Down Time

img_1205Yesterday, I took to my bed and stayed there.  Today, I was ready to throw off the mantle of exhaustion, walk out into the sunshine and accomplish something…anything.  Sadly, there is no sunshine today, so I am not out … I am in.  Inside this house, inside the mundane, in my “to do” list … in, in, in.

April is, perhaps, for me one of the most challenging months of the year.  My father died in April of 1990.  Just as the daffodils bloom and my tulips, the ones that were not supposed to be perennial in this climate, are about to open … just as the dogwoods are painting their color and fragility onto the sky’s canvas, just as nature is greening itself and getting its “lush” on, I am thinking of death.  Well, this is Lent.  Spring.  The dualities I am pondering are more complicated and mysterious than I can describe here.  My body, more than my mind, grieves (by shutting down) the loss of a man I loved and, at times, hated; a man whom I forgave long ago, yet whose memory can sometimes still anger me.  Simultaneously, my mind is at war with this body, my body, over which I have limited control.  It grieves as it will.  It ages as it will.  Flowers bloom and die regardless of whether I have paid enough appreciative attention to them, and if I have not, this year’s chance is gone.    Recently, I learned that a former classmate of mine has died.  I did not know him well.  I will not know him now. 

I wrote a poem that was included in my chapbook, String Quilt, entitled This Hateful Spring.  I am thinking of that poem today.

This Hateful Spring

Muffled strains
of a riding mower
punctuated by the buzzing
of someone’s edger.
Sun slanting through
the bursts of green
trees in the front yard.
Whiteflies and wasps
patrolling the area
and for the first time
no old dog rolls
in the freshly cut grass
pauses to shake so hard
you can hear his ears slap
his skull, pants, squints
regards heaven
and lies back down.

A grandmother’s heart
begins to fail her, joins her mutinous
knees, eyes, and mind.
She goes to live at a home
where she must be signed in and out
like a library book.  A storybook.
She has taken
her last long trip to the lake
her last ride on her granddaughter’s
waverunner, wearing her tennis shoes
a hat, dark glasses
and waving her cane.

A young woman, so young
conquered her cancer
only to have it play
a game of stealth
and rise back up at her, angry.
Brave, she was, like a knight.
Resolute like the armed angel
of God guarding
the Garden of Eden
guarding her own temple
defending it, fighting for it.
Her watch ended last night.

My father died officially fourteen
Aprils ago.
Every spring
there is some new loss
that raises my grief
from the dead.

2 thoughts on “Down Time

  1. Ann

    Oh, Suz, this writing of yours is balm for my soul. The layers of grief grow each year as do the layers of joy. To hold them all at one time (while we go on with the business of living) is downright exhausting. So glad you’re taking a pause and giving yourself the rest you need.

  2. suzanneleitner

    Your friendship and support, and your own fine, fine writing has “saved” me more times than I can count. Everyone should have a poet in his or her life! I am so thankful that you are one of the poets in mine!

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