The Last Day We Were All Together
I’m reminded of being cradled
in the hull of a boat,
hearing the crackling of
—one claw of millions of creatures
closing at lightning speed, again
Of a wash, a wadi or an arroyo:
dry riverbeds cleansed of any sense
of plainness or constancy, collecting in their furrows
dry leaves, trellised twigs flung up
in high reaches of trees. A fullness achieved
not in spite of volatility
but out of it.
I gave hospice a list for my mother:
- napkins to fold
- yarn to wind into a skein
- art books to look through, especiallyPaul Klee: Hand Puppets with 50 papier-mâché creatures created for the artist’s son, Felix—out of scraps of cloth, found objects; The Cut-Outs —Henri Matisse replaced paints with scissors during his last decade when confined to his bed, making collages that evoked places he could no longer visit
- poetry of nature, night, and animals
Of walking through a family of white pines
as the wind stirs—
trunks and millions
of needles, each slightly different
from the other: singing a restless lost understory. Listen
List hospice handed me:
- lip swabs for gums and teeth to replace toothbrush
- shampoo caps since she can’t shower any longer
- dry mouth wash
First they said 24 to 48 hours;
next, days to weeks.
Her heart rate 35: unsustainable—
waking up with a smile, she is.
She might pass away with little warning
or sleep more and more until she just doesn’t wake up.
Could she find the hard ground instead of floating unmoored.
she says, I want this to end.
My father is ripping up his books.
First Ascent of Mont Blanc: A True Story by T. Louis Oxley, 1881 is one
I recover. He throws out
detailed lists of his climbs, 1949-1951, 1981-1983: Zermatt, Courmayeur….
Hearing goes last,
but my father has mostly lost his already. He says K2 over and over—
because it’s as challenging as dying? Because many don’t survive? So quickly
we come around to an end we can’t talk our way through,
two souls, friends
since 6th grade, married
at 24. We look at their bridal photos,
hardly recognize the faces.
My father mistakes
me for his
wife. Are you strong? he wonders—
before showing me the album,
wedding on the terrace porch, full-out martooni reception on
the gently rolling lawn—.
Who are we, where do we come from, where do we go.
How can we leave each other.
How could we stay together.
So many questions,
arranging and rearranging,
like our atoms.
Wild carrot, white clover,
strange orange and purple sunset skies,
can any one promise
that I will still see them at the end. Will you take me out so I can
feel the air lifting up from the river
blowing through white pine and pitch,
over meadows and up into the house we grew up in,
yellow clapboard, mice,
orchids and poems, encyclopedias and sailboats,
barn cats. Time plays quite a trick on us,
drains out so fast, no sound.
Please bury me with nothing but
air and light, mix in white jasmine
blow a kiss into my ashy cloud
as it floats, falls,
disintegrates. Earth and jimson weed, third crop of dandelions.
Page Hill Starzinger’s second poetry collection, Vortex Street, is forthcoming from Barrow Street Press in spring 2020. Her first book, Vestigial, selected by Lynn Emanuel as winner of the Barrow Street Book Prize, was published in Fall 2013. Her chapbook, Unshelter, chosen by Mary Jo Bang as winner of the Noemi contest was published in 2009. Her poems have appeared in Kenyon Review, Fence, West Branch, Pleiades, Volt, and others.