Lady J

For Jennifer Harding Feb 14, 1966 - Sept 19, 2010


I only have one photo of you

you are sitting in my house in Boulder


mid-sentence, your hands lift like birds

a small nest of fire burning in each hand


you’re holding court on the pillows of Esmeralda

our eight-foot long, lime green velveteen sofa


we bought at a yard sale on 5th & Arapahoe for thirty bucks

because you said it would invite tall men to lie down


we met because we kept seeing each other around town wearing each other’s old jeans we managed to squeeze into at the consignment store


you finally suggested we get together for a clothing swap so we could stop paying for each other’s hand-me-downs


I came over to your apartment above the old roadhouse

and you put acupuncture needles in my arm


we dressed up for each other everyday after that sassy cabaret-cowgirls in aubergine-colored jeans, bad-ass boots, vintage silk tops

we realized we were more sisters than we were strangers

and we were inseparable for the next five years


until we broke up because you told me I didn’t know what God was

and if I had it to do again now, I would’ve just laughed at you


rather than walking away because how could I not know what God was when you always amazed me

you who wore lingerie under your Catholic school uniform

so you had something to smile about when the nuns beat you down


you who showed me how to afford to eat in Boulder “If you put it in a brown paper bag at Wild Oats Market, Lady M, you can put whatever price you want on it”

nothing major, heirloom tomatoes, organic cherries, dark chocolate haystacks

you who would call me at 10pm on trash night and say, “Come on Lady M, time to go alley shopping!”


we’d fill the back of your beater truck with treasures we pirated from dumpsters, both of us finding whatever we needed to furnish our homes


you who asked me how I bring my poems to life

and accompanied me to my first public reading, my hands shaking


you who shamelessly ate boxes of chocolate chip cookies in your white silk kimono while scribbling haiku


and your wisest line to me,

Well Lady Meredith, the rules only apply to you if you let them


I miss you, Lady J I never got to say goodbye when you were dying


we had drifted apart and old grudges kept us that way

I didn’t find out until a year later


you came to me in a dream one night mid-September

when you didn’t answer my calls or emails, I searched you up,


found your obituary stunned, I asked questions, pancreatic cancer


I went for a walk that night

it was one year from the day you died, and I swear you came with me

said you were ready to move on

and I was the only one you hadn’t spoken with


and then there was this moment when you let me to see through your eyes


everywhere I looked all the molecules glowed like millions of tiny suns


I stood there transfixed

you said, “This is what it really looks like, Lady M”


and then it was over and you were gone


and it was too late to tell you that I had seen your hands lift like firebirds

that the scenes on your kimono came to life and danced in luminous poetry

Meredith Heller is a poet, singer/songwriter, and educator with graduate degrees in writing and education. A California Poet in the Schools, she teaches workshops for all ages in Marin County schools, Juvenile Hall, and on Zoom for kids & women. She is author of the poetry chapbook, SONGLINES (Finishing Line Press) and two collections, River Spells & River Rebel. Her new book, Write a Poem, Save Your Life, (New World Library) is scheduled for publication Spring 2021. Her poetry also appears in Rebelle Society, We’Moon, Raw Earth Ink, Quiet Lightning, Tiny Seed, Avocet, Aquarian, Common Ground, Tiny House, and American Songwriter. She is mused by nature, synchronicity, and kindred souls. www.meredithheller.com

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