Half-Cento Half-Broken-Song

by sophiakartsonis

  1. Driving home from work last spring, I see the day’s windfall includes my beloved patio umbrella, fallen off the roof and crumpled, the skeleton of it broken in three crucial places.
  2. I am crying hard when I walk into the house. Driving up to our home that umbrella’s taut perfection of rich wood bones and the color like the eggs of certain songbirds, muted like beach glass, but opaque like the shells, it was a sight so pleasing, so comforting as to be more than itself, as if the whole house lay on the ground: arched where it shouldn’t be and hollow where it should arc.
  3. I am not saying my grief was wholly rational.
  4. “So broke, I can’t even spend the night.”
  5. Whenever I think of blues, I think of that line, of Buddy Guy, of my old friend who found it for me and of how he broke, then broke with me and how twenty-some years later, a postcard arrives in the mail and it’s him: blues-broken and separated from his wife, job, home.  I am grateful but skeptical. Two months later, three hand-drawn postcards, two photographs he took, one through rain legging down a windshield, and a mixed cd,  he vanishes from my life again.
  6. I am a little wistful, but not broken-up. He was a good friend. He went away. I was very sad, but I thought I would never hear from him again.  Once you lay a thing to rest, it’s hard to mourn too hard when it dies a second time.
  7. You can’t step into the same grief twice, I’m told.
  8. Or is it “After the first death, there is no other.”
  9. I began a villanelle called “Broken Patio Umbrella”
  10. The repeating line is “what is broken can be mended but not unbroken”
  11. I was on the phone with my favorite living poet when I drove up and saw the umbrella.
  12. Before I had a home and a man who loved me despite all my brokenness, that poet was home to me.
  13. He wrote a villanelle about Evil Kneivel.
  14. His repeating line:  Beauty is in the way it is broken.
  15.  I find the bones each spring of animals that didn’t survive the season.
  16. I have two jars of bones in the sunroom. One leathery, dehydrated corpse of a frog that died in the mailbox during a simmering summer. His mouth frozen wide in what looks like it’s trying to be a scream.
  17. Bones bleached white are proof we lived, that something stays until it doesn’t.
  18.  Over dinner on our deck, a neighbor chastises me for feeding the animals out here. “You break their normal cycle. You interfere with their patterns, behavior.:
  19. I break a graham cracker into fours and take it out past the mailbox after she leaves. I imagine the perfect hands holding it like a dainty, fragile thing.
  20. Another friend posts a photograph of all the bones her dog had buried in the yard.
  21.  I don’t bury the birds I find dead on the road outside my house. I used to, but now I leave them for the things that live off remains.
  22. “These fragments I have shored against my ruins.”
  23.  The Humpty-Dumpty year.  My whole life tumbled off its nic nak shelf. It was nearly a decade ago, but I can still recall how sure I was that I had felt my last bearable day.
  24. My fiancé put the umbrella back together, The splintered bones of it propped and sealed with the right glue, patience and a hand that mends so that the break isn’t so much forgotten and inconsequential.
  25.  There were many king’s soldiers and many king’s men and women watching over me that black summer.  Three o’clock agony was the worst. Friends called each day to make sure I had survived it.  I meant never to get over it.
  26. “I have learned to love these crippled hands” is a line my friend Nathan wrote back in the nineties, a couple of years before his death.  Sinead O’Connor sang “I do not want what I haven’t got.” It would take me years to see the truth of that.
  27.  A raccoon’s hands are ballerinas gliding on the music of garbage and decay. Isn’t it funny how remains mean both that which is gone and that which persists?
  28. What is broken can be fixed but not unbroken. I have stopped looking for that moment when I might have gone back or he might have come to me.
  29. We are the most finite thing going. Nothing needs to last that long for our use. Each year I see how umbrella-fragile we are.
  30. If beauty is in the way it is broken, it is also in the repair done with such care that it’s almost worth it to know someone would work that hard just to try to set each fracture into wholeness, and sees to it that  each fracture is fortified until the seam reminds not of the crack but of the mend.


(Photo by Karin Carlson-Muncy)