Tuesday, May 19, 2020

What Happens When a Career Vampire Starts Working From Home

Not an actual photo of sunlight penetrating my house. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.  
Image by stokpic from Pixabay

Most of the year, I rise in darkness, get ready for work, spend most of the day in a mostly windowless office, and return home after dark. During that too-brief time of year when my day actually has daylight on both ends, I revel in the light and warmth, and take every advantage to be outside, including using a speed cleaning process on weekends to tidy my house. But the reality is, for much of my life, I have been a career vampire, living and working in the shadows.

Now comes the pandemic-required time of working from home, and spending long days in a domicile bathed in daylight. It has been an eye-opening experience.

At first I was fascinated by the play of light and shadow between sunrise and sunset. I had never before witnessed the golden shafts of sunlight moving from window to window, acting as spotlights throughout my house. I congratulated myself on the placement of a garden window, seeing for myself why my plants were thriving.

But the spotlights moving through my indoor space were not so welcome in other areas. For example, something disturbing was revealed at my salon-style art wall, full of floor to ceiling photos and artwork. There was not only a fine layer of dust, but in some places the frames looked as if they had been hanging, untouched, for many years. Some even had thready cobwebs hanging from them. How could this be? I even had a special duster I ran over the frames while cleaning!

And the frames were just the start. Daylight revealed a disgustingly grimy laptop keyboard, lint and other bits of detritus in the carpet, hairs and crumbs and dust bunnies on floors and under furniture. And what were those spots on the ceiling in the kitchen?

I became aware that my heat ducts probably needed to be cleaned out, my kitchen cabinets scrubbed, my furniture vacuumed, and my bathroom — which I swear I clean every week — required a Haz-Mat team. My cute, quirky decorating style is looking more and more like an episode of “Hoarders” the longer I spend daylight time here. I've found myself sweeping the kitchen floor several times a day, and running the dishwasher and the washing machine more often as I discover all sorts of not-quite-clean-in-the-light-of-day objects around the house.

The magazine photo version. ©2020 Noreen Braman
I've rearranged the coats and scarves hanging on hooks next to my front door to be more artistically pleasing. I grabbed some recycled folding doors, leftover paint and more hooks to turn an utilitarian (translation: messy) broom, mop and recycling area into a magazine worthy project.

At the same time, I am tackling a general house cleanout, having finally realized that my grown children have really left the nest, as evidenced by their house purchases, moves to distant states, and giving me 6 grandchildren. Time for the toys, books, trophies and other souvenirs packed away for 20 years in the shed to go.

As open shed doors, closets, cabinets and file drawers and view their contents bathed in sunlight (or even filtered cloudy daylight, to be honest) I really understand why light was such a powerful enemy of the Undead. Unfortunately, unlike the bloodsuckers who either burst into flame or turn to dust when exposed to light, my possessions and collections just sit there. Collecting dust.

In his landmark vampire tale, "Dracula," Bram Stoker created the legend that vampires need to have their "native soil" nearby in order to survive. Apparently, as a career vampire I have been accumulating my own version of that dirt all around me. And I know I’m not alone. Go ahead, run your finger along the tops of your picture frames. Pull up those couch cushions. Then pull down the shades.

©2020 Noreen Braman

Tuesday, May 12, 2020


Image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay

In the sunset of life it isn’t fun to suddenly realize, that you never had the life you wanted. That things never went the way you thought they should, and even if you generally think that your life has been mostly fine – the day will come when you realize, the "somedays" you dreamed about aren’t coming.

It can happen when you are watching an old show on TV, that show you watched in your formative years, the one that made you laugh, the one you all talked about the next day, the one that seemed to describe your forward path – but it never did. And that is because life is not a sitcom. There is no team of writers plotting all the twists and turns. No one to type up the happy ending.

They say that you are responsible for writing your own story. But no one tells you that you may carry one story in your head, while you live out another. And even if that life is full of love and laughter, the day will come where a snippet of music, a mention of a movie, or the title of a book will open up a dark hole under your feet. And if you aren’t careful, you will fall into this hole, tumbling over and over like Alice, watching all the souvenirs of your life cascading around you, and as hard as you try to catch them, you can’t.

Tokens of you childhood streak by like shooting stars, the puffs of smoke that were your dreams, from the days when all seemed possible. And as you plummet you are joined by fleeting ghostly shadows of lovers and friends who swirled in and out of your life. They whisper as they pass by, but you cannot catch what they say, you’ve forgotten the sound of their voices. From deep inside you, memories flicker, what were those plans we had? The promises made to each other, the song you promised to sing at her funeral, but by then you had lost touch.

Soon you are wrapped in swirling clouds of motherhood – diapers and first teeth and the leftover equipment of their childhood activities, photos and toys and high school rings — the music of a thousand performances. The rising of a deepening ache as one by one they leave home, and the feeling of loss, of “never again” threatens to drown you. There are points of light that fill you full of warmth, and again your head fills up with dreams, this time you will get things right. The circle will re-form itself with everyone reachable, touchable, lovable, and the next generation running in and out, calling for you.

However, the hole continues to widen and as hard as your try to hold their hands, to encircle them with your arms, they drift away, smiling as they go, their own dreams covering them like fog. And you wake up one day to realize, you are living in a house that no one will visit, in a place where no one will return, and the vision of your sunset years reveals itself to be just more smoke. 

You wonder what was the turning point, where was that bend in the road that took you in the wrong direction. No amount of turning around will get you back to that place, you have no choice but to continue falling, holding on to the new life where there is still love and laughter, no longer trying to catch the things that are falling away, trying as best as you can to quiet the heartache, accepting that you have reached to part of the journey where losses mount.

©2020 Noreen Braman

With an understanding nod (after so many years denying it) to Judith Viorst’s “Necessary Losses.”

Thursday, April 30, 2020

NANOWRIMO April 30, 2020 Finis

As we end National Poetry Month, and NAPOWRIMO for 2020 I turn to Dylan Thomas, and the two poems of his that subconsciously, and not so subconsciously, color my work. "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night" is almost a mantra with me, so much so, that I borrowed the phraseology to tell people at my Humor and Well-Being presentations "Don't go gently! Go Laughing!" And the second meaningful poem "and death will have no dominion" casts a long shadow over yesterday's poem. As I once spend a summer reading all the works of Shirley Jackson, to discover the broader scope of her work, with one foot in humor and one foot in horror, it may be time to rediscover Thomas, and add another literary root to my creative tree. 

This year, as every year, I title my April poems "The Cruellest Month," and for the most part, it has been a metaphor. However, this year, April was indeed cruel, bringing death under her wings like rain, raising up the flowers of mourning. Her sister May could end up being just as merciless at worst, and a valley of tears at best.

So, tonight I bid April 2020 farewell, she the bringer of a personally significant birthday, amid anxiety, fear and anger, and the balancing power of love. The stuff of my poetry for sure.

“I am glad you are here with me. Here at the end of all things, Sam.”
Frodo Baggins to Sam Gamgee― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

"The end...is just a little harder, when brought about by friends..."
 Andrew Lloyd Webber, Tim Rice, Jesus Christ Superstar

"Oh what a world.."
Margaret Hamilton, as the melting Wicked Witch of the West, The Wizard of Oz 

The Sacred Heart

iconography of childhood
the heart of Jesus encircled by thorns
representing the pain we cause
felt for all eternity
even while living in Paradise
an image to shame our sins
inspire us to holy lives
the Immaculate Heart of Mary
encircled with flowers
is pierced with seven swords
because the heart of a mother bears
the blossoms she tendered in her garden
alongside the wounds of maternity
sorrows too painful to bear
hanging side by side in the church
like grandparents in old fashioned clothes
not smiling just staring
their hands levitating their hearts
outside of their bodies
flaming like the candles
we light for special intentions
all I can think of is
falling on the thorns of life
ten swords impaling me from behind
my mother heart stitched many times over
my feet stomping on serpents and legos
refusing to say good-bye
when they leave, one by one
icons are only as valuable
as the jewels with which they are encrusted
eyes expressionless and dead
peering out from bodies
from which the heart has been removed
unlike my heart, which bleeds every day
pain born of love, not sin.
©2020 Noreen Braman

Wednesday, April 29, 2020


Image by Alex Demoura from Pixabay

Human Sacrifice

Useless blood spilled
appeasing non-existent gods
the life taken to ensure 

the livesof others will go on
never stopped earthquake
tsunami or pyroclastic flow
made it rain

blessed the crops
or protected hordes of warriors
in uncountable battles of pointless wars

Death was the only winner. 

And now you tell me
sacrifice myself
on the altar of an ancient god
made of stolen gold
my blood in exchange for
monetary stability
status quo
the kingdom over the
surplus population
dangling generations of descendants
in front of my eyes
while the barons of finance
hide out in their counting houses
and those who once we thought of as leaders
sputter and threaten and withhold favor
choosing instead to watch from afar
as the rabble fight each other
over food and medicine and haircuts
pointing fingers at each other
assuming no blame for their actions
listening to new world Svengalis
spinning tales of intrigue
proposing heretical solutions
hiding behind philosophies and beliefs
they push on others
but ignore themselves

While death is the only winner.

And now you tell me I owe my life
to the future in which
you have already dirtied your hands
where you have pushed your piles
of filth and betrayal
as gifts for those same 
generations of descendants

Do they not dangle before your eyes?
Do they not know your dread complicity?
And your schemes and plans and usury
for only your own benefit in this world of today?

I would step in front of a bullet
throw myself in the path of a train
sell all my possessions
and mortgage my soul
to spare my progeny suffering
but I will not die on your altar of gold
to support your narcissistic survival scheme 

and with my last breath I will call you out
for the harm you have done to humanity

And not let death be the winner. 

©2020 Noreen Braman

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

NAPOWRIMO April 28, 2020 Shelter


not what was wanted
barely what was needed
in another world
from what was before
riddled with decay
the hidden rot of dampness
painted with desperation
time eating away the structure
a silent voracious malignancy

©2020 Noreen Braman

Sunday, April 26, 2020

NAPOWRIMO April 25, 2020 Now

Image by Felicia Ruiz from Pixabay

Is this the time, the day, the year,

the point in my life to know that

after all this time, those days, those years,

the point of my life may be that

spending all that time, past days, past years

pointed my life to somedays that

present more endings than beginnings

more even breaks than winnings

still, knowing what the time is today

doesn’t lessen the pain of what is drifting away

or make any easier the “good-byes” to say,

to this time, this day, this year.

©2020 Noreen Braman

Thursday, April 23, 2020

NAPOWRIMO April 23, 2020 Isolation Octopus

Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

Isolation Octopus

digital tentacles extend out
reaching into the universe
from an electronic cephalopod
with information coursing through
its system of digital circuitry
lighting up a bulbous brain 
with changing colors
processing bits and bytes of life
redesigned in isolation
bleeding out over the wifi
feeding the living light fields
swelling in the server farm
capturing contact without interaction
transactions without movement
work without workplaces
below the vast ocean of data.

©2020 Noreen Braman

Monday, April 20, 2020

NAPOWRIMO April 19, 2020 6 word poem challenge

Image by 2427999 from Pixabay
6 Word Poem Challenge

Pandemic Poem

Pestilence proves tenacity
stronger than humanity.

©2020 Noreen Braman
with a shout out to Albert Camus

Friday, April 17, 2020

NAPOWRIMO April 17, 2020 International Haiku Day

Image by Andrew Martin from Pixabay

life goes on despite
your plans to control its path
learn to mind the road

©2020 Noreen Braman

Thursday, April 16, 2020

NAPOWrIMO 2020 April 15 Cold

Cold /   four weeks housebound / overshadowed by death and denial / constant shivering   ©2020 Noreen Braman

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

NAPOWRIMO April 13, 2020 Reprimand

Image by Marisa04 from Pixabay

What the hell have I been doing
treading water, wasting time
making other people look good

crying over songs and stories
that once inspired me to dream.

I have forgotten my own words

that dreams die fast in the crush of daily life
unwatered plants that shrivel
boxes of forgotten poems
words that will die with me.

The persistent, the motivated, the disciplined,

wave as they pass me on the road
patting my back condescendingly
smiling at me sympathetically
leaving me in their dust.

What the hell have I been doing

fooling myself with promises of “someday”
while in reality not willing to do the work
finally understanding my life has been more
about the dreaming than the doing.

©2020 Noreen Braman

Saturday, April 11, 2020

NAPOWRIMO April 11, 2020 Once


Once a solitaire poet, treading water in a tidal pool,
prayed to any deity available to calm the waves,
redirect the tide and clear the sky
bringing the land in sight.

Once a solitaire poet, scrambling to climb a rocky slope,
cried out to be given a heart made of stone,
a new path through the wilderness
leading far away from pain.

Once a solitaire poet, bolting a door with finality,
swore allegiance to none and asked for none in return,
survival the only aspiration required,
donning the armor of betrayal.

©2020 Noreen Braman

Thursday, April 9, 2020

NAPOWRIMO April 9, 2020 The Sleeper

April Moon ©2020 Noreen Braman
The Sleeper

April moon aligns, highlighting the sleeper
who, on turning will surely wake.
I gently pull the shade down
missing immediately the light of my sky charm,
talisman since my birth.
I sacrifice the night glow for the love of later life,
keeping shut the window knowing
the sounds of the night cherished while alone
have given way to a pattern of shared breath,
pulsing through a shared life
over which an illuminated sentinel
keeps watch.
©2020 Noreen Braman

Monday, April 6, 2020

NAPOWRIMO APRIL 6, 2020 Sunset

Cape May Sunset ©2019 Noreen Braman
“Losing everything is like the sun going down on me.”
Songwriters: Bernie Taupin / Elton John
Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me


Colors at the end of day
tongues of distant signal fires,
light the way to hearth and home
and all the soul desires.

Not the burning crimson flames
from rows of funeral pyres
lit by wailing weeping forms
who grief alone attires.

All the kings and queens and thrones
every last one of the empires,
ends in conflagration
Destroyed in symbolic hellfires.

Still, standing as the sun goes down
The soul seeks what it admires,
And takes what solace it can find
Before her time expires.

©2020 Noreen Braman