(...coming back to my words, through the words of others...) (...I am still saying thanks, still he is giving, gone one year ago...) Thanks by W. S. Merwin Listen with the night falling we are saying thank you we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings we are running out of the glass rooms with our mouths full of food to look at the sky and say thank you we are standing by the water thanking it smiling by the windows looking out in our directions back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging after funerals we are saying thank you after the news of the dead whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you over telephones we are saying thank you in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators remembering wars and the police at the door and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you in the banks we are saying thank you in the faces of the officials and the rich and of all who will never change we go on saying thank you thank you with the animals dying around us our lost feelings we are saying thank you with the forests falling faster than the minutes of our lives we are saying thank you with the words going out like cells of a brain with the cities growing over us we are saying thank you faster and faster with nobody listening we are saying thank you we are saying thank you and waving dark though it is Berryman By W. S. Merwin I will tell you what he told me in the years just after the war as we then called the second world war don't lose your arrogance yet he said you can do that when you're older lose it too soon and you may merely replace it with vanity just one time he suggested changing the usual order of the same words in a line of verse why point out a thing twice he suggested I pray to the Muse get down on my knees and pray right there in the corner and he said he meant it literally it was in the days before the beard and the drink but he was deep in tides of his own through which he sailed chin sideways and head tilted like a tacking sloop he was far older than the dates allowed for much older than I was he was in his thirties he snapped down his nose with an accent I think he had affected in England as for publishing he advised me to paper my wall with rejection slips his lips and the bones of his long fingers trembled with the vehemence of his views about poetry he said the great presence that permitted everything and transmuted it in poetry was passion passion was genius and he praised movement and invention I had hardly begun to read I asked how can you ever be sure that what you write is really any good at all and he said you can't you can't you can never be sure you die without knowing whether anything you wrote was any good if you have to be sure don't write (Two of my favorite poems by my favorite poet, on the anniversary of his death.) (Difficult if not impossible to pick favorites, really, but these two seem timely.) (With many thanks to Whimsy Mimsy for the connections, for the muddled thoughts...) (...let us stay deep in tides of our own...) (...until the words come drifting by...)
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)
Do they hide behind... ...what we put upon them? Are they only there... ...as long as we look... ...or as deeply as we see?
I strongly encourage you to go check out her blog, especially her amazing story, ‘Recruit’, the print and audio versions of which are featured on Flock Literary Journal. Well worth the read AND the listen. A really touching and edgy story, well-presented by herself.
Many thanks, Rebecca!
“If you do something in the spirit of non-achievement, there is a good quality in it. So just to do something without any particular effort is enough.” Shunryu Suzuki To make something of these times I must make something so I will find a frame in which to nail my thoughts. I cannot beat this lone silence and I cannot take this seedless greening anymore, this yearning growth that knows only down and in, only dragging my thoughts into the night where I cannot find them though I remember having them, remember how they felt if not how they looked, remember them close and warm, and thought them somehow grand or at least telling at the time I barely had them, but now? Now I barely have them even less. Now I am not sure if I have them or if they have me. Now they are lost in their own depths, swimming silently in the rolling black medium of their making. Now they haunt me in their bare being and unmake me and swim through me and I will make nothing of them.