“Whole” and “Brand New Skin,” by guest writer Pamela Adams Hirst – “Who but You?” living alone series

The author in Old Town, Albuquerque with her bicycle.  Photo credit:  ka
The author and her bicycle in Old Town, Albuquerque.  Photo credit:  ka

by Pamela Adams Hirst

Books are like angels
between the living and the dead
–Beatlick Joe Speer

Books are what he left.  Not money, not property, but books.

I expected my love affair of 22 years to last forever.  We would grow old together.  But we didn’t.  I was alone.

Pamela and Joe.  Photo credit:  Dana Kemp
Pamela and Joe.  Photo credit:  Dana Kemp

The hardest thing to cope with after Beatlick Joe left me — only 10 weeks past a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer — was the cold, empty bed.  I simply could not bear it.  So I ordered the best hot water bottle to be found.  Not those cheap-ass things at Walgreens that blow like bicycle tubes, but a heavy duty rubber affair that held up to the most boiling of water and was still warm in the morning.  I call it my German boyfriend and sleep with it to this day.

Alone at night in my bed, I also could not cope with my thoughts, my memories, that haunted me.  They rushed down on me like a waterfall deep inside my head.  So I listened to books on CDs.  In the last four years I have waded through the Library of Congress, mostly classics and historical novels.  The kind of books Joe read — true literature. Currently I am listening to Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriette Beecher Stowe.

For years I believed my grief would not end until someone else shared my home, my bed.  Living alone represented my loss, mocked me.  Joe was not here and he would never be here again.  It was final.

I struggled to find something to live for, to give meaning to my life.  I kept busy.

There is a Navajo saying:  In beauty all is made whole.

Embracing this belief, in my still, quiet little apartment, I threw myself into gardening, painting, decorating, making rugs, curtains…organizing, streamlining, and perfecting every little corner of my home and my garden.  I was and still am surrounded by perfect beauty.  And it does fill my heart.  My garden expands my soul.

All is beautiful, all is perfect, all is whole.  And the years crept by and yet the stillness haunted me, until my epiphany:  in the last two years, I have been dating, trying to fill the void.  I was waiting for someone, anyone, to bring magic back into my life.

With a friend's guitar accompaniment, Pamela and Holly, aka the Beatlick Sisters, performing at a poetry event.  Photo credit:  ka
With a friend’s guitar accompaniment, Pamela and Holly, aka the Beatlick Sisters, performing at a poetry event. Photo credit: ka

And then entered Holly.  She, an old friend of Joe’s, and her offer:  she was back in town and seeking a partner with whom to perform.  And last New Year’s I avowed to dedicate my life to art again.  I bought a guitar, I rehearsed with Holly, filled my home with music, filled my mind with poetry, filled my nights with performance.  In the manner of osmosis, molecule by damp molecule, the magic swelled into droplets that seeped slowly back into my soul.  It is the pace of tectonic plates, mountain ranges, practicing, rehearsing.  I make my own magic.

I make magic, alone, in these empty rooms, yet they breathe, curtains blow and rose petals flutter.  Four years, three months and 19 days after I lost my lover, after a long day on the computer, I went to bed without the desire to fill my brain.  It was buzzed after 18 hours at a desk.  I lay down.  And I found peace again.  Alone with my thoughts, in the dark, hope returned with the magic.

Am I destined to live alone forever?  Perhaps?

And I am at peace with that thought, yes.

I am Pamela who made all whole with beauty, all magic with art.

Flowering cactus beauty in Albuquerque.  Photo credit:  ka
Flowering cactus beauty in Albuquerque.  Photo credit:  ka

Brand New Skin
by Pamela Adams Hirst

Grief became my companion.  Not he.  Tears became my substance, not love.  The salt and water flowed over me, through me, became me… La Llorona.

And desert winds dried my veil of tears to a crust:  my snakeskin.

I could not cope with a cold bed.
I could not cope with my memories.

Fury and business filled my mind,
to create yet another skin,
the very cortex of my brain
became an impermeable skin
where a waterfall of memories
could not find me.

The snake
hid under the rocks from the veil of water.

The loss of light mocked me, the loss of hope, the loss of magic.

And my snakeskin began to tighten
becoming more coarse and unbearable as once was my pain
dry, brittle and empty

I relinquish the belief that some one, some other, some beingness will come along and bring magic back into my life.

So I fill my rooms with music, my mind with poetry, my nights with performance.

I am Pamela who made all whole with beauty, all magic with art in the framework and support of this community of artists, poets and writers in a magic place called Albuquerque.

I rubbed against the pain, rough as adobe, again and again,
scrapped and bled again and again, pierced as by cacti
until the corset of dead skin cracked like a desert floor
and I was free to struggle out.

I do have hope.

I do have magic.

A miracle of soft, pliant skin, eager for touch.

And no one made it but me, when I reached out beyond myself and what I perceived myself to be:  Pamela without Joe.

Check out

–Beatlick Pamela Hirst
June 2015

Pamela Adams Hirst, aka Beatlick Pamela, moved to New Mexico from Nashville, Tennessee, and established award-winning Beatlick Press in order to posthumously publish her life partner’s only book, Backpack Trekker: A 60s Flashback.  As a book designer and publisher, seven volumes from her press have been named Finalists in the New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards, with one First Place winner in Anthology 2013. Continuing the literary and performance legacy established by Beatlick Joe Speer, she currently collaborates with Holly Wilson in the Beatlick Sisters, a multi-media performance duet, drawing upon her own years of media experience in television, journalism and poetry.  Pamela graduated summa cum laude from Tennessee State University with a BA, emphasis on communication, theater and Spanish language.  Her hobbies include playing guitar and gardening.  Currently, she is restoring a vineyard at Hollywood Farm in the South Valley.



The author.  Photo credit:  Holly Wilson
The author.  Photo credit: Holly Wilson
In memory of Beatlick Joe Speer.  Photo credit:  the author.
In memory of Beatlick Joe Speer.  Photo credit:  the author.

This is part of the Who but You? living alone series.  Check out the other posts!  They are published on periodic Mondays or Tuesdays.

Join the Who but You? project:  e-mail your story, prose, poetry, art and/or photos about living alone to powerofpaperzines@gmail.com for consideration.
All ages, all countries and cities, all solo living situations would be appreciated – from temporary, lonely, and despised, to permanent, positive & treasured.
In addition to your story/art, please include:

  • a brief Bio with an associated profile photo (this may be an actual photo of you, or a more anonymous photo of something you believe represents you as a person)
  • 1–4 additional photos, with photography credits
  • your fake (pen) name or real name

For more information:  https://whobutyouproject.wordpress.com/who-but-you-series/.

Take good care,

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Marcie Brubaker says:

    I like the imagery and near poetry of “Whole.” Brand New Skin, the same, but it is poetry. A scene has been painted that I will remember in both. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Bradley Grower says:

    Words as beautiful as the heart of the woman who wrote them.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. cynthrod says:

    Pamela, thank you…for creating a lovely and loving life around yourself…I am so proud of you, dear friend….hope to see you some day…maybe this year, depending on our travel plans…still uncertain….Abrazos, Cynthia

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Joan Campbell Kennedy says:

    Whole and Brand New Skin tells me that you have come through to the other side. It was a long dark night of the soul. I am so proud to be related and connected. Bless you and your ongoing contributions to this world. Love you, cuz.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for this medicine Pamela. I sometimes wonder if my Beloved hasn’t yet entered my life because I’m terrified of eventually losing him. You’ve helped me better understand such a partnership is worth it, the loss bearable and there is still life. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

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