No sun--no moon!
No morn--no noon!
No dawn--no dusk--no proper time of day--
No sky--no earthly view--
No distance looking blue--
No road--no street--no "t'other side this way"--
No end to any Row--
No indications where the Crescents go--
No top to any steeple--
No recognitions of familiar people--
No courtesies for showing 'em--
No knowing 'em!
No traveling at all--no locomotion--
No inkling of the way--no notion--
"No go" by land or ocean--
No mail--no post--
No news from any foreign coast--
No Park, no Ring, no afternoon gentility--
No company--no nobility--
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member--
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds--
* * * * * * * * *
This year November seems to me much colder and darker than in past
years. The dawns hold no promise of warmth to come, only the chilliness
of bare branches and brittle leaves lying upon dormant lawns. The sun
taunts the landscape with long shadows but no respite from the cold.
Come late afternoon, it drops below the horizon as fast as it can,
leaving long hours of blackness punctuated by stars that no longer
twinkle but just sit frozen in the night. There seems no health or
comfort in these days. My cat Leo only spends half the night prowling
now, coming back in before midnight to acquiesce and attest to the lack
of companionship and comfort. Not even a cat enjoys being a cat in these
days growing colder and shorter.
I look out in the backyard where Bijou, Simba and Christian sleep, all
having died too young. A half mile from my house is the cemetery where
my mother lies, along with her parents and her brother; she, too, died
too young. Every short, chilly day and every long, freezing night I look
out the landscape, and grieve and cry all over again as the ground above
them grows cold and colder with every sad evening.
I watch my father, now crippled and needing a walker, as he sleeps in
his recliner, where he now spends most of each day. I sense the sorrows
that show in his slumbering face, sorrows from the loss of parents,
grandparents, two siblings, and now a wife of 55 years.
Leo sleeps on my father's bed during the day. I wonder if he feels the
pain of the losses he's had to incur--being taken from his home and put
in a cage in a shelter, from which he was rescued only two days before
he was scheduled to be put down; coming to live here with my parents and
I and Bijou, who became his best friend, only to suffer Bijou's death a
short four months later; now the only pet in the home, and my mother no
longer here to feed him or pet him or sit up nights waiting for him to
come home from his nightly walks.
I look in the mirror and see the aging faces of both my parents. I look
at my father and think of how little time he must have left. I look at
Leo and begin mourning the day when he too will die too young and I'll
spend the rest of my life crying for him as well. I leaf through
photographs, see my parents smiling, and think of how great a
disappointment I must have been to them all these years. How they
planned for me to be a successful musician or writer or doctor, and how
I fell short at every pursuit, every attempt, until they finally, sadly,
resigned themselves to the fact that all their golden hopes for me would
never come to pass. I stare at old pictures of my mother, and can only
think of her watching me now, struggling and grieving and weeping for
I never had any idea how hard it would be for me to have her pass away.
I never even really imagined she would go so soon. My father was always
the one in ill health. In 1989 his cardiologist gave him a prognosis of
five years. I fully expected him to succumb first, and for Mom to live
out her years as a widow. For Dad to be the one left behind in sorrow
and mourning doesn't seem real. The house is no longer a home. It's
simply a place where we coexist right now. It's become unfamiliar, much
larger and emptier than either of us ever knew it.
There's no living being done in the living room now. When I was a child,
the whole family gathered there night after night, day after day. Later,
with all of us grown up, it was where we congregated for family
reunions; the rest of the time it was my mother's place, while my father
spent his retirement in the den. It's no longer a room for living
anymore. It sits unused, testifying to my mother's absence.
I feel helpless without her right now. I'm 47, and all I have to show
for my life is a destroyed marriage, no children, ruined opportunities,
wrecked relationships and a string of failed jobs. My mother never lived
to see me succeed in making a life for myself. I doubt my father will,
either. And when he's gone, then there really will be nothing for me.
I've applied for thirty jobs in the last two months, with no luck. The
effort with nothing to show for it has worn me out; the whole
enterprised now seems futile.
Leo came in rather early last evening. Seems as if these nights are too
lonely and misbegotten even for creatures of the night.
Right now he's the only thing that brings warmth to this house. I watch
him sleeping cozily, and am grateful for him. Yet I can't help thinking
that one day he, too, will be gone.
I miss my mother so much. I wish she could be here again just for a
moment, so I could ask her forgiveness. Almost all I can think of
anymore is how disappointed I must have made her feel.
* * * * * * * * *
In the dark womb where I began
My mother's life made me a man.
Through all the moments of human birth
Her beauty fed my common earth.
I cannot see, nor breathe, nor stir,
But through the death of some of her.
Down in the darkness of the grave
She cannot see the life she gave.
For all her love, she cannot tell
Whether I use it ill or well,
Nor knock at dusty doors to find
Her beauty dusty in the mind.
If the grave's gates could be undone,
She would not know her little son,
I am so grown. If we should meet
She would pass by me in the street,
Unless my soul's face let her see
My sense of what she did for me.
What have I done to keep in mind
My debt to her and womankind?
What woman's happier life repays
Her for those months of wretched days?
For all my mouthless body leeched
Ere Birth's releasing hell was reached?
What have I done, or tried, or said,
In thanks to that dear woman dead?
Men triumph over women still,
Men trample women's rights at will,
And man's lust roves the world untamed.
* * * *
O grave, keep shut lest I be shamed.