memorial for a brilliant woman

Monday, December 30, 2013

First Friday at the VMFA

It's come to my attention that this month's Spoken Word series will be dedicated to Shann! If you're feeling lonesome this Friday, treat your ears to my mother's favorite thing- LIVE POETRY! 

(from Patricia Jagoda) 
Please join us for First Friday on January 3.  Our evening of Four Poets Reading will be dedicated to Shann Palmer, a great friend of the museum, who passed away last Saturday.  Shann was a talented musician, writer and poet who was instrumental in connecting us with poets in the regional and national poetry community.  She worked with us on the very first Art After Hours program series which featured a poetry component to the evening.  She continued this work with First Fridays. 

She will be greatly missed. 

First Fridays
Friday, January 3, 2014
Spoken Word Featuring Four Poets Reading
Well known within the poetry community, acclaimed New York city poet Alan Kleiman, Virginia poets Annie Rudy, RJ Gibson, and Michele Poulos will each present a 25 minute reading from their original works.  Their respective works have been published and all continue to provide literary contributions to social media as well.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

For Sue

She told me:
You were both teachers (I forget where) in the late seventies. She saw you in the smoke-filled teachers' lounge hemming your skirt with a stapler. That's when she knew you'd be close friends.
You had kids at the same time, and I still remember the picture of you and Steve before you were married.
Her least proud moment was something about leaving a jacket in the back of a van, and telling you your tits were too small (can't remember the context, but I remember her regret) and how you never forgave her for that.
I knew you threw checks back and forth, when you both were broke in the early days before banks were good on timing.
I knew we spent hours, days at your house.
I remember when Paul clogged your toilet, the bath pictures, a lot more.
I remember her being upset as (in her words) old friends get, when every statement would set either of you off. You would say "you should-" and maybe she should have.
But, you were best friends, through thick and thin. When she had just gotten in the hospital, you made us chili- and if it wasn't mom's recipe, it sure tasted like it. You two were so intertwined, you are undeniably the sister she should have had.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

American Housewife Haiku #271, #272 and #273 and an anecdote...

From a page in her November notebook:

Two cars and a bus
pass through the toll booth ahead
Is there a punch line?

It doesn't matter
if you're coming or going,
you still have to move.

It doesn't matter
If you think you want to stay,
nothing here will last.


My mother's legs must be tired, what with all the running around she's been doing in my mind, and I know mine isn't the only one she's been visiting. Everything is a reminder, and I'm sure it'll be incessant for... probably a long time. Today, it was this upcoming New Years.
Every year, every single year that I can remember she would make black eyed peas for New Years. I have no clue how long she'd been upholding this tradition, just that it was the same every year.
They would be soaking in a large glass bowl the day before, getting in the way of everything in our small kitchen. Dad would sigh his overblown sigh as he got glasses of tea, wine. He's always been like a Siamese cat, though. Jimmies rustled if you interrupt his naptime. Jimmies rustled if his routine is altered in the slightest, even by something as simple as a basin of soaking beans.
The day of. A pot far too large for the family (or our desire to eat its contents) would sit on the stove for hours. It seemed like forever, as no one would bother with this vat but her. She would make cornbread, cabbage. This simple stew of black eyed peas, various vegetables and ham was a big deal to her. "Alia, eat your stew! It's LUCKY!"
I escaped her demands the first two years I was a vegetarian, then I got my own hefty pot sans the fatty chunks of ham. Then, "here! I made this separate! HAVE SOME FOR LUCK, ALIA."
Even after moving out, I would get a call. "Come over! Stop by for just a minute and have your black eyed peas! They're LUCKY." A state away, "I ate extra just for you! You should buy some, cook them there!"
I resolved to make them this year. I can already hear her telling me not to cut vegetables on the counter top as she was oft to do. I was usually using a cutting board...

Keep reading,
Alia Radabaugh

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Blue Christmas

Shann Palmer's memorial service will be at Grace Episcopal in Goochland, VA on the 5th of January at 2pm. There will be a telecast service in the perish hall, followed by a large reception. Potluck dishes are appreciated but not mandatory. There will not be a creepy casket.

Yesterday my brother and I sang for the two Christmas Eve services at Grace. He hadn't been in a long time, but I promised her (Shann, mom) I would sing after I went away for Thanksgiving. We came back with different emotions. He felt angry. I was numb. It was a reminder that she's irreplaceable, like Jay-Z to BeyoncĂ©, or Kim Kardashian to Kim Kardashian. It was incredible though, to see how much love she was surrounded with.

I didn't capture it in the last post- that little woman was loved so greatly by so many, her death is almost absurd. People might start asking if she died eating one of those Elvis sandwiches.

Mom always gave us a present early. We would shake every box, find everything. We even learned to sneak out and look in her trunk, just to discover what would be the greatest choice. We didn't give her much. She was always selfless, except for a steak biscuit on Sunday mornings.

Her trunk was empty this year.

My brother bought himself a fantastic gift while mom was still under. Almost every year, she would buy him a nutcracker. Since dad didn't want us to bother with putting up the "real" tree (mine is up and actively being a second cat tower with fun breakables) they have the dorky (20"?) one mom insisted on keeping atop the tv, tiny horns and mini lights long hoping for a trash can. Next to it, a much bigger eyesore! In a beloved 50% off sale at a drugstore, Paul found a 3 foot tall nutcracker.
"Come on! Mom was 4'10" I told him, "and not nearly as skinny!"

May all of you have a fantastic holiday, or Christmas, if that's your thing.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Initial it with Loving Care

Shann Palmer, aka Sharon Radabaugh left us on a 70 degree day in December. The skies opened up the day after her death and haven't relented, God's crocodile tears making any outdoor Christmas pageants postponed or cancelled. She never was huge on Christmas- the tree was a chore every year, though she would decorate. This year, she was excited because she found a great (tacky) Mary Engelbreit bowl to house her lovely (useless) Mary Engelbreit holiday balls. It was her thing, though.

Mama had been under the weather for a while. None of us, herself included, knew what was coming. She told me once, when her mother was diagnosed with cancer, she said she wasn't afraid of death. When the time came for Joyce to die, she held on. Shann had a heart attack on the 11th, and stuck around for ten arduous days.

She left behind a lot. A husband, son, daughter (me); friends, groups, a church, and I kid you not, a lifetime of writing. There are boxes upon boxes. She never threw anything away.

Before she died, she had been making plans. In November, she went to her doctor with a persistent cold that turned into an arrhythmia caused by a virus. Suddenly she had all these doctors appointments and new medications with fluctuating doses and schedules. Her heartbeat was too fast. There was damage. An ECG showed at some point she had suffered a minor heart attack. Unfortunately the ECG couldn't pinpoint the date and time. We were given a spectrum of 30 years. The jokes that us kids almost killed her lost their fun. Who am I kidding? She loved the irony.

I hope no one's lactose intolerant, because here comes some cheese. She's gone, but not forgotten. Her spirit is alive in everyone she knew. Her words are stronger than ever. Her intense love still radiates. She even made the darkest day of the year her b*tch.

Mother, poet, teacher, singer, organist, diva, friend, wife, exceptional in every way.
Stay tuned. I intend to keep this updated.

-Alia Radabaugh

Sharon Davis Radabaugh

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Advent 2 - 2 Waiting

She waits

She waits for the car to warm up
She waits to turn onto Staples Mill
She waits for the Parham light
She waits for the school bus
She waits for a parking space
She waits to open her car door
She waits for a sample
She waits to check out
She waits at the drive thru
She waits at the gas pumps
She waits for her husband to get home
She waits for the oven to heat
She waits for the weathercast
She waits for the bathroom
She waits to hear snoring
She waits for her heart to settle
She waits for silence
She waits for peace
She waits for sleep
She waits for dreams
She waits.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Advent 2-1 Yes

The Miracle of Yes

Improvisors learn this quickly:
to say No stops all forward motion.
Let me restate: after you say No
the sun ceases spinning and the universe
tumbles in on itself in the sound of a snap.

We are born wanting to be unborn,
toddlers who nuzzle our mothers neck
to avoid strangers, No gives us power,
autonomy, we refuse the sippy cup,
unaware this is the other side of Yes.

For years, unless we were raised in fear,
everything becomes a Yes. Foolishly
indulgent, adults-in-charge think we are
tiny terrorists who defy death head-on,
even we can’t see the danger coming.

When the system begins to take us,
we fold, flattered to be anointed,
to be groomed for some future task.
Forgetting Yes and No as birthright,
prudence advises a less resistant path.

We must relearn what the kid in us knew,
Yes keeps the conversation going, the scene
in play, the windows open, doors ajar.
It’s a hand offered whether it’s needed or not.
Take the chance, say it: Say Yes. And...

Advent 1-7 Compassion

I have been desensitized

My interest in your trouble wanes
watching doe-eyed children, sad animals,
all victims of wars and man-made insults.
Last night an entire half an hour devoted
to "so many babies born with cleft palate
we can’t possibly help them all"!

The need is greater than I can grasp.
My own sister lives in a mess in Nevada,
I can’t help even one of you, much less her,
Sixty cents, a dime, my spare change
in return for a tote bag or picture album,
my name on another spam mailing list.

There must be an agency or church to vet,
to make money work instead of entertain.
Even the pope carries only a few sandwiches,
shoes, blankets. Rachel wept. Jesus wept.
The poor are always with us, always,
palms out, eyes cast down. Waiting.

I want passion to come as a gift, a spark
begun with a question, hope to be created
from apathy, a flame lighting dark corners
where someone cowers against cruelty, anger,
helpless in the face of power and selfishness.
I want to care. I want you to come with me.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Advent 1-6 Listen

A Loud and Persistent Silence

Sometimes, she hears the ocean’s roar
when she cups her palms over her ears.

It’s not acoustics, but a coppery river
under pressure, her own blood.

Particularly present tonight, she waits.
Breathing in, then out in meditation.

She prays for clarification, wisdom,
determined to rescue a meaning.

There is no way to separate God’s voice
from the relentless roar of it.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Advent 1-5 Desire


I would drown in desire for you,
heart out of rhythm, fingers splayed
against the rough sheets on this bed,
our bed, what was our bed, our bed.

If want is a sacrament, I am priest,
postulant, a pilgrim fallen on the road.
Not yet dawn, I am awake for good
though none will come of it today.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Advent 1-4 Salvation

There but for fortune

Alice lives somewhere in East Phoenix
alone now that kids have flown and Roy died.
She still works in a diner serving apple pie,
snappy comebacks and the occasional song.

Retirement made her buggy, so she covers
the lunch shift or whatever fill-in comes up.
Every dime of every tip goes in the bank
for her kids. Social security takes up the rest.

There was a time, we can all vouch for this,
when a step to the left or the right might’ve
made all the difference between another life
or this one, far from other roads she traveled.

Late nights when the desert air comes in cool
she has a glass of wine and ponders, what if?
smokes a joint and laughs at silly old sitcoms,
at herself, until the edge of the sky turns pink.

Maybe it was Roy who saved her, her kids,
or the bruises she carried from hoping hard.
Her suitcase in the closet for good, she kisses
her rosary, rubs the Budai, and sleeps, saved.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Advent 1-3 Preparation

The future was wide open

I had all day to get writing, find direction,
then I forgot the prompt and thought
"procrastination". I began the afternoon
riffing on how I have been late everywhere
for everything since my premature birth.

Thinking that word didn’t sound correct
I ticked through the list of possible "p’s":
practice, popularity, positronic- that one’s silly
but sans computer I had no way to check,
left to my swiss cheese brain and bad recall.

It’s Advent- the most anti-social of seasons,
difficult to keep amidst appealing worldly wiles;
lights, music, all reinforcing an event undone
in its original intent by commercialism, calendar,
and convenience. Time upset, carts before horses.

I say "Blessed Waiting" in reply to greetings
when I feel fiesty enough to explain, I do.
It’s that or be thought a witch or worse: atheist.
No, I haven’t decorated, yes, I’m shopping
but without frenzy or fear, for gifts of purpose.

Getting ready to do what others will be done with
is like coming to a party after everyone is drunk-
you just want to go home. My tree will be up
through Twelfth Night (or more, luck be damned).
For now, I’m getting ready- something’s coming!

Monday, December 02, 2013

Advent 1-2 Wonder

Advent 1-2


I am amazed my heart pumps so sure,
my tongue tastes bitter and sweet,
and your back is warm against mine.

I am in awe of the connections made
in conversation, how the room listens,
the way you turn to catch me unaware.

If this is a love poem, I am joyful it came
ready-made before dawn as cold as it is
outside, nestled in my comfortable chair.

There is no chart to navigate awe.
If there were a way to draw one out
we would likely need a bigger universe.

Life is an infinite wonder we carry close.
Bound by fear, we nurture the minute,
squander the hour, beg life last.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Advent 1-1 Wait

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

I knew what was under the tree for me.
I picked it out, chosen months ago.

You took my very specific one-item list,
bought exactly what was written there.

It's been this way for more than thirty years.
I can always count on you, completely.

I'm waiting for an avalanche, a BOOM!
the inevitable violent release of built-up pressure

fomented by the daily repetition of the right thing.
"It's not new crap, it's the same crap over and over!"

Dave told me that, more or less, I thought of you
in jeans and a work shirt five days a week,

taking shit from people who didn't pay the electric,
seeing you as the company and not just some schlub

who has to get up and do it again. They don't, don't see,
even I've come around. Let it go. Take your time.