I don't know - maybe it's all the emotion with the death of my brother, and his beautiful military funeral with a nine-gun salute and the folding of the flag which was presented to my neice, but it was difficult to remain sober and not cry - I failed the attempt. We all did. The military part of the funeral was definitely the most emotional. My brother was a Navy veteran. Maybe it's the cold realization that he really is gone, that my mother is gone, that my father has long been dead.
My brother had several heirlooms belonging to my father, including a pocketwatch that I had coveted for years, and a mustache cup. These two items I knew of, as well as a 1888 edition of "The Bible Gallery" illustrated by Gustave Dore' that I remember drawing in when I was about four or five years of age. Gorgeous thing with a blue velvet cover.
My neice said she had my father's pocketwatch, which she was going to bring to me at the funeral, but didn't know anything about the mustache cup or the illustrated bible. I had figured these things were long gone. But following the funeral, my neice came up to me with the pocketwatch, as well as the illustrated Bible which she had found going through my brother's things, as well as my father's straight razor.
I've always been an emotional sort, but I could not believe these riches, my father's belongings - of which I had none prior to today - were now in my hands and belonged to me. The emotionalism of these things was profound for me. And an old photo of my father, which I never seen, lay in my hands - I'm going to share it with you because he looked exactly like me at his age. People had told me I look like him, but I didn't really know because I was three when he died of tuberculosis. I know now, however, and I felt so overwhelmed it's hard to describe my emotions. Wonderful, to say the least. I suddenly felt I was a part of my father, I was now one with my father, which I had never felt before. It's a glorious feeling.
Just before waking this morning
I was dreaming I could still walk with
a cane - I found myself walking in this
very shallow stream, wading nicely
as it were, with just the cane - lift one
leg and then the other, no longer tripping
and falling. No need for the walker,
no need for the wheelchair, just the
single cane and I was free again. Mom, who
died about six years ago, was in my dream
and I was showing her and my wife how
I could suddenly wade in the stream
with just the cane. It felt so good. Then
I awoke and after taking a few minutes
to clear my head, struggled to my feet and
with the aid of the walker, dragging the
bad leg along, I made my way into the
kitchen and brewed some really strong
coffee. If I was going to have to be awake
I may as well be damned wide awake.
Today has been a strange day, overcast, the air heavy with unexpected humidity (unexpected for Idaho) and the fragrance of neighborhood flowers fairly lingered with the lack of wind - I think my brother's death has made my perception of life around me much sharper. I'm glad to be alive and feeling things - I'm thankful I have a wonderful wife I love and who loves me - a far cry from several years ago when I was deep into my various chemical addictions and cared for nothing but that chemical escape. The bottle, the pill, the snort - whatever. I believe in God, and I've come to realize that God gave me this life, this opportunity to sense all the beauty around me that He created. I don't want to waste anymore years. I guess that's poetry material.
The tear of a brother
who is slipping into, out of
A tear of recognition,
How to weigh
How do I
My brother died yesterday (June 24th) after a struggle with lung cancer and dementia at a veterans home in Boise, Idaho - he once again developed pneumonia, several days before his death, and he lacked the strength to overcome it. I feel so strange today, so sad that I've tried writing three verses about him and each time it seemed I was more the focus instead of Bingie - my brother. Each time I posted a verse to my blog I went back in and deleted it. Everything I write seems to fall far short of what I want to say. I wrote a haibun several months ago after his first bout with pneumonia and I'd like to reinsert it in my blog today. Forgive me if you've already been acquainted with it:
Bing is my older brother. Visiting him at the veterans home, he appears a shadow of the man he once was and seems far older. Doctors say he has dementia, and now they've found lung cancer. Having just survived pneumonia, his normally bright blue eyes are gray and distant, confused. He doesn't seem to blink. He watches other aging veterans move about the visitors area and doesn't speak unless asked a question, then replies with few words.
buffeted by a bitter wind
shuffle of old men
Bingie has always stuck up for me. Always. He has been a caring older brother and as children would allow me to tag along, pedaling me around on his rickety bike. Now I lament that there is nothing I can do for him. I was afraid he didn't recognize me until as I was about to leave. A single tear has appeared in the corner of his eye and is making its way down that pale, wrinkled face.
a leaf flutters
in an abandoned web
. . . these gray clouds
Gliding just above the aspen thickets, nearly scraping
the huge lava escarpments, I ride this exquisite dream hawk
for all it's worth. Then dipping and hovering as the
kestrel, I am soaring with the updraft to where the air
thins, I'm faint, and the world below is somehow irrelevant.
I can even see my bed below where I lay dreaming.
Strange how I got up here in the first place: propelling
myself upward by kicking my legs and suddenly I'm about
ten feet off the ground, feeling curiously free, and then
no longer needing to kick but instead glide, soar, hover. I like
my height about tree-level and prefer gliding. Normally,
I tend to get queasy and fear falling at the upper heights.
But this time, in this dream, I am brave, choosing to challenge the
clouds and with no fear whatsoever I "loose the surly bonds".
We'd laugh at life
if it weren't so serious
we'd laugh at death
if we weren't afraid
we'd laugh at pain
if it didn't hurt so much
we'd laugh at circumstances
but we'd get nowhere
I suppose, truth be known,
we'd laugh at everything
if only we hadn't
Oh, the sadness in your beloved eyes, that
woeful turn from bright blue to grey, and
the callous years etched across your face,
god, but that I could reverse the slow,
methodical spin of earth and cruel time,
take us both back to when our love
for each other burned, raged, and there was
no purpose in this world but our purpose.
At times, certainly not often enough, on a
balmy evening when the early summer breeze
weaves itself ever so softly among the honeysuckle
vines and back to me, and the world becomes hushed
and golden with the sun sitting suspended just
above the horizon, I catch a glimpse of the magic
of my childhood. A warm and sweet time, lush with
the burgeoning innocence of youth, it was a time
when everything had its brilliant color and those
colors were honest and full of depth, even
within the shadows of the increasing dusk.
The world held no fear for me then, no doubts, no
discouragement, and no inkling of the sadness
I would cause and encounter in later life, and thus
I looked to the future as if it were guaranteed to be as
gorgeous and fragrant as that honeysuckle. However,
the world, from the many thousands of days
since I first marveled in it as an child, has grown
colorless, stringent, fearful - or is it the melancholy
I seem to have been born with that's destroyed that
childhood joy and sense of real beauty - a question
I ponder frequently and one for which I have no
answer. Unadulterated joy no longer comes
and I doubt I would recognize it should it ever
intrude again on this aging and corrupt being.
- Forgive the tardiness of posting this piece - I started it around Christmas but just recently finished it. I simply want to share it with you, even though it's seasonally tardy. _________
He died when I was three so to say I knew him, I couldn't. But to say I missed him - that was simple enough - I did, immensely, everyday, but especially around Christmas.
At an early age I knew the emptiness of not having a father around, doing things a father would do with his son. But the pervasive loneliness was compounded at Christmas, perhaps because I could sense enormous sadness in my mother's demeanor.
Mother did what she could to make Christmas special for my brother and me, material things, but there was always a sense of deprivation, a sadness even though I never knew him. You can feel deprived of something you are not familiar with. It's easy. Look about you at those who did have fathers. The hollowness was always there. Always. It still is, even at my age.
However, as a child I often dreamed of him - gave him a face of kindness, a face I could look into, recognize up close and at a distance. He was a father who always came home. I gave him warm eyes that laughed at the dollar-sized snowflakes outside, gave him big hands to form snowballs for me, and to pull me to my feet should I slip, and I gave him a magnificent heart, a heart large enough to encompass all that was special to him, which would include me.
Mom remained a widow, worked hard, got paid little. But she made a life for the three of us and tried her best to make every Christmas better than the last. Regardless, and perhaps selfishly, just beyond the tinseled tree, the crinoline bows and the presents, I saw his eyes which would look into mine and I saw a face I could never touch but that I love to this day. In addition to all that, I gave him a love for his family that would have made every day significant. He would have made a huge contribution.
Occasionally, when I smell coal smoke mingling with pine from trees across the way, and if the air is crisp enough, the snowflakes big enough, it will seem like Christmas of the past, and I will remember father, or at least the father of my invention.
Spring's blossoms, the beautifully scented blossoms like lilacs, bring me close to what I would consider heaven on earth. The fragrance is beyond description, as you all know, but the poet will always try - what's a poet for if not to share. A couple of lilac haiku: