Monday, October 19, 2009

Returning from Elsewhere: Recoveries

Blur of a thousand phone calls from the hospital. Your uncle needs to go to ICU. But nothing works. It's futile to prolong his suffering any further. He wants to let go. Letting go of life is harder than any other striving. All they can do for him is make him comfortable. Ravaged cancerous flesh. He asks for morphine in a lucid moment. He breathes soon his last. His hand is held as he goes by your aunt, in one of her few moments of personal calm in these days of her own hell-wrapped isolation and dementia.

Blur of a thousand windblown leaves streaming across the mouth of the river. The only peace achieved on this forlorn roadtrip is those few hours beyond cellphone range, at the mouth of the river, lost in the deepwoods, by the lake far into the national forest, hearing loons, seeing a loon flap over a cove across the lake, a white dot of wings against the deep indigo of distant jack pine. Old growth, new growth. These woods are second growth, slowing replacing themselves again with climactic hardwoods.

Set out to recover yourself, your Self, from the wrack and wreckage of the dying and mad. We will see each other again; but not yet, not yet. Set out to find a way back to self, to home, to rekindling. Everywhere all around burning leaves cover the earth, some still unfallen. But you can't run away from anything you carry with you. Along the trails, what is discarded remains. A walking staff, thick cedar thigh, left by the trail's long stairs, taken up in hand, brought home through woodland paths splendid with tricolor maples.

Sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. Strong desire to feel desire, weak will against feeling ill. It all comes back. Bleeding out over the leaves of winter's mouth. Here's a hole in cedar driftwood. Here are patterns of foam on water, stretched out, marbled paper bookends. Here are cairns of stones laid flat on flat, rising up till wave or wind knocks them over. Here is the knife, the sawblade, the photograph. Here the wind in aspen on a windless day. Here the polished stone of farewell. Water cascading brown and cold across steps of light.

Nothing can be run away from. Nothing is returned that meant to leave. The long falling into light. The long falling, the long light. Begins.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Jim Murdoch said...

I was there when my last mother-in-law died, me and my wife, her sisters and brothers, their father and miscellaneous in-laws all sitting around waiting on this old woman breathing her last. Two of the sisters were nursing sisters so the regular staff kept at a distance. I remember those last few minutes especially all of us holding our breaths to see who exhaled first and she kept managing one more and then one more ... and then one more.

Predictably, albeit years later, I wrote about it:


LOSERS AND WINNERS


At the very end
we all held our breaths

just waiting to see
which one of us could

hold theirs the longest.
It seemed only right

she should get to win
one last time before

she died.


Thursday, 26 February 2009

10:48 AM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

That's a great poem to have here, in this context. Thanks much for sharing it.

I was present for my Dad's death, like that, albeit listening to his breathing from the next room. it was labored, then still, and that's when I knew. He seemed to want to go when alone, although we had all sat with him all day, before he went late that night. His choice on the timing.

12:58 AM  

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