Meb Byrne

Archive for the ‘profile’ Category

Calluses

In profile, storytelling on May 19, 2010 at 6:36 pm

I.

.

The day he left, I sat up in bed,

Early morning sunshine streaming through the windows onto the cluttered floor.

He lay with his back to me as I read Virginia Woolf,

My hand on his shoulder blade, in his hair.

He breathed quietly, his skinny body contorted beneath the sheets,

All sinew and bone, long lashes and gaunt cheeks, angular and beautiful and sad.

.

I traced his tattoos with my fingers, ink raised beneath the skin.

I wanted to photograph him.

.

I would rub his callused knuckles between my fingers when he held me at night,

His hands cupping the small of my back, my neck, pulling my hair.

His skin was a tic tac toe board when we were through,

Scarred bright red from my nails,

Our necks purple battlegrounds.

.

It felt good to feel again.

.

II.

.

The day he left, I walked upstairs and stood in the kitchen,

Not moving, not speaking.

Every sad song that had crowded my head in preparation for this moment suddenly vanished,

Just like he vanished around the corner of our apartment building,

Suitcase in tow.

.

The air was still and my face was dry

And I couldn’t move.

.

III.

.

The day he left, I tried to make love to another man.

The afternoon sun was pale and watery, the room bare.

He lay me down on the bed and did everything right,

But I started screaming and couldn’t stop.

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Tonight is for wine and pasta and mourning.

In profile on November 4, 2009 at 3:09 pm

Tonight is for wine and pasta and mourning.

It is marinara sizzling on the stove,
its cloying scent hanging in the air,
in the curtained lace,
the laundry hung to dry in the window.
It is bread crust, paper crinkling between your fingers,
fish and fennel,
fresh basil,
reddened clams and squid ink.
It is battered wooden bowls and lumpy woolen socks.

Tonight is for creation,
gluing plastic gems to glass bottles,
slipping clay between your palms,
stringing lights and long ribbons in the trees.
Tonight is camera lenses,
round mirrors and candlelight,
wax dripping onto tabletops,
burning your skin.
It is spilled paint and glitter in the floorboards.

Tonight is for creation because how could it be otherwise?

Tonight is for mourning but it is not for tears,
empty gasps of pain for a stranger.
Tonight is not for tears.

It’s the warmth of a comforter, a child’s plaything,
that sorrowfully bright moon in the sky.

Dedicated to Andrew Williamson-Noble.

“Jane McDaid Murphy” Goes Viral

In profile on July 27, 2009 at 10:54 pm

Jane McDaid died on Friday, July 17, 2009. She was fifty nine.

A few days later, my eulogy, “Jane McDaid Murphy,” was reposted on her funeral’s online guest book.

You can view the guest book here. My article is on page three.

Thanks to everyone at the funeral ceremony for their kind words on my writing. I am humbled that others found my words moving enough to share them with friends and family. I am most comforted, however, that Jane read my piece before her death. I am blessed to have had the chance to tell her how much she meant to me, before it was too late.

My heart goes out to her husband Jerry and her daughters Margaret and Katherine, who were loving in Jane’s life and gracious in her death. I love you all very much.

Jane McDaid Murphy

In profile on July 15, 2009 at 2:20 pm

Jane McDaid Murphy is the epitome of Massachusetts class. She is chic and simple, impeccably dressed and elegantly coiffed even in a rainstorm. The drawers in her immaculate kitchen are organized just so, with trays dissecting paper clips and change. Her guest bedrooms are more welcoming, her bathrooms more pristine, than most bed-and-breakfasts. She is ultra-feminine, laid-back and always approachable, never scary for me as a kid, able to bring out the girly girl in my awkward teenage self.

Jane has been a part of my life since I was born, and a part of my parents’ life long before then, when her husband, Jerry, and my dad were college buddies. As a child, I was perplexed as to how I was related to Jane and Jerry. I saw them every summer at our cottage on Nantucket; I slept in their house in Newton Lower Falls, Massachusetts, a hundred times. I grew up alongside their two daughters, all freckles and smiles. Last year, one of those daughters got married. Our bookshelves are lined with photo albums of the Murphys and the Byrnes. Though separated by distance, our two families’ lives are lives shared, with more memories than I can ever hope to enumerate.

I will remember Jane most vividly through a pair of silver glasses. One Nantucket summer, when I was in middle school, I accidently snapped off one of the arms of my glasses, rendering them useless. Jerry and Jane, always ingenious, jumped to the rescue. Jerry bent a piece of wire coat hanger to fit the form of the glasses and taped it in place, effectively creating a splint for the frame’s arm. Jane then knotted macramé over the unsightly wire with tan twine, and finished off the decoration with dots of sparkly blue and black nail polish along both sides of the frame. Jerry saved me from being blind all summer, but Jane made me stylish while doing it.

Jane introduced me to new foods, salmon, avocado, when I wouldn’t touch more than hot dogs at home. Jane took me on a shopping spree to Old Navy and bought me pretty things, when I was still shrouded in baggy T-shirts. (Jane didn’t bat an eyelid when, years later, I descended from her guest bedroom in a miniskirt, black eyeliner and lots of belt chains.) Jane took me to help her younger daughter move into college, and comforted me that even if I didn’t get my first choice of a school, things would work out for the best. (She was right.)

Jane was diagnosed with cancer several years ago. Her courage in the face of a rare disease is remarkable. I cannot express how irrevocably she has changed my life for the better, or how grateful I am for her unending kindness toward me. For as long as I live, I will love and cherish Jane McDaid Murphy.

R.I.P. Michael Jackson

In music, profile on June 25, 2009 at 9:34 pm

In 2006, I traveled to Kenya for seven weeks to work, and lived with a Kikuyu family. Much of Kenyan culture eluded me: the language, the food, the religion. One commonality between my world and the world of my homestay family came through their youngest son, Jeremiah, eighteen years old and unemployed. Jeremiah’s favorite artist was Michael Jackson.

This is not to say that I am a Michael Jackson fanatic, or even a fan. Michael features in my memories as snippets, unidentified cultural references, never as his whole superstar persona. I have a vivid childhood recollection of learning “She’s Out Of My Life,” in my father’s car, rain pouring outside. As a teenager, I performed a dance recital to “The Way You Make Me Feel.” I once tried and failed to teach myself to moonwalk.

Until meeting Jeremiah, I had known little about the Michael Jackson that had been, pre-towel-draped-baby, lost nose and child molestation trial. A child of the 90s, I grew up with Michael engrained in the public consciousness, too young to know him at his height or to comprehend his fall. With Jeremiah, I watched Michael Jackson videos ad nauseam, the two of us marveling at Michael’s choreographic precision and vocal acrobatics. Those early videos, the landmark moments, still resonated with me two decades after their debuts: the iconic dance moves of “Billie Jean,” the unabashedly fierce fashion of “Bad,” the raw sexual power of “Dirty Diana.”

Michael’s original impact is undeniable and indelible. 80s pop music sounded like Michael. MTV succeeded largely because of his groundbreaking videos. The fashion world followed his every sequin, until his downward media spiral twisted wearing a single white glove into a parody. Even now, teenagers in third world countries adore him. College courses dissect him. Contemporary choreography is infused with his influence. His shows were still selling out, until the day of his death. Despite his difficult child stardom and his sad descent into divorce, debt, plastic surgery and public ignominy, Michael Jackson shaped pop music. He was, and always will be, the King of Pop.