I want so to say that i feel
your pain, but we’d both
know that was an utter lie.
I can tell you abut my pain,
describe it at great length,
and I will be utterly disappointed
when you admit you can only
imagine it as a reflection
of your own pain, which I
am certain doesn’t begin
to rise to the level of mine,
but that is your failure, and I
will forgive it for I know
that my pain is unique and
beyond even your imagination.
So let us just agree that each
of our pains is beyond
the contemplation of the other,
secure in our own uniqueness.
Of course, she’s sitting there,
calmly, staring off onto space.
She has to know something
is amiss, no one has come
to visit her in days, but she
knows that whenever, if ever,
whatever it is that is happening
is finally over, that they
will once again return, stare
at her, wonder aloud and silently
why she is smiling, and she
will as always say nothing, for
she was once told that it is better
always to leave them wanting more.
Tomorrow Paris will count
its newest dead, and the hospitals
will pray the tide of bodies
has been stemmed, or diminished
and none of those in the battle
will pause and consider DaVinci’s
lady imprisoned forever in her
sterile room, an eternal prisoner.
First published in Dreich, Issue 20, Autumn 2020 (Scotland)
As strange as it seems, I can
spend hours in a used bookstore
lost in the marginalia, and textbooks,
particularly those in psych and sociology
are generally the most fertile,
for those students, though they would
never admit it, pursued those fields
hoping to find answers to their own
problems without having to ask.
Yesterday’s visit was particularly fertile,
but it was a college introductory text
in biology that grabbed and held me.
In the margin of a short chapter mentioning
thoracic anatomy was a question
for which I have no possible answer:
Does the diseased heart in the metal
operating room basin curse the body
on the gurney who was supposed
to join it in the ground, and what of the
donor who goes back to the soil
heartless and utterly and eternally alone?
He awoke this morning, and was
surprised to be there, he said,
because when you are ninety,
and can’t get around at all,
you don’t look forward to tomorrow,
for it will simply be a repeat
of today when nothing will happen.
And it is harder still, he says,
because he can’t remember much anymore,
so it’s hard to say if today
is any different than a week ago
or a month ago, though they say
he was in the hospital then,
but he don’t know why he was there.
When I stop for a visit the next day
his is surprised to be there, he says
as though it was a new thought
that just came to him in the moment.
I have two mothers, now both dead,
I have three fathers, one unknown, one buried
outside Washington and one lost
in a corner of his shrinking mind.
I am growing older, I have aches
and clicks and pops and groans,
which each remind me that I
am aware and alive and that
isn’t a bad way to start a new day.
I was twelve at the time, would have
chosen to be anywhere but there.
I hated visiting her at home, but this
took my disgust to a whole new level.
We were never close, never would be,
she so old, so old world, so unlike
anyone I had known, so like the women
sitting outside the old hotels on South Beach
waiting for a wave or death, whichever
first flowed in, life having long ebbed.
The room as I remember it was barren,
bleached to a lack of any color,
the bed a white frame, white sheets,
a small white indentation staring
up at the ceiling, up at heaven,
and everywhere what I imagined
were steel bars through which we
and the doctors and nurses could pass,
but which held her tightly within,
serving out what remained
of her ever shortening life sentence.
Good lord, people would you get your facts straight. Yes, there were three of us, but one is now gone. He disappeared one night, though I think the cat got him. But that is as close to accurate as you got. Okay, we were all severely myopic, or I was, and they said they were too. But that is where you went off the rails. We weren’t running after anyone. When you are nearly blind you don’t chase things or people. They are large and don’t watch where they step. And their screams can be deafening. We smelled some fresh bread and went, by nose, to check it out. Didn’t get all that far before we each felt a sudden pain. It was like someone took an axe to our back side. It was all we could do to get away. But the bleeding stopped quickly enough, though the pain lasted for days. And we must take your word it was a carving knife, though it felt serrated to me. And no one was there after she ran from the room, screaming. Thank god home was along the baseboard so we could find our way, since they don’t make miniature white canes for the likes of us. But let’s be clear, no one saw us coming or going, no sightings at all, and that’s the whole story as we lived it.
He can remember it as though it was just yesterday. Actually it was just yesterday, but for him that had little to do with memory. Bits of his childhood would come flooding back: the city, the cousins who took him in for the few dollars his mother could offer. But his grandsons are a vague shadow, sometimes present, sometimes faded into the background. He ex-wife is ever present, and he clings to her, despite her death, wondering if they will get back together. I don’t want to tell him that his wish will require a firm belief by them both in a hereafter, and that neither of them was very good at directions in any event, so who knows where they will end up.
For Something Different, a new bird photo each day, visit my other blog:
My back bemoans its age,
knowing the alternative
is far worse, and as
we limp along, we await
the call to attend
the unveiling of the resonance
images which draw us in
and will, in short order
if, even, there is no answer
no underlying truth
and certain it will not find
the simple alignment
that eludes us and
we will continue to share
our abiding pain.
In the midst of this pandemic
everyone, it seems, is offering
playlists and lists of movies
to watch during the endless
days of isolation, and so long
as the internet goes on, we may
die of viral complications, yes,
but not of boredom soon.
I have aggregated the various
lists, stricken movies far too close
to home, Andromeda Strain,
Contagion, now isn’t the time
for that deep dive into irony,
and with blue pencil in hand,
I’ve written in, then crossed out
A Field of Dreams, for sitting
in the home we built, we know
those we wish would, will not
come, and dread that COVID might.