Tag Archives: Death


6 Apr

I had this one published a while back, it was written for my Grandpa that we lost to cancer. Fuck cancer.

The streets below swallow up our silence
Our syllables are lost in
The distance between your lips and my heart
The gaps linger comfortably
and I wear them like
My fathers flannel work jacket
It is familiar but ill fitting
I remember making maps
across your face with razorblades
Much alike the backroads
WE would take our time to roam
Intersecting and backtracking
I’d clear your stubble away
I did this on days
you were too weak to shave yourself
You told me to push harder
That you
would not break
And we did not acknowledge
that you
were already broken
I would trace my fingers
over your faded jailhouse tattoos
You were just a boy when you got them
and faced with the enormity of your illness
Your were a boy then too
We watched silently and heavy hearted
As a monster ate away our days
We nobly and humbly moved forward
while looking at our past
on maps made by razorblades..

I haven’t re-read this poem in over two years.. typing it out made me miss his blue eyes, as blue as the Montana skies he was born under..

Summer Snapshot

3 Feb

July 2009 – School Build in Nicaragua

The heat was humid and almost unbearable against my northern weather conditioned skin. In spite of the weather I worked hard amongst the community volunteers to mix cement and move blocks that would become a part of the 3 classroom building we were constructing.

I hopped in the back of the big white delivery truck and began to shovel out sand that would be sifted of large rocks and then used for mixing cement. My arms burned, my face filled with sweat, but I carried on. I come from a strong line of independent women and I had this image of my Auntie Connie burned into my head. Auntie Connie, living on a ranch in the middle of nowhere with her small son, working 14 hour days constructing buffalo fences and fending off wolves in the mountains. Another shovel full. It’s in my blood to work hard without complaint. When others rested, I worked along side the hand full of paid workers like my child was going to be going to this school.

The team leader laughed at lunch breaks, “Helen, the men are saying that one with the ring in her lip is tough“.

That made me smile.

When the children, who were attending morning or afternoon classes in the overcrowded rooms or under the sheet metal and wood structure, came out of curiosity to help or to play, I stopped to play. A little girl named Tania had taken a liking to me and guided me slowly in the 20 Spanish words I knew so that we could have 5 minute conversations.

“Cuantos hermanos tienes?”

How many brothers do you have?

We worked our way through our family trees and then we would sit there until she thought of a game to teach me or I picked up my shovel again.

A young man came to help from the community on our 5th day there. I seen him on the day of arrival, walking past, slowing to see the visitors and study us. A tall lean dark-skinned man, tattoos on his face, and a seriousness that spoke of hardness placed upon it.

He came early that morning and picked up a shovel, mixed cement, but stopped every so often to observe. His gaze was inquisitive and I seen it focused a few times on my many tattoos. Apparently, only very hard and dangerous people get tattoos in most of Nicaragua because of the risk of dirty needles and infection that runs with receiving one. Many of the kids stared with wide eyes at my arm, interested in where and how I got them.

After a full day of working we stood in a parallel lot of dust and dirt. It was completely empty unless it was used for impromptu soccer games, then it became a field of laughter and unwarranted soccer skills. The young man ventured over to talk to me and I went over the new questions that I had learned from my young friend Tania.

“Cuantos hermanos tienes?” I asked him.

He looked towards the ground in silence like he had to take in this question before answering.



I replied in awkward out-of-place spanish, “Muy grande familia!”

He became silent again and kneeled down to the ground.

He stooped there for a few moments before saying again, “Nueve”, and he outstretched his arm to draw a cross in the dirt then pointed his dusted finger to the heavens above.

 “Muerto,” he said in a faint whisper.

He then used a series of hand movements and I understood that he was the only one left. The young man, with a painted face that told me of the dangerous life he was accustomed to, once had 9 other siblings and he was the only one left.

I had no words in Spanish for this sadness I felt for him and his families losses, so I did the only thing that I could do, I placed my hand on his shoulder and gave him a knowing look.

We stood there under an umbrella of blue in a dust bowl soccer field next to the construction of a place that will help dreams and goals come true and had a long silent acknowledgment. Those kind of silent acknowledgments that come too few and far in between because language snares the moments where we don’t know what to say so we say something feeble or reply out of habit, I’m sorry, with the real acknowledgment slipping under and away from us. We fill silence with words when the silence rubs against our beings and we fear that the abrasiveness will reveal something real of ourselves and force us to sit with anothers pain.



With Love,

Helen K

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