Category Archives: grieving

Unexpected Obituary

Spring Garden, Copyright 2007 MDMikus

Spring Garden, Copyright 2007 MDMikus

My husband and I belong to Folkstage on WFMT radio in Chicago. With other donor/ folk music enthusiasts we see up to 26 folk concerts a year, in an intimate setting. This group has become our main social connection. Recently a long-time Folkstage member passed away unexpectedly. For several days afterward I woke with this image in my head—a poem insisting on being written. I resisted. I did not really want to write more about loss, but in the end I trusted that impulse. This poem is about how those in our lives affect us in very real ways, even if we are unaware of it until they are gone. “This is the moment we have…”


Unexpected Obituary

Folkstage Family

Peter Clark
seems to be still standing
steadfast at the back
doing anything that was asked.

Or sitting in the front row
listening and taking photos,
next to him, Nancy, his wife,
partners in all their wide life.

I should tell you one small thing
that is, to me, revealing.
He was selling CDs as usual,
I was buying CDs to be signed.

I had not known him long,
we were not particular friends,
but he saw me struggling to open them
and immediately offered a solution—

a CD opener—he had more than one
from a Folk Alliance he’d just come from.
Not just to use once, but to keep,
a useful gift easily given.

We did not become close friends,
just many brief talks over the years
when I bought CDs or had a new book out
and he might tell me of his books, his travels,

not bragging, but justly proud of a job well done
that might be of use to someone.
And maybe now I’ve told you this
I can lay his ghost to rest.

I did not know so many things, like
how we shared the same birthday;
I learned more afterward on his Facebook page
than ever he said to me.

Now the stories are coming out
of generosity and thoughtful kindness,
a full life well-lived, a good man,
he will be missed.

And maybe now I’ve told you this
I can lay his ghost to rest.

Peter Clark at 73
as old as he will ever be
10 years ahead of me
as day by day inevitably
we all face our eternity.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2015

Weaving Reality with Fiction: Contemplating Healing

For almost as long as I can remember, reading has been my escape, distraction, teacher, amusement, consolation, friend, and a welcome alternate reality. When my Mom passed away in 2012, it was natural for me to seek comfort in reading. One of the books that drew me in was by Laurie R. King. This poem (from Thrown Again into the Frazzle Machine) came to me, weaving my real life with her fictional world, making some kind of sense from the (temporarily) numb place I was in. How about you? Any books that moved you or gave solace or understanding?


Reading Garment of Shadows
by Laurie R. King

I couldn’t see myself
on the other side of darkness
you lose a mother only once

what is broken cannot be fixed
what reassurance
could be offered
what meaning or strength

found in contemplating healing?
It is as if I woke with amnesia
unaware of who I am

clues all around of someone
who lived where I lived
and worked and was a friend

but who she is now
or who might know
or what road to follow…?

In the meantime…
sun rises…sun sets
the day is sunny or gray

put one foot in front of the other
the nights blending together
I dream in language I do not understand.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2012

From Thrown Again into the Frazzle Machine: Poems of Grace, Hope, and Healing. Print edition now on (Also widely available as an ebook.) Thank you for sharing!

THROWN AGAIN into the FRAZZLE MACHINE: Poems of Grace, Hope, and Healing

Loss of Robin Williams

Gift Gerbera Daisy by Margaret Dubay Mikus Copyright 2014

Gift Gerbera Daisies by Margaret Dubay Mikus Copyright 2014

First blog post in a while (more is on Facebook). Wow the summer is going by fast!

I am very moved by the loss of Robin Williams, remembering all the varied, pitch-perfect roles over the years and the tears-running-down-the-face laughing at his comic genius. But there is a cost to fame. Much is being said about mental illness and addiction, but what pushes someone over the edge? I know very dark places and I am grateful I made it through. Thank you to all who helped me at the perfect times, so I could weather life-storms.

This poem from my upcoming book, Thrown Again into the Frazzle Machine: Poems of Grace, Hope and Healing, came to mind to share today. Life in the public eye is especially hard for those who are sensitive souls. Although written with Robert Pattinson in the title I was thinking about all performers in the relentless public eye.


For Robert Pattinson
And the others

To be the perfect mirror
so that others see
what they most desire

is a special kind of hell.
To not be real,
anything your own,

celebrated but
not seen.
Invisible in your own skin,

when you step out
the image you created
precedes and masks you.

Who takes the trouble
to get to know you
in all quirky human complexity?

The more you say
“I am not a fictional character,”
the less you are believed,

an immense price to pay
for unexpected popularity,
ultimately unsought,

no matter the salary.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2010

Flowers Catch April Sun by Margaret Dubay Mikus Copyright 2014

Flowers Catch April Sun by Margaret Dubay Mikus Copyright 2014

My Tribute to Pete Seeger

Lone Seagull MDMikus Copyright 2013

Lone Seagull MDMikus Copyright 2013

My family lived in a working-class suburb of Detroit. Mom took care of us (eventually seven kids) and also worked sometimes as a registered nurse. Dad worked in the same factory all his life, mostly midnight shift. He was a card-carrying union man. Our house was originally a two-bedroom bungalow and my Dad partially finished the attic into two more bedrooms (but still only one bathroom). We all had chores and were expected to pitch in. We always had food, shelter, and clothes and did not consider ourselves poor, but hard-working, not many frills, as were most of the people we knew.

I grew up in the 1950’s and 60’s, a singer in church choir and Catholic school chorus. I never met Pete Seeger, nor saw him perform in person, but I was deeply shaped by the Folk Revival he helped spearhead and by his songs. We moved across town in 1965 for us to attend the new Bishop Gallagher High School. Around that time were the Detroit riots and the protest movements were catching fire: against the Vietnam war, against segregation, for peace and equality of race and sex. I sang in the Folk Mass group at church and at some point I learned If I Had a Hammer, Where Have All the Flowers Gone, Turn, Turn, Turn, etc. The music just soaked right into me, in part shaping the clay of who I was becoming.

Shore Rocks in Calm Water MDMikus Copyright 2013

Shore Rocks in Calm Water MDMikus Copyright 2013

Since his death this week I’ve read so many stories posted online of those who knew Pete Seeger and are saddened by his loss. I too wanted to say something about his effect on my life and this poem/song came to me. A unique process from my other writing, and the music still has to be worked out (easy to sing along). But here is the poem/lyrics, my attempt to “catch something of the man.”


My Own Tribute
Pete Seeger, 1919-2014

Although Pete Seeger
traveled here and there,
now he is everywhere.

Though there are those
who would make him saint (or sinner)
he doesn’t care, if he ever did,

for he knows best what we all know
how the days are numbered rare,
now Pete Seeger is everywhere.

Not up on a pedestal I’m sure he’d say,
he was an honest man with a mission,
not down in the gutter either, nor scared,
now Pete Seeger is everywhere.

Singing in his confident voice
inviting us to sing along,
songs that we all know and share,
now Pete Seeger is everywhere.

Not in charge of anything big,
working day to day for the voiceless ones,
a determined “ordinary” man who cared,
now Pete Seeger is everywhere.

All the stories of something kind he said,
from everyone who met him or wished they did,
but when Toshi died last year, he died a bit I swear,
now Pete Seeger is everywhere.

His energy released from form now joins us,
not buried in the ground nor ashes spread,
not in some fancy world “up there,”
now Pete Seeger is everywhere…

singing, playing, chopping wood,
encouraging, traveling, doing good,
planting seeds, making a better place,
playing banjo, eye to eye, face to face,
exhorting us to care, I swear

now Pete Seeger is everywhere.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2014

Update: A few days later I emailed the poem to Rich Warren, who is the host of Folkstage (and The Midnight Special) on WFMT, where Stephen and I are members. I knew Rich would be working on his radio tribute to Pete Seeger and thought he might like it. He said I could read my poem to the audience before Folkstage went on the air. It took me only minutes to agree. In the “spirit of Pete,” the group said the repeating line with me. It was awesome! Thanks, Rich, for the opportunity!

Me at WFMT-- Photo by Stephen Mikus, Copyright 2014

Me at WFMT– Photo by Stephen Mikus, Copyright 2014

Update: Finally, a video of my reading this poem.


Inspired by Instrumental “Water Night” by Eric Whitacre


Hope and Directions
Listening Again to Instrumental Water Night

Calm, a sliver
away from sorrow,
but the body
the mind
knows rest in one

Shadows may be
respite…or darkness
lurking to jump out
no matter the security
of the neighborhood

How to follow a line
back to peace
from grief expressed
I wish I could tell you,
but know

there is a lifeline
to pull to shore
or crumbs you left behind
or someone nearby to
hold the vision of safety

And you will…and I will…
walk that line,
not together probably
but sometime…
and return…

And if death overtakes
someone close in the meantime
it is not their grim failure to outrun
but inevitable close of a chapter
however grace-filled and long

And if you believe or consider
we all circle back in some mystery
then, as a circle has no end,
it is not over yet…

And if something stirs up
the mud from the bed of the river
then time will settle every large or small particle
gently to the bottom again
and clarity and calm will rule the realm.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2013