What he spoke of



What he spoke of

My father did not talk much
except to say, “listen to Momma,” or,
more commonly, “look at Momma,”
for my mother,
a bit of a child inhabiting her,
mandated many
look-at-me moments,
her favorite when she modeled old clothes
to show that they still fit,
or didn’t–
”gee,” holding the two flaps of
zip across a hump
of underwear-covered
hip–”was I thin back then,
or what?”

Though what he said even more frequently, to her, to me,
was “let me give you a kiss,”
which, as illness nestled throughout
his body, stoppering his
throat, bogging down
his mouth, was not always
a pure pleasure,
yet also was–
sweetness way
outweighing decay–

What he did not talk of much
was God–
This was not because he didn’t believe
but because he believed
so strongly.

Oh, he talked of Him before meals–
the Lord,
“who has given us
this bounty,”
but not the Lord
after death–the Lord, who not only giveth
but taketh away-

Because, I think, he didn’t much believe
in the “taketh away” part.

Not that he had not lost things.

But he had no doubt that what was lost
would be found.

So that when that nestling illness reared
its head, and there was talk
of next
decisions–going to the hospital or staying home
to die,
staying at the hospital or coming home
to die–
his only question ever–
“but what will happen
to Momma?”
Even in the moment that he died–
and, believe me, dying
is hard, not-breathing not
what the body
desires–it was her
he patted, consoled–knowing that she
did not hold inside
that same sure light–

I think this morning about stars,
partly because they rhyme with “are”,
and, like being and not being,
are wonders of the universe,
but too, because of a certain kind
of love (”of course, I miss him terribly,”
she says each time life’s
being managed)
whose light is seen, even after
it might be
these are not things that
can be readily taken off or completely
grown out of,



A poem for Claudia Schoenfeld‘s prompt on dVerse Poets Pub about using conversation/dialogue in poetry. (I’m not sure the picture quite fits, and also sorry about the rather gloomy posts, a death in my extended family this week, not of my father who died a couple of years ago, but of my very-much-loved father-in-law. I don’t feel comfortable writing of that, but it has made me think of my own dear father.)   


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27 Comments on “What he spoke of”

  1. hedgewitch Says:

    So lyrical is this language that the very tragic subject(losing what one loves, beyond control, forever, watching the slow process, the pain and the loss of the person one remembers, changed into a vessel sailing out into the unknown without us)seems to be invested with a giving back, a light that reminds me of the old practice at the dark of the winter solstice, where a bit of blessed fire is taken from house to house to rekindle each hearth. A luminous and beautiful poem, k. My thoughts are with you.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Thanks. I did the other death poem, So it seems, about what seems to me anyway something common in the physical process, in my limited experience. I feel so blessed really to have been part of that–not something I would normally have thought of as blessing. k.

  2. Steve King Says:

    Insightful and empathetic. And it’s also perfectly designed and formed, moving from the lightness of the trying on at the beginning to the inability to take off or grow out of the heavy realities that come for survivors at the end of life. I can’t say that this is a poem that gives enjoyment, but I admire the way that you’ve articulated the truths here. A very fine job of writing.
    Steve K.

  3. Talking about death works so well in this conversational tone – loved the part of not talking about god because one believe too much.. It makes perfect sense – I think people not talking about god either believe strongly or not at all.. Also an atheist is a strong believer… Thank you for sharing these thoughts.

  4. janehewey Says:

    Hedge says it so eloquently in her comment above. this is luminous, as the star this morning–“whose light is seen, even after/ it might be/ extinguished-” I note the words “might be” and land on them for awhile as I let it sink in. I also think, light can be very quiet, much like the man/your father in this poem. again, so beautiful.

  5. claudia Says:

    honestly… you have me all in tears… what a wonderful relationship they must have had…

  6. CC Champagne Says:

    A truly wonderful story that left me almost out of breath. Lovely!

  7. I feel this poem. It is sad and magic at the same time. It opens a window to the essence of a loved and loving person.

  8. vandana Says:

    A mother will always be our guide and mentor.

  9. Brendan Says:

    We have to circle those immense feelings, don’t we? And though the timing of this fits Mother’s Day, its about the one in the background who made sure Momma was OK, perhaps now forever. Tender and touching all the right notes, shining the light back on so much of its source. Loved it.

  10. you brought me, poignantly, onto what i ponder most. the question of a deity and the ‘are’ then the disapearance of the ‘are’. where do we go? but while we’re here why must there be such pain, such suffering? why were we given the traits of conscience, consciousness, emotion? if only i could just love without regard to who, what,when, where, how and why.


  11. So very sorry to hear about your father-in-law. Death is always hard but I find writing and poetry helps. I could feel the emotion in this piece. Sending you and your family hugs xoxo

  12. Susan Says:

    It is a gift to see the flame after it has blown out, to feel the kindness, love, and stability of those whose last moments were unselfish though hard and easily consuming. These are the bonds that William Penn spoke of in his Fruits of Solitude.

  13. Sumana Roy Says:

    the loving words are the light that he left behind and that will stay
    and be treasured…his presence is to be felt in his words, the form in which he continues to live with his loved ones…a beautiful poem…

  14. Marian Says:

    thinking of stars because they rhyme with are. so simple, so vast a thought. just love this.

  15. Such a real and beautiful and loving poem. A wonderful portrait of a beautiful loving man. I am so sorry for the loss of your father in law and, earlier, your father. You have written this so beautifully. And I love the purple elephant, too.

  16. This poem speak so much of human love, faith, suffering and compassion… it has brought tears to my eyes.

  17. Other Mary Says:

    This is so beautiful…the tender talk of your parents and pairing their love with the star light that reaches us after the star itself has died. Really poignant and skillfully done as well.

  18. I don’t knowhow to add anything to what has already been said. This is truly beautiful and uplifting to me even in its somberness.

  19. grapeling Says:

    “the same sure light”

    I don’t hold it, either. a perfect line ~

  20. Anonymous Says:

    As I approach my death, I read about the thought and guidance that make up the possibility of “a good death,” a death at home. And how
    special forethought can avoid the ICU experience with all its clamor and fight up to the last minute measures.

    Your poem touches my heart.

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