Thursday, July 28, 2011

the living and the dead

She has two rhythms now
Another heartbeat
Almost too delicate
To dance to.
-- Taelen Thomas

My friend and colleague, the ineffable Taelen Thomas, wrote that for me spontaneously when he found out I was pregnant with Isaac back in 2004. He wrote it on an index card while we stood off stage together at the performance poetry show I was hosting at the time. I doubt he remembers it. But I always have, and when we were packing and moving I found the card. It's now taped up in the van; it traveled across the country with us, a new dance its purview these days.

As confused as I sometimes become about our decision to have another child, there is a need. It's large and small and touches many circles that don't always touch each other. I think it's safe for me to write with philosophical wonder about some things that have driven me to distraction in the last 5 weeks in Massachusetts because very soon we will actually be in our own house and I won't have to deal with it as my daily reality anymore.

Since we've arrived I feel like we've been infused with the dead. We are staying with someone whose long-time partner is critically ill with cancer. We get updates several times a day after her visits. An understandable obsession of hers these days, death and dying are also what we are regaled with stories of as she sits out the heatwave in front of the newspaper. A couple killed in a car accident. “Isn't it terrible??” A priest who shot himself. “Can you imagine??” A life apart from this black-shrouded barrage of facts? I hope I still can.

Then, amidst other more removed deaths – someone's daughter's husband's father, a guy who used to go dancing with so-and-so... – that we nonetheless hear about often and in detail, a couple weeks ago, Mike's uncle passed away.

We mentioned in casual conversation that we have promised Isaac a bunny for his 7th birthday next year and he's very, very excited. “We used to have a bunny,” our host started. “A cute, black and white bunny. It lived out by the shed. Until one day a raccoon came – I think it must have gotten in through the top of the hutch...” You get the idea. Isaac and I sat shell-shocked at another blood-strewn tale where once there was just a furry pet.

The apparent “serendipity” of death, if you will, has reached such a fevered pitch that even the most seemingly innocent interactions steer in dangerous directions: “Have you ever seen a June bug, Isaac? Look, it's too fat to turn over again from its back!” “There are ants eating it,” my son informs her, taking a closer look, “It's dead.”

Even when we arrived here was curious timing. It was the same weekend I flew in to Jersey last year for my mom. The one-year anniversary of her death on June 19 came 2 days after we got here and continues to shadow me.

As you may or may not imagine, being pregnant, in a new town, grieving, buying a house, blah blah blah blah blah, has brought on more than one meltdown to this poet's constitution. At one point, Mike said, “Do you think you can ask your mom for help?” To which I snapped “NO! I'm tired of dead people. I've had enough of dead people!”

Of course I want her to walk with me, but at the same time it's especially painful right now. And of course the dead and the living can be in conversation, but even Persephone got to come the hell back from the Underworld for part of the year.

It is time for life. New life. Why do you think I am so addicted to farmer's markets? It's about abundance, a coming to fruition, displaying beauty, Demeter restored.

In a few weeks I get to hold the new. I get to feel brand new life, right there in my arms. And I remember this much, the wave of hope will be bigger than all the rest of this. It's time to clean things up, sweep away the June bugs. 

Don't pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living.” - Albus Dumbledore


Susannah said...

I love the little poem on an index card passed to you backstage, and that you recently rediscovered it. And I love your affirmation of life amidst reminders of death. It makes me think of the title of a book: The Unbearable Lightness of Being...

Rita said...

Kitty. Amen to what Susannah says! I don't really know what to add, but I love you. And to reference an earlier blog entry, I hope you don't have to wait long to find out what the angels do in Massachusetts.

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