“Slamming Open the Door”

Last Saturday, Pearl had two birthday parties back to back. The second one, I dropped her off. But at the first I stayed, standing around chatting with the birthday boy’s mom, a friend whose bookshelves inspire me every time I happen into her house.

This time, I scanned the titles as the passel of four-year olds ran around with light sabers and swords. One book caught my eye, a slender volume of poems. It had a picture of a single ladybug on the stark white cover, along with the title in red italics: Slamming Open the Door, by Kathleen Sheeder Bonanno.

I opened it up to a black and white photograph showing the bright, open, beautiful, smiling face of a young woman. Beneath the photo is her name, Leidy Sheeder Bonanno. And right then, though I’d never heard of the book or the poet, something in me understood that this girl was gone.

The very first poem wrapped itself around my heart like a fist. And then I found that I couldn’t stop reading, one poem after another narrating the story of the murder of the poet’s daughter. Capturing unbearable pain in plain, raw language.

After about five or six poems, I knew I should get up off the couch, join the party. When I did, I asked my friend how she came by this book. She said she’d heard an interview with the poet on NPR – and that yes, I could borrow it.

It sits here next to me on my desk as I type, and I am aware of myself as a woman whose daughters are not dead. Whose daughters, as of 8:15 this morning, were barreling into a brand new day-in-the-life. The life. Their lives. The ones I, like every parent, hold dear and close but know I cannot hold altogether, cannot really hold at all, must let go of, must do my best, forgive myself when I don’t, move on, show up again, love them as they are, say superstitious things, knock wood or spit over my shoulder.

Or simply hope. Hope and pray they will be safe from harm. Are hope and prayer just forms of superstition? Does it matter? Is it blasphemous to write such words?

I am grateful to the poets who say the unspeakable.

**

DEATH BARGED IN

In his Russian greatcoat,
slamming open the door
with an unpardonable bang,
and he has been here ever since.

He changes everything,
rearranges the furniture,
his hands hovers
by the phone;
he will answer now, he says;
he will be the answer.

Tonight he sits down to dinner
at the head of the table
as we eat, mute;
later, he climbs into bed
between us.

Even as I sit here,
he stands behind me
clamping two
colossal hands on my shoulders
and bends down
and whispers to my neck:
From now on,
you write about me.

~ Kathleen Sheeder Bonanno

3 thoughts on ““Slamming Open the Door”

  1. Karen Maezen Miller says:

    This reminds me of two similarly moving and motivating NPR interviews that informed my writing: of William Maxwell’s “All the Days and Nights,” and Genevieve Jurgensen’s “The Disappearance.” Make no mistake about it.

    Like

  2. Renae C says:

    No blasphemy there – and in the face of such horror, what does blasphemy matter anyway?

    What a powerful find. The poem you posted made me shudder.

    Yes, we hold them lightly, and we hope.

    Like

  3. GailNHB says:

    Hope and pray and spit and pour salt and knock wood and then do it all again. None of it can do any harm.

    And, above all, love those two daughters over and over and more and more. And when you mess up, ask for forgiveness and then love them some more.

    Sometimes that love is the only thing you’ve got.
    Most times, it’s the only thing they need.

    Like

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