Yellow Cloak

This poem came to me on a November afternoon eight years ago, six years after Chan’s death. Grief is a slow process. Don’t let anyone rush you.


Yellow Cloak

The other day I was driving down
a little street in the neighborhood,
a shortcut, I thought, in my endless quest
to save a minute or two for something.
I don’t know what.

And I saw a tree standing
branches upraised, entirely bare.
At its base in a spreading circle lay its cloak of yellow
like a woman’s garment dropped suddenly
that floated too fast to the floor.
The leaves, bright and soft,
were hopelessly disconnected from their
mother, now naked, bereft.

In the rushing frantic kids-to-pick-up moment
when I saw that tree
I thought
That’s how I felt when my son died.
Arms lifted

What happened?
Where is the warmth and beauty that I always had
where the wind whispered and the light shimmered
where the tiny infinite movements against my
skin interpreted the air and darkness?

now I am only bare and bony
bark wet and cold
in the wind and rain
Why am I still standing with
all of me exposed
and winter coming?


Catharine H. Murray, Author of  Now You See the Sky


Goodbye Mei Ya

Oonjit Leela Tiparos, the woman who helped me raise my children, who gave everything of herself to her family, who wasn’t afraid of anything, who made me laugh when mothering made me want to cry has died after too many years living with dementia. Sharing a home with her for so many years, watching her be a devoted mother and grandmother and daughter, I learned more from her than I know. Thank you, Mei Ya.


Fingertips that always tended,
before her mind began looping back
to time before children,
now nearly touch as if to kiss
five and five gather together
clutch at blanket’s edge as if a hem
with stitches to pull
and re-set.

Holding invisible needle, she cocks her head
shrunken on stem of narrow neck
twisted on hard pillow
working arm’s length thread
through eye
and begins to sew.

We, sons, daughters-in-law, grandchildren, grown
gather around her gurney
in this room of
atrophied limbs and television’s drone
pairs of vacant eyes
gazing from each bed.

We wait
unsure that we exist
when she no longer knows our names.

Her eldest son smiles and
calls into her wilted ear

Do you have children?
How many?
What are their names?

Each demand a
grenade lobbed behind kitchen curtains
where she lives
without us.

A laugh sputters from him as if
he doesn’t feel his own heart ache
every time he asks her if she knows his name.

But nothing shakes the fortress where she wanders now
her heavy-lidded gaze roves past our wanting faces
now no more to her than interruption.

She mutters with so little concern
we know that we are only errant threads.
and she returns to the work at hand,
gathering bits of illusion like cloth
stitches that are hers alone
she pulls at endless hems
to unstitch, unbind, release.

All this unravels only us.
Our dear mother is content.

We wait
to be embroidered into her work
lifted to the light where she can see and make
our shape and color.

What if?

With all the outpouring of support, feet coming through the door, standing on the floor an hour or more, and then the words that they gave me,
You are an inspiration.
I feel full of hope and joy.
Thank you for your invitation to grieve
For being a truth-teller.
I wonder,
What if my circle of dreaming women hadn’t dragged me out of the dark, safe quiet place where I wrote and never showed anyone?
What if my friend hadn’t told me a few years ago that I needed to go to graduate school in creative writing? What if she had let me quit when I couldn’t see the sense in all that debt? What if that woman we knew hadn’t listened to her heart and taken the path toward her art, forsaking her job to write her book and found her way?
My friend could not have pointed to her and said, “Look how happy she is. You need to do it. You need to be who you were meant to be.” And then when I was sure it was all a waste of time and money to spend on nothing more than trying to write something too hard to write anyway, my grad school buddy said, “No way. You cannot quit. You have to finish. I won’t let you quit.”
Because of them and so many others pushing me when I wanted to take the easy out, I didn’t give up.
I wanted to, so many late nights, so many difficult days.  Until the work was finally done.
And now here I am with all this love and appreciation raining down on me
And now I let it soak my tired skin
Drink it in
And thank everyone and everything.

Print bookstore 11.7.2018-14

My Book Birth-Day is almost here.

I am getting nervous and excited. What a thing to let this go after so many years of dreaming, drafting, ego-squeezing submitting, editing, crafting and now finally, releasing. And all of it begotten by deep grief. The work of writing is what carried me into and through the grief in a way that sent me out healed. And here I am on the other side. I hope all my local people can make it to the party to help me celebrate this milestone of this journey.


Release Party! November 7th at 7 p.m.

I am delighted to announce that Print: A Bookstore in Portland, Maine will host the release party for Now You See the Sky, which will launch Gracie Belle, a new Ann Hood imprint that will focus on grief and loss, on November 7th at 7 p.m.

Please come celebrate with me! Bring a friend. If you’d like to pre-order your copy of Now You See the Sky , you can do so here and choose to pick it up the night of the event.

I hope to see you there!