My mother died one summer— the wettest in the records of the state. Crops rotted in the west. Checked tablecloths dissolved in back gardens. Empty deck chairs collected rain. As I took my way to her through traffic, through lilacs dripping blackly behind houses and on curbsides, to pay her the last tribute of a daughter, I thought of something I remembered I heard once, that the body is, or is said to be, almost all water and as I turned southward, that ours is a city of it, one in which every single day the elements begin a journey towards each other that will never, given our weather, fail— the ocean visible in the edges cut by it, cloud color reaching into air, the Liffey storing one and summoning the other, salt greeting the lack of it at the North Wall and, as if that wasn't enough, all of it ending up almost every evening inside our speech— coast canal ocean river stream and now mother and I drove on and although the mind is unreliable in grief, at the next cloudburst it almost seemed they could be shades of each other, the way the body is of every one of them and now they were on the move again—fog into mist, mist into sea spray and both into the oily glaze that lay on the railings of the house she was dying in as I went inside
Waking, close to morning but still a shuttered, metal dark in the room: a sound inside my dream, only a whimper at first, then becoming human, a howl raised in the street outside, left unanswered then raised again. In my boxers, shivering by the single-paned window, but seeing no one among the black shapes of the parked cars or hedges, I went out half-dressed: hands shaking, front door unlocked then pushed open, and by the column of the porch, under a cone of orange light, a young man slumped, drunk, sobbing like his whole life was unfurling into sound.
And now, I am reminded of one afternoon, home from school, my father digging out the root of a conifer in the garden – I saw him look up, suddenly alert, leave by the back gate into the alley behind the terraces, and return panicked with a boy in his arms. I recognised him, about my age, from school, by his dreadlocks, his turquoise streak of hair; but now lolling under his own weight, his wrists draining over my father’s mudded jeans and the patio tiles. I knew, even then, the rumours about him; thought as we wrapped and pinned torn sheets around his opened veins, how we might share, once the truth was out, a bond, an elective blood.
Nights later, I only half-slept, expecting at any moment to hear someone again outside, as though time might be caught in a loop, the same boy walking the mapped route along the dark streets at the same hour to my door. Again, I unshuttered the window, stood waiting to see him come, barefoot, maybe, down the path. Each night, no sign, until I thought, perhaps, it was only me, or a dream of myself, asking nightly to be greeted at the threshold, allowed back into the cold room of my life. But then, in each of us, a wound must be made or given – there is always the soul waiting at the door of the body, asking to be let out.
You will be aware of an absence, presently, Growing beside you, like a tree, A death tree, color gone, an Australian gum tree --- Balding, gelded by lightning--an illusion, And a sky like a pig's backside, an utter lack of attention. But right now you are dumb. And I love your stupidity, The blind mirror of it. I look in And find no face but my own, and you think that's funny. It is good for me To have you grab my nose, a ladder rung. One day you may touch what's wrong --- The small skulls, the smashed blue hills, the godawful hush. Till then your smiles are found money.
How should I not be glad to contemplate the clouds clearing beyond the dormer window and a high tide reflected on the ceiling? There will be dying, there will be dying, but there is no need to go into that. The poems flow from the hand unbidden and the hidden source is the watchful heart. The sun rises in spite of everything and the far cities are beautiful and bright. I lie here in a riot of sunlight watching the day break and the clouds flying. Everything is going to be all right.
Having had their moment or, if luckier, the better part of a day in the sun as proverbed, it was time to move on. Some died, not because of this, but as if so. Some retreated into the memory of their earlier triumphs, others chose not so much to remember as to fill those in who had never known of said triumphs, having been born so much past all of that—what can history be expected to mean, honestly, to those who have no history, yet, of their own? But the waning of influence is not the same as a loss of power— it doesn’t have to be, said the wisest who, understanding this, found their trust where they’d always put it, in what by sheer definition is all but impossible to argue with, or against: detachment. Look at us now, entering our days no differently than we did before: pity in one hand, for the few who with time may come to deserve it; and in the other hand, an indifference that, with enough practice, detachment leads to, though that was never the plan, not on our part, an indifference we’ve wielded so long we forget it’s there, almost, until something reminds us: gulls scattering before us, say, the way the letters that spell loneliness can scatter, eventually, as if weary with meaning—with having had to mean— from what loneliness really deep down feels like: magnetic, unignorable; why, the waves themselves bow down.