The Words

I hardly recognize myself

This peculiar new sensation

of breathlessness

and bedpans

and solemn conversation.

I have given up the alarm,

awake most of the time, or so it seems,

cataloguing thoughts from diminishing dreams.

 

Like Nano*, I search for words

Hidden among the gears of survival;

Something important to say

redeeming the effort spent,

the perfect words, my poem now final.

 

The night, the elusive words, the television glow,

The glass of water on the bed stand, the hiss of oxygen flow,

Have seizeed the evening hours.

 

The words grant me

morning’s respite from evening’s storm

observing the rituals

my caretakers perform

I doze agreeably in the company of their activity

They roll me this way, then that.

Still, there is work to be done.

My wife and the walker

And the trip to the bathroom are all enough.

 

The body in my bed

a stranger to me now

Tantrums like a child

Spits and shits;

the smell and mess

are no matter to me;

the clean linens and morphine

are not long,

and perhaps a nap

of unknown duration

time having no meaning,

Until the whole house slumbers

I wake to face the test

What words will close the circle

And grant my soul its rest.

 

David Heaney

Revised May, 2018

 

  • Nano is the old poet in Tennessee Williams play and later movie, Night of the Iguana. He spends much of the movie searching for the final verse for his poem trying one thing and then another. Shortly after jubilantly announcing he has completed his poem, he dies.

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