This man with the salt and pepper mustache, the soft grey folds of hair, my father...failing, failing to respond to the comforting phrases. The same words uttered routinely: Relax, relax they say, but the bed sheets are knotted, his arms tied keeping tubes in place. And he struggles, he remains in bed, tied to the bed impassive support bars surrounding the bed he can no longer leave. The bed is final. There is only pale light spilling into the room from the bustling hospital corridor. Failing. He fails to care think or cry. He has forgotten all the days, all the days that have passed in a life, they are lost dreams housed by our flesh. And we will speak so lovingly of the time that was spent, there will be the undeniable need to remember, remember, remember. We remember after death because the body is a document recording moments held together like fish entering enormous nets. Enormous nets stretched from one end of the sea to the other, and they are caught, these moments, each an entry in the diary of the senses. For it is true that he sat in the shade in his beach chair in front of the house, and quiet summer breezes blew gently against the silky loose strands of his hair. And later the same strands made so still by the spray, the preparation for the coffin which was solid shiny black and heavy. Its conspicuousness is a strangely unreal thing, a presence that is not questioned, how peculiar that it is so readily, so naturally accepted. And it is also true that one morning he sparkled with anticipation believing mistakenly that this was the day of his release from the hospital. His eyes so alert gingerly he slapped my cheek, purposely using the hand previously paralyzed to show me, jokingly, See: he was still the old man don’t get wise with the old man. Just to show me, with pride from his perception of health only illusorily regained, his reassurance also, the instinct of a parent to allay the fears of the child. Yet secretly I was already aware of his dying, but the reassurance, for my sake, See, I can move the arm don’t worry I can move it. Above all else death is the sleep of the limbs, erasing the motion of the body, turning every perceived gesture into a figment of the mind. Because his reaching for my cheek is now only a thought, a fleeting dreamy thought many steps removed from its origin, like a recollection of snow in the midst of summer. Like a recollection of snow encrusted branches suddenly and incongruously filling one’s mind on an August afternoon, what you remember is real yet so entirely absent. And you know it will return, a kind of bizarre certainly prevails, overcoming the abstraction of the image, the distant removed idea. Perhaps it is this cleverly implanted logic, the logic of the seasons, this juxtaposition, this alternation of matter which gives us our bittersweet knowledge. That repetition in its grand inevitability is at once trite and profound, that there is no exception, that it is so banal, that everything will continue, change, replace itself. And on and on again...Yes, we are not unlike the seasons, but is it too simple? Perhaps...yet there are very few irreducible truths, those that cannot be diminished or increased. Those truths that contain magnificent simplicity, and in our fragility we trust that the soul must be this kind of truth. We believe that the soul may come forth only when all matter is finally perceived as a lie, a noble lie, the way one makes up a story to calm the fears of a child. Just as we are all frightened, frightened by the loss of life, but it is the loss of that which does not really exist, the body infinitely varied in its forms, changing. Changing just as the ceaseless motion of the waves alters the shapes and contours of the sea...But look, look more closely: none of these liquid phantoms remains. Always there is another appearance and another movement, and always there is a mournful hunger to unwrap all the mysteries, to see every beginning and every ending. And always there will be the melancholy necessity of death coming, coming as a thought without a mind, as a lifelong friend who has no name, as an ancient memory that cannot be recalled. As a whisper, as a whisper, uttered reverently, death will speak, it will tell the muscles to refrain from the old dance: Come with me, says death, Come listen to new music elsewhere.
About the Poet:
Peter J. Dellolio
Born 1956 New York City. Went to Nazareth High School and New York University. Graduated 1978: BA Cinema Studies; BFA Film Production. Wrote and directed various short films, including James Joyce’s short story Counterparts which he adapted into a screenplay. Counterparts was screened at national and international film festivals. A freelance writer, Peter has published many 250-1000 word articles on the arts, film, dance, sculpture, architecture, and culture, as well as fiction, poetry, one-act plays, and critical essays on art, film, and photography. Poetry collections “A Box Of Crazy Toys” published 2018 by Xenos Books/Chelsea Editions and “Bloodstream Is An Illusion Of Rubies Counting Fireplaces” published February 2023 by Cyberwit/Rochak Publishing. He is working on a critical study of Alfred Hitchcock, Hitchcock’s Cinematic World: Shocks of Perception and the Collapse of the Rational. Chapter excerpts have appeared in The Midwest Quarterly, Literature/Film Quarterly, Kinema, Flickhead, and North Dakota Quarterly since 2006.
His poetry and fiction have appeared in various literary magazines, including Antenna, Aero-Sun Times, Bogus Review, Pen-Dec Press, Both Sides Now, Cross Cultural Communications/Bridging The Waters Volume II, and The Mascara Literary Review. Dramatika Press published a volume of his one-act plays in 1983. One of these, The Seeker, appeared in an issue of Collages & Bricolages. Peter was a contributing editor for NYArts Magazine, writing art and film reviews. He authored monographs on several new artists as well. He was co-publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Artscape2000, a prestigious, award-winning art review e-zine. He has also taught poetry and art for LEAP. He is an artist himself: https://www.saatchiart.com/peterdellolio.com.His paintings and 3D works offer abstract images of famous people in all walks of life who have died tragically at a young age.He lives in Brooklyn.
This poem is so clear and honest, it must have caused some pain to write it. It’s lovely,
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Many thanks. It’s very touching to know that the poem speaks to others who may have had the same grief over losing a loved one. There’s some healing in that as well.
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