Good Friday 2005

For Stella


For Persian prayer rugs,

the weaver always makes one mistake

in the pattern because

nothing is perfect except for Allah.


Today, there is a stitch missing

in the threads of time that weave

in long lines down the hallway

where I have worked with Stella for 15 years


Because Stella has died this morning,

I lost a sister I never had to lose,

one who told me what an idiot I was being

when I was being one, one who


brought homemade pastry to the office,

laughed like creek water over stones,

invited you to her home, into the

intimate circle of her frank mind


where you were cherished, where your opinions

sat beside hers and resolved all knotty questions,

and still I’m stunned because,

in a street fight between Stella and Death


Stella would win, not by beating him senseless,

but by sitting with him, asking him

how his day was, how were his wife and kids;

then she would talk about Jason, Alex, Gene,


share a recipe, advise Death to avoid any food

that was white if he wanted to lose weight,

and invite him to her Kenwood acre

to help harvest the grapes on the new vines.


He would make the long drive,

stopping along the way

to buy her cut flowers

shaped like the sun, the moon and the stars.



It’s not so much grief as amazement

That her car, with its school decals

Will not be parked in front of school,


That her voice will not ring out

Down the hallway while she works

With Shirley on the auction.


How can someone so vital

Be and then not be?

Shortly before she left for the hospital,


She asked me to hold her,

To embrace her as best I could,

To let her know


She was loved; she was loved:

She had passion for her husband,

Adoration for her sons,


Who adored her in return,

Joy in her friends

Who, like me, stand surprised


At this removal from our lives

rude, sudden, abrupt,

of Stella, our best friend.


III. Stella’s Lessons

Begin each day

With an hour talking

About anything other than work.


Grow lavender,

Weave it into wands,

And give it to your friends’ children.


Treat your friends’ children

As your own

Or, better yet, as grandchildren.


Stay in the King George V in Paris

and by the Spanish Steps in Rome,

You might not get the chance to return.


Make all type smaller

Make all pictures bigger

Always use Copperplate 29AB.


Say what you mean,

But say it without meanness,

Only for the pure joy that truth brings.


In matters between husband and wife,

The wife is nearly always right,

And when she isn’t, she has good reasons for being wrong.


When you see an acre in the country for sale

Buy it. Plant olive trees, vegetables, flowers,

And rows and rows of grape vines.


Make your own wine.

Design your own label.

Design the tiles around your pool.


Design everything in your life

So that nothing is accidental.

Marry the right person


And love that person so much

That you manage to weave him

Into every conversation.


Love each friend as a best friend,

And make room for more.

Talk to them about sex.


Stay away from food that is white

And hair that is white

Because death is not real.


Work late. Sleep late.

Don’t be afraid to spend money.

Have a great life,


Then come back to visit your friends

in vivid dreams to tell them

you are at peace and happy and alive.


Paul Totah

3/25/05 – 3/30/05

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