processing mom’s death, poetry, and jacob



My brother, Mark, came over for a quick visit yesterday. The three of us, Mark, Eileen, and I, went to see my Mom. She looked a little more withdrawn than the day before, but not as bad she has been. They have decided to move her after Thursday when a semi private bed becomes available in long term care. I told her this, despite it not being clear how much she was understanding. She seems to be taking some nourishment but tires very quickly when we visit. For the first time yesterday, after having consented to look at pics of Alex and Lucy, my granddaughters, Mom stopped the show murmuring, “No more.” This is very new behavior. Mark had a chance to talk with Rachel, Mom’s social worker at the cottage, and Kim, her nurse on the wing for the day.

Image result for jacob and the angel

I am surprised how disturbed I am to watch Mom die. It’s something I’ve been seeing coming. Nevertheless the reality of her approaching death is difficult for me to process. Weird, really.

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I continue to read Calivino’s Invisible Cities. This morning a passage struck me that seem elucidate my own attitude toward playing and thinking about music and poetry:

“Perhaps everything lies in knowing what words to speak, what actions to perform, and in what order and rhythm; or the someone’s gaze, answer, gesture is enough; it is enough for someone to do something for the sheer pleasure of doing it, and for his pleasure to become the pleasure of others.”

When I read that, I felt like it described how I feel about performing music especially.

Then I picked up Marcus Wicker’s book of poems, Silencer.

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I have been enjoying his work. It’s been rather dark and hip. But this morning I read a poem that was full of optimism and even faith called “Plea to My Jealous Heart.” I haven’t been able to find a copy online to link. The poem has the inscription: “Pray without ceasing” attributed to Saint Paul. The first lines grabbed me:

What’s funny is you think I can stop praying.
That you think I take existence—blown dandelion
across a philtrum—lightly, as irresponsible
birdsong. As the wren, finch, chickadee & prairie warbler.
As scarlet tanager, indigo bunting, laughing gull, trumpeter
swan. As common sparrows
outside my window canting dervish loops…”

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I was caught off guard because the poems before this one by Wicker were wicked and dark. Now I was hearing a joie de vivre which attracted me.

On his web site he has a page of notes on this volume of poetry. About this poem, he says “Plea to My Jealous Heart” was written after reading “The Unceasing Prayer of Mount Athos: A Short Trip to the Edge” by Scott Cairns.”

I clicked on the link and read the article. I recommend it, but warn you it’s religious. I especially like the part the writer quotes from his own book about meeting with a monk on Mt. Athos. This monk tells him that God

“is never not here,” he said, touching his upper abdomen, “but when you plead to know He’s here, and when He answers you, and helps you to meet Him here, you will be wounded by that meeting. The wound will help you know, and that is the blessing.

He is referring to the story of Jacob and the angel (God) in which Jacob refuses to let go of the angel until he blesses him.

Image result for jacob and the angel

Consequently, Jacob is wounded. I use that word a lot when I talk about Grace church. We are community of wounded people, but that’s practically redundant. All people are wounded in some way. It’s part of living. What we do with our wounds makes a difference. The wound can help as well as hurt.

I like juxtaposing this story with the Wicker poem. There is something wounding about experiencing the beauty in life. I think Wicker is on to something.


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