Dead Cat, Dead Pap, Dead Dwarf, Dismissed Sis, Dead Baby . . . And I
My brother Cat killed himself in 1987.
30 years old, doing too much speed, coke and alcohol, and irresponsible with his money,
he drove his new unpaid pickup to his wife's parking lot, where - to teach her a lesson -
he got in back and blew his brains all over the truck bed. She'd left him for a musician.
Cat also felt trapped by Pappy. The two worked for years as masons. At the end, they
were building natural looking stone waterfalls for rich Mormons with monkeys in vast
underground bomb shelters under the desert surrounding Las Vegas.
Pappy Smith had polio as a child. Multiple operations. His left leg was withered, and he
walked with a side to side swinging grace. The years of scaffolding brick, block, stone
and concrete destroyed his polio knee, so Cat was carrying part of Pappy's load, and
many of his own.
Cat said he envied me 3 things: I was older, had a beard, and had been to college.
With Pappy deteriorating, he envied me a fourth - I'd left family home on own for own.
Dead Cat killed Pappy. He died 18 months later from loneliness.
Mom Dwarf got $400 a month social security - which means food OR shelter. I couldn't
keep two households going, so regretfully asked her to move in with me in 1990.
First year was hell. A 44 year old male living alone does not want his mother moving in
with him. A 64 year old mother does not want to live with her heavily drinking coke
shooting son. The LSD, mushrooms and pills didn't bother her quite as much as demon
alcohol - but the only one she vaguely approved was marijuana. Seems my second hand
smoke saved her sight, said eye doc.
April 20, 1991, while watching the movie Mortal Thoughts downtown with mom, I started
to swallow liquid - which was odd, since I wasn't drinking any. An alcohol induced
ulcer at the base of my esophagus was hemorrhaging. Came home scared. Didn't tell
mom. For 14 hours I vomited blood in a bucket by my bed. Each time I started losing
consciousness from blood loss, I'd think - is this it? But each time, I'd start to
worry about mom who still needed my help and company, and each time I came back.
And each time back, I wondered what art piece to make with my bucket of blood.
Quit drinking in intensive care next day the third time they shoved the tube up my
nose and down my throat. First two times, I gagged it out. Decided if I lived - and
there were many maybes - I would NEVER have a tube shoved up my nose again,
would allow alcohol no say so whatsoever. And haven't.
Back home, saw ma had dumped my blood bucket because the rot smelled bad.
Bloody art critic.
Docs dripped 6 units of blood into me. One asked the other where it was going.
Friend inquired later if I knew what type. Said no, but that the next time I'd
gone downtown, I bought a five hour boxed set of James Brown music.
Mother Popcorn. Papa's Got A Brand New Bag. Get On The Good Foot.
That was our first year.
The sober 14 since, mom and I've been friends, partners, artists in residence,
collaborators, each other's mutual audience and lab rat.
This is not an easy letter to write, but after spending a lot of time in prayer
and after talking to my counselor, my pastors and support people at church, I've
decided to write.
Off and on through the last year I have been seeing a counselor. The last three
months I have been seeing her on a regular basis. I've also been going to a co-dependant
group that Peg, a friend from the church, does. I've spent a lot of time with my pastors
in the last few months. Starting with the memory of Dad molesting me that came back
a little over a year ago, many painful memories of my childhood from ages 4-11 have
come back. I know that you, Dad, Grandfather and Grandmother physically and sexually
abused me. I know that all of you belonged to a satanic cult where I was ritualistically
abused and was forced to watch and participate in many repeated atrocities. I originally
wanted to deny these memories, I didn't want to believe they could possibly happen.
I have talked to a pastor who has dealt a bit with satanism and he says the way
I've remembered things, with all the details, validates the memories. I've talked to
several counselors, my pastors, to Elaine and people at church and all believe and
support what I am remembering. I've talked to another girl who was involved in a
satanic cult and a lot of her memories are similar to mine. I've also talked to a
detective at the police department who says there is a lot of evidence that supports
there are satanic cults in this area.
While these memories have been intensly painful and hard to work through, I have
been able, through Jesus Christ's love and power in my life, to be delivered and healed
from them. Jesus has had His hand on me from childhood on, loving and protecting me.
I have been able, through the love of Jesus in my life, to forgive all of you. What
happened makes me sad, but the intense anger and hatred is no longer there.
I'd like you to know, Mother, that Jesus Christ can and will forgive you if you
aknowledge the past, confess it, and ask Him for forgiveness and accept it, and ask
Him into your heart and life. He can and will forgive you if you're honest before Him.
Until you personally can come to a place where you acknowledge the
past, and your part in it, and are sorry for it and want to be forgiven by Jesus and
by me, then we can no longer have any type of relationship. I feel it would be
hypocritical to try to base a family relationship on the lies and pain of the past.
You have to want to make things right. God's forgiveness and love is the only hope
you have, and He's there waiting for you. There is nothing so bad that Jesus Christ
If you would like to talk to my pastor about any of this his name is Doug Malott
and he can be reached at the church between the hours of 10 and 4, my time. His
number there is 326-1571. You can also talk to my counselor. Her name is Lady
O'Kelly and she can be reached between the hours of 8 and 4. Her number is 838-4128.
Also, if you would like to come out here and talk to me with either my counselor or
my pastors that would be alright, too. However you would have to stay at a motel.
I'm not trying to be hard, it's just time for the truth to come out and be
honestly dealt with. Until you can deal with this in the way that I've outlined,
please don't call or write. Please don't waste time calling or writing to say this
never happened or that my perceptions are wrong, I know it happened.
I feel slighted. Why wasn't I accused of Satan worship and our unfair family affair?
I was 8 to 15 years old during all this - you would think I'd have noticed.
Letter broke mom's heart. Not communicated with Sue since. Which has helped
me financially - 2-3 times a year I'd send couple hundred dollars to get her through her
latest end of the world crisis . . . so that's 3,000 Sue-less dollars since.
Talk about biting helping hand.
The misspellings are the person's who typed the letter. Sue can't type, doesn't know
many of these words, or how to spell them. Love to hear her using ritualistic, atrocities,
hypocritical. Sue's from the low end of the gene pool. Not the brightest bulb about.
Her job was taking care of mentally and physically challenged children. Watched her
reach over and pinch one of the kids when she thought no one could see.
Saw her hurt small animals when young.
If there's a Hell, Suzzanna B. Smith's got a ticket to ride.
And I'll personally hold the door when she boards.
For three minutes there, I was a murder suspect. But enough of me, let's talk about mom.
1974, Mother Dwarf mentioned Leonard Cohen's music sounded like a soundtrack for a
funeral home. Last week she died listening to I'm Your Man here at Smith's funeral parlor
& art studio.
Guess she was right. Give the lady a rose. Why not - Christ arose, and he was dead.
She hit the emergency room September 29, 2004. Took her 9 months, 68 pounds, 3
intensive cares, 3 emergency rooms, 3 near deaths, 2 hospitals, and 3 therapy homes
to get back home.
Then 7 days to die.
Biblical implications here. . . mom deconstructs her mortal life in 6 days, then really
rests on the seventh day . . . and the eighth . . . and the ninth . . . forever and ever
I could have saved her - but she would have killed me, and I'm way past a good
I make a good son though. The massive antibiotics the doctors used to kill her blood
and bone infections also killed her kidneys - so they sewed a needle into her neck like
good little vampires and put her on dialysis four hours a day, three days a week.
Broke my heart to see her suffer so, so said I'd give her one of my kidneys for transplant
just to get her off the bloodsucking machines.
Brought tears to her eyes. Couldn't have that. Ruin my rep.
Next visit said hey mom, hope you didn't think I was just giving you my kidney. It's more
of a rental situation. "But, you wouldn't repossess from your own Mother, would you?"
Of course not - pause - not as long as made your payments. . . I'm no monster.
Laughter much better than tears.
February 2000, Mom waited as car passed, then stepped into the crosswalk. Driver
stopped and backed up to park in a space he'd passed - without looking, of course.
Backed into Mother Dwarf. Crushed her knee. Knocked her to the asphalt. Made
the back of her head all soft and squishy - then fled to eastern Europe without even
I have his name, country and the name of his fiancťe who's car it was around here
somewhere. Once I find them, I'm putting them online. Maybe under Unwanted
- For Murder.
Because that's the day Mother Dwarf started dying, though neither of us knew it.
Doctors put in metal erector set and slapped her leg back together at an odd angle that
got ever odder. Our medical system seems not to care about the old and broken
unless they're money green. Must be their hypocritical oath.
Takes a village to raise a child. Takes a bottom line to repair the old.
Last September, a week away from her new knee, I come home from work to find mom
sitting in bed. She couldn't walk. Had sat there all day - pain pills and phone
out of reach - waiting for me to rescue her.
It wasn't my fault, so why do I feel so bad? This rescue business reeks of guilt.
Intensive care found both her blood and bone joints abound in bacterial infection. Also
heart arrhythmia, pseudo gout, blood clots, bacterial clumps which might head for her
heart, and more long bad names the doctors said quickly.
She began hallucinating - knights plotting to kill the king and take the castle. Dead men
on concrete. Thunder and lightening in the room. Took her first near death dance,
her first death dance back.
"Take one crisis forward / Two disasters back
Do the death dance baby / Spin the man in black"
Out to a rest home muscle rebuilding program, where the doctor - either for profit or
stupidity - switches her heart medicine without telling her or her doctors, and puts her
back into intensive care twice, almost killing her both times.
I do more grieving for the Pre-Dead Mom Who Wouldn't Die. Grief on the installment plan.
Checked with a higher authority - asked my magic 8-Ball if mom would make it. Told me
over and over mom was meat, would die that weekend. Weeks later picked it up and said -
you lied to me, didn't you? Its reply? - "It is most definite." An honest liar . . . hmmm,
that sort of sounds like me.
Told mom the Gnostics believe Hell is this life on Earth. "They got that right," she snapped.
More hops skips tests of mom's mortal coil caught in reoccurring rhythms, but finally she
gets just strong enough to fool the therapists into releasing her.
Her first 3 days home, mom was delighted. The 4th day she told me how hard everything
was here. She wasn't strong enough yet for studio life. Came home 2-3 weeks too early.
She fought so stubbornly for 9 months to get back here - but once home saw her pain and
limitations had months or more to go.
Plus everything she'd fought to get back to - her art supplies, her found object stash,
her giant TV showing Indians baseball - were all one floor down. She was sixteen steep
pain wrenching steps from her home.
Wednesday night she was quiet. Thursday night deeply depressed.
Friday night she was hallucinating again. Asked me who my friends were.
"The three weird people you brought home with you."
Where are they?
"One's under my mattress."
What do they do?
"They find out things."
Are they dead or alive?
She looks at them awhile , then says "I can't tell."
It was call an ambulance, or watch her die. She'd made it clear she was NOT going back
to the hospital. Told me before, she'd wished she hadn't made it - even suggested a few
times not quite joking I should kill her . . . each time told her I'd have to make it look
like an accident so I could collect her insurance money.
Saturday morning she asked me to sit her up. Hugged me as I did. That was the last
Over the next hour I held her hand, played her favorite Leonard Cohen (I'm Your Man, The Future), talked calmly and gently to her, told her she could go or stay, it was up
to her, I'd do whatever was required either way.
Watch her breathing stop 10 - 15 times. She'd breath out, be still for 20-40 seconds,
then start again in wet, shallow gasps. Watch the vein in her neck twitch less and less
till not at all. She died at noon.
Tried to call her nurse, but my voice broke. Start bawling when I try to speak. EMS came
at one. Told them mom had a Do Not Resuscitate order. They asked to see it. Doctor hadn't delivered it yet. EMS said the law required them to try to revive her. Told him I understood, but I had to honor mom's wishes, so we were going to have a problem.
Looked at me. Touched mom. She was cold. "How long?" An hour. "Why didn't you call
us right way?" Couldn't talk. Gently he said I'd done the right thing, because it was too late
to revive her.
Policeman came. Said "Art on the walls . . . air conditioning . . . I must be in heaven." He
showed me photos of his own learned-from-TV paintings. Then his Lieutenant called, was
stopping by. He told me not to get upset by anything the Lieutenant said because the
man was a little loony.
Loony Looey immediately assumes I murdered mom. Begins interrogating me in a rude
voice. Try not to smile. Explain she was in rest homes for 9 months, home one week,
had myriad medical problems all documented by multiple doctors - show the pile of pill
bottles, and then show him mom - who looks concentration camp frail.
Lieutenant sort of shrugs, says "Sorry for your loss", tosses me a small wave, and leaves.
Now that's good cop / bad cop . . . or rather good cop and moron.
Mom didn't have to die, but I couldn't force her to live. She was happy for three days.
Spent 4th day mulling her situation. Then three days dying. Can't fault her logic. Might
do it myself in her slippers.
I knew these past months of being a rat race worker as well as mom's sole life support
system and errand boy was tearing at me. I'd started snarling at minor irritants, my inner
light darkening. But I had no idea how bad it was until death lifted her problems and my
lack of solutions from my soul. Whole nine months had been mom and work and work and
mom and mom and work - with but a tired wee bit of me every now and then for a way
tired way irritable wee bitter me.
I've given my lawyer employers six months notice. After December 2, no lying lawyers,
no dying mom. Just a lazy boy up a lazy river in the noon day sun.
Picked up mom today in her cheap cardboard box. Some dawn soon release Cat's
and her ashes.
Use mom's box, and the even cheaper cardboard box Las Vegas shipped Cat home in in
1987, and maybe the Funeral Parking Only sign I stole in Baltimore in 1975 - and make
a piece of art, though doubt already the stolen sign will fit. . . too negative for
Call it Madonna & Child, except Madonna reminds me of mediocre music and pedophilic
Speaking of poetry in slow motion - 1995, Mother Dwarf was slowly creeping up the stairs
(way before her 2000 crushed knee) due to old age over weight arthritis, so I rushed to the
top of the stairs, and in a low slow menacing voice said 'p - r - e - y.'
'No, no. No prey. I'm your Mother.'
Sad to say I had to say 'Prey . . . has . . . no . . . name.'
Almost damaged her - she started laughing, had to hold the banister to keep from falling.
Prey Has No Name became the title to a lost poem she since saved.
But first . . .
Dead mom returned laugh, so laugh last laugh I.
During my previous periods of employment, I'd give mom $50 each paycheck - for lab fees,
since she was my lab rat. Told her I was going to stick pins in her to see if it caused my
voodoo doll any pain.
My first paycheck current employment, I gave her $100 - with a note saying
You Good Rat.
Hours after she died, wandering her space for company, I picked up her money jar - a 1985
S. Judson Wilcox ceramic paper bag containing 80 paper dollars, one Sacajuwea metal dollar,
and - at the bottom of the bag - my Good Rat note.
Started laughing. And crying. And laughing. (Money does that to me.)
Not bad when the dead make you laugh so soon after dying. And, the dead work cheap.
Except in memories. There they cost.
Kept telling mom all these years I didn't know who she was, or how she got in, but she could
stay because I needed someone slow around for when the monsters attacked.
She said, "But there are no monsters."
"There will be." And I was right. And she was so slow, Death got her instead of me.
Na nana na na.
I as child fathered Mother Dwarf. Gave mom Mother Dwarf name back in 1975.
Odd how long ago recent is when one is 59.
Bringing a lady to meet mom, I told her not to be upset, but needed to warn her mom was
a hunchback dwarf. Explained how the leather jacket I'd given mom for Xmas was
already ruined because everyone kept rubbing her hump for luck, which made the leather
smooth and shiny.
(It's the details that matter).
As I introduced them, I watched her trying to peek at mom's back - even though at 5 foot
10 inches and 250 pounds, mom was no dwarf.
She mentioned my lie to mom, who immediately took to the name. A 79 year old mother
when she died, she was but a 30 year Mother Dwarf. They go so young these days.
Death is father to weight as well - after Cat AND dad died, mom ballooned to 320 pounds.
Then in 18 months of dieting, she dropped to 218 before going to emergency room.
Five months into her intensive care rehabilitation bounce, she weighed 150. 68 pounds
lost in five months - that's 14 pounds a month, half a pound a day. Lot of skin, bone,
not much flesh. And what flesh there was, hurt. Said she wouldn't recommend it
as a weight loss program.
Now she's 5 pounds. So is Cat. Got 10 pounds of close relatives sharing my space.
Tomorrow morning, they're out of here. Take them down to water wall and dust the wind.
The saved poem? I read Prey Has No Name at 1995 World Cup Coffee House reading with
Daniel Thompson. Didn't quite work, so i trashed it, lost it, or forgot about it for next 10
years - until found copy in dead mom stuff last week.
Still didn't work - but cut a couple of lines, change a few words, re-space it two by two a
la Noah, and . . .
Prey Has No Name
We fish with human face
Such depths of want
Heart drums beat
To pulse blood hope
In womb warm wonder
Lying lizard in the sun
In spring full breadth
Of coiled light
Brain bridged push
For those who died
In black and white
Before elective gray
So I guess my inheritance is $81, one lost poem, and many magic memories.
Always told Mother Dwarf she was going to be a bag lady. Now she's in a cardboard box.
Or was. I gave her to the lake today.
I would think a box a big step up from a bag, rather higher up the fashion food chain.
Throw out some facts, see which lies you like . . .
Mom chewed a Benzedrine inhaler in the mid-fifties to see what speed was like. Woke up
screaming on a tractor 3 days later. Her first and last drug use.
Smoked 3 packs of Winston cigarettes a day for 40 years. Quit cold turkey 20 years ago.
Used to drink and carouse mightily. Quit.
Had husband, 3 sons, daughter. Daughter disowned her. Two sons died. Dad's dead.
That leaves me the winner . . . of what?
Has a younger brother who broke into a jailhouse with a shotgun to break a friend out.
They both stayed. Should've stayed longer. Same brother beat wife, raped farmer's 12
year old daughter.
Her friends in the 1950s rode motorcycles, lived in basements with no houses on top,
partied around bon-fires. This was in the bland Eisenhower era, before we knew what a
dick Prick Nixon was. Back when all whites looked alike, all blacks were invisible.
Her sister-in-law Norma played piano in Lawrence Welk's band for 3 years. Norma's
husband drank a quart of whiskey daily just to get ready to drink. Once watched him and
my father as the two brothers in their late 30s tried to beat each other up, dad bobbing side
to side on to his shriveled polio leg. They were work partners - brick block stone masons.
Mom's mom threw my mom's 6.66 fingered alcoholic father out, down in the Texas
panhandle in the late 1920s - then married a stern Greek immigrant miner up in the Idaho
panhandle, leaving double lines of panhandlers past.
Mother Dwarf's father-in-law made several fortunes in Mexican gold mines, and lost every
penny of every one. We were poor before I was born, poor after, poor in between - but only
in money . . . never love or laughter.
Police car pulled into her Michigan yard, mom snapped, "Steve. Police. Quick. Hide."
Now why would she automatically assume they wanted me?
Let's see - stay at home housewife who sews shirts, dresses, quilts . . . works the farm . . .
cans . . . hand makes butter, ice cream. . . sells eggs, milk, butter, chickens, rabbits . . .
milks a cow . . . runs ceramics shop named The Hoot Owl . . . teaches ceramic classes . . .
works Las Vegas flea markets . . . half partners with Pappy in The Misfits (a second hand
store) and The House of Mavericks (an antique store where I shed my virginity) and an
auction house. She tried to get Pappy to emigrate to New Zealand in the 1950s -
just for the adventure.
O how I wish we'd gone. Their lives would have been bigger, better - though my own
smaller . . . yet less is so often more.
The radio DJ picking up Alex Patterson - founder and leader of Orb - mentioned I was along
for the ride . . . "Ooooo, Smith and his mum," Alex said happily. Even the English shore adore Mother Dwarf.
(Alex and I had met the year before, backstage at a Meat Beat Manifesto concert - Orb was on the bill. He'd seen mom on the tour bus in a collage-art videotape I'd made
and given to Jack Dangers).
Tried to summarize mom for a recent press release - not an easy task. If only she'd told me
she was going to die 7 weeks after the opening, I could have winterized the process, gotten
her much more press. Not her fault though . . . the soon to be dead seldom announce
their dying. Finally wrote:
Florence Elizabeth Smith
From the 1926 Texas panhandle to 1990
Cleveland via California, Washington, Idaho, Michigan,
Las Vegas and other roadside attractions.
From sewing her kids clothes and quilts through
owning a ceramics shop,
doing mail art,
to her first one-woman exhibition
in Cleveland at age 68.
Now 79, her 5th solo exhibit 'Once Upon A Time'
opens May 8, 2005 at Brandt Gallery in Tremont
Mom stopped making art in 2000 after being hit by the car. I saw how creating work for Lost
& Found perked her up so much, so I asked Jean to give mom my May show slot.
May be best thing I've ever done, because 4 things kept mom alive -
1 - her stubbornness (that is the word she used),
2 - my faithfulness,
3 - her kidneys coming back to life after 5 months so she stopped dialysis,
4 - her upcoming show.
The latter is one of the golden moments in local poetry readings.
Art kept her alive, gave her something to do, brought her happiness, control, and a
fandango of fans.
Best description of mom's art comes from a fan - the unbelievable long lost Niisha:
Mother Dwarf's work feels deeply, intrinsically, unnervingly correct in ways that are
mysteriously unconscious to me. She is keeping a different sort of record, telling
slanted stories. She is Mother Goose for the intentionally lost and half-enlightened.
So that's the Flo flow . . . Flo for Florence Smith - not Florence Italy, a much smaller place.
Colic - sounds like a dog collar for Lassie . . . or a college for collies . . . or a country
Hmmmm . . .
Jay did die in the country - Paradise Prairie, 20 miles east of Spokane Washington in the
midst of the alfalfa wheat fields surrounding our rented 40 acre farm.
And we did have a miniature collie named Lassie.
We also had a cow - which I milked 6 in the morning, 6 at night, when Pappy was brick
block stone laying out of town. The poor go where the pay roll.
May be a conspiracy here.
More likely, Jay just saw how hard life is, how much it can cost, felt the fight unfair, and
checked out before his first Happy Birthday Sucker bonus.
Bye bye baby bye bye. See you on the downsize.
I wish sometimes I had been as smart. Took Jay 9 months. Cat 30 years. Pappy 66.
Dwarf 79. I've put in 59 so far - and no way am I walking away from that much pain doubt
and misery inside and out without some sort of golden parachute Santa clause payoff.
And I'm not talking white wings and golden hellos, I'm talking now - this side the divide.
I'm doing the time, so gimme some prime.
Got balance sheets to consider. Debits. Credits. Gross nets. Fast moving men bearing
white coats with wads of government money wearing imaginary numbers.
And yet, I seriously doubt my check's even in the mail.
I keep sending them invoices - Hey, look at me . . . I'll sell out . . . I'll sell my soul . . .
just give me a face-saving price. A condom minimal. Maybe some chest hair so I can wear
While we're at it, how about a couple extra inches on my wee one, because I'm tired of all
these internet folk telling me how small it is. How'd they find out anyway?
But this is about Jay - the live baby that was really dead, the dead baby that wasn't there.
My 7 year old me did not know the baby I looked in on was dead - so I saw a still, sleeping
baby. Very still, evidently. Mom was acting odd, but mom's don't often make sense anyway.
I said goodbye and walked my purgatorial mile of aggressive horses and angry dogs to the
Norman Rockwell white clapboard two room country school house up the lane. Four grades
per room. 30 kids total. Fifth grade was three two years later when two of us skipped the
sixth. Third was to skip, but her mom said no. Later on when I was 15 in classrooms with
16 and 17 year olds who had cars and condoms, I understood why.
When I got home that afternoon, mom told me Jay had died during the night. Asked to
see him because I wanted to see what death looked like. Mom said sorry kid you can't
Felt cheated. I'd seen a dead baby, but had looked with the wrong eyes.
Still feel cheated. Perhaps that explains my stupid dead baby joke to mom 22 years later
using Jay's name. Not a smooth move. More like the Anti-Christ of Exlax.
Mom said she was only going to have three children, which made my brother Cat # 4 of 3.
So I started telling this story - how the night Jay died, I'd come in from the outhouse and
looked in on him - when I had a vision, saw Jay's entire future: he'd grow up straight, and
narrow minded, wear white shirts with short hair and skinny ties, become something low
and slimy like a lawyer, or a Republican. Told mom since she was only having 3, I could
not allow #3 to be Dick Nixonite, and smothered Jay - so cooler Cat could come along.
I thought it rather clever, and funny - until I saw the hurt in mom's eyes. Figured twenty
two years would have soothed the wound. I was wrong, amazingly wrong. You do not
make dead baby jokes to mothers who have dead babies.
Although, she'd laughed previously when I came in licking my fingers saying "you know
that soft spot in baby's head . . .?" And she found my babies belong - in cages or soup
cans somewhat amusing.
So for sure I did not mention a horrible thought I'd been tussling with. I had said I
smothered Jay because of reading an article about children 3-4 years old suffocating
their baby brothers or sisters in retaliation for losing their mother's attention and
affection. Everything I'd read screamed sister Sue had killed Jay, and all I knew of
Sue inside agreed. I've often wondered if that's what twisted Sue so later in life - it's
a lot more plausible than her Satanic abuse excuse.
And likely just as much a lie.
I've learned of the death of my own three ways past -
the bait and switch of the live dead baby for no baby at all;
the two late night phone calls of dead Cat and Dad;
and the hour spent holding mom's hand while watching her die.
Of the three, I'll take door #3 every time.
And what's in store for our winner, Johnny? Why, it's more PAIN . . . the winner gets
to LIVE ON, and HURT LONGER. I ache, therefore I am.
In death it is better, but NOT easier, to be holding and helping, rather than
hearing second hand.
Now mom's gone, I'm going to take part of my $81 inheritance and apply it to what
I lost not knowing I had a dead baby brother - I could have made three, four dollars
easy from the neighbor farm kids who'd have paid a quarter apiece to see.
And that was 52 years ago, when $3 was serious money.
Thank God I got this letter from Medicaid.
For a second there, I thought mom might have been alive when I dumped her ashes.
Dear FLORENCE SMITH
We will STOP your MEDICAID FOR THE AGED on 07/31/2005.
The people affected by this action are: FLORE S (INELIGIBLE)
Reason: FLORENCE SMITH IS DECEASED.
We based this action on OHIO ADMINISTRATIVE CODE, Rule 5101:1-37-01
Ask for a State Hearing if you want to appeal.
Notice they capitalize State and Hearing in royal self licking, while the you they serve
is in lower case. Reflects our relative status, I presume.
But why did they put periods after sentences 1, 3 and 5, and none after 2 or 4? Is there
a period shortage? Do more periods cost more money? As far as I know, the only two
places missed periods really matter are COBOL programming and menstrual cycles.
At least Medicaid covered mom's first 35 days of the dead.
It's like that 30 year old Chevy Chase Saturday Night Live news skit - - -
"It's been 35 days, and Mother Dwarf is still dead - and still covered by Ohio Medicaid."
(Apologies to Generalissimo Franco; to Chevy too - though I drive a Ford, so why should
What happens now mom's death is no longer covered? She have to start breathing again?
Mother Dwarf, I command you - come forth from the tomb and fill out these Medicaid forms.
Of course, her wet ashes could cause considerable coming forth problems.
Didn't know what to do with Mother Dwarf. The inside joke would be to pour her ashes
in a pile on the roof ledge . . . for years I've been trying to lure her to the roof,
to collect on her accidental death policy. She'd just laugh, say no way.
That was the problem with her $40,000 insurance policy - no money if she died naturally.
Told her if she died in her sleep, she was still falling down the stairs, as often as necessary.
My brother Cat's ashes have been my roommate 18 years. Once planned on giving 20-30
artists each a dope baggie of Cat's ashes to incorporate into their art, then we'd have a Dead Cat show. Told Amy Sparks he owed me money when he died, and I was making his
ashes work it off. Well, his ashes have been in art two installations, got press both
times - so I suppose we're even.
First installation, someone pinched the bag to see how thick it was - bag broke, small pile of
Cat fell to the flat-lined TV below. Worried gallery director showed me the damage. Told her
I wished I had thought of doing that. Years later, photographer, pal, poet, publisher,
poartrist and professionally cantankerous Jim Lang told me it was he. I thanked him.
Even Steven. Time to let my ashes go.
Took mom and Cat on reconnaissance. Thought we'd check the view of the lake in a rocky
inlet you can't reach from the shore - have to climb down. Not too hard, but forbidding.
Was thinking of tossing their ashes into the air or lake, but didn't feel right.
Saw a raised boulder with oblong depression on top - knew that was mom's place. First time
she visited Cat and I in the downtown warehouse, she sat for hours in the barber chair
staring out the four north fourth floor windows overlooking Lake Erie. Water and fish reoccur
in her work. If a film opened with a shot of water, mom'd say "Must be Bergman."
Water works, for Ingmar and mom.
Eight foot further, a 5 x 7 slab of rock and concrete aggregate embedded with brick cried
out for Cat. Brick for the bricklayer who ended his stoned journey creating stone waterfalls.
By pouring each into their own ritual mound, I leave them their quantum options - to be
or not, wind or water, sea or land, stay or go, to yes or no the maybe in between.
The inlet protects from wind, but any weather will disperse them.
Cat was lots of white bone fragment, with an under brown powder ash. Mother Dwarf more
a fine powdery beige. The fires must flare hotter now than when Cat crashed & burned.
It was all very right.
Challenged them to a race to see who could disperse first. Still waiting for the first to move
when I left at dusk, so I guess I won.
Did win in that I'd been flashing on dead mom as last seen - thin, white, head arched back,
nose hawkish, mouth open. She lay dead in rented hospital bed 4 hours 15 minutes before
they took her. Didn't bother me, but bothered me.
Now flash on cove, rock, wind, sun, wave, water, light dancing within without. Did it for
mom. Helped me.
We come from light
We go to light
But what a heavy in between
Back next morning.
Cat's 4/5ths gone, mom's oozed over the rock, hugging it like a saddle
blanket. Appears to be no correlation between the ashes in the two boxes - it's like they're
different substances. Perhaps they are. Who knows what they return from the ovens.
Last time that I climb down after a rain - almost stayed when wet earth and boulders gave
way, and we all fall down.
There's a succinct summation of human history for you - "and they all fall down."
It's the getting up again that matters.
And how you treat others. Do as you would be done. If we would all help a little, it would
help a lot. Fortune cookie fortunes created While U Wait. Rea$onable rate$. Greeting
card xtra$ xtra. Read all about it in the fine print.
Pappy, Mother Dwarf, Cat - all burned, all left to wind and water.
Mom loosed dad in the Spokane River.
New Year 97, Amsterdam
Dad would turn in his grave
If he had a grave.
Mom lost him some place in the river.
The two bags of cremains - now empty except for the inner dust of mom and cat - I put
inside the 14" x 11" x 8" bright blue ceramic frog with bloodshot eyes mom made me back in the 70s in joking reference to my marijuana eyes.
Cat's empty brown cremains box sits atop mom's white. Inside mom's, I placed an uncashed check from Beth Wolfe in payment for Mother Dwarf's Inner Light, in case she needs coin to cross. These boxes will become The Mother Dwarf & Cat North Coast Memorial Inlet Memorial.
Admission is free, but it costs to leave.
Fact is, mom ain't entirely left. Maybe 3% of her ashes bonded with the back of the boulder.
Brings to mind Frank Zappa's first album Freak Out with its song Help, I'm A Rock.
Bought it in San Francisco, summer of 66, and played it while home on leave. Mom asked
how much I paid, then paid more to smash it with a hammer.
"Suzy Creamcheese Creamed In Brutal Bargain" - screams local Disinterestry.
Some of Cat's cremains remain as well - a two missing brick depression serves as a reflec-
tion pool. Cat bones form a leeward triangle on the bottom where the waves washed him
into the pool, then tried to suck him back. Today, one small gold leaf floats.
Find there is an admission fee - hurt something new each visit climbing down from grass
to dirt to rock to ever changing ever treacherous shore. But cost is cool. Burroughs says
there's no free food - we're all the naked lunch on some other's fork. Learned that at Fork U.
Previous visit, watch live white seagull bob 8 foot from dead white mass fellow floater.
Climbing to leave, look down on flying birds, watch rhythmic wing muscle move from above.
Driving home, Right Lane Ends becomes Right Lane Ends Ahead / Wrong Lane Continues
- which becomes the poem Noontide Midnight.
Today, after reading the poem to them, I burned its edges over each in symbolic sacrificial
cleansing. Then I smoked my last joint. 38 years of grass is enough. Cat and mom are
moving on. I may as well as well.
Leaving, I lay my new calling card on mom's rock, Cat's brick, in ephemeral mark of mind: