Braving the Wilds

Field Notes from the Suburban Jungle

Tag: Death

Sold

You can’t take it with you,
This piece of immovable property.
Steadfast and heavy, it has
No handle, no toe hold. Towering,
Cumbersome, unable to be enveloped
In shrink wrap or newspaper,
Packed away, relegated to
Archives; instead, cobwebs
Distance, and fondness. We pass 
Our once intimate space on
To its next occupant,
A few azalea bushes
Richer, our children’s 
Names carved in a sheltering oak, 
Scuff mark from black-soled
Work boots leaking over the
Threshold, a simple piece of metal that
Delineated our sanctity,
Now theirs, from a wilderness
With boundless frontiers.

Going Home

The final stages of packing for a
Weekend away involve decisions
Concerning the produce that remains
In the Mother Hubbard refrigerator.
What’s left? Odiferous reminders
Of want and waste, seasoned with
Expiry dates and missed opportunities,
Tangible evidence of hearty meals,
Both utilitarian and celebratory.

The last of the olfactory offenders,
A fuzzy hunk of manchego cheese
Given lovingly by a faraway host: a
Spanish ewe with an exotic look in her eye.
Once divinely dressed in a fig chutney,
Paired inter-culturally with a granny smith apple,
A queso gives way to time, or the lack of it.
Any self-respecting New Englander
Would cut off the offensive parts
And call it a luncheon.

The thermostat turned low, a cool
Hush envelops the house with one
Last aroma to decipher: the quiet
Bouquet given in commemoration
Of nothing in particular: two
Weeks old, the gerbera daisies lay
Wilted, exhausted and supported
By hearty, whitish-green
Hydrangea that traditionally decorate
Many a Connecticut cottage.

Plucked from the florist’s vase, their
Stalky stems were tipped with brown
Where they were cut from its host.
Trimmed again, introduced
To a traveling milk jug, bound for
An heirloom piece of crockery in which
Its blooms would slowly lose
Its dewey countenance, and
With dignity dry to an indiscernible,
Subtle change of color: vintage, charmed,
A muted hue with a suggestion
Of its natural strength and sensibility.

Labor and Delivery

A hospice published booklet,
A quasi “What to Expect” publication,
Featured a cover photograph of
Easter lilies in full dripping bloom,
A maudlin image of resurrection.

The penning nurse likened the dying
To laboring mothers,
Wincing through pain and anxiety
In wildly individualistic ways
With some aspects of universality.

The paragraphs that followed offered
Bullet points of signs, what to look for,
What to recognize, what to offer
As “comfort management,”
Generally undercutting the hope
Of a Hollywood ending.

Instead, caretakers are led
Inadvertently down a different
Stream of consciousness:
Wondering what it was like to be born,
And therefore, to die.

The birth simile sends us through a
Channel of the mother host,
Ending a parasitic relationship
In loneliness and fear, the light
At its end, elemental
And blinding.

The first point of a finite timeline,
The lives of their babies are marked
With altruistic, private emotion:
Joy and relief for a relatively safe delivery,
Overcome with colossal responsibility of
A new coexistence.

In the blink of a new clouded eye
The world and all of its realism,
Material conditions now grips a new being in
Wondrous danger: the cold from the air
Will parch their skin, the hunger from
Lack of umbilical support will
Hinder them thrice daily for the rest
Of their lives.
With an innate survivalist urge
A newborn grapples for the breast,
Cantaloupe-scented milk, for sustenance
And comfort, while the clinically-minded
Marks birth weight, length,
The ticking minute at which one
Masked attendant happens to look at
A school house clock perched above an incubator:
The start, his point A, one milestone throwing
A shadow at light speed.

Easter lilies replaced by poppies,
Hedgerows, young soldiers who
Didn’t have the advantage of
Comfort Managers, their continuum
Stopped prematurely, they naturally
Cry out for their mothers,
Yearning for the same comfort.

Their own line has been folded,
Turned, pierced, offering
Sunlight and Moonlight intertwined;
The axes of a place inconceivable
Bend to form a sphere that rolls,
Time ceases to exist and loved
Ones float in ideas.

May the more seasoned veterans amongst us,
Those more fully realized
Making the trip in necessary solitude,
Leave loneliness and fear at
The beginning, be enveloped in light
No longer blinding with all
Points in the line marked
By hash marks of recognized Grace,
And be met by the one woman, who
By a more natural course
Might be present, somehow,
At both ends of the labored line.

timeline-33

Blink

A decade of experience
Descending the same staircase
Maneuvering toddlers, laundry baskets,
The intention of manually
Juicing a growling boiler
To chase a bitter winter
From children’s bedrooms
Created permanent motor sensory memory,
Imbedded in the muscles
That made electric illumination
A superfluous luxury.

The feet, alone, a podiatric machine
Attached independently to the cerebral cortex
Unaided by the eye. They functioned on
Auto pilot, allowing the remaining
Grey matter to wander to
Unfinished projects, gaining weight
As they approached deadline,
Market lists and their
Corresponding lentil soup recipe,
An impossible holiday in
Reykjavik to see the
Aurora Borealis.

Step six of the twelve,
Assigned to remove deficits
Of character by Higher Power
Showcased, undetected,
A make-your-own destruction
Of sadistic plastic toy bricks.
Cutting into the tender flesh of the arch,
Making it first bloodied,
Later scarred, always proud
The Lego throws the gait to flail,
Steals heels from the going,
Knocks knuckles on the riser
Twists arms, tears intact tricep fibers.

The overridden consciousness
Replaces assignments, supper and
Iceland with a sudden reorganization,
Interruption of a long-welded neuro-pathway
With pain stimuli and solitude and grief.
With as much vulnerability
As any undomesticated animal
Performing rudimentary tasks
Of survival, automatic as any
Human charge of the vie quotidien:
Great risk is taken by making the most
Inconsequential of choices.

Jarred awake on the concrete floor,
Thankful for another chance,
We shake self-pity, loneliness
And with throbbing limbs gratefully rise
Leaving a trail of lopsided bloody footprints
From the stair to boiler.
One trembling hand turns the knob,
Releases the water
And revels in the resulting warmth of
A blue flame.