Sunday, December 29, 2013



Wednesday, December 25, 2013

how it works


Be melting snow.
Wash yourself of yourself.



Monday, December 16, 2013

things my son should know after I've died


I was young once. I dug holes
near a canal and almost drowned.

I filled notebooks with words
as carefully as a hunter loads his shotgun.

I had a father also, and I came second to an addiction.

I spent a summer swallowing seeds
and nothing ever grew in my stomach.

Every woman I kissed,
I kissed as if I loved her.

My left and right hands were rivals.

After I hit puberty, I was kicked out of my parents’ house
at least twice a year. No matter when you receive this
there was music playing now.

Your grandfather isn’t
my father. I chose to do something with my life
that I knew I could fail at.

I spent my whole life walking
and hid such colorful wings.

–Brian Trimboli
from Rattle #29


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Reading Aloud to My Father, excerpt


I chose the book haphazard
from the shelf, but with Nabokov’s first
sentence I knew it wasn’t the thing
to read to a dying man:
The cradle rocks above the abyss, it began,
and common sense tells us that our existence
is but a brief crack of light
between two eternities of darkness

The words disturbed both of us immediately,
and I stopped. With music it was the same—
Chopin’s piano concerto—he asked me
to turn it off …

But to return to the cradle rocking. I think
Nabokov had it wrong. This is the abyss.
That’s why babies howl at birth,
and why the dying so often reach
for something only they can apprehend."


–Jane Kenyon



via wait - what?



Saturday, November 30, 2013

how it works


... we are only the rind and the leaf.
The great death, that each of us carries inside, is the fruit. 

Everything enfolds it. 

–Rainer Maria Rilke


Friday, November 29, 2013

Sunday, November 24, 2013

for your Sunday


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Consummation Of Grief



I even hear the mountains
the way they laugh
up and down their blue sides
and down in the water
the fish cry
and the water
is their tears.

I listen to the water
on nights I drink away
and the sadness becomes so great
I hear it in my clock
it becomes knobs upon my dresser
it becomes paper on the floor
it becomes a shoehorn
a laundry ticket
it becomes
cigarette smoke
climbing a chapel of dark vines. . .

it matters little
very little love is not so bad
or very little life
what counts
is waiting on walls
I was born for this
I was born to hustle roses down the avenues of the dead.
—Charles Bukowski


Friday, November 22, 2013



Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Another obituary


We were filled with the strong wine
of mutual struggle, one joined loud
and sonorous voice. We carried
each other along revolting, chanting,
cursing, crafting, making all new.

First Muriel, then Audre and Flo,
now Adrienne. I feel like a lone
pine remnant of virgin forest
when my peers have met the ax
and I weep ashes.

Yes, young voices are stirring now
the wind is rising, the sea boils
again, yet I feel age sucking
the marrow from my bones,
the loneliness of memory.

Their voices murmur in my inner
ear but never will I hear them
speak new words and no matter
how I cherish what they gave us
I want more, I still want more.

–Marge Piercy
Copyright 2012


Friday, November 15, 2013

what would love do?

Knocking on Heavens Door Book Cover 


Knocking on Heaven’s Door (Scribner, 2013) by Katy Butler is a map through the labyrinth of a broken medical system based on her experiences between choosing between sustaining life with medical technology and assessing her father’s quality of life. It will inspire the difficult conversations we need to have with loved ones as it illuminates the path to a better way of death. The following excerpt is from the prologue.

Medical Technology 

On an autumn day in 2007, while I was visiting from California, my mother made a request I both dreaded and longed to fulfill. She’d just poured me a cup of tea from her Japanese teapot shaped like a little pumpkin; beyond the kitchen window, two cardinals splashed in her birdbath in the weak Connecticut sunlight. Her white hair was gathered at the nape of her neck, and her voice was low. She put a hand on my arm. “Please help me get your father’s pacemaker turned off,” she said. I met her eyes, and my heart knocked.
Directly above us, in what was once my parents’ shared bedroom, my eighty-five-year-old father, Jeffrey—a retired Wesleyan University professor, stroke-shattered, going blind, and suffering from dementia—lay sleeping. Sewn into a hump of skin and muscle below his right collarbone was the pacemaker that had helped his heart outlive his brain. As small and shiny as a pocket watch, it had kept his heart beating rhythmically for five years. It blocked one path to a natural death.

After tea, I knew, my mother would help my father up from his narrow bed with its mattress encased in waterproof plastic. After taking him to the toilet, she’d change his diaper and lead him tottering to the living room, where he’d pretend to read a book of short stories by Joyce Carol Oates until the book fell into his lap and he stared out the sliding glass window.

I don’t like describing what the thousand shocks of late old age were doing to my father—and indirectly to my mother—without telling you first that my parents loved each other and I loved them. That my mother could stain a deck, sew a silk blouse from a photo in Vogue, and make coq au vin with her own chicken stock. That her photographs of Wesleyan authors had been published on book jackets, and her paintings of South African fish in an ichthyologists’ handbook. That she thought of my father as her best friend.

And that my father never gave up easily on anything.

Born in South Africa’s Great Karoo Desert, he was a twenty-one-year-old soldier in the South African Army when he lost his left arm to a German shell in the Italian hills outside Siena. He went on to marry my mother, earn a PhD from Oxford, coach rugby, build floor-to-ceiling bookcases for our living room, and with my two younger brothers as crew, sail his beloved Rhodes 19 on Long Island Sound. When I was a teenager and often at odds with him, he would sometimes wake me chortling lines from The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam in a high falsetto: “Awake, my little one! Before life’s liquor in its cup be dry!” On weekend afternoons, he would put a record on the stereo and strut around the living room conducting invisible orchestras. At night he would stand in our bedroom doorways and say good night to my two brothers and me quoting Horatio’s farewell to the dying Hamlet: “May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!”
Four decades later, in the house where he once chortled and strutted and sometimes thundered, I had to coach him to take off his slippers before he tried to put on his shoes.
My mother put down her teacup. She was eighty-three, as lucid and bright as a sword point, and more elegant in her black jeans and thin cashmere sweater than I could ever hope to be. She put her hand, hard, on my arm. “He is killing me,” she said. “He. Is. Ruining. My. Life.” Then she crossed her ankles and put her head between her knees, a remedy for near-fainting that she’d clipped from a newspaper column and pinned to the bulletin board behind her. She was taking care of my father for about a hundred hours a week.

I looked at her and thought of Anton Chekhov, the writer and physician who died of tuberculosis in 1904 when he was only forty-four. “Whenever there is someone in a family who has long been ill, and hopelessly ill,” he wrote, “there come painful moments when all, timidly, secretly, at the bottom of their hearts long for his death.” A century afterward, my mother and I had come to long for the machine in my father’s heart to fail.

Quality of Life 

How we got there is a long story, but here are a few of the bones. On November 13, 2001, when my father was seventy-nine and apparently vigorous, he suffered a devastating stroke. A year later—gravely disabled yet clear-minded enough to know it—he was outfitted with a pacemaker in a moment of hurry and hope. The device kept his heart going while doing nothing to prevent his slide into dementia, incontinence, near-muteness, misery, and helplessness. The burden of his care crushed my mother. In January 2007, when my father no longer understood the purpose of a dinner napkin, I learned that his pacemaker could be turned off painlessly and without surgery, thus opening a door to a relatively peaceful death. It was a death I both feared and desired, as I sat at the kitchen table while my mother raised her head from her knees. 

Her words thrummed inside me: Please help me get your father’s pacemaker turned off. I’d been hoping for months to hear her say something like this, but now that she’d spoken, I was the one with doubts. This was a moral choice for which neither the Anglicanism of my English childhood nor my adopted Buddhism had prepared me. I shook when I imagined watching someone disable his pacemaker—and shook even more when I contemplated trying to explain it to him. 

At the same time, I feared that if I did nothing, his doctors would continue to prolong what was left of my father’s life until my mother went down with him. My fear was not unfounded: in the 1980s, while working as a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, I spent six weeks in the intensive care unit of San Francisco General Hospital, watching the erasure of the once-bright line between saving a life and prolonging a dying. I’d never forgotten what I saw. 

If my father got pneumonia, once called “the old man’s friend” for its promise of an easy death, a doctor might well feel duty-bound to prescribe antibiotics. If he collapsed and my mother called 911, paramedics would do everything they could to revive him as they rushed his gurney toward the emergency room.

With just a little more bad luck, my father might be wheeled into an intensive care unit, where my mother and I—and even my dying father—would become bystanders in a battle, fought over the territory of his body, between the ancient reality of death and the technological imperatives of modern medicine. It was not how we wanted him to die, but our wishes might not mean much. Three-quarters of Americans want to die at home, as their ancestors did, but only a quarter of the elderly currently do. Two-fifths of deaths now take place in a hospital, an institution where only the destitute and the homeless died before the dawn of the twentieth century. Most of us say we don’t want to die “plugged into machines,” but a fifth of American deaths now take place in intensive care, where ten days of futile flailing can cost as much as $323,000. If my mother and I did not veer from the pathway my father was traveling, he might well draw his last breath in a room stripped of any reminder of home or of the sacred, among doctors and nurses who knew his blood counts and oxygen levels but barely knew his name.

Then again, the hospital might save his life and return him home to suffer yet another final illness. And that I feared almost as much.

I loved my father, even as he was: miserable, damaged, and nearly incommunicado. I loved my mother and wanted her to have at least a chance at a happy widowhood. I felt like my father’s executioner, and that I had no choice.
I met my mother’s eyes and said yes.


via largerloves 


Thursday, November 14, 2013

such stuff as dreams are made of

One of 25 video poems in Four Seasons Productions' Moving Poetry Series - RANT * RAVE * RIFF. This selection is from William Shakespeare's The Tempest, Act IV, written in 1612 and recited by Dr. Allen Dwight Callahan. All of those smiling faces, those spirits are gone -- melted into thin air -- we are such stuff as dreams are made of. But what is on the other side of our sleep? Learn more about this provocative series, featured poems, poets and readers at 4SeasonsProductions


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A gracious lady came to us


A gracious lady came to us
and favored us by receiving
kindly our care of her
at the end of all her days.
She was a lady made graceful
beyond what we had known
by the welcome she gave to death,
her guest, whom she made unfearful

by her fearlessness, having no further
use for herself as we had known her.

–Wendell Berry


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

the cost of hope


Friday, October 11, 2013

The Poet with His Face in His Hands


You want to cry aloud for your
mistakes. But to tell the truth the world
doesn’t need anymore of that sound.

So if you’re going to do it and can’t
stop yourself, if your pretty mouth can’t
hold it in, at least go by yourself across

the forty fields and the forty dark inclines
of rocks and water to the place where
the falls are flinging out their white sheets

like crazy, and there is a cave behind all that
jubilation and water fun and you can
stand there, under it, and roar all you

want and nothing will be disturbed; you can
drip with despair all afternoon and still,
on a green branch, its wings just lightly touched

by the passing foil of the water, the thrush,
puffing out its spotted breast, will sing
of the perfect, stone-hard beauty of everything.

–Mary Oliver


Sunday, October 6, 2013

dear doctor

An emergency room doctor at New York Presbyterian Hospital has touched the hearts of millions after a personal letter he wrote about the death of a patient went viral on the Internet.
The letter was first published on Reddit by the son of the deceased woman, who reportedly died of breast cancer in December 2012. In the letter, the doctor explains that this is the first such note he has written in 20 years of ER work.

The letter has already been viewed by more than 2 million users on Reddit, with thousands leaving comments. The doctor's letter:

Dear Mr. (removed),
I am the Emergency Medicine physician who treated your wife Mrs (removed) last Sunday in the Emergency Department at (hospital). I learned only yesterday about her passing away and wanted to write to you to express my sadness. In my twenty years as a doctor in the Emergency Room, I have never written to a patient or a family member, as our encounters are typically hurried and do not always allow for more personal interaction.
However, in your case, I felt a special connection to your wife (removed), who was so engaging and cheerful in spite of her illness and trouble breathing. I was also touched by the fact that you seemed to be a very loving couple. You were highly supportive of her, asking the right questions with calm, care and concern. From my experience as a physician, I find that the love and support of a spouse or a family member is the most soothing gift, bringing peace and serenity to those critically ill.
I am sorry for your loss and I hope you can find comfort in the memory of your wife’s great spirit and of your loving bond. My heartfelt condolences go out to you and your family.
(removed), MD

The 24-year-old man who posted the letter said in an email interview with the Huffington Post that the outpouring of support from Reddit users has helped him cope with the passing of his mother.

"If my mother were alive to see this, she would want readers to reflect on the power of showing compassion toward a total stranger," he said in the interview.
"The support I got from Reddit was amazing—doctors, nurses and other Redditors who have lost their mothers to cancer were all shocked and amazed that the doctor took the time to write such a heartfelt, meaningful letter.”

Friday, September 13, 2013

from The Five Stages of Grief


The night I lost you
someone pointed me towards
the Five Stages of Grief
Go that way, they said,
it’s easy, like learning to climb
stairs after the amputation.

And so I climbed …
After a year I am still climbing, though my feet slip
on your stone face.
The treeline
has long since disappeared;
green is a color
I have forgotten.

But now I see what I am climbing
towards: Acceptance
written in capital letters,
a special headline:
its name is in lights.

I struggle on,
waving and shouting.
Below, my whole life spreads its surf,
all the landscapes I’ve ever known
or dreamed of. Below
a fish jumps: the pulse
in your neck.

Acceptance. I finally
reach it.
But something is wrong.
Grief is a circular staircase.
I have lost you.

—Linda Pastan


Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Death Café

Death has become too sanitised.
It needs raucous laughter and a little bit of living to make it real again.


Several days after leaving Winchester and walking the South Downs Way through southern England, filming ourselves and the landscape, and endlessly talking, we reached the perilous cliffs of Beachy Head. From these vertically pitched, chalk-white heights, desperate souls have flung themselves to a brutal end, and countless ships have been wrecked at their rocky base. I’d imagined May sunshine, and us all sitting in a circle on the grassy cliff top. But as we approached our journey’s close, rain thrashed down, gales blew, and I could no longer see the cliff edge for fog rising from the sea. In the distance, I could just make out the outlines of crosses — memorials to past suicides. Then I spotted a table and, as I got closer, blue and yellow balloons tied by strings to its legs, dancing, hysterical, in the wind. Cake stands held green-iced sponges — one, topped with plastic lambs, another with the Way’s Long Man of Wilmington drawn on it in white icing. A Union Flag stirred in the air, its pole poking up from a sponge topped with green hills and a cowshed.

I had joined ‘A 100-Mile Conversation’ halfway through. A film project by the London artists Nathan Burr and Louis Buckley, it had progressed, in real time, from Winchester, across the M3 motorway, down through the Chilcomb Valley, then east along the coast. The purpose? To discuss suicide. Bringing the cake had been my idea. How apt, I’d thought, how crazy even, to celebrate the project’s end by drinking tea on a cliff edge; how right, somehow, to celebrate life with an abundance of cake at a beauty spot marred by the sadness of suicide jumpers.

One month later, and I’m tangled up with cake and death again. I’m at a Death Café, drinking loose-leaf Assam at London’s Royal College of Art with eight strangers. We finger mugs and wipe cake crumbs from our lips. I’ve set the others an exercise. A petite woman beside me reads from a sheet of paper on the tablecloth: ‘The first words that came to mind when I thought of the word death,’ she smiles, ‘were fucking bloody shit.’ ‘Death Cafés’ were a frequent topic of conversation on the 100-mile walk: the two had much in common in wanting to probe people’s personal connection to death. I’d attended several, intrigued by the dynamics that might unfold there, but also drawn there by personal loss. Now I was hosting my own.

The guests took turns to voice their thoughts and feelings across a wide range of subjects. How does it feel to lose a parent? What is existence? What matters most to us in life? We talked about the Mexican Day of the Dead, suicide memorials and Freud’s death drive. Would we live forever, if we had the chance? To embalm or not to embalm? And, cremation — what do we do with those ashes; ‘our grandparents were left on top of the fridge freezer for decades’, one person recalled. On this occasion, women outnumbered men. Some of us had plenty of experience of death, others, little or none. But that wasn’t the point. The point was to talk. What is death like? What exactly are we afraid of? To what degree do our ideas on death influence how we live?

I saw my first dead body when I was 19 — the mother of a very close friend. As I’d hovered beside her, terrified, certain that at any moment she would sit back up in bed, I glanced over at a vase of flowers on the bedside table, bought the week before. I couldn’t take my eyes off those flowers — in my memory, they’re white — unable to comprehend how they could live on, when she did not.

I was no braver when my mother suffered a stroke and was kept alive for three years by whirring machines and feed drips. She lay silent and still in a nursing-home bed. I began to feel her silence as my silence, her paralysis as my own. I couldn’t tell friends about the dark thoughts circling my brain; could no more move on with my life than she could escape hers. My father died 15 years later, during which time we met only once. In their different ways, each of my parents’ deaths was prefaced by silence; and so, to my first Death Café, silence was what I carried with me.

The Swiss sociologist and anthropologist Bernard Crettaz writes of the imperative to liberate death from what he calls ‘tyrannical secrecy’ — tyrannical, presumably, because whatever we remain quiet about enslaves us to our fears. In his 2010 book, Cafés Mortels: Sortir la Mort du Silence, or ‘bringing death out of silence’, he addresses the shameful irony of how, in our modern, Western society of communication, ‘people have secrets that bully’. Crettaz has been hosting cafés morsels — social gatherings that put death at the centre of conversation — since 2004, in salons, bistros and private houses across Switzerland and France. In 2011 they were imported to the UK by a British Buddhist called Jon Underwood, and renamed Death Cafés. Around 1,000 people have so far attended Death Cafés in England, Wales, the US, Canada, Australia and Italy.

‘I come from a mountain background, where people start talking about death when they are just little children,’ Crettaz told The Boston Globe in 2010. ‘I wanted to reproduce that — but where? I’d prefer a public square, but then someone suggested the café. It was a place where people shared intimacies, but in a relaxed way.’ In Death Cafés, conversation is driven by ideas and questions that people never dared express before. Although Death Cafés do not offer grief therapy, private losses are, inevitably, shared: people talk movingly about suicide, accidental deaths, miscarriages, stillbirths, abortions. Parents of disabled children admit they can no longer cope; a son reveals how he practises a funeral rite for his mother — even though she’s still alive.

Yet cafés mortels are also vital places, often raucous with laughter. Speaking about death scrubs away our facades, brings us closer to who we really are. There’s a sense of liberation in such honesty, compounded by the idea that in talking about death, one is somehow breaking a taboo. Crettaz says that death is ‘a scandal, a ghost that lives with us. But the goal is to get creative and make it a non-destructive ghost’. He says: ‘I am never so in tune with the truth as during one of these soirées. And I have the impression that the assembled company, for a moment, and thanks to death, is born into authenticity.’

Over the past century, in North America and Europe, dying has increasingly been concealed behind hospital or nursing-home walls and the dead are banished from their own memorial services. But for the previous 40,000 years, the pattern was very different. As the writer and funeral director Thomas Lynch notes in The Good Funeral (2013): ‘Whatever afterlife there is or isn’t, human beings have marked their ceasing to be by going with their dead — to the tomb or the fire or the grave, the holy tree or deep sea, whatever sacred space of oblivion we consign them to.’

The shift in attitudes that Lynch describes was famously documented by Jessica Mitford, whose book The American Way of Death (1963) balked at the sanitation that accompanied the mass commercialisation of the funeral industry. Undertakers, Mitford complained, had become ‘morticians’, coffins were ‘caskets’, corpses ‘loved ones’. Death and dying had been transformed into disappearing acts. Lynch remarks that rates of cremation (the ultimate disappearance, and below five per cent in Mitford’s time) have risen in the decades since to nearly 50 per cent. The cost of dying, he says, has been rising faster than the cost of living.

At my father’s funeral, inside that modern, white church with its sterile altar and impossibly large flower arrangements, the pews had stood empty, except for where his wife, two elderly friends and my sisters and I were seated. The vicar spoke of my dad’s love of fast cars — his only intimate detail. Towards the end of his oration, music started blasting from speakers and the tall, crimson curtains around my father’s coffin began to draw. His wife jumped up from her seat, and my sisters and I followed, rushing towards those curtains, hurling our red roses through the ever-shrinking gap.

Just as the ancient Greeks placed honey cakes in graves to appease Pluto’s hound Cerberus, who guarded the gates of Hades, might not I too appease the gods?

If we can’t look at our dead in the flesh, how can we talk about them? They become as absent from our speech as they were at their funerals. If the death industry really has been ‘Mitfordised’, as Thomas Lynch suggests — drained of ritual, of what’s sacred — then what is real? How can we expect to have an authentic, human response to our own mortality?

Death Cafés help repair our relationship with farewell rites, largely because they put ritual back into death and mourning. A Death Café is a ritual space, built chair by chair, cup by cup. Its ritual objects are the tea tray, pot, milk jug, tablecloth. These mundane items are essential to how it works. Guests sit around a table and commit to staying for the duration (usually two hours). The host holds the space, administers ritual objects (pen and paper) and performs any rites (pouring tea, cutting cake).

But its chief ritual items are food and drink. If food equals flesh, and if eating grounds us in our bodies, then ritual food can help us contact what’s spiritual. This symbolic idea of food spreading holy aura — a kind of contagious magic — is common to many religions: from the Hindu custom of eating food and water that has been offered to, or come into contact with a god or goddess, to the wine and starch wafer ‘host’, representing the blood and body of Christ in the Christian Eucharist. As the 13th-century poet and mystic Hadewijch of Brabant wrote, ‘love’s most intimate union is through eating, tasting, and seeing interiorly’. At the Death Café, carrot cake and Darjeeling help prepare the way for us to consume, assimilate, become — not God, or another deity — but ourselves. Or perhaps, as one guest suggested: ‘Have your ashes baked into a cake, and your friends can eat you!’

In the three years leading to my mother’s death, if my sisters or I felt momentarily overwhelmed, the kettle would go on and the tea bags would come out. These ceremonies made us feel normal in an abnormal world. The mugs of strong tea were sustaining, but they were also markers on the path of my own mourning. They said: ‘Enough crying. Pull yourself together. Drink up.’ I could not yet bury my dead, but I could still have my rituals. Just as the ancient Greeks placed honey cakes in graves to appease Pluto’s hound Cerberus, who guarded the gates of Hades, might not I too appease the gods? Might one of them not take pity, and ferry my mother, who for now was consigned to limbo, across the Styx to the Underworld?

For a long time, it never occurred to me that what brought me to my first Café — a desire to understand my fear of death — masked a deeper terror. It took many more mugs of tea around strangers’ tables. It took hearing about a shy 19-year-old’s loss of his father, and how a car crash had subsequently killed his step-dad. It took the pretty funeral director whose kayak had overturned while she was white-water rafting, confessing that as she began drowning she felt nothing but joy. It took the white-haired hypnotherapist, draped in chunky beads, saying how only that morning she’d been bagging up her dead husband’s clothes. It took these and many more Death Café confidences before I realised that death had always been easy to be afraid of, like a bump in the night: the spooky face at the window — out there, but still far away. Life, on the other hand, was here, now, and it was far more treacherous.

I no longer see death as some looming avenger, but rather as a final change in life’s constant flux. I know that chewing it over can help us reflect decisively on our existence, whether we’re devising ‘bucket lists’, or attempting to come to terms with the ‘unfinished-ness’ of living: accepting that the knots of our lives will always remain frayed, or undone.

At the cliff-top tea party back in May, after, wet-fisted and shivering, we’d gorged ourselves on green mounds of ‘hill’ cake (an odd act of transubstantiation: swallowing the very landscape we’d walked through); when most of us were drifting towards the warmth of car heaters or the sanctuary of the local pub, I turned and looked back at the table with its soggy tablecloth and puffy wet sandwiches to see the last stragglers scooping up what was left and flinging it from the cliff edge. I watched cakes fly up in the air, hunks hurled off Beachy Head only feet from those white crosses. Balloons circled, free, in a white sky. This act felt symbolic. Let us eat, let us celebrate living; and then let us give it all back to the abyss — the drop that waits over the edge, that’s only, ever, a few steps away.

by Clare Davies
Published on 11 September 2013
aeon magazine

Clare Davies is writing a memoir about her experiences with epilepsy as part of her PhD at Goldsmiths, University of London. She also writes a blog on tea, cake and death. She lives in Hove, by the sea.


via buffleheadcabin
Photo by Charlie Abad/Getty


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Heron Rises From The Dark, Summer Pond


So heavy
is the long-necked, long-bodied heron,
always it is a surprise
when her smoke-colored wings

and she turns
from the thick water,
from the black sticks

of the summer pond,
and slowly
rises into the air
and is gone.

Then, not for the first or the last time,
I take the deep breath
of happiness, and I think
how unlikely it is

that death is a hole in the ground,
how improbable
that ascension is not possible,
though everything seems so inert, so nailed

back into itself--
the muskrat and his lumpy lodge,
the turtle,
the fallen gate.

And especially it is wonderful
that the summers are long
and the ponds so dark and so many,
and therefore it isn't a miracle

but the common thing,
this decision,
this trailing of the long legs in the water,
this opening up of the heavy body

into a new life: see how the sudden
gray-blue sheets of her wings
strive toward the wind; see how the clasp of nothing
takes her in.

–Mary Oliver


Sunday, September 1, 2013

妈妈 (Child)


A poem, 'simultaneously unbearable and exquisite,'
in Chinese with English translation by Alex Tang,
a Toronto-based earthquake engineer.


快 (Hurry up)
抓紧妈妈的手 (Tightly hold your Mom’s hand)
去天堂的路 (The road to heaven)
太黑了 (is too dark)
妈妈怕你 (Mom is afraid that)
碰了头 (you hit your head)
快 (Hurry up)
抓紧妈妈的手 (Tightly hold your Mom’s hand)
让妈妈陪你走 (Let Mom keep you company)

妈妈 (Child)
怕 (I am afraid)
天堂的路 (The road to heaven)
太黑 (is too dark)
我看不见你的手 (I cannot see your hand)
自从 (since)
倒塌的墙 (the wall collapsed)
把阳光夺走 (it took the sun light away)
我再也看不见 (I cannot see )
你柔情的眸 (your lovely eyes again)

孩子 (Mom)
你走吧 (You can go)
前面的路 (the road in front of you)
再也没有忧愁 (has no sorrow any more)
没有读不完的课本 (there are no books that you cannot finish reading)
和爸爸的拳头 (and your father’s fist)
你要记住 (you have to remember)
我和爸爸的摸样 (my face and your father’s face)
来生还要一起走 (let’s finish walking this road together in our next life)

妈妈 (Child)
别担忧 (do not worry)
天堂的路有些挤 (the road to heaven is a bit crowded)
有很多同学朋友 (I have a lot classmates and friends)
我们说 (we all say)
不哭 (don’t cry)
哪一个人的妈妈都是我们的妈妈 (anyone’s Mom is our Mom)
哪一个孩子都是妈妈的孩子 (any child is Mom’s child)
没有我的日子 (the days without me)
你把爱给活的孩子吧 (give your love to the children alive)

妈妈 (Mom)
你别哭 (don’t cry)
泪光照亮不了 (tears cannot light up the road)
我们的路 (our road)
让我们自己 (let us)
慢慢的走 (walk slowly)

妈妈 (Child)
我会记住你和爸爸的模样 (I will remember your face and father’s face)
记住我们的约定 (remember our appointment)
来生一起走 (of walking together in our next life)


via Andrew C. Revkin,
the NY Times Earth Blog
May 22, 2008