O.P.P. #8 — Anne’s lament…

Day 8 of National Poetry Month.

And we are saying, “I think…I think I could…”

Lament



by Anne Sexton

Someone is dead.
Even the trees know it,
those poor old dancers who come on lewdly,
all pea-green scarfs and spine pole.
I think...
I think I could have stopped it,
if I'd been as firm as a nurse
or noticed the neck of the driver
as he cheated the crosstown lights;
or later in the evening,
if I'd held my napkin over my mouth.
I think I could...
if I'd been different, or wise, or calm,
I think I could have charmed the table,
the stained dish or the hand of the dealer.
But it's done.
It's all used up.
There's no doubt about the trees
spreading their thin feet into the dry grass.
A Canada goose rides up,
spread out like a gray suede shirt,
honking his nose into the March wind.
In the entryway a cat breathes calmly
into her watery blue fur.
The supper dishes are over and the sun
unaccustomed to anything else
goes all the way down.












2020 – 062/366 – Intersections: The Dying Man

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)




NaPoWriMo / NaPoREADMo — Day 9 — Touching





We do not touch our dead anymore.
I touched my dying mother.
I could not touch my dead 
mother, though I kissed them both.

I turned off that awful pumping machine 
that kept the air in the mattress that kept her 
as close to comfort as one can get 
when one is dying piece-by-piece.

The machine gave its halting rhythm 
to the slap-dash ritual of getting 
her home before it was too late
to get her as home as one can get.

I remember turning off the machine, 
pulling the first wracking sobs, and
welcoming that finality for her.

The machine is dead.
The motor has stopped. 
There is no more.

Now, we cry and drink.


We lost the depth from our bones
when 
we tossed death from our homes.

We lost the power of the touch 
of that darkness-tempered acknowledgement 
of unknowns.

We need those worms in our souls
or we rot, un-composted. 











NaPoWriMo / NaPoREADMo — Day 8 — Three Facets

(damned soundcloud.  I've been waiting for 45 minutes for this to "process."  
It was done on the 8th.  I swear.)




Three Facets

I.

It is strange to place
a smell that has been so long 
lost to memory,

to realize that
you did not feel its missing
until you found it

waiting for you, a 
breath of absence in the room
that clings and orbits

around you and the 
dying dog.  It is not yours.
It is not a gift.

It is left for us by the
living as they leave. 



II.

It is strange to come 
across a thing waiting just 
here for just you to 

find its missing at 
this right moment, next to the 
kiss that you placed on 

your mother’s brow when 
you asked her if she wanted
to go home to die.

These are not things that
I can understand.  They are
the same life.  Their deaths

smell much the same no matter
who does the dying.



III.

It is a strange place
to find yourself, on this
bare floor between these

two like epigraph
and epilogue, both ends and 
both beginnings,

simultaneous
and arbitrary bookends,
heavy with hollow.  

Who could have guessed that 
you would find your self in this 
simple act, waiting 

for you to tell it apart 
from where you found it?







A trio of haiku sonnets

The presence of absence

(for Susan.  I'm not sure how we found
or find ourselves in this conversation,
but here, perhaps, we find our selves--
unwittingly, unbeknownst, often un-
awares--and this conversation continues
to elucidate the borders of loss,
this periphery of impermanence,
this presence of absence.)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~





this emptiness is not a substance
or a non-substance but a thing 

or a non-thing.  this emptiness 
has a name, a place and a form.

when we speak of it, we speak 
not of emptiness but of an emptiness, 

a singular vacancy that 
inhabits a place, a space 

in an inner landscape
like a deep canyon where 

nothing ever happens any 
more, not even weather.

~~~~~~~~

and this is how it happens.  an empty 
rumble echoes in an emptiness. 	

a space finds room to breathe
and the room finds space 

to live again in the empty 
rooms of another, and these 

emptinesses are much the same.  
they are filled with the same nots,

the same uneasy intervals
bound by different chords,

threads that thrum in the void,
the same void, the same un-

this-ness — the same— and these 
emptinesses speak to each other 

across the fullness of the world, 
through the things we cling 

to and avoid and we 
color these things and

we build them up around 
us and we call them memory

and they are never enough.