Catherine Chandler's Poetry Blog

Sunday, July 9, 2017

"This thick dimension of stillness . . ."

My Mom on her wedding day

July 10 will mark the 6th anniversary of my mother's death as well as what would have been her 87th birthday.

Friend and Australian poet, Stephen Edgar, who recently lost his mother and whose latest book of poetry, Transparencies, is dedicated to her memory, wrote eloquently of the final days of her life in the following poem, "Under the Radar". I, too, vividly recall that final day with my mother, when I sat by her bedside, counting the ever-increasing intervals between breaths.

Under the Radar

Flaring and fading like the blips
That flash an instant on a radar screen,
The bellbirds’ brilliant little flecks of sound
Illumine and eclipse
The points where silence has been slung between
The branches of the trees. Such flimsy tips
To bear the weight it gathers on the ground.

As when you wade through water, slowed
And heavy, hardly able to progress,
Your senses, working through this thick dimension
Of stillness, share its mode.
Each leaf glint, shadow, bird note, each impress
Of foot on twig that snaps beneath its load,
More slowly but more clearly holds attention.

Once all the world was this. Alone,
And dozing through the spell of midday heat,
You register that chittering outside,
A neighbour’s telephone,
The drone of traffic on a further street,
The ticking house — each floated overtone
Dragged by the soundless groundswell that they ride.

And so it was when you were led
To where her barely conscious form lay waiting
And silence held the burden of the room.
And leaning by the bed,
You swayed in that abeyance, concentrating
To hear far off her scarcely warranted
And weightless breathing falter, and resume.

-- Stephen Edgar


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