Big Hand / Small Hand
It’s late in my life, with the big hand stuck on the nine, at a quarter to some thing, and the small hand twitching its red-tipped needle of blood. Yesterday, the breakdown van called for my body and towed me to the doctor’s. “Cough!” she said. “Say ninety-nine! Now cough again!” All the while, cold hands probed my unprotected body. Bottoms up? Thumbs down? It’s hard to see that the wine glass stands a quarter full when seventy five per cent of the wine has gone and the empty bottle lies drained on the operating table. I sit in front of the mirror and examine the palpitating heart they have torn from my chest. Flesh of my flesh, it beats in my hand like an executioner’s drum. I hear the tumbril drawing near. My colleagues sharpen their knitting needles. My lungs are twin balls of wool knotted tight in my chest.
Not one of us knows when the skeleton in the limelight will peel off her gloves, doff her hat, lay down her white cane and use us as fuels for a different kind of fire. Grief lurks in the bracelet’s silver snare of aging hair. We kick for a while and struggle at dawn’s bright edge, we creatures conditioned by time and its impossibilities. What possible redemptions unfurl their shadowy shapes at the water’s edge? A dream angel, this owl singing wide-eyed like a moribund swan bordering on that one great leap upwards, preparing to vanish into thin air. Some say a table awaits on an unseen shore; others that a rowing boat is tied to the river bank, ready for us to row ourselves across. Who knows? Yesterday’s horoscopes sprinkle butterflies of news as the snow wraps us all in the arcane blanket of each new beginning.
Comment: It’s been a strange week. In spite of all my resolutions, I missed my Wednesday Workshop and my Thursday Thoughts. Never mind: the latter weren’t very pleasant anyway. It has been pouring with rain again, and, as the WWI song says “Back to bread and water, as I have done before,” except in this case, it’s pills and needles, and I get the first shot on Tuesday. Nothing to worry about. I’ve been there before. It’s all preventative. But the body-clock is ticking away and I am getting no older and people around me are drifting slowly away. One of the players I used to coach at rugby, an excellent prop forward, went AWOL on Wednesday, MIA, and I read about his passing yesterday in the obituary column of the local newspaper. 18 years younger than me. He might be gone, but his memory lingers on, strongly for me. I have been thinking about him and his family and their tragic loss. My heart goes out to them and I offer my condolences, but what can one do, other than sympathize, celebrate a life well-led, and accept that all of us, poor creatures, are born to die. And if not now, when?
4 thoughts on “Big Hand / Small Hand”
Some parts of this remind me of one of my favorite poems by Kahlil Gibran. I’m never sure of the title lately (must be getting old), but I think it’s called Seasons of the Heart”. I’m rather sure that is not the title, but too tired to look it up again. It covers the lifetime, spring, , Autumn and Winter. Sad in a way but realistic as far as love goes.
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So pleased to see you here, Angie. I have an e-mail from you too. Thank you. Reply on the way!
I’m sorry to hear of your friend’s passing. Your words are so raw, so real, you make me think. Life is so strange.
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Those two pieces are from Fundy Lines, a book of surreal prose poems I wrote back in 2000. The words are still true today. I was reading (and studying) Lorca and Octavio Paz back then. Neither claimed to be a surrealist, in fact the opposite, but bth used surreal techniques, but highly refined. This is what I try to do. Plus take a cliche and use it so it becomes original again and loses its sense of antique overuse to highlight a new meaning. For example, from the commentary, ‘if not now, when?’! There are several other examples in the two prose poems themselves.