Thursday, January 31, 2013

Out of kilter

I have discovered that this dying process had created a great imbalance. I am still mourning for Margaret and my dear sister-in-law, Bev, and from letters and conversations with friends I have gathered that I will be missed in much the same way. 

But, I am losing all my good friends, and that's only the half of it. I have lived in this house and garden for twenty years, leaving it since 1999 only twice. In all those years, I have loved the light through the leaves in the changing seasons and at different times of day, that will also go, as will my pets, the books and music that have sustained my life. And even more difficult, I will be losing my memories like the ones of Paul's first breath, his first sneeze and his first yawn. 

You might ask why, in that case, I need to die. But, as it turns out, my weight loss has become so excessive that my key nurse is quite sure I won't make it through to September anyway and I will be also losing the pain, the blurred and cataracted sight and the endurance which I have become too fragile to cope with. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The third bell

I have sprung a leak, am taking on water.
Perhaps in my sleep, I drifted across
a ragged rock or coral reef.
It's not yet dangerous: no sound
of swooshing in the hold.
But it's only a matter of time.
I have presented myself
with an arbitrary date: forty weeks,
a spiritual pregnancy.
The bell rang for my birth and marriage;
it's time now for the third bell.

I have to learn how to die,
to die with dignity; not sign off 
a snarky, snivelling wretch.
I am practicing stoicism.
I am loving more deeply
the things that matter: visits from friends,
music, light on the walnut tree.
It's been several years since I have seen
the night sky; so I will be taken out 
to drink my fill of moon and stars.
Virgin namesake, moon-Queen at night fall.”
Or, the Duchess of Malfi's magic words:
Look you, the star shines still.”

My mind wavers and I wonder at times 
whether I can retain my stubbornness.
But then I remember the hardship
of each days waking,
remember I can no longer consent
to the pain and endurance,
nor transform them into any
meaningful pattern.

I am asked whether I will find it hard
to say goodbye.  But, consider
how many times I have already said it:
feeding, cleaning, dressing myself
turning over in bed
walking, singing, playing the piano,
cooking, stitching my tapestry,
hugging my friends from their or my need.
The list could go on forever.

I have lived, so far, nearly three 
of the forty weeks yet to come.
There will be only one ending,
an ending I must learn to trust.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

"...that is the question."

I'm turning into a hardened flirt; 
several hours of every day,
I'm dreaming of surrendering myself.
It's a great temptation.
But, in the meantime, I'm holding 
to the straight and narrow, 
by sharing twilight with a friend
as we talk over the week that's passed;
by delighting in a brass consort,
Venetian music
from four centuries ago.
I delight in feeling connected
to all those who have 
performed, listened to and loved
the same music
for every year of that four hundred.
Thus far, I'm remaining virtuous.

But, winter is coming,
with oppressively leaden skies;
I will be cabin-fevered,
so I'm not making any promises.

Thursday, January 10, 2013


In the end, I stayed in bed only one day and that was hideous on the back  of my head, my arms and legs, not to mention three of the four ulcers which are on my back. Both the nurse and OT wanted me to rest, but not bed-rest. The only problem is, that the hardest part of the day is getting me out of bed. So I came up with a new plan: half a valium, one Panadol and loud Baroque trumpet music to distract me. With their help, I've managed to get up the last three days but, when I'm on the wheelchair, I'm cast.

In normal circumstances the injury I have sustained either from a pinged cartilage or inter-costal muscle or a cracked rib would heal within six to eight weeks. But how normal is M.S.?

However, the pain and the helplessness have not dampened my poetry. Below, are the latest snippets. I'm disappointed that my last poem, "Massacre", appeared in the middle of the Christmas rush as I really wanted to know how other people had fitted the shootings into their belief systems.

I'm very grateful for all the loving support I have received. Because everything is done through an intermediary — holding a landline to my ear, setting up Skype or writing an email— I very rarely initiate, but mostly respond. The blog entries are my way of communicating.

The mathematics of living

Quadratic equations seem not to work
in my case; x = minus b
plus or minus the square root etc
sits uneasily against
achievement, privilege, illness and loss
which cannot be corralled into one pen.
This seems too great an imbalance.


I'm running out of metaphors
in the prolonged dispute
with my illness. It's like arguing
with a fundamentalist preacher
who has all the answers, even
before I've framed the questions.
I hate to acknowledge defeat,
especially when it's to do with words
but I must admit
I'm going tongue-tied.