Living with Dying … poems in response to the last Wednesday Writing Prompt

“There is only one law in the universe that never changes– that all things change, and that all things are impermanent.” Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying



The last Wednesday Writing Prompt, A Hunger For Bone, May 2, was on living with dying. We’re often in denial about this constant in our lives. The reality may hit us with the death of a friend, a sibling, a parent, a school mate. Today seven poets share their experiences and observations in writing that is honest, intimate and moving. You may find you need a tissue or two.

You will not fail to be touched by the sincerity of newcomers Sharmila Pupu Mitra and Marta Pombo Sallés (a warm welcome to both) and with the work of our “old timers” Gary W. Bowers, Paul Brookes, Kakali Das Gosh, Shiela Jacob and Sonja Benskin Mesher. Thanks to each for their willingness to touch our hearts and share their work.

Join us tomorrow for the next Wednesday Writing Prompt. All are encouraged: novice, emerging or pro. It’s about the love of reading and writing poetry, sharing your work, exercising the writing muscle and getting to know poets who may be new to you.


A HUNGER FOR BONE

I grew up thinking
My mother to be
The strongest
         Woman
In the world; a
          Woman
With very healthy
And happy bones,
Because, she was
Always working,
Moving lithely, like
           A white cloud:
Light on her feet,
Quietly labouring
All day long at various
Household chores.
…Did not know then
What was in store
                        For her.
Over the years,
Pain in the lumbar-
sacral area started
Coming in burning
                       Waves
And her spine,
Which carried her face
Began to bend.
Even before the end
Of late youth
She began to stoop.
Then I was a girl;
Not exactly starry-eyed,
 not exactly a coveted
Pearl,
And I knew my mother
To be everything
             That none other
Would ever be.
I worried.
Day and night
Her pain assaulted her;
                      My mother.
Pain became
A way of life for her.
Years later,
When I was able to
Confront that liquid fire
In her bones–spine,
Radius, sternum, femur,
Pain spread everywhere
In her body growing frail,
It was–you can guess–
Very late.
But, we decided to finally
Address it, let the cause
Be discovered.
Test results showed
Why she was getting bowed–spinal TB!
THE BLOW TO ME!
Now she is free of it;
A huge loan has run up.
But we have won over
That dreadful pain.
But what is the gain?
Penury.
Fear that a slight injury
Can fell her again
           And hurt her brain.
Fear, that our synthetic life together, with our
Courage dragged through fire, may have
Become blighted.
Since then I have felt
Deep inside me
A hunger of bone.
Bones in my virtual wings
Are strained to the
Breaking point; my flight
                          Of fancy
Goes by fits and starts.
We and our old house
Creak every now and then
With the burden of the
Slow moving years,
Carrying our heavy hearts.
The liquid rush of time
Is somehow slowed down
As we take each day
As it comes, up or down,
Wherever
We are.
We will never give up
Though it seems easier
            To let it all go.
             In our bones
There is another kind
Of fire now. Another hunger.
Hunger for hope
That we will cope.
Our innocent animal children
Give us the fuel
To keep our fire burning,
Despite losses churning
Churning churning
Up the murky memories
Of past years, the memories of betrayal, neglect…
A hunger is in our bones.
Hunger for hope.
Hunger for healing.
We are trees with
               Bare brown branches
Hoping for another spring.
.
© 2018, Sharmila Pupu Mitra
.

Sharmlla Pupu Mitra

SHARMILA MITRA aka SHARMILA PUPU MITRA was born in the beautiful small town, Jalpaiguri, in North of West Bengal, India. She teaches English and is a poet. She tells us she is in love with words, and spends her time thinking how to use words to express her most intimately felt experiences. Her journey has been rough. Sharmila lives in her ancestral home in Kolkata, with her elderly mother and her rescued fur children. Life is a kaleidoscope to her.


Last Moments

Last moments together
peace of mind and spirit
magic energy flowing
my hand holding yours.
The pain has vanished
now sleep peacefully
take in all this love
I am giving you.
No grass in the park
no plants in the lake
though colorful flowers
give hope for your leaving.
The sculpture remains,
see the confident gaze
how she stands resolute
how she tells life to go on.

© 2018, Marta Pombo Sallés (moments)

Marta Pombo Sallés

MARTA POMBO SALLÉS is a German and English teacher working in a high school near Barcelona.  Marta has taught both languages since 1990. She says that at work and in her free time she feels the need to create things.

Marta was also featured on The Poet by Day yesterday in the post Poets Helping Poets.

CATALÀ: Hola a tothom, em dic Marta Pombo Sallés i sóc professora d’alemany i d’anglès en un institut a prop de Barcelona. Ensenyo aquestes dues llengües des de l’any 1990. Tant a la meva feina com en el meu temps lliure sento la necessitat de fer coses creatives.


turnstile

as my friend tom
grappled with another uncle’s succumb
to heart diease
he emailed an assertion
i will not forget:
“we’re all chunking up
to the turnstile.”

as my friend jeff
composed his last message,
and anti-seizure medication
did its eldrich thing,
on many screens in many homes
a horribly cheery woman’s voice
told listeners that use of this medication
may lead to suicidal thoughts
or actions.

as another day meets its midnight turnstile
the probability that turnstile day
for me
is imminent
is incrementally higher than it was
24 hours prior,

but i am not a bit more ready.

© 2018, Gary W. Bowers (One with Clay)

the skull of her son

it took a year for dna confirmation.
there were a scattering of bones
and a skull
missing the lower mandible.

the county called her
and she came down
from the high country
and at her request
they showed her
her son’s remains.

soundlessly weeping, smiling,
she carefully lifted
the bleached brainpan
and looked into the sockets
of the skull of her son.
she ran her finger over
the smooth cool top
and murmured his name.
she kissed her finger
and pressed it gently
against the skull-top.

she wanted the bones as is
but the law of the land said no.
they cremated
the sun-sterilized bones
and gave her the ash-filled urn.

she was astonished
at how heavy it was.

© 2018, Gary W. Bowers (One with Clay)


Sister’s Life

An evangelical church at seventeen
who say they will decide
what boyfriends she can have,
and when she can see them.

A clairvoyant who tells her at twenty-two:
“Your husband will be military,
you will have two children,
your spirit guide is a Native American Indian.”

A son and daughter with her Army husband.
He tries to control her need at twenty-four
to sell the kid’s unwanted toys,
have a life outside her home.

Carboot sales where she enjoys the buzz
and money selling at twenty-six,
kids in tow, a profit and loss,
a hope after she divorces him.

A Native American Indian spirit guide
at the foot of her bed at thirty
tells her “You will die young,
and join your hankered mam in afterlife.”

A nail in her tyre, or over the limit
after celebrating at thirty-five
her employee’s twentieth birthday,
her car turns over on a hard shoulder.

© 2018, Paul Brookes (The Wombwell Rainbow, Inspiration, History, Imagination)

Her Fur Elise

I awake to Beethoven as Mam taps the upright
piano downstairs in the through lounge

where morning light highlights dark brown dining table
And varnished coffee table both polished

with Pledge until you see yourself. Later
chemo will make her petite fingers fat,

Fur Elise break into fragments as disease progresses
and piano sold as her hands come to rest.

***

She covered the piano with Laura Ashley
wallpaper off cuts from doing the walls.

As I unclamp one of my late sisters trapped Chinchillas, free its feet from the piano mechanism it bites deep.

© 2018, Paul Brookes (The Wombwell Rainbow, Inspiration, History, Imagination)

I Watch Athletics With My Mam

All house mirrors have been removed.
I sit on her soft bed, rest an arm
on a spare pillow. Mum’s pillows

stacked behind her as we watch a
tv placed where her dress mirror stood.
Once she cried as her hair fell out.
She cried as she gained each pound weight

because she takes the chemicals
to stop her dying, stop the spread.
Once she was ‘petite’, now Mum’s fat
jowls, bingo wings slop on the bed.

Together we watch lithe bodies,
sharp muscle tone dash for the end.
Her home is spotless, a show home.
Every day we polish, scrub,

vacuum, she wants it welcoming.
She nods off half way through the
100 metres, I soft clap
the winner as she would have done.

I remember good times, and smile
at her laughter, gleam in her eyes
when she sees another winner
dash over the race finish line.

Meanwhile, she looks forward to Oakwell,
a new fan of Barnsley FC.
I never go as I don’t like
football, regret my selfishness

and time not enjoying her life.
She will sit in her hired wheelchair
yell and clap at their confidence,
vitality, their will to win.

Note: Mum died of cancer in 1997

© 2018, Paul Brookes (The Womwell Rainbow, Inspiration, History, Imagination)

My Mam Is

nothing if, not thorough.
Victorian reminder on a wall
full of telling aphorisms:

What will the neighbours say?
Our home shows us how
we treat ourselves.
Buff away grey clouds,

bring out the blue, make every
wood bell, crocus, daffodil
open their flowers today,
place a spruced up nest

for every chaffinch, green
and goldfinch, blackbird, dove.
Open all windows to “freshen”.
Clean outside and in,

see yourself without smears.
Tidy the memory home.
If you can see a job needs doing,
then do it. Why leave till tomorrow,

something that needs doing today?
Empty every drawer,
cupboard, wardrobe, surface,
scrub them clean, let spiders scurry off.

Launder, dry on the line winter’s
sombre deep cottons and woollens,
neatly fold away, in freshly
lavendered drawers.

It shows you respect yourself.
Rinse every item
of crockery, cutlery,
some unused for years.

Return them to scoured drawers.
Burnish copper ornaments,
delicately brush capodimonte

figures, feather dust top of doors,
skirting boards, deweb high corners,
Shine gas fire with Brasso. Polish
tables and furniture with Rosewood

or Lavender Pledge, all furniture pushed
into centre of rooms, to vacuum.
A person is what they do,
not what they say they will do.

Decant bookshelves,
every book cover cleaned.
Roll up, sling over washing line,
slap and beat dust out of all

rugs and doormats. Strip beds,
turn mattresses, air sheets.
It’s a warm spring day.
A clean home is a clean soul.

Bleach bath, sinks.
Glister chrome taps. Blue toilet.
Fragrance bathroom with Lemon.
Defrost fridge, full milk

bottles in a sink of cold water.
Unload and brush out garage,
vacuum Datsun Estate outside and in.
Weed patio and border, cut

straggly grass for first time this year.
Black bag food beyond sell by dates,
or out of fashion.
Likewise, shine your shoes,

pick bits off clothes,
straighten your skirt, tie,
tighten your belt.
A smart person is a smart mind.

© 2018, Paul Brookes (The Wombwell Rainbow, Inspiration, History, Imagination)


#His dying footsteps #

Snowfall churned the wind
Gone through his ashes
I called him
None answered
The ridges through back the echoes
Of his dying footsteps
A balefire lighted in
That heath
Recalled his funeral
His white visage
Shivered fingers
Languid cheeks
Still stare at me
Awaiting for the
Undesirable last breath
On his steadfast .

© 2018, Kakali Das Ghosh


In your sleep

After paramedics found you
I counted lost hours
you’d spent alone
becoming-so it seemed-
more and more dead
as the sun rose,
curtains stayed closed
and your telephone rang and rang.

A nurse would have seen
blue lips, felt no pulse,
pulled the emergency cord
but you refused another
hospital stay, worn out,
at ninety, by the chafe
of cannulas, sticking plasters,
starched white linen.

You slept, one final night,
in your own double bed;
lay, pyjama-clad,
beneath a brown blanket,
the green quilt
you still called an eiderdown
and pink polyester sheets
blush-bright on your body’s chill.

© 2018, Shiela Jacob


.he wanted a garden.

have you collected seeds of many years, packed, labelled, dated.

have you died, and left the table unprepared. i have them now in boxes, a gift.

from those who love. they will bring me work, joy, an independent air.

seeds need water.

sun stays later.

i have imposter syndrome, never diagnosed yet googled when heard on radio live .

there may be too many additives these days not enough honesty grown.

she said i should have something new in the greenhouse.

i have, i said, and thought of you who

planted the seeds.

© 2018, Sonja Benskin Mesher (sonja-benskin-mesher.net; Sonja Benskin Mesher, RCA paintings; sonja-benskin-mesher.co.uk; Sonjia’s daily blog (WordPress) is HERE.)

.. old blanket ..

I watch the blanket breathe,
hope it will never stop.

white, cellular, keeping warm,
the one I love, so vehemently.

scares me, this intensity of feeling,
that never stops,

and continues when the blanket lays quiet……

© 2018, Sonja Benskin Mesher (sonja-benskin-mesher.net; Sonja Benskin Mesher, RCA paintings; sonja-benskin-mesher.co.uk; Sonjia’s daily blog (WordPress) is HERE.)

 


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6 thoughts on “Living with Dying … poems in response to the last Wednesday Writing Prompt

  1. Thanks, Jamie, not only for prompting and publishing and clearinghousing, but for bringing poets together. I have just virtually met the vivacious and talented Marta, who went to my blog after reading my “the skull of her son.” if not for you, it wouldn’t have happened. Please accept my gratitude!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you so much again, Jamie Dedes, for posting my poem. I like how you have done it and also with my bio not just in English, but also in Catalan, my mother tongue. I wish more people were as senstive as you to this.

    Liked by 1 person

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