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.
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.
3/25/05 – 3/30/05