Dec. 4, 2002
In The End
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Poem: "In The End," and "After," by Lucille Broderson from Beware (Spout Press).
In The End
All that last day at the cabin,
the lawnmower held you up, you
who could barely stand.
You rammed and rammed the mower
into the raspberry thicket
until we had lawn
where we didn't need it,
didn't want it.
That night, holding you night pail,
your hand went limp. The warm yellow
flowed onto the pine floor, between the planks.
Your teeth clenched. You wailed, a high keening wail.
Once the sounds that came from your lips
were words. When you'd nick a finger
or bump a shin, you'd glare at me, say,
I'd better not get really sick,
you'd never be there.
Then the cancer grew in your brain
and each day you became less and less,
and I was there. Surprised, but I was there.
You were my little boy then, feet wide apart,
rolling around the house in a toddler's gait.
How I loved nuzzling your neck,
squeezing your shoulders. For days
I lay in your arms, sobbing.
You held me tight, your eyes wide,
no change at all on your face.
The eaves sag on the house,
the dog grays,
its eyes film over,
there are lumps on its legs.
It doesn't get you up in the morning.
Even your daughter's love
for you, her Daddy, goes.
You die and she looks at her mother
for the first time.
You leave and your clothes
hang untouched for a year.
On a hanger, a suitcoat with a shirt under it,
a tie folded in at the neck.
Your wife leans against it, crying.
Now your son wears it,
feels comfortable, he says.
He's seen your bankbook, knows
how much money you left.
Your wife raises her face
to another man, wants more from him
than he can ever give.
There's no end to her yearning.
Touching, touching, that's all she wants.
It's the birthday of one of the most prolific writers ever, Robert Payne, born in Cornwall, England (1911). He wrote The Mountain and the Stars (1937), and hundreds of other books, many under other names. He taught poetry and shipbuilding in China, became an authority on Indian art, wrote biographies and novels, and made English translations of Boris Pasternak and Soren Kierkegaard. He worked on five or six books at a time, and got most of his work done in the wee hours of the morning, between two and eight. He was asked how he had come to write so much, and he looked surprised and said, "If you write three or four pages a day, in a month you have one hundred pages."
It's the birthday of Rainer Maria Rilke, born in Prague, Bohemia (1875), the author of the Duino Elegies (1923) and The Sonnets to Orpheus (1923). They were written ten years apart in two bursts of intense work, with hardly any revisions; he said it was like taking dictation.
It's the birthday of Samuel Butler, born in Nottinghamshire, England (1835). He wrote The Way of All Flesh (1903) and Erehwon (1872), which is "nowhere" spelled backwards.
It's the birthday of Thomas
Carlyle, born in Dumfriesshire, Scotland (1795). He wrote The History
of the French Revolution, and biographies of Oliver Cromwell and Frederick
the Great. He formed a close friendship with Ralph Waldo Emerson, and took him
to Scotland when Emerson traveled to the British Isles. Emerson looked at the
poor ground studded with stones and asked Carlyle what could be grown in that
soil. "We grow men," said Carlyle.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®