Sunday, September 3, 2017

Sunday Poem


The elderly woman lie frail and skeletal on the bed
Blankets tented over legs bent like snapped sticks.
All you could see was the top of her head
A neck kinked sideways, mouth agape, transfixed.
Eyes only half closed, but she didn’t seem awake.
A daughter, I presumed, sat pensive in the chair
Unread book in her lap, sudden stirring from a long stare.
The TV was on but without any sound.
They wanted me to have a look at that wound
The daughter nodded, shrugged, she didn’t care,
Resigned, beyond all doubt
Another new shore.
I asked if she wanted to step out
She paused--- no, I’ve seen it all before

We rolled the old woman right side down
Gurgling groaning moans
Burbled up from the layered covers.
Just to be moved----
To be disturbed----
When all you want is to lie interred,
Insentient, to fade into darkness,
Is an intolerable insult, a cosmic injustice.
Movement can be catastrophic
When you’ve found a good position
Just where you are, a grateful attrition,
A mind become un-philosophic.

Her body was withered and light and taut
Like an old mitt left out all winter---  frozen stiff.
Tight, husked, inelastic----
Like molded hard plastic.
She used to speak with her hands, the daughter thought,
A choreographed undulating gestural flow,
Mapping the route of butterflies through a meadow

It was an unstageable sacral ulcer,
A swirl of soft blackish tan like crusted brown mustard
Left uncapped on the counter.    
It squished when probed
Like veering off trail through a bog.
Boots sinking into a tarry muck.
It would all have to be cut.
She felt nothing though;
The flesh sloughing, deadened
Losing ourselves in layers.
There are no prayers.
Our bodies just shed, are surreptitiously lessened.  
Her odor lingered as an epilogue.
The nurse had to turn her head
We breathed through our mouths.
This hole eroding into a body
Boring deeper, into the muscle, into the joints
Death seeping into us here
At our pressure points.

We associate injury with violent impact
Shearing forces, savage speed
Bones break, you bleed
(Crashes are never abstract)
Fateful moments when things collide.
But a pressure sore is an injury gained
From motionless consistency, a heaviness sustained.
There is only so much a body can abide
Time and pressure
Flesh against surface

Soft tissue sandwiched between bed and bony prominence.
The only option becomes acquiescence
A body cannot attain perpetual motion
Cannot forever stay aloft.
Our forward, hopeful inertia always gets spent.
We run out of steam,
We decline, become senescent,
End up supine, we cease to dream.
At the contact points are the stirrings of a long rot.
Flesh pressed, the seconds add up
Maybe an hour before the stressed cells start to fail
You can’t tell at first, a blanching, a light breeze against a sail

At a certain time, we should all be able to float,
To set sail, to just be---
Buoyant, to glide---
To slip into a warm river and drift with the current
A long untroubled easing toward an open sea,
A weightless leisurely ride,
Along an infinite frictionless asymptote

I remember Marco Island after college
Long days at the beach and then, after a nap,
Gathering at a dive called the Tides, for the sunset.
It was happy and good, the young and old,
Live music, people chattering, laughing
Plates clattering, stories being told.
The sun behind us a hot cigarette tip
Starting its ineluctable, imperceptibly slow dip,
The ocean calm and placid, a beckoning blue trap.

I liked best the reckoning just before fusion
A thin sliver of ghostly light between sun and ocean.
Almost daring something (or someone) to slide through.
If I hustled to the horizon I’d just fit
A reckless dive through a closing slit,
For once the inferior arc of the full orb fuses
The vanishing accelerates, but it leaves no bruises
The sun just sinks, loses itself into the deep indigo gloom.
It melts into the vastness, liquefied, subsumed.

Many times I missed the disappearance altogether
Turning away a few minutes to talk or laugh
Or maybe I just had to run to the john.
When I returned and looked west it was gone.
I had missed it,
Time extinguished it,
Vestiges of light faintly holding on
A hint of the glow of another world’s dawn.  

We used to believe the world was flat.
Primitive superstitions
Gods, black cats
Prophetic visions.
We know better now.
We don’t dissolve into One,
Like our perpetually sinking sun
Always to rise on the morrow

At a certain time, may we all drift to this last ledge,
The mass of us floating with ease
Nudged by a warm Gulf breeze.
To fall at the end over the edge,
To leave behind this solid edifice,
And on the precipice,
Our hands begin to unfold, a final rhythmic gesture,
Before the pull of gravity none can resist
And we fall terminally into a deep abyss;
A hurtling escape from time, from pressure.


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