Posts Tagged ‘death’

Becoming light

August 29, 2013

By Amy K. Genova

This time I decide not to count laps but swim until tired.
It’s hard letting go: 2-4-6 …. The gnomon’s shadow slips
over the outdoor pool. Rings un-number themselves off
my hands, five fingers squeezed like paddles clapping

water. But, then, that’s counting: tic, tic, tic. Anxiety
and sun clock my shoulder rosy. Will I swim enough?
Refocus on drain. Its clog of leaves. Cracks. Rust curving
like algae down the pool belly. Red and blue lane dividers.

Perhaps, I’ll just count 400 IMs, neat lengths of 4x4s.
Would that be so bad? My sleek heart beat beat beats
without breath of comma in-betweens, despite symmetry—
left breath, no breath, right breath. Three beats. Under

my 90 degree elbow, freestyles the tree-glisten and sky.
One perfect hole in the clouds, God’s A-OK. No more counting,
flip-turning. Just a good shove off the side into this glass slipper
of warm shallow into cool deep.  A red-hatted lifeguard, perches

above my lane. Does he mark my stroke? Think I need saving?
Two swimmers come & go. Am I tired? Invisible?
Turning, honeysuckle tickles my nose. A cloud-bit of radio
races after me. A thousand white leaves wade in sun.

For a minute my father rises from water. Glasses speckled
with splash. My heart dolphins. Pop-static warbles, Yeah you
make me feel like ….

When the numbers end, this is light:

cirrus strands, a boy in red trunks, the perfume of weeds,
a Doppler of dad in the pool when I’m five … this uncountable tune.


What will happen when they stop building churches?

July 3, 2012

I visit my daughter in her life—2,000 miles away in a graduate school in Washington State. My daughter, beautiful, with her orange hair in braided knot. Making coffee, pleased that we liked her kabobs and witness her apartment with its rhythm of towels and spoons that belong only to her hands. She is here in her 400-dollar apartment with peach walls and sprung bed that leaves a crank in my neck. Pots of basil and thyme line her windows. Cans of beans stack her shelves. Banana, tangerines and plumbs in a bowl decorate her table. Hints of her childhood are all around us, the black and white Polaroid of my parents, a volume of Harry Potter, post-its from me stuck above her desk. After breakfast, we take a walk. The sky is achingly blue, not like Indiana sky pale as a last breath, or the diffuse yellow of St. Louis. The clouds radiate a reality of silver linings. Walking up the steep stairs of her university, my heart pounds. Makes me stop short. Pullman rises unspeakably beautiful, despite the town’s haphazard way. Sky, azure junipers and hills.

When my darling shows us her campus under a small arch, we joke about the St. Louis gateway. Walk up to a piece of modern art humming in the wind. Gaze out on the patchwork greens of Palouse Valley; a place I didn’t know existed until yesterday. Pass 4 graduate students giggling and vibrating together. 1 waves to my daughter, younger than a graduate student has a right to be. I don’t belong here, I have not walked behind these houses. I don’t know these people. Students belong to my past, and I am their past. The townspeople have strange garden flowers middling in their day lilies. On the way home, we walk past a church with turrets and a rose window. Some developers converted it to upscale apartments. There is a grill outside one of the steeple-shaped doors. My daughter is no longer my daughter. She is altogether a new religion.

Suffering & Healing

November 29, 2011

The four of us huddled in sleeping bags on the floor in the master bedroom of our new house, even though it was late July. Our furniture would arrive in a few days. The moon hid behind the branches of an unidentified tree in the backyard. A low train whistle sliced the night. We wondered if it would always be mournful. If we would always hear the train bawl.

We’d left our home. A small house in Texas. You could run a circle in that house. Start in the kitchen, through the den, then the center bedroom, parlor, dining room and back to the den. You could see the Christmas tree from the center room in the parlor, maybe hear Santa laugh.

An old lady died next door. The new owner chopped down the old lady’s tree. She had once said, “When the tree goes, I go.” When we left, we said goodbye to all the houses in our neighborhood. One was circular, one had a pink cow painted on it, and one was the house of many colors. Each resembled an old lady with a different bun and unique apron.

How tender was that night–the four of us in our new house. Unsure. The empty house, echoing. We toasted marshmallows in the fireplace. Our furniture hadn’t arrived. Friends and family trailed a thousand miles behind. Gone was the walk to preschool, gone was the marriage tree—two trunks that grew out of one plot, gone, gone were the long syllables that swept like “ooooh” over our landscape, down from the Llano Estacado.

We were in forests now. Corn stalks walled in country roads, the plains were out of sight. Trains whistled. But, we slept in one room together. The surety of our bodies, side by side. Our warm breath mixed and folded into snores. Only in dreams, would we see again the sandbox, the fallen nest of sparrow eggs by the side of the house, or the neighbor’s boxer through the chain link fence. Small suffering.

The next day some boys from the church came to paint a room. Two brothers. One is married and in med school now. The other is a homeowner and lives alone. We may never see them again. Isabel Allende once said something like, “Life is about losing everyone and everything you ever loved.” For the most part that is true. Unless you die young. Unless you have never loved. Unless you are a Christian. There are fewer warm bodies in the room. In Camelot, Merlyn says to King Arthur, “You may lose your mother, your father, your only love, your dog. There is only one thing for all of it—learn.” For a long time, this statement bewildered me. But, I have learned something. Life is also about finding everything and everyone you have ever loved. For some of us. We lucky few. Coffee with cream, blankets, snow.

In that room, we four suffered a small death. However, that death made us more fully love what we had lost. That death bound us each to the other. That death, at least that one, made us more open to new lovers.

There is so much suffering in the world. When one loses everyone and everything one loves, one must find other things and people to love or one dies. The way to alleviate suffering is to love. Let the furniture arrive. Useful advice, I don’t always take it. Sometimes, I want to turn back the clock, find myself among the tumbleweeds just before they blow away.

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