Dancing With Myself + My Adopted Girl

The non-reaction to my last poem, Virginia Dare, which I thought was just pret-ty damn good, has me feeling like throwing away all my pens (I'll pierce myself and use blood if I need to make a grocery list) and throwing the chains around the door at Danny's Coffee Shop. Whose idea was all this poetry-writing junk anyway? So that's it, no more poems in perpetuity, or until I stop being a pissy, impossible bitch, whichever comes first.

I am thinking of starting a self-help group for Women Whose Emotions Sometimes Lead Them Around By The Nose. There is no venue large enough in Detroit, and so we are thinking of using the Rogers Centre in Toronto. There will be no speakers. You just get up there and shriek or cry or swear, as the spirit moves you. Or, you can just refuse to leave your seat, huddled miserably with a tub of Ben & Jerry's on each armrest. Everyone's former lovers will be trooped in, roped, and then trucked to a landfill. Horrid Lifetime movies will be shown on a big screen. Anyone who survives the weekend gets to go back to work on Monday. Yeah, I know....I'm still tweaking it.

So, poetry is out. But my hands twitch if I don't write. So let's try this: the story of my adopted girl, Delilah. I have posted this story a couple of times in other people's comments, but here it is on the Word Garden stage for the first time. Enjoy. Me, I'm going to go look in the mirror and cringe, then cut all my hair off with a jack-knife. You know....girl stuff.


There is a place hidden between two apartment complexes that I used to deliver the mail to. It's easy to miss. From the street, there is only a sign and one narrow driveway leading up through overgrown greenery. You can't see what's back there without driving down it. It starts out black-topped but quickly turns to gravel, or, in the Spring, mud. But if one perseveres, after about a quarter mile, there is a cemetery there. I used to like to eat my lunch back there.

It's quiet and there is never anyone there except perhaps another person sitting in their car, seeking a moment's respite from their day. I've been going there for fourteen years now and have only seen one or two people, ever, visiting a grave. Sometimes city workers are there, but that's not the same. 

Time seems suspended in this place. The trees are large and ancient. The stones date from the early 1800's. Entire families are buried there. The stones go right up to the edge, facing the wild bushes and nuisance trees that conceal the apartments beyond. There are hedgehogs and crows there. When I first visited, there was a great deal of statuary on top of the markers, weeping angels and innocent cherubs forever watching over their people. Not long after that, though, all the figures disappeared. I don't know if they were targeted by thieves--I know this happens--or if they were removed to foil the thieves, but the effect was the same; the little cemetery's "soul" was injured. I can feel it. It weeps.

Near the place where I used to like to park, there is a family plot. There is a large central marker for Cornelius and Nancy. Arrayed to either side of them are their children. On the right, tilted in the ground, is a heartbreakingly small stone with the name "Delilah" on it and nothing else. A check of the side of the larger marker beside it reveals the words "Our daughter. Delilah. Died Dec. 26, 1840. Aged Four mos., 20 days." Little Delilah was someone's precious baby. Her first and only Christmas was almost certainly marked by illness and grief, as she passed the very next day, her life spanning only from late summer to early winter. 

Something about this one little girl, in this hidden and forgotten cemetery, went straight to my heart and has stayed there ever since. It would be fair to say that I have adopted her. I visit her and talk to her. I keep her marker clean. I want her to know that, though she lived only so briefly, so long ago, that she matters to someone, even now. It would be fair to say, I have come to love her. I don't think that is morbid or crazy. It is just a gift that costs me nothing.

Her mother, Nancy, lived until 1890. Doing the backwards math, she was just a girl of eighteen when she bore her daughter. How hard it must have been to love her and have to let her go so soon. And now Nancy herself has been gone for more than a century, even after a long full life. 

I went to see them yesterday. I think they know that I do this, wherever their spirits are. Then I drove back down the long gravel path and out, the dust rising behind me like a ghost. See you next time, ladies. Then I was back to my day, with work to do. Life goes on. For me. For now. You know?


Ileana said…
I had never read this one before, Shay. It's a touching tribute to a little girl who's gone but still loved and not forgotten. I ♥ it! It says a lot about you, Chica.

As for Danny's Coffee Shop, are you kidding me?? I hope you never lay Chloe to rest for a very long time...or I just might turn into Kathy Bates in "Miser" and FORCE you to write! ;) Seriously, you know I'm a fan of your poetry and short stories. Whatever you decide to do, I'll be here.

Hugs and besos, Ily
Ileana said…
PS - I believe the movie was Misery, not Miser. lol
Boonie S said…
Interesting. Thanks.

All the best, Boonie
Daryl said…
First I will throw a fit if Danny's closes before I get there ... and I loved you before you posted this post, now I love you more .. your words touch me all the time .. but these will stay with me a long time ..
ellen abbott said…
OK, did I miss something? I admit I did not know who Virginia Dare was and just now looked her up. But I liked the poem. I commented on it. If you close Danny's where will the ladies hang out?

I know what you mean about the old cemeteries. It's the stones that just say 'baby' that get to me.
Riot Kitty said…
Chill, sister, it's Sept. 11 and not a lot of comments anywhere in blogland!

This is a sweet but sad story though.
Lynn said…
It it lovely that you pay tribute to these souls from long ago. My dad had a brother who was stillborn and there is an old family cemetery in North Georgia in which there is just a small unmarked stone to mark baby James's grave. He pointed it out to us at a family reunion. I've always felt an urge to mark it in a better way. Maybe someday.

And I was just beginning to know Danny's Coffee Shop. Dang it.
TALON said…
I'll meet you at the Rogers Centre. I could use a little screaming - always good for a soul!

What a tragically short life for poor wee sweet soul baby Delilah. I have no doubts they know you are there when you visit and are touched that you honor their memories.

I think God will understand if Danny's is temporarily closed, but I'll miss that seat in the booth I was just starting to feel comfy in.
Fireblossom said…
My friends, please know that Danny's and the rest of my poetry will all be back. But I am touched that you all thought "perpetuity" would pass before i stopped being a pissy, impossible bitch! I give it hours, or perhaps at most, a day or two.

All I meant to say was that my annual September breakdown is asserting itself and I am one squirrely girl at the moment. It onlu occured to me later, after I'd gone to work, that y'all might think I mant it about closing Danny's. Me sowwy.


Cloudia said…
Dare was brilliant!

We toil in obscurity...that's our underdog charm!

I know you good

(that and a dollar.....)

Fond Aloha from Waikiki

Comfort Spiral
Cloudia said…
I think web traffic is down a bit as people freak out about FALL
Cloudia said…
so come stuff my comments...heh heh
Riot Kitty said…
I delight in being a pissy, impossible bitch...that's not you :)
You're much too nice for that, even if you *are* my twin!
Mama Zen said…
This is such a beautiful thing to do, Shay.
mac said…
It's a good thing I read the comments before I jumped into action.
I was gonna drive up there and straighten this out, you know, by being a poophead if I had to be.
Then, I saw that you weren't doing anything permanent, I sighed in relief.

I was able, then, to read the rest of the story... it's exactly what I expect from you - a beautiful thing :-)
signed...bkm said…
Shay, I love you poetry...do not throw your pens away... sometimes I do not make the rounds as fast as I can...you do not have a follow button on your blog... that always give me a heads up on new writings....you just keep writing...best to you bkm
faye said…
Your self help group sounded
kinda interesting, until you mentioned that survivors can go back to work on Monday...... you lost
me there ... so keep tweaking.

Sometimes I am just a no-comment
person.. that doesn't mean I don't
enjoy your poems. Don't you dare
throw away any pens !!
Lydia said…
Bless your heart. This made me teary, it really did. I absolutely understand how you could become attached to that little girl because of the sadness of her short life. But to actually maintain her grave and speak to her...to adopt her, well, that is the stuff of angels on earth and it makes you very very special.
Tabitha Bird said…
That was great Shay.

I was going to beg and plead for you to also continue to write poetry but I read here in the comments that you will. Yeah! :) I love all your work. Poetry and prose.
Debbie said…
Glad to read in the comments that you are feeling better! I have certainly noticed a huge slowdown of comments all around. Hopefully, we will all see it pick up soon.
Joanna Jenkins said…
Say it isn't so!?!?! Please don't close Danny's coffee Shop. I'm pretty sure it's the time of year-- I notice comments way down all over the place-- School routines aren't settled yet, Sept. 11th, end of summer burnout and the likes. And I liked Virginia Dare and said so....

As for the second half of your post-- I am blown away. It's so touching and beautiful. What a wonderful thing you do for those sweet souls.

More please, jj
cinderkeys said…
Much as I wish differently, I don't believe in any kind of afterlife.

And yet ... I hope that somebody thinks of me after I go away. The way you think about Delilah.

It shouldn't matter, but it does.
Brian Miller said…
i figured you wrote in blood anyway shay as much heart as you put into your words...smiles. save the pens, someone might need one someday and you can touch their life by enabling them...a touching piece on delilah...there is a headstone off the side of one of the paths i take with the boys at times and we stop by and visit...she was 14 when she died...and had been married already...
Mojo said…
This is probably not a good time to tell you that I mentally put an extra vowel in "pens" is it? No... didn't think so. It's okay girl... I love the tale of Virginia and Dave. Or should I say the Scat Formerly Known as Dave.

I digress.

I'm happy for Delilah... or for her memory at least. And I would love to see this little plot of hallowed ground you speak of. Perhaps one day.
Vesper said…
Oh, Shay...

I hope they know...

And I'm much reassured by your comment above! :-)

Caty said…
I think it is awesome that you have adopted Delilah and I LOVE your ideas for the women's self help group.
moondustwriter said…
Don't you dare stop writing Poetry!!!
I need to take you out back!!!

The "sob story" convention sounds good tho Shay

This story was dynamite - now dear lengthen it and submit to a mag

moonie smiles

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