Sunday, February 26, 2012

For Ever

Because Paul was so young when he died,

and had such a free spirit,

I couldn't bear the thought

of his being in the dark ground

so we scattered his ashes on the hills

where he has been filled with light,

held together by snow and ice.

As I approach my own ending,

at times I feel sad that not anywhere

in the world is there a stone

that records his short life.

My most recent wistfulness

was brought on by a keening gull.

I thought of my own death; my grave will be

on land which will remember me,

where I've walked barefoot countless times

as a child, the brow of the hill,

above the ocean, with a stand of trees.

The gull's lament a warbler's trill

will be my companions

for the long silence.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Passing the Time

I spent my afternoon in the company of Monarch caterpillars munching a swan plant, and a carnivorous plant devouring flies.

What did you do today?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

In or Out

Adrift like the tides; surging

and then receding,

pulled by the moon's tug.

The moon is my life, soothing

and replenishing,

and my death, playing with me

like a young cat with a mouse.

Day after day of the extra days

I have been given, I cannot decide

whether my life is a blessing,

a purring cat, the smile of a friend,

or a burden, the excoriation

of tender flesh; or whether

the crashing wave is exhilarating

or a threat; whether

long stretches of shallow water

are tedious, or a welcome relief.

This poem arose out of what I wrote last week. The difficulty is I can make “beauty a necessity”, but I'm having more difficulty making “necessity beautiful” (Ann Michaels).

I must say a word about the district nurse. I have known her quite a long time, like her enormously, and really value her willingness to tell the truth; the other nurses fudge.

It's just interesting how the same statement resonates differently: “you have passed my use by date”, “if you hadn't done yoga, you wouldn't be still alive”, ”the protein content of your lumbar puncture would not have suggested you would have lived past your sixties”.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Use-by date

“You're well past your use-by date”.

The district nurse announced this last week in a very matter-of-fact tone. I had already known that, but the way she said it took me aback and made me interested in how saying something in one way can illicit a different response. I would have said to you, and indeed have agreed many times with the nurses, that my years of yoga are what makes it possible for me to manage now. I also know my diet has had a hand. But knowing that I might have died is a different awareness than knowing I'm well past the time when I should have died. It's time I was discarded form the refrigerator of life, and I will reject the recycling bin in favour of the organic.

Over 6 years ago, my doctor discovered that my breathing had become so laboured that if I were to get a chest virus, I would immediately get pneumonia as I have no ability to cough. He made it sound as if it was imminent. But some 18 months ago he uncomfortably reiterated that I would eventually get a chest infection, which I, to his embarrassment reworded it as “He reassured me that eventually I would get a chest virus”. Meanwhile, the best I can do is get laryngitis.

After many years of no weight bearing, the calcium in my bones is leeching through my kidneys into the Pacific Ocean. I also have trouble with dead cells. The nurse was convinced I would get bladder infections, but instead, I get blocked catheters. So, I'm not going to die of kidney failure.

When I got the pressure point on my bum, the nurses were convinced I would get septicemia or, at the very least, the ulcer would get bigger and go into the bone. Instead the ulcer is shrinking, and the wound is clean, now free of the necrotic tissue.

These are the truths I live with, truths that indicate that I am doing better than would be expected. You can see why I was a bit startled to be told I was well past my use-by date.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Time means change

Consider the first fish, struggling

to escape its hostile environment,

painfully gasping raw oxygen,

stumping on misshapen fins.

Everywhere, pools were drying out;

It needed to survive,

but did not know that survival

meant it would pass through

a one-way gate.

There would be no returning.

Its brain had enlarged; it had become

a land dweller; like us

it would drown if immersed in water.

If there had been anyone

to watch the desperate endeavour

of that failed Devonian fish,

the watcher would never have predicted

300 million years later,

that fish would walk upright under the stars.

We're a bit complacent about time;

if asked about the next 300 million,

we claim: “More of us; we are the future.”

And we muddle up time and causality,

assuming there is an underlying

teleological urge.

That fish had intentions.

It never seems to occur to us

that time means change,

that in 300 million years

there might well be

a vastly different creature

looking back to its own beginnings,

merely glancing at

our brief span of time,

stigmatising us offhandedly

as failed human beings.