Thursday, May 21, 2015


for my sister

It’s bluebells time.  I find myself once more
In England at this season, knee-deep in them,
Strolling through woods near Harpenden
With my son, Matthew, who’s now fifty plus,
And his young daughter, Alice, sixteen,
Already a young woman; and Joe and Georgia,
Twins, children still at thirteen, romping
Up ahead. 

       And I’m remembering those days
When we two, as children, would ride our bikes
Down that steep, narrow hill toward the airfield
Where we watched Spitfires sputter in to land
On their return from battle.  Here, the woods
Were a magic carpet, blue and green; we’d pick
Great baskets full of flowers to bring back home
To our mother at the Rectory.  Primroses, too,
And cowslips…

                             And now, not five days later,
I’m at your bedside in the Cheltenham hospital
Where your friend brought you, late at night,
At your request, after the pain became too great
To bear; and where they took you, to the disbelief
Of all who knew you, into surgery, to operate
On what proved to be inoperable.;And yet
I find you in good spirits radiant, even.
We are both—let’s say the word—both old now,
You at eighty, I at seventy-eight.The memory
Of those bluebell woods is distant as a dream.
I hear you say, with what sounds a kind of joy,
“I’m ready,” and it grieves me.  It grieves me
Because I know that I’m not ready. Not ready
To let go the world I left some fifty years ago!

Here’s the strange thing: I did not feel this
When our parents died, but I do feel it now,
The long-neglected, buried pain of separation,
Of disconnection from my early life, those days
When we picked bluebells in woods. 

       Back, now,
In arid Southern California, where I chose to live
My adult life, these fifty years, the gulf of time
And space between us overwhelms me, I,
At four-thirty in the morning in my bed, you,
mid-afternoon, in yours, in the England that I left.

And yet, despite the sadness, I do not nurse
Regrets.  I’ve lived a good life here, am grateful
For it all.  I’m grateful, too, for this: that, having
So diverged, and for so many years, our paths
Came strangely back together, not geographically,
Perhaps, but in more important, deeper ways,
That probably surprised us both.  You in your way,
And I in mine, we found the need to reconnect
With something of our father’s we had lost,
Rejected, even, in our anger over things long past;
Call it his search, his struggle, the ever-present,
Ever painfully examined, and yet ever unexplained
Gut pain that he lived with all his life—the pain,
Perhaps, of separation from the God from whom
He sought salvation.  He struggled, too, with death,
When his time came. 

   That you are “ready” now
Speaks well of the work that you have done
To come to terms with life, and with yourself,
To learn the ways of loving freely, both yourself
And others.  That I am “not yet ready”speaks
To my unwillingness to accept the disconnect
That you, with grace, have found; have found
Within your heart: the strong will to let go.

1 comment:

robin andrea said...

This is so breathtakingly beautiful.