22 January 2016

Comfort in poetry

A little Pablo Neruda has me sighing, "This. This. This." His poem "You Will Remember" raises so many questions: Who is the "you?" Under what circumstances must that person remember? Are these instructions in memory, or reassurances? Some people might see this as being a poem about the afterlife; others might think that it is a very literal recollection of a beautiful, meaningful place. To me, though, it is all about the power of memory after a loss. "[N]othing is waiting" there because the individual, or at least the individual's body, is gone; however, in that place of emptiness, in the images that resurrect themselves from love and longing, we do find "everything waiting there." We find a way to hold on. We find our footholds, and we return to each other.

You Will Remember

You will remember that leaping stream
where sweet aromas rose and trembled,
and sometimes a bird, wearing water
and slowness, its winter feathers.

You will remember those gifts from the earth:
indelible scents, gold clay,
weeds in the thicket and crazy roots,
magical thorns like swords.

You'll remember the bouquet you picked,
shadows and silent water,
bouquet like a foam-covered stone.

That time was like never, and like always.
So we go there, where nothing is waiting;
we find everything waiting there.

21 January 2016

"so I lie (eye to eye)"

There's something about this blog that seems to lead me to make hollow promises. I've promised to return twice now, and I've lied twice now. I wish that I could be more of a truth-teller, but that concept eludes me, and yet here I am with arms outstretched.
Again, the reasons for my absence, my falsehoods, are the same. The time and effort it takes to string words together, like beads on a necklace, when my words are more like worry-stones. The need to preserve anonymity. The rising-phoenix quality of sadness when I rehash it in words. And most of all, the guilt of airing the tornado of thoughts inside my head when some people would doubt that I have sorrows at all, OR insist that I live by compare and contrast and realize how good I have it, OR believe that I'm perpetuating my own struggle by not forcing myself to "snap out of it." Or all of the above. Some part of me believes that my thoughts are not worth airing because they will be accompanied by judgment.
The reason why I return to this blog sounds so stupid when I write it: My dog died.
And yet.
My dog died, and it's as if a piece of me is missing. It's like I've lost my best self, because the best part of me was the part that cared for and loved him. It's like I've lost the joy-filter on my life, for he was the one who so often taught me how to slow down and see the world's beauties: a warm breeze, a blade of grass, dappled light through a window shade. It's like I've lost the purest love I've ever known.
This more figurative emptiness comes along with a literal emptiness. My puppy-boy took up so much space in my home-- a home that has never entirely felt like home except for him-- that it now seems like my entire apartment has become negative space, an absence that only serves to emphasize what used to be there. I look at my carved wooden desk chair, and instead of ornate wood and the woven rug below it, I see the silhouette of my boy on the rug, below the chair, with him the only light spot and the rest cast into dark. A photo negative. Time has become relative. Last Sunday is now "zero hour," and I measure days as distance on a flattened timeline that started in the vet's office after our goodbyes. I lost my best friend, and I am heartbroken. I am worried that I will forget. I am both comforted and disturbed by the ghosts that linger in this place, this not-quite-home, the expectations of being greeted at the door and the head on my knee and the sudden alertness when the television sounded its chime upon turning off, when he realized bedtime treats were imminent and scampered to the bedroom door. It's a response-less stimulus, now, and I am left waiting for something that won't happen. Those responses are the spirits that waft through the air, their absence becoming as tangible as the dog toys and pill bottles that I had a neighbor place in a cabinet while I was at the vet.
I know my dog was not a person, although I frequently referred to him as my favorite person in the world. I know that this grief is bound to be seen as excessive.
And yet.
Yesterday I had to admit to myself that I am not okay, I am far from okay, and that, in what may be the most incomprehensible thing of all, a large part of me doesn't want to be okay right now. Being okay (note: I hate that word, and yet look at me overusing it now) feels like a betrayal of my puppy boy (my little man, my baby boy, my mister, my Pip) and the role that he played in my life. I don't want to admit that life can and will move on, not yet that is, because a life without him doesn't feel like a life at all. I don't want to see the silver lining right now-- I only want to see the clouds that followed a sunlight so glorious that everyone marveled in its wake.
My dog died, and he was only five years old. My dog died, and I am not okay. Maybe saying it is part of the process. Maybe I need to let the cracks stand in relief right now so that one day, not soon but eventually, the light will have a way to get in.
"You are still the bread and the knife.
You will always be the bread and the knife,
not to mention the crystal goblet and-- somehow-- the wine."
~Billy Collins, "Litany"~