 March 2011.  I was there when you opened your eyes, looked at me and your grandson Nathan and then closed your eyes forever.  A few days earlier you had asked me if you were dying.  I said yes and that everything was taken care of, you could go in peace.  And you did.

Yesterday I got out your blue jean jacket with the patches from one of your trips to Africa.  You sewed all the patches and embroidered the outline of the African continent on the back of the jacket.

Mom's Africa Jacket

                     Mom’s Africa Jacket

I live surrounded by you.  Whenever I go out, I open up the drawers with your jewelry and choose something to wear.  Bracelets, necklaces, so many to choose from.

You are always with me and will be forever.

With love,

Pamela

 

The weight of

tradition

on my finger

between

middle and little

A golden ring

an amber stone

from my mother

 

Today wearing

her Egyptian gold necklace

her gold and jade bracelet

her gold bangles

and the heavy weight ring

 

A couple from Perth

I offer to take their photo

No selfies please

in front of the red and white

recycled, solar lit

Year of the Monkey

sculpture

at the Australian National Library.

They commented

on my jewelry

I was pleased

someone noticed

 

My mother left it to me

knowing I had none

Influencing my behavior

from beyond death

No grave

Cremated

and a wind sculpture

memorial to her

in a Kansas City park.

I wear her jewelry

in her memory

 

The Chinese woman

from Perth told me

Treasure that bracelet

Jade plus gold

Unusual

 

Back at home

I remember her words

as I remove the

gold and amber ring

from my finger

with soap

Mom Golden jewelry
                        My mom, some years ago,                                                                   wearing her amber and gold jewelry

Bette Hutchison Silver, photo taken November 2010

Bette Hutchison Silver, November, 2010

 

I wasn’t there

for her birth day

March 10 1922

How could I be?

I am her daughter

I was there

for her death day

March 1 2011

 

I was there

when she asked

am I dying?

I was there

to tell her

yes, she was dying

I was there

to tell her

not to worry

everything was

taken care of

She could go

leaving us behind

 

 

Bette Snidow Hutchison and Pamela, 1945

Bette Snidow Hutchison and Pamela, 1945

Bette Hutchison Silver (date 1996?)

           Bette Hutchison Silver (date? 1996)

A string of pelicans

against the golden clouds

bunching up

stragglers at the end

moving more quickly

than the change in colors

of the sunset

               Mazatlan, Mexico, February, 1995

Bette Maz 3  web 0529           Drawing by my mom, Bette Hutchison Silver, Bird Island, Mazatlan, Mexico

 

The poem and drawing above is from my book of poems, drawings, silence spoken, available on http://www.lulu.com.

Screen Shot 2016-01-03 at 11.44.14

Photos of Bette Hutchison Silver at various stages of her life. Upper left is with her two daughters, Lonna on left, Pamela on right.

Photos of Bette Hutchison Silver at various stages of her life. Upper left is with her two daughters, Lonna on left, Pamela on right.

The death of my mother

Inspired me

Death inspired me?

To start a blog

Supposedly in her memory

Supposedly to somehow

keep her alive forever

What is it really about?

About me

My mortality

 

What have I created?

My son asks me

He sees the terror

of the world every day

He feels the anxiety

the people he knows

and doesn’t know

who have died

He thinks about the people

I taught in Afghanistan

who are now dead

What did literacy do for them

What did learning do for them

In the face of violence

Mass murder

Genocide

They are dead

I came in with words

And I am alive

But they are dead

Did my intervention somehow

Bring death?

Was I part of the invading army

although I thought

I was just bringing words?

Morning sun burning away fog, Tucacas, Venezuela

Morning sun burning away fog, Tucacas, Venezuela

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