If there was one thing that Jacqueline disliked doing, it was writing a letter of condolence. What does one say? But something had to be said, especially since Will Jones, the husband of one of her closest friends from school days, had passed away. What a shock his death had been. Jacqueline hadn’t seen Sheila for years, but she read the death in the paper; Will Jones, loved husband of Sheila.
Dear Sheila, I was shocked to read in the paper of Will’s passing. When young, the three of us had spent many happy hours… etc.
Jacqueline laboured almost two hours getting it right. In the end, she was rather pleased with her two page note. She posted it.
Dear Jacqueline, (wrote Sheila) Will and I split up about fourteen years ago. He lived in Colorado with his money-grabbing lover. As far as I know, he died when I hit him with the hammer. I didn’t hang round to find out. I’m expecting the police to call any day. In the meantime, can we meet for coffee? Sheila
There were quite a few things to sort through after Ivan died. The funeral was over a month ago, and Maureen knew that at some stage she would have to face the music and go through his things. They had never married, but had been together for twenty-two years. Everyone presumed they were married. Ivan had never popped the question. Children even called Maureen “Mrs Doubroff” although legally her name was “Winters”.
Maureen had hand-written replies to all the cards, flowers and condolence letters she had received. She had bought a box of thank you cards, and wrote in each, “Thank you so much for your kind thoughts and heartfelt wishes during my sad loss.” She would have liked to have written “Thank you for your kind and prayerful thoughts” but who knows these days who is atheistic and who is not?
Ivan had died in a bicycle accident on a Saturday afternoon. He always went for a long bicycle ride every Saturday afternoon, even if it was raining. Maureen had no interest whatsoever in riding a bike. Saturday afternoon was “her time”, “her space”. She had told him to wear a safety helmet, but, oh no! he wanted to feel the wind as his bicycle raced down the steep hill.
The worst bit of sorting through his things was to be his backpack. He always took a little haversack with him on his cycle rides. It probably contained a bite to eat mid-afternoon or maybe something to read on a break from cycling. Or even his camera. He had the haversack on his back when he crashed headfirst into a tree on the steep hill attempting to avoid a dog.
Maureen opened the pack. Indeed, there was an old anthology of short stories by Flannery O’Connor. And his camera. Maureen downloaded the last photographs he took onto her computer.
Oh dear. Oh goodness me. Maureen had no idea. She felt quite sick. Maureen pressed the delete button. It was a secret she carried to her grave.
How long the shadows fall
this breakfast time. How tall in height,
(as if in evening light)
the fence posts stand, as might night guards,
freezing in sun’s weak shards.
A bitter morning. Hardened ice.
Desolate wind with vice
-like grip, ready to slice the heart.
For me to light the fire
is to admit that you’re not here.
The early morning’s cheer-
ful warmth that only yesterday
you lit, your final day,
before the Fates held sway and snipped
your thread of life, and clipped
forever what bound you to me.
How long the shadows fall
this first breakfast time.
(This poem continues my decision this month to post poems I wrote fifty plus years ago – this week’s poem was written around about when I was 15!)
My aunty died about thirteen years ago.
For thirteen years she has not known the
warm sun and pale breeze I now feel.
She has not known the thirteen
evenings, the afternoons, the blackbird peace and
childhood memories that swing around every spring.
As a spinster, she has no one to love her after death,
no one to be remembered by, and
not much to be remembered for.
She was just an ordinary aunty.
And I thought of all the ordinary people
who mean nothing;
whose names do not lie hidden
even in buried archives.
I thought of all these people,
once so wonderful, so friendly,
and now indifferently forgotten…
Oh what is life? and what is life? and life?…
My aunty never died,
she has only been forgotten.
Feel the warm sun and pale breeze,
Sing to the universe,
Tomorrow you may feel no more.
Tomorrow you may feel no more.
Warwick Rabbits liked nothing better to relax than to quietly wander a cemetery. He enjoyed reading the gravestone inscriptions. He imagined what the person was like.
Here’s the grave of Roman Mead. Died 5 July 1924. It’s not a common name, Roman. Warwick could see no other Meads buried in the vicinity. Perhaps he never married. It doesn’t say how old he was.
And here’s the grave of Roberta Cattermole, loved wife of Denny. He’s buried there with her, although he went first. Looking at the dates, she lived as a widow for nineteen years.
Oh, and here’s the grave of Carol Greenberg, died aged seven months. How sad. Warwick pondered how his parents must have grieved.
And here’s… goodness… here’s the grave of… It can’t be? Surely not? Here’s the grave of Warwick Rabbits. Born 12 August 1941. That was his birthday. The day, month and year, and his name, were the same as his. Warwick wondered if he was dead. He didn’t recall dying. He didn’t remember having been ill in recent times. He must have died suddenly, if indeed he was dead.
Nothing was different. He felt the same, except he had no lumbago and it was three in the morning. Why on earth would he be wandering a cemetery at that time of night? And then he noticed something. It would normally have shocked him deeply. He was wearing no clothes. But it didn’t matter because he didn’t have a body.
[Many thanks to Uma for the beautiful photograph. Uma is a wonderful writer (and photographer).
The form selected for this week is an adaptation of the Vietnamese Luc bat. It is an adaptation of the poetic form because Vietnamese is a tonal language and it cannot be imitated in English. The syllable count and the rhyming pattern have been adhered to!]
The dahlia opens slow
before it makes a show, bright red,
and then the full-faced head
bends down towards its bed and bows;
as if to say the hours
of fleeting life somehow are short.
Its beauty comes to naught
as petals fall uncaught and die.
Some say each flower shall leave
a cob, a pod of seeds, a cone,
from which will spring the bones
of new flowers, new fruit, grown; and yet,
lest ever I forget,
my death shall not beget new grain
to grow in hope, in pain,
in love, in loss, in gain, in joy.