or, Notes On The Experience of Reading Fanny Howe’s The Needle’s Eye While Watching My Wife’s Father Die And Being Reminded, Perhaps Unavoidably, of Rilke’s First Duino Elegy ~~~ We arrive to wait and watch. He lies, gape-mouthed and gasping, flinching, wincing and moaning intermittently. ~ We go and we sit in the room and we watch the man die the man dying the dying man We watch him breathe. We watch him stop breathing. We watch him start breathing again. ~ We watch him wince and moan and flinch and wheeze and we listen to his lungs gurgle and at some point— as his eyes open less and less, as the words leave his mouth for good, as the food and the water enter his mouth less and less and eventually stop their entering entirely—at some point, watching someone die changes into something else, changes into something harder. At some point—if the dying takes long enough—watching someone die becomes watching someone not die. ~ She says, The end of life is hard for the living. ~ He says that room back there (waving towards the bathroom off his room) must be hotter than this one because he can see a white… (gestures—fingers fluttering, hand moving side to side)…a white… (mumbles something and…). Quiet. Breathing. ~ “A person can feel the impression of a soft body of air indicating presence or further life on her hands or arms or anywhere, sometimes in stillness and safety, and understand that the entire universe is held against her skin in an equilibrium that holds her steady for her life span. Too great a sense of the tremendous explosion of creation in which we live would obliterate us. We feel what we can on our skins and through its porous cells into the nerves and bones where our reckless and pathetic ancestors carry on.” ~ He says he can see steam rising from his feet. ~ “Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angels’ hierarchies? and even if one of them pressed me suddenly against his heart: I would be consumed in that overwhelming existence. For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror, which we still are just able to endure, and we are so awed because it serenely disdains to annihilate us. Every angel is terrifying.” ~ He says there was a woman in his room wearing a peach dress (Did you see her?) and holding a basket in front of her. ~ “One thing surrounds you in parts, drops of sunshine, or shadows, and these vaporous gods live on after you are gone. But wait. Where have I seen that woman’s face before? Why did she pause at the door as if she knew me? She is folded in smoke from the crematorium over the hills there.” ~ She says that her mother's favorite fragrance, White Shoulders, has been in the room since the day he arrived. ~ “ ‘The trick is to follow the clue, to see the chance connection, attend to it, and against all reason, follow it to the next clue, or coincidence, yes, if the reading at Mass echoes what you were thinking about in the night, follow that message out into the streets, and the next, follow the coincidences.’ “ ~ I don’t believe that my dreams are prophetic. I don’t think that they are trying to tell me anything. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t listen to what they are saying. ~ The nurses come and they moisten his lips and the inside of his mouth with small disposable sponges on the end of a stick which they dip into the cup of ice water that he is no longer drinking. ~ His lucidity slips but his slips are lucid His lucidity is slipping but (t)his slipping is lucid. ~ A movement catches my eye. It is his foot twitching, under the volunteer-crocheted afghan. But when I look up from my reading, I see there also the child’s foot, my daughter’s, like an echo, she in the recliner that already he has stopped using just beyond his bed, the two of them in the same basic position, her mother—his daughter—between them in a chair, the mirror of time reflecting both ways and al(l-)ways changing—age and youth, the mother— his daughter—between them, between him and his daughter’s daughter. ~ “She was born on a rise in time facing two ways.” ~ A woman—another dying person’s visitor—sits in one of the sitting areas reading a magazine and I notice the title, “Sophisticated Living.” She does not look sophisticated. She mostly just looks like some thing is being emptied out of her. ~ Hard shadows and soft shadows. Near and far. Light from the window falls through the blinds and across my foot and onto the corner of the bed which doubles as a socket for I.V. poles. ~ Always there is one thing ending as another begins. ~ All positions are transitions. All positions are transpositions. ~ These things begin to get as confused as he is. but….is he? Perhaps these things only begin to sound as confused as he does/is/seems. Is he confused or is it his or our reality that is confused? ~ Which is harder, watching him die or watching him not die? (All quotes are from Fanny Howe's The Needle's Eye, Passing Through Youth except for the passage begginning, "Who, if I cried out...", which is from Rainer Maria Rilkes First Duino Elegy, Stephen Mitchell's translation)
…far too hidden…
…for too long…
(a [tentative, pensive, flirtive and perhaps a bit trepidatious] return to this place, this piece, from the very earliest days of this blogging venture, this prayer like gravity)
(not entirely sure where these words have come from, but I am trying to pay attention to where they are going…)
…and from these chambers come words…
“Consummate the language.”
“Ah, there you are. We have not seen you here, this deep, in quite some time.”
“I have been on the surface or near the surface but I have kept sight of you. I have never gone where I could not see you at all.”
“We have seen you and known that you were near but we have not seen you here, this deep, this close to the depths. Are you afraid? Were you afraid? Of the depths? Of coming this deep? Afraid of what you would find here? Of what these findings might do if you took them up to the surface and into the light?”
“No. I am not afraid, though I think that perhaps he may be or may have been. I tried to bring him down with me, but he would not come or was not able to come.”
“You should know that we will not hurt you or him. Though I suppose that what you might take up there could be seen as a danger to some and the surfacing could destroy what you take up. The air and the light are often not kind to these things. Down here they withstand crushing pressures and yet, up there they become as delicate and fragile as veins in a leaf of coral and wilt pale in the harsh light and heat of the sun.”
“I know. He knows. But he is caught up, up there in the air, caught up in those thoughts and those things and those places in the light and the day. He is in a place where he cannot see down here at all, where he questions even the existence of these depths at times and questions the time that it would take to find them or the way down to them and whether the work is worth the effort and whether he is worthy.”
“He will return. They always return. In the end if not sooner. They are creatures of habit. Their power is in their black return.”
“While I am still, as ever, slow walking and returning as all ways lead to other ways, unfluttered.”
It is like I am chipping softly at the ice, a little bit at a time, trying to get to the clear water underneath, but the ice is thick and I can only chip a little bit at a time and every little bit that I chip fills up with water and when, the next morning, I come back to try to make more progress, all the cracks and crevices I have chipped, all the progress I have made, all those fissures have filled up with water in the night and refrozen, becoming once again just more ice. In some cases it seems the seams have somehow become even stronger, harder, more intransigent and resistant to my efforts to break through to the water beneath. I know that there are fish down there. I have seen flashes of them on occasions when I have managed to make the ice thin enough to see to where the sun penetrates into the depths and I know that if I could get through then I might capture one of those fish and make a meal or a trophy or at least I might have a solid, silver moving thing for a moment in my hands, painfully cold but brilliant and gleaming.
Something to do it has something to do with these three little pieces and an old coffee can full of more something to do with many pieces that are lost that are lost but almost remembered and then forgotten again many things full of many pieces that are almost found and then lost again and then forgotten yet again how many things have been lost and then forgotten and never remembered or barely remembered or only just remembered in a fevered state in the night in a sheet-soaking sweat things that seemed terribly important at the time but then were hidden from the mind under the corner of a rug in the corner of a rug shop a dusty place to lose your self ...keepin' the Po in NaPoWriMo...
(a continuation/re-thinking/new chapter of this piece, from a little while ago)
Morbidity in a New Forest What are these things that we go to and get away from, these masses of matter that we shun, shy away from and then are drawn inevitably back towards— or if not inevitably then more often than not more strongly towards than away from so that we are always having this going— this coming and going, this to-ing and fro-ing— these lines and circles in the forest where even chaos is a kind of color, a kinder order than we are used to, than we deserve,— if we can be said to deserve anything at all— a kind of overlay on these things that defy this definition, all these definitions since nature abhors lines and circles as much as vacuums and yet of what is this universe mostly made except the stuff of which it isn’t? ...keepin' the Po in NaPoWriMo...
Drank in We wanted to have our say even if saying so didn’t mean much and much of what we said was mean and lost in the wind and the howl of the planet’s grinding turns. We were angry with the world. We did not want to dance to the tune of its existence so we drank to our own disinterest instead, to the tune of our own end of times. We drank in the dying of the light. ~~~~~ This place is not our home. This place is a when, not a where. ...keepin' the Po in NaPoWriMo...