Thursday, June 17, 2010

i knew

i knew

i knew

even as i ascended the stairs,

carrying her dinner on a filigree tray:

it was over.

fifteen is so young to know

but i did know –

and so did she.

her life was measured in giving;

so much

for so long

to so many

that we

who received her

selfless abundance

had long since abandoned

outward shows of gratitude

(we were not above thanks; rather,

she was embarrassed by

the merest morsel of appreciation) –

she existed solely to give;

we learned that accepting

was the kindest recompense.

she gave us sundays

around an ancient multifoliate mahogany table

on creaking, faux medieval

red-seated crackled pigskin chairs

(grandfather’s was the only one with arms);

she gave us food beyond imagining –

perpetually overcooked;

each course gray and lifeless

yet somehow ambrosial –

served between snippets of

minced Methodist hymn

(grandmother could neither cook nor sing

but paid no heed to destiny

in pursuing her passions).

she gave us a place at the table –

a place to rise above our shared DNA.

she gave us


it was because she had given so much

that i knew

it was over

when she asked me to feed her.

one paper-thin, velvet touch of her furrowed hand

on my anguished cheek

heralded her obsequy:

‘Lambie, would you…?’

Lambie would;

Lambie did;

knowing full well

what it meant –

what it took for her to ask.

an elegy in applesauce;

one teaspoon, just level –

tissue-thin lips on generations-old silver,

a glimmer of rheumy, empathic understanding;

a flicker behind the cataracts

and then

for one terrible, beautiful moment

i glimpsed the universe of pain

from which her infinite gifts had sprung.

a delicate, labored swallow;

the rustle of lilac curls on crisp linen;

i remember

(or perhaps only wished for)

her featherlight kiss on my fretful brow

as i leaned in to say goodnight.

i knew

even as i descended the stairs,

carrying her dinner on a filigree tray:

it was over.

fifteen is so young to know

but i did know –

and so did she.

--Rich Follett has recently returned to writing poetry after a thirty-year hiatus. He lives in the sacred and timeless Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, where he joyfully teaches English and Theatre Arts for high school students. His poems have appeared in Paraphilia, Calliope Nerve, Sugar Mule, Four Branches Press and Counterexample Poetics, for which he is a Featured Artist. He is the co-author of Responsorials (with Constance Stadler) and the solo collection Silence, Inhabited (NeoPoiesis.)

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