Monday, March 27, 2006

Ancestor Angst

When I began blogging last week I said I would "inflict myself on the...public." I now come to the business of inflicting in earnest by posting some of my join-me-in-the-ambulance-on-the-way-to-the-mental-hospital poetry.

Having been born of goodly parents, as they before me, I am a follower and a student—mostly of spontaneous exemplifications and explanations tucked into the so-called "teaching moments." For my grandparents these moments have now stretched and multiplied into teaching lives that are pulling taut on pre-numbered days. I have of late come to feel that my time with them grows short—or rather that it has always been so. I might have written something less ambivalent since I feel so completely that our sociality continues after death and that the resurrection is real. In fact, all the whining I am about to do deals only with the interlude between our respective deaths and only because our visitation rights will be restricted.

And whine I shall: it appears that in the teeth of anticipation I am not immunized against fear. It is not fear of death or what dreams may come and not even concern over my grandparents' pain, but fear of what happens after that dreadful rustle of the curtain falling shut in front of me—when I am left alone awaiting my turn. I fear my response to the burdens of discipleship and separation.

I depend on my grandparents for guidance, reproof, encouragment, and role-modeling. There is a story about an eagle raised by chickens; I feel like a chicken raised by eagles. As long as I am with the eagles they lift me up; I have serious concerns about my ability to continue in the right path and to soar without them.

Even more patheticly: In my selfishness I would rather they bury me—they who are experienced, having already buried their own grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers, sisters, grandchildren. What is it about godliness that we must learn in all this separation? Is godhood so painful that we must practice suffering? (I think, perhaps, that it is joy, even in the face of pain, that we must practice; I dread the lesson all the same).

Enough wallowing in my prose; let us wallow in my verse.

Ancestor Angst
09 Nov 2004 – 28 Jan 2005.

The services were well attended
and we all went, until they ended,
of course—we had nowhere else to go.
Now it's over. It wasn't slow.
At Act Two's epilogue
the grass is cut and birds are singing,
confound those cursed bells still ringing
tolling for me, for me, for me
as we toss young, decapitated roses
on a gilded door that shuts, then closes
in a hole. That hole: lovely, dark, and deep,
filling up with snow-white hair
and corpses. Would that I not wish
so desperately it not so—
that I not rather you rot
than leave me here below.

Some source texts are here, here, here, and here. It's hard to beat line 8 as an indicator of pathological narcissism.

On Grandparents Not Yet Dead
09 Nov–15 Dec 2004.

I'll not stay you longer:
go fly away. Catch falling stars,
stir flights of angels,
drive those mighty horses home.
Go. Go and feed the roses.
We will water them, the dew and I;
we'll not stay you longer.

Some source texts are here, here, here, and here. "Rose feeding" is from Edna St. Vincent Millay's "Dirge Without Music" (l. 9-12):

The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,—
They are gone. They are gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.


At March 31, 2006 6:27 AM, Blogger Stephen said...

Wish I had answers.

I got married when I turned 29 myself, btw.

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