My dear friend Larina lost her son this past weekend. I am heartbroken for her. He was only eleven years old and though he had cerebral palsy, his passing was unexpected. Several years ago I wrote a poem for her based on a newspaper article written about her and her son. I'm pasting it below in honor of his memory.
— river goddess, known for healing
That morning he dreamed of dolphins. Deep waves. Smooth hide and clicks against his body. The sea moved his feet as if he could walk on water and he woke sweating, afraid of the thunder outside. Afraid of the rain, but the dream remained, too, even as his mother strapped him in his wheelchair. For once, the squeak of its joints didn’t upset him. Because this was his first time at the pool, he tried not to show how much he wanted it but her face told him she knew. She knew he wanted to swim, even if his limbs disobeyed his mind. Even if that black feeling came back. And the water was warm. Buoyant. They’d painted dolphins and fish on the tile so he swallowed the fear down, almost choking. Closed his eyes. He imagined the pool was a river, an ocean. The slap of hands splashing became waves and he almost smiled as the lights flickered, buzzing electricity. When they blinked out and emergency lamps clicked on, he discovered the mural on the ceiling: a woman with butterfly wings, black hair flowing past her cattail dress. Coins strewn around her feet. Shimmering green light everywhere. He wished he had a dime to toss, but then his mother lifted him up and let go and for the first time in his life he moved by himself. He laughed, something inside breaking open like a tsunami, like an impossible dream, and then he saw his mother smile as tears slipped down her face like rain.
— for Larina and her son Zack
Friday, June 10, 2011
I've lived through death (not my own, obviously) and illness and they are both hideous and unpleasant. I'd like to not do it again but I guess I'll have no choice at some point. Shit happens.
However, I have never injured my hands. I've strained a muscle or two and had my wrist ache from too much mousing (computer mousing, that is), but I've never broken a finger. And I bet that would be unbelievably HORRIBLE. Why? Because I couldn't type. Omigosh I can't even think about it without feeling hysterical. People think of musicians and surgeons and their hands. They say: oh that would be tragic, if something happened to her hands. Why, why don't they ever mention writers?
I've thought about it. Even if I never truly sell a lot of books (or even sell any, which could definitely happen), the act of writing sustains me. I read an essay today about what success means for a poet (at Jeannine Hall Gailey's blog) and her conclusion was that the writing itself was enough. I agree. (I strive to agree with that incredibly heathy attitude while I continue to weep and moan over the rejections that fly into my inbox.) Writing itself is a wonderful act of creation. Of defiance. Of hey, this is what I have to say and if you don't like it, too bad rebellion against our culture and society and art and stagnancy and sometimes myself. Except, how the hell would I do that if something happened to my hands?
I know/have known two writers who lost the use of their hands through illness. One managed by typing with a pencil in her mouth. The other, well I don't actually know how he gets by, but he continues to write amazing poetry. I know it's not impossible. Still. I imagine it must be like that nightmare where your body is frozen and you can't get up the hill. Words would back up inside my head like a truly epic sentence-traffic jam. And how would I read? How to hold a book? Even now my heart rate speeds up at the idea. . .