|Five Sonnets for Marsha
||[Feb. 2nd, 2006|01:28 pm]
Part of Reya's poetry reading to celebrate Brigid.
The first four were written in 1997, when Marsha was still at home and could transfer with some difficulty to and from her motorized wheelchair. The last came this Sunday.
Not Necessarily About Multiple Sclerosis
1. As climbers learn the secrets of ascent,
so you learn falling; search for hidden chances,
bed to chair, as they for small advances
and protection from a swift descent
should rock or foot or piton fail. Hell-bent
on glory, heroes of their own romances,
how could they see how close to yours their dance is?
You inch from chair to shower stool, intent
on balance; start the water; wash; reverse
the labyrinth to navigate your day
through hazards taken, not to be the first
("because they're there") – because they're in your way.
It's afternoon and nothing's cut the thread;
there's energy; we find ourselves in bed.
2. The energy we find when we're in bed
can still surprise me. You can still surprise,
with hands like liquid lightning on my thighs
to fuse me gasping to the earth, still fed,
still hungry for the word you give, still spread
for you to read me. (After, I devise
a rough-edged answer, contemplate, revise –
until you're happy with the text I've read.)
Those storms are fewer now. We used to spend,
oh, half the day in bed. We didn't do
it very well, but still... Of course we fought
the other half the day: we couldn't bend.
I'm glad that time is over (but for you –
those were the days of crutches; you could walk).
3. Wise in the ways of crutches, you walked
a line between convenience and fatigue:
your chair for distances, your legs to ease
the chair from road to curb. How people gawked
to see the cripple stand – "Why, she can walk!"
or rushed to help you, eager to retrieve
the karmic brownie point; or left, aggrieved
at your disdain; or stayed, and knocked
you either off your timing or your feet.
Soon you bought the Tank in self defense,
a huge three-wheeler with a wicked tread,
the bench from which you passed on each offense:
if people made to help you in the street
you found it apropos, or cut them dead.
4. It seems that Atropos won't cut your thread,
but frays it, strand by strand. You now regret
your knees ("start here; stand up; twist there; reset"
was quicker, neater, safer than a slide)
now nimble memory, fingers, quiet bowels.
Because they aren't there, they block your way:
your sinew threads a labyrinth. Who'd say
what spinster spun it, from what shroud or cowl
it came undone? Old Inexorable
Herself has hesitated twenty years
at snapping it: you're tough. You feel Her pull,
the bends and raptures of a deep descent.
You fear, and learn the other side of fear,
as divers learn the secrets of ascent.
Feeding Yourself Without a Wrist
You've worked around it now, in just one day
awake with fingers dangling from your wrist.
Death nibbles you, you wrote, and sneaks away:
your legs, your memory; sex. The waiting list
is short, old remnants of a rich buffet.
And after thirty years, those crumbs he missed --
half-hand, bad eyes, pain, life in disarray --
retain the fierceness that he never kissed.
You'll not go gentle, Esther says. It's true;
but you're too busy living life to rage,
rage. Twice raging is for younger folk:
at careless aides, or Death, one rage will do.
"I'm busy now," you'll say to him backstage;
and when the curtains part, purloin his cloak.