Poetry: Susan Nisenbaum Becker
In memory of K.S. 1944-2009
These were the withering days
when you got smaller and smaller.
You didn’t shed your skin
and grow a winter hide. You said
you couldn’t – the ice was too pale
the sky impossibly blue the air
a cold burn. The light you said
made the mountains look like spikes
was too much like Newfoundland’s
where years ago you’d buried yourself
once and for all in heaps and drifts
dug by the man who couldn’t love
you back. Even your old dog chewed
clean the long ropes he’d never frayed
and went despite your calling.
You said you had a fenceless heart
that stumbled from place to place
leaving none of itself behind.
Invisible. You won’t see
the new grass green up. Instead
this Christmas night you walked
into your living room and discovered
you had no life left. You sat down
like a Quaker at a meeting crowded
with shapes of loneliness and prayed
for silence. You settled in
the far side of contentment
and gulped your anodyne
one pill and one harsh swallow
after the next.
There’s sun in your knotty flesh.
Oxygen + your body + heat =
your molecules raving a wild macabre.
You swirl away like a dream lit by morning.
Deconstructing. A living fusion.
Your belly turns crimson as sunset
stretched out in its shocking taffeta
over the mountain. How quickly things turn
into light, and your heat, masked
when I place you on the grate,
blasts out, a jack-in-the-box surprise.
Joan of Arc was such a surprise – on fire
before the stake. And others
whose eyes spangle, whose flinty breath
ignites a time’s dry tinder.
Outside pine pillars flare –
they can’t fool me anymore.
When I see the doe and fawn,
even when I see just their lambent tracks
cross mine, mine crossing theirs in the snow,
I know they are ablaze like you,
and I, and everything.