My mother, as usual, judged it best.
The day before her funeral, in a gibberish of legs,
A fly refused to die on her bathroom sill.
Out of its time, come February, but still
Raging against the dying of its light;
My mother’s house (corporeal husk of one now cool to the
Touch) retained its warmth: my destination, in a six-hour
Journey into loneliness. My plan had been: she might be
Ashamed to die, if I stayed camped beside the hospital bed
Or else she might draw energy
From me, by some osmosis, fanciful or futile – anyway,
It didn’t happen. She chose her moment
(Waiting until, for an instant, I’d slipped aside)
And then she slipped away herself.
“Peaceful,” one’s supposed to say; though I should
Call it moribund. I knew I’d seen her scratch, and moan,
Cognizant, at least of her distress, struggling to be comfy:
Until, in the wingbeat of an insect, nature betrayed her.
Michelangelo, it was, who said that death meant nothing.
It had no hold, so long as we held on
In the mind’s eye of the living. But it is love
That has no span, no currency, beyond an extant memory.
Each age recedes beyond remembrance
And our maimed minds are all that’s left for reckoning.
Oh yes, let’s cling to the detritus of forfeited lives
Like a lost child. Let’s hoard the memories, the papers
And pictures yellowed as pulled teeth. Let’s fight,
As an infant fights off sleep, and frightful dreams – thinking
We might forestall time’s withering recession.
You’ll tell me: Death is the hard edge
That whets a life, and hones it into shape.
Tell me how a dozen figures stand behind each living face:
How, in our dust, an unborn forest lies asleep.
Tell me of death’s necessity, how winter must
Precede each spring; say, Let’s be grateful for
(However briefly) sentience can rise above
This surge of all-enveloping darkness:
Yet I have lost my dearest friend,
The warm spark at my core is up in smoke.
I shiver with the cold, the cold of bones.