memorial for a brilliant woman

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Always Hungry

Hi folks,

I posted this picture on Shann's facebook yesterday.
I remember her stories about being terribly poor as a kid- her father calling the kids to scrounge the 7-11 parking lot to gather lost change. There was a great time when she went out to some restaurant with her ex-husband and others and ordered goulash, which she assumed was her father's amalgamation of macaroni, hot dogs, and ketchup... whatever was in the fridge, and was very surprised with what she got.
When she was in college, she told me tacos were (maybe?) twelve cents and she would keep those on the radiator and almost only go on dates for free dinners. It's also where she started being a professional cleaner. She really was a very poor, very hungry girl.

When I was a kid (like out of a Joni Mitchell song- all are fat and none are thin) we would once in a while drive to Costco and get one of those gallons of tiny frozen creampuffs, wait 'til they weren't rock hard and eat them. She told my pseudo boyfriend that I started the tradition, but my story is different. Of course I don't think I've had one in twelve years or so, and really haven't been a fan of desserts aside from a taste of her Costco berry sundae. We usually went together.

And when I pick up my no-refill prescription for pain meds, the pharmacist tells me I look like her.
Every single day that we live is a new war. It can be bad or good, but you have to live through it to know which one it is. Most of us are scared shitless, but it happens, it all happens.

Thursday, January 09, 2014


Hello folks,

Change is temporarily out of stock. We plan to at least restock, but we're hoping to go bigger in 2014.

To those who have not yet received your orders, they will be sent out today.  Thank you for bearing with me!

I'm still finding chapbooks scattered all over... some without covers.

The Poems in a Bag series is in abundance, in the meantime.

Finally, to tide you all over:
here's a digital copy of her chapbook "Skip Tracing Angels" or "Uttering and Publishing" hosted by the Dead Mule School of Southern Literature.

Sunday, January 05, 2014


(read during her service today, 01/05/2014)

I know to some it might be a bit crass to say this, but I think if this sudden and tragic turn of events could have a headline attached, Poet Crushed by Two Tons of Irony would work. Between the near take-off of her American Housewife Haiku, an optimistic prognosis leading us to believe here is the last place we would end up, and then a possible near-miss turned into a total disaster just before Christmas, it sounds about right. Now, to describe it that way sounds terrible, but If I know my mother, and I sure hope I do, I can see her laughing at the sheer perfection of absurdity in this, like Much Ado About Nothing adapted by Frank Zappa and directed by David Lynch albeit with fewer dwarves speaking in reverse. As a family, we always did enjoy a good, dark comedy, though it’s challenging from time to time when you discover you live in one.

Ultimately, everyone here has a different experience of Shann Palmer or Sharon Radabaugh, as some know her as one or the other and still to others, she’s both. To me, mother, savior, friend, mentor, ringleader--a veritable Voltron for you millennials in the crowd, manned by Glinda the Good Witch, John Connor, Samwise Gamgee, Yoda, and maybe Vito Corleone in the left foot. To others, the metaphor might be even more complicated. But one viewpoint I know we all share in knowing her is her sense of humor and the bright, brilliant light she brought to the world around her. Although she’s not physically sitting here with us right now, I can feel that each and every one of us carries within a sliver of her goodness and positivity just from having known her in this all too often dark and tumultuous world.

And speaking of goodness and positivity, though this might have the backdrop of a dreary day in the Great Gray Beast of January in Virginia at a somber moment of reflection with some songs of lament no doubt thrown in at the reception--and trust me, I’ll be singing one, myself--I can see her over next to the organ saying "are you guys kidding me?" Because despite her leaving she would not want any of us to sit in solemn silence or dwell or pontificate "what-ifs" and how the people of Earth-225 must surely be faring better. She craved and had a zest for life greater than anyone I’ve ever known outside of fiction, and a gratitude for the time she had and the family and friends she cherished above all. So, if we all can take that sliver of her essence and carry it forward into the world and spread love and gratitude and good humor for the rest of our lives, we will never have lost her, because she’ll always be here. But for today, laugh and remember her as the sharp, witty, wonderful woman you knew, and tell her story and sing her songs. And if you must cry, cry for joy that you were one of the fortunate souls to cross her path in this wide world of ours, for the only ones who suffer today are those who never knew her.


Charlie Palmer a.k.a. Paul Radabaugh 1/05/2014

Friday, January 03, 2014

Memorial Reminder/ History Illuminated

A reminder to all those who wish to know- Shann's memorial service will be held at Grace Episcopal Church in Goochland, VA on Sunday at 2pm. It will be followed by a potluck reception and entertainment, including a short Broadway singalong (as she used to do in times passed in several places).

Today, January 4th, would be her 64th birthday. She died a day before her mother, 28 years later. Until Mark Zuckerberg became a mogul, her side of the family only existed in her stories. People suddenly come up, like questions you meant to ask or convenient things to get out of awkward dates. Sifting through her 20+ years of scribbled-on notebooks, printed out drafts, I feel blessed. She left me (an undeniable burden) her greatest gift. There are facts that I've forgotten that I search and search for, only for them to take their time to come out, like a bit of corn in between teeth. That's almost a simile for going through her huge stacks of work.
Here's something that probably isn't the most recent draft, but it's refreshing in my search for lost lineage.

She must have written this in 2010 or thereabouts.

History Illuminated

Mamma played trumpet, Mamaw sewed
costumes for the Houston opera, Margaret
was a secretary at Esso, Wynter Grace wrapped
packages at Neiman-Marcus every Christmas
and Genelle was the favorite until she moved
all the way to the arctic circle to save heathens.

Uncle Howard was wealthy, had an ex-wife, a son
dead from polio, saved even though he was a Jew
and divorced but we didn't talk about that, not ever.
It was enough he loved Wynter, called her be'be'.
Sent her carnations big as pie plates every birthday,
took care of all of us, had a drawer full of surprises:

chattering teeth, a Ginny doll. He'd cuddle me up
at the lake house early mornings, loved me best
over all the other nieces and nephews, I was good,
knew how to be quiet and learn, try new things.
He hated my daddy, bought all my school clothes
kept everybody straight, smoked Cuban cigars.

Uncle Lew pinched my legs, said I was 'spoilt'
looked me in the eye and saw the devil, twice,
saw the devil, twice, died on Christmas Eve
a few years ago, now Aunt Genelle goes to Branson
for the nativity play with stars as old as she is,
doesn't so much as send a card or phone anybody.

Even after twenty-five years gone I talk to Mamma,
every day, she finally killed herself with cancer,
sat up straight in a chair her last day, they told me
she did, bargaining. I believe it because I would too,
looking out the window, waiting for Prince Charming
or Jesus to actually show up as the sun set.

Then there was Nanny (Ila Faye) with Ruby, Falvey,
Virgil and a lot of others in nameless pictures.
The night she died I stood out on the landing
at the Barn Dinner Theater and saw a shooting star.
I played Lady Brockhurst for three long months
only to find fifteen dollars a show wasn't enough.

When I left Texas, I left everything I ever knew
in the front hall laying on the faux-marble floor,
moved to Arizona to change the world, change.

It's too hard to rout out what might have been
under different circumstances, before it all went bad,
pieces ease together as if the edges were worn
smooth like Aunt Ola's butter churned to gold,
making mad money to put by for a hat, or red shoes.

For those who cannot attend but wish to honor her, you can send donations to the paypal on the sidebar, or send some love to a charity of your choosing. Also, although there is currently a limited amount, I am still selling the two older poetry offerings on the sidebar. You could also spend no money and just keep writing, because I'm pretty sure she would be happy in any case. 

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Going Through Mom's Old Clothes

The milk Paul bought Dad to join some nice eclairs had spoiled... I had realized after I had already made a trip to the store. The cornbread needed eggs. It needed milk, too, as an afterthought. What next? Lamp? Thermos?
"You can't keep milk on the bottom shelf," I sort-of wagged my finger at my father. "It's too warm there, it'll spoil faster." as if talking to air.

I dig through more folders as he naps while simultaneously watching Jailhouse Rock.
After we've had our good luck beans, and my boyfriend has resigned to a bear's sleep on the couch, dad once again mentions the clothes. It was one of the first things he brought up when we got "grim" from the doctors. "Not yet. I'll take care of it..."

The drawers were emptied pretty fast. "Love of Jesus takes underwear, someone needs it, and they're pretty new." Pants that she only wore to clean in, or to walk, the pants I once told her looked like elephant legs because of poor cut, color.

The wardrobe was harder (I haven't gotten to the closet yet). This she loved, this she looked great in. These can't go to the come-as-you-are, these are pretty nice. What got me was one dress. It wasn't her old polka-dot dress that she wore constantly, it was a summer version with a seam down the front, almost imitating a sweetheart neckline. When she first went into the hospital, she had this same dress in a smaller size, tags still on, hanging on the door. I grabbed it, not really having any clothes at the house. I ended up wearing it two days in a row- strife does that, y'know? But finding the twin...

When I was a kid, hell, last shopping trip she'd buy something and I'd get the twin in my size. We had nightgowns, day dresses, all sorts of casual dresses that we tried not to wear at the same time. Convenient Costco buys when both of our wardrobes had to be black. It was like Freaky Friday in the laundry. That polka-dot dress was like a last joke (because why not laugh?) to me.

But, why not laugh?

This man my mother loved moved away a bit more than ten years ago. They were great friends, and as always she was a supporter and a confidant. He became the opposite of her- a Virginian transplanted into Texas. Finally fell into a lifestyle, into a wife, et cetera et cetera, but in that time she visited him. It was convenient- she attended the Austin Poetry Festival several times. She even expressed her distaste for dogs because his huge pup (she described a mastiff but it was probably a corgi) knocked her over on one meeting. She'd show the scar along with an old one from decades before on her plain shins.
The friend's eventual wedding was the big laugh. She was asked to sing during their ceremony the most appropriate wedding song around- yes, "Send in the Clowns".

Now, she always sang it beautifully. The home run was the "corsage" that (I think) the bride's mother made "specifically" for her. It was this huge bit of a baby pine tree that went straight up to her nostrils and had little frosted dingleberries as an accent. She described trying to keep it out of her face like an SNL gag. I remember her grin when she pulled it out of her suitcase to show me, giggling on the edge of the bed. They might have sold the design to Target as Christmas wall d├ęcor.

She kept it for years anyway.

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