There is a stone on my heart
Weighing my chest,
Crushing my ribs
Like twigs beneath the bear’s claws.
Pounds of my melting flesh
Seep from my broken body
As they zip me up in plastic
And close the door on the elevator of my life.
I see their battle worn faces,
Smudges of dark green foliage mixed with mud.
Faces only a mother could love.
I see their grins as they head off to war
Against this unseen enemy that lives in the dark crevices of their minds.
They blend together, these soldiers that haunt my dreams.
They have become a writhing mass of hope and of despair.
– I wonder how they can occupy both these spheres,
How they can dance to Gd’s song before they head to the field,
Waving flags which sing victory to the night sky,
And then, they are gone.
Turned to dust as bombs explode in my mind,
Overturning tanks on vacant fields between here and nowhere,
Bodies in limbo before they fall to earth,
A flash of light and then only the vacuum of that dark mourning fog that quickly descends.
The true army,
Whose flags I am yet to see,
Are the mighty warrior mothers,
The sisters brothers,
Or grandmothers and grandfathers
Who blend into the moving mass of collective, eulogising sobs
At national funerals.
United until the last,
Their love never dies,
Nor dwindles or fades.
Their sons will always shine,
Into the earth.
No one feels its tears.
I stood by the side of your grave.
I stood by your side,
And as they lowered you into the ground
My breath was caught on the edge of your coffin
And I was lowered with you.
I stood by the side of your grave,
Removed from the close family of mourners
Who gathered to bid you farewell
And I trembled with the sound of
Dirt and loam and ashes
Which shuddered as they cloaked your frame
In a different kind of shroud.
We had spoken of gardenias,
Yours were the small, intensely fragrant kind and
Mine were the larger, golden variety.
We had spoken of orchids-
Yours grew and blossomed, and mine
I stood by your side at the side of your grave
On that fine precipice where death’s finality
Rings loud and clear across manicured lawns,
Perfectly sculpted by men in overalls with tattoos and rough fingernails.
I watched the mourners as they huddled and
I felt truly blessed to have had the honour of your company,
Your bright eyed smile still fresh in my mind.
I listened to words which echoed your magnificence and I couldn’t help
But be saddened by the crowd, so small and sorrowful.
It seems remarkable that a woman of your ninety plus years
Whose life spans continents and generations
Attracts such a minor tribute
On this fine Tuesday morning.
And how the sun shone as they lowered you into darkness.
How the place glistened, fresh from rain and
Tears that testified to that great loss
That we all felt.
I watched how your husband of 68 years,
A true gentle man
To recite the Kaddish,
Balanced precariously between his family supporters.
I couldn’t hear the words but his hunched back and hollowed eyes
A great orchestra of pain
That I knew would now be his closest companion.
This is a poem
That I am writing to my migraine through its mist.
My words blur on the page
And there is a dull throb that echoes across my eyes
Inside my mind.
I knew it was coming,
The way one expectantly waits for guest to arrive for afternoon tea,
Patiently anticipating the doorbell’s chime,
The smell of fresh cake drifting in air.
I felt it dallying at the shore of my consciousness and
Took the first step toward prevention,
But not cure:
A long luxurious daytime snooze
Which left me dull and sullied.
But it was too late.
I should have supped on that little white pill
Before I plunged headlong into sleep.
I should have swallowed two in order to ward off the evil cloak of this darkness.
But I am tired of those foil dressed whities and all they represent,
Tired of the way they spill over my bedside shelves,
Leaving a trail of litter in their wake.
So I didn’t and I know now it was a mistake.
Instead I woke and went off
To teach and inspire a young mind,
Waxed lyrical about my hero Gwen Harwood
And her words swam before me,
muddling my thoughts,
Throbbing with their own special pain.
Gwen would probably have understood.
Not many do.
I called it short,
Left off mid paragraph,
Apologized and said I had to go home and
Bury my sorry self beneath pillows in darkness
With only the soft, soothing sounds of meditation bells and gentle rain
And, of course, the comfort of those foil covered friends.
I left a bucket by my bedside to catch the waves which
Threatened to break –
That I arrived home whole is a miracle.
Drugged and chilled
I dozed for a while and then,
Feeling somewhat better
– at least the waves had stopped –
I was struck by the exhaustion of this thing,
How physically draining and diminishing the migraine can be,
When I shut my eyes now,
Momentarily to block out the dull hum that still echoes,
I pray that one day these friends of mine will just go away.
This silent, private prayer has been my song for over twenty years.
Yea unfaithful, cheating lover
Who crawls between the sheets of others
Sharing stolen somnambulant kisses
In the dark, dank mountains of pillow and comforter.
Oh you wicked philanderer
Who chases the tails of others’ dreams
While mine stagnate and shrivel
In the cold hours or tomorrow.
Sleep, how you gently caress the cheeks of soft children
And drooling husbands who
Skip into unconsciousness without a moment’s pause
And linger there for hours,
Cleansed of all the day’s angst
A dry cleaning of the soul.
Sleep, you hush to the lullabies of others
Without pausing to carry me with you on night-time travels.
Where would I, without sleep
Which never fails to drown me at midday
While others charge forward with life
Like bulls in a red cage,
While I drift off under shining sun
Into deep caverns where distant bells toll and tides ebb and flow?
Who hath murdered my sleep
And stands stock still
At the gallows of my bedroom door?
Who hath stolen God’s gift of empty stillness
From beneath my head
As it rests and waits, waits and rests?
Even my eyes know there has been a crime
And they refuse to close,
My brain refusing to pause
And my fingers titter
Like a blind pianist flitting mindlessly across ebony and ivory keys on a grand piano.
Is it me who has caused you to flee?
Should I ask forgiveness from your alter’s floor?
Should I lay at your feet,
Humbled in awe
By the power you wield over some,
But not others
Who, like me,
Fail to find slumber
When slumber surely should be found.