Monday, 30 April 2012

an offering - songs of a mother leaving - continued

I had the privilege very recently to witness the birth of a baby boy.
The experience was one of overwhelming joy, and when I say overwhelming that is what I mean - a week later and I'm still sorting through the experience, both consciously and subconsciously.
The lovely thing about the experience of witnessing births is that it seems to give my heart some parallel to the process of death - in my heart it's all birthing now - transformations and mystery.
My head is still confused, but I think it might be wise to let my heart have it's way for a while ...

so here are more of the poems of the suite "songs of a mother leaving"



between marsh and ocean
grey moist day
cat of nine tails spread out
before us
sound of ocean behind
rocks, grey rocks
beneath our feet

seagulls and ravens flying
a breath of wind so
soft the whisper
"hi Jay"

in that instant I answer
"hi mom, hi dad"
so soft this
sweet, sweet

so strong this feeling
this lovely sensation
of family of earth of sky
of integration
of celebration

next logical step

a strange odyssey this trip into midnight
confusion fear and anger
a biting mother

a woman who seeing my socks said "oh my
what beautiful shoes" who let me sit and talk
while she pushed herself bit by bit
lifting herself along the edge of the bed with her fists

it was a monumental moment
the last day she sat up
no memory of what we spoke about
I was so amazed
the morphine gave her that last bit of
all the way down the edge of the bed
around the corner
to the centre of the foot of the bed

visibly fatigued
I said "you're getting tired"
she nodded
we got her feet up onto the bed
she lay on her side
and I pulled the blanket under her
up so she would be on the bed
another cover

blessed sleep

bed ridden after that
"seems dramatic, but just the next logical step"
my friend said


"don't sit on the little fellow
isn't he the cutest thing?
why do little babies have to suffer so?"

there are children everywhere

on the bed
in the room
she calls out to us - her
and her grandchild
she had helped to raise

we are all her children
no one but my mother can see us there
playing and sometimes needing
or scolding
but mostly


on good days
we got as far as the bench
under the spruce
where sitting
we saw the bay
meeting the coast
a long view in both
light house
a ways off to the right

some days
we strolled between
on a path
can feel my father
there with us
they were walkers
those two


it's over


it's over
no more tending, holding, sitting
listening waiting, holding breath, conversation
no more
it is over
a life has passed
your help, your grasp
your occupation has disappeared
but scars, oh
the leaving was slow and painful

drink coffee, walk fast, travel, visit, sit still
you have time now

something inside doesn't know
it's over
"oh god, it's over"


scattered words
I thought
that is all I have of her writing
all her

all I have are scattered words
drawn like art
in my drawing pad
coloured so soft

I had forgotten handwritten
recipe books
full of luscious
old fashion recipes
with savoury memories

thumb cookies
war cake
molasses cookies

remembering now
rainy afternoons
and ah!

we rolled from our bellies
to sit and receive treats
hot from the oven

I can bake
and dance
to the
music blasting

Monday, 13 February 2012

an offering - songs of my mother leaving - continued

we were heading to the shower one day when strength left my mother's legs and we collapsed together onto the couch - and there we stayed - me trapped underneath my mother's torso - for a period of about five minutes
I wasn't really sure if she was alive, or dead, or dying - but it felt like I needed to wait it out and she would come back to me
suddenly she did - as though the electricity was running again through her body and mind

my writing is sort of like that
I am trapped under it and then suddenly it is time to listen, and move, and see words forming on the page.

so I offer more poems while the electricity is running


my mother
was getting hard
the softness of her body disappearing
bone so hard, obviously pronounced

the beauty of bones
long elegant leg bones, arm bones
rib and cheek bones
all pronounced
no longer blurred by flesh
drawn back tight over all those bones
cheeks hollowed out "my lost Mayan Incan mother" I thought 
the gaunt beauty of bones

she is connecting
with everyone
who has come before
and all unborn creatures
and she is leaving me here
she is leaving me here
she is leaving


she is holding towels
onto open palms 
and arms

the request
"when Bernice and dad come
I have to be ready
will you help me pack?"

a sister and a father
coming from the other side

"close" she was saying
"but we have time to prepare"


walking pathways thru the woods next to
the coast of the bay
step by step we

my mother's painful pace
she stops
examining plants, stones
"are we going to slowly?"

"no" this is my chance 
to look 
at this part of the world
in detail
of my mother's pain
and her constant 
of the same

dreaming again

dreaming again
they are still alive   but I am certain we
buried them both
funerals, I'm sure
how long will I have to look after them?
so much care
these people are needing

dreaming again
my mother and I are tending
the vegetables growing
up through the slats in the floor from
the ground underneath
we are in the house that is not a house
trees and sky all around
but walls and a roof
how so? 
I don't understand

he shouldn't have left me 

"he shouldn't have left me"

"he didn't want to leave 
he loved you
it's not his fault that he died"

"I know"

she is looking at her husband's photo on the wall


a tiny scrap of newsprint she is holding
retrieved from the jewelry box
"you might find this helpful" she says 
"when?" I asked
"when I am dead" she says
it was the poem "do not stand by my grave and weep"

months later
she says
"I'm nothing"
"no" I say and retrieve the poem
from the box and read:
"Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awake in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die."
"see? you are everything"

"I know" she says
"but it's so hard to remember"

soon after 
we are all crying while
my sister in law reads
the poem at the funeral

in the moment

"see the house?"
she is pointing to the stones in the walkway
we are having lunch in the sunshine
she gets up, starts to show me
"i'll loose it"
she sits down and directs my steps
a little this way
a little that way
focusing on the image
until my foot is there
where she sees the image of a house

the world crystallizes 
I am there 
my mother is there
in the sunshine
grey stones under my feet
the soil under the stones
grass all around
and sun
down from the sky

all that is
all that was
all that ever would be

Sunday, 5 February 2012

an offering - songs of my mother - intro

These songs are of my mother - an incredibly warm, smart, generous, witty woman who had lived most of her life while transcending pain caused by a variety of chronic physical conditions.
She loved life.
She left when it got too hard to stay.
Her last two years were spent with Alzheimer's added into the mix
Her last year we spent together; intense but good training.

She and my father and brother (who are also gone to the other side) show up at various times in the air around me, in the tasks I'm performing, in the warm feeling I get when thinking of how they would be so pleased for me at times, and how they would empathize at others.

They all died relatively young, but not before making me miss them, and at the same time giving me the love that sustains me in their absence.

I would like to hope that these writings are of some help to someone - they are a work in progress - and indeed they are for my own medicine. They are offered in love and respect for our human journey here.

They will be posted in semi random order and may organize themselves into another form entirely.

It's been a while (Oct. 99)  - I think I can share now.

against the tide

swimming against the tide
a young woman
my mother
a union rep at the cotton mill
and then a young wife
reading of natural childbirth
and of breastfeeding
from a borrowed book
and so we her children
swam to the surface
to nestle and suck at her breast

near death in her undershirt and  depends
climbing onto the long bureau
because she "simply had to lie down"
she carried some of that vitality
and simple grace of youth
complete with long legs, willowy frame
that I had only seen in photos
young, in a swimsuit on the beach
my god, she was lovely

an act of will

some part of me felt
that it was an act of will
her leaving
she had been
waving goodbye
disappearing in slivers
years before the Alzheimer's
"the disappearing woman"
I kept thinking

fear and pain
overtook her - a floater - she started to sink
exercise, relaxation therapy, self hypnosis,
drugs; they all slowed things down
but nothing could save her
not even me

before that
the two of us together
couldn't save her husband
my dad


we walked
those trails
through the four seasons
blues and greens of summer
giving way to rust of fall
grey of winter
and back again

inside this
for two months
my father lay dying
fading under morphine

and then for almost a year
beyond my father's passing
my mother's husband gone
we walked
when chance arose
while my mother's consciousness shifted to the other side

another trail
gathering beach flowers to dry
multitudes of bright greens and purples
growing between smooth round grey stones
handfuls of flowers
from hands that had
and cleaned
and gardened
and cooked and sewn
crocheted and mended
knit and untangled
smoothed and soothed
they gathered now these gifts for me
these beach flowers
to dry

"thank you" I said as they fell into the bag
"you're making me feel useful…." she said

language of song

the breath and memory of song
were starting to go
language of song
silent after all these years
no other time
when she didn't sing

only air now

sharing a pillow just to hear
her breath
only air now

no more songs

words so rare

the air had been full of songs
upon our rising
we knew the world
was still turning
happy, sad, scared  song  song  song
the thread of our youth

radio blaring
washer singing
bread rising
floors shining
soup sizzling
cold nights
summer heat
songs just filled our ears

the last song

"Show me the way to go home
I'm tired and I want to go to bed
had a little drink about an hour ago
and it went right to my head"

the verse came so easily complete with
theatrical hiccups
shared bed
hysterical laughter
the last song
she sang to me

"you have to laugh when you can" she said

water for tears

where does the water for tears
come from?
torn from cells and forced out
through the eye
no wonder crying hurts so much

when will this end
when will this end
not yet

be ok for just another moment
laugh and sing to me
pick some flowers
breath in the morning
infect me with your love of living
hold me close
take me with you
to the land of no pain
the land of I am your daughter
and you are my mom

this place hurts too much
I will split in half
I will explode
the pain of grief will take me under
doubled over in the kitchen, tears
salty tears, will I ever stand straight again?
to face that vision
of bones, to release my hold
on this fragment
what remains of you

so soft the whisper

so soft the whisper
a breath
a sigh
patterns in the sand
a warm breath
blue sky
blue mountains of sea
silver sigh
whispers in wind
drifting breath
mountains of sky
wistful breath
mountains of sighs
silver clouds
come home,
come home
so soft the whisper