Sun angles through the maple branches
with a glare that signals winter. The coming
He looks at his face in the mirror
and sees an old man. He holds the glass
with his only working
hand, the left.
She banged on the sink as
if calling a classroom or courtroom
to order. No one in attendance.
He went fishing. He flew places, drove
places, hiked and paddled to pristine trout
streams in the Rockies. Pilgrimages requiring
two working hands, two working legs.
The time before. How is it possible to
feel nostalgia for someone else’s life?
They stick her on one end of
the trio for the photo though
she is the middle child. An irrevocable status.
He cannot be bought.
She cannot be reversed.
He cannot waste any more time.
He has all the time in the world.
She has lost her grace.
He has lost mobility.
She gains nothing in grief.
He gains nothing in grief.
One son photographs great plumes
of smoke over I-70. The other
sails in the Pacific with roommates.
Wearing crocs with socks?
Her brother casts for trout in his mind.
No twitching muscular recall.
Better to remember
than to contemplate the future.
One of them thinks out loud: I better
lock up the morphine. The other one
points out: a handful of Tylenol
and anti-depressants does as well.
She can’t remember her mother’s face
but the laugh is as fresh as the
morning’s breakfast. A cackle.
A smoker’s gurgle. A Leo’s burst
of joy and drama.
She grew up in a house with
scrap paper galore and crayons dumped
into shoe boxes. Creativity a
given, an irrevocable status.
Now she has to check California
fire maps, often. Colorado, too.
In the woods, mushrooms grow.
In the woods, dogs pee and dig.
In the woods, she makes a lonely
pilgrimage, without grace —
an irrevocable status?
She ties up her hair. Hates it
up. Hates it down.
November will be bleak.
December even more so.
The question is: how bleak?
He leans back. Even that
requires an aide and a motor.
She pulls a face in the
mirror and now remembers
her mother – the jaw line revised
by surgery, the hair bleached
blonde – a certain smug determination.
She, the daughter, is full of doubt,
something her mother never understood.
She lifts his dead right hand
and is shocked, not at its
swollen lifelessness, but at how
much the freckled skin resembles her father’s.
She applies cream to his calves, little scabs
on the backsides. She recalls the staples
running like a zipper up her father’s leg
where they removed veins to install
in his heart.
Her brother’s heart is not at
issue. It’s a peony splash
of blood mid-brain. An
interruption of signals. Language comes
back, syllable by syllable. Much
rejoicing when he at last spits out
the year of his birth.
He’s outlived their father by seven
years. She’s outlived their mother
by one. Three more months before
she outlives her sister. 54, 62, 64.
And so, when she spread the red silk
out on the work table, it called up
death – the one true thing. How
the dog barked!
The cloth was right where she remembered
putting it — a surprise, for often
memory and placement do not line
an irrevocable status.
Onto the cloth go the Magician’s
tools: a pewter jug for cups, a piece
of driftwood for wands, a
pair of scissors for swords, and an
amethyst geode for pentacles.
But, so what? There’s that doubt.
Later she places a bone bleached by the sun
right in the center of the red silk. The marrow
exposed. It’s settled! We are
the only creatures
who know that we will die.
She has no fear of red. No loathing. There were red
cloth dolls, red cloth skies, red cloth villages, cloth
poppies, and red paper accents. Some reds
neutral, others carrying the weight of remembrance
or the badge of predation.
A red hoodie calls to mind a film
set in Venice — do you know the one?
Donald Sutherland goes to Italy, a man
bereft, his child recently dead. He chases a little
figure in a red slicker through the ancient
city — over bridges and around
stone edifices. He thinks it’s
his daughter. Is she not dead?
When at last they meet, it
is not at all as expected. Under the red hood:
a small person, not even a child, and he
greets the grieving father not with rejoicing, but
with Death. He slices open
his pursuer’s throat in a single swipe.
So the tourist thought he went after his beloved,
but chased, as it turns out,
his own death. We can go years chasing
after our own destruction, convincing ourselves otherwise.
“Don’t Look Now.” Death, the one true thing.
Love and hope and redemption are true, too,
as are the ties that bind,
the reverent hands that uplift, the heart that
floods with gratitude. But they are variable, all.
Don’t look now – death is coming for you! It is
the one true thing. But
do not shudder or sweat, it just is
another way of saying, you’re alive.