My husband has been into town. I can smell the out of doors in his hair, on his cheek as he bends to embrace me in bed where I live now rather than sleep. George at the bookstore says hi. The library was busy this week. They are out of that cheese I like at the Co-op, the one I can still eat. I try to smell more on his body- the scent of car fumes and tree blossoms and warm concrete. I try to feel the heat of the impatient bodies pressed in line at the coffee shop, breathe in the grounds, humid and earthy and sweet. Tell me about the car ride, I say, and imagine the luxury of manufactured breeze.
It’s 5:30 a.m. and already we have been chasing the pain for hours. We began with coaxing, rubbing and kneading, calling it to the surface, breaking it’s deepest holds, shifting the oldest aches first, keeping our voices low, so as not to wake the sharper, newer pains, the silver flashes and precision stabs, the recent betrayals we haven’t yet had time to grieve. It’s six hours later. We offer it poetry, pity, pills, but it still won’t let me stand. We dip me into hot water. We pray raggy prayers. I cry without any noise. Nothing is released. I call this pain terrible names. You curse its injustice and bully ways. It holds on harder and shakes my brain just to remind me who’s boss.
What I Can Still Do
I can tell my eighty year-old father I love him every chance I get and hear it come back like birdsong in a forest of want. I can make my rescue dog forget the clutch and gnaw of hunger and fear for a moment and run like a pup again. I can still laugh. Listen. Appreciate. Create. I can still see right through to a child’s heart and make her feel safe and seen. I can keep a friend’s secret or show her how to release it. I can notice, witness, speak. I can feel music run through my whole body, its echoes transforming the pain. I can forgive and, with this lightness, face most days with deep love and tremulous, taunting, tenacious hope.
Who will follow me into the forest? Who will carry what I can’t, lie down with me in the moss, cover me with leaves when I am finally too weak? Who will look up into the darkness when I go quiet and tell the secret eyes of the animals watching from the trees who I’ve been?
This is no bed, it’s a boat-- a great grey ocean liner with a bellow in it’s throat. No tossing and turning, she just plows straight ahead, splitting the platinum night sea, her windows atwinkle with swirling lights of pleasure, ease and greed No thought of fate or storms or ice or disease.
This is no bed, it’s a boat-- a kayak entirely self-propelled. It can roll and keep on going; it can’t be taken down. With it I explore my memory dreams of the kettle ponds at twilight. My paddle cuts the purple liquid mirror, two of everything. I poke at the lily pads with their long stems reaching deep into the shimmering silt anchored in all that waits. I will not pull on those stems; I am not ready to know what’s ahead. This is no bed, it’s a boat-- a dented aluminum dinghy, dragged to the lip of the bay. I am too small for it’s wooden oars and they slip again and again from their oarlocks. But my father is waiting for me. He wears his red and blue-striped seventies shirt and stands in his Day Sailer with its moldy life jackets, salty ropes and splintering cabin big enough just for me.
The light and the water dance furiously. There is nothing ahead but journey.
We raise the sapphire spinnaker. It clangs and flaps, teases and floats then suddenly snaps, fills and flies. This is no bed, it’s a boat-- no sickness, no pain, no end, no doubt, just pure, blue grace.