A traveller between life and death

Dirge Without Music


I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.

Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains, — but the best is lost.

The answers quick & keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,
They are gone. They have 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.

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

Collected Poems (HarperCollins, 1958)

More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world

More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world

I wander aimlessly around the garden, reveling in the unseasonal rain and clouds, plotting an escape into books.  The Brits have it right – literature, gardens, exploration.  These days I find it impossible to keep a stiff upper lip; rather my chin wavers as I choke back a deluge…  For another girl whose indelible imprint on my life is astonishing.  The force with which these women have impacted my mind is comparable only to earlier influences, when I considered myself passionate and impressionable and destined for a life immersed in history and ideas.  (I’ve been grossly under-stimulated (or perhaps not that bright), my mind deadened by my situation and lack of intellectual drive.)

Lung cancer is killing me while bestowing the gift of falling in love with amazing people who, like myself, will eventually die.  I am enriched beyond imagination, then tortured for the luxury.  I give in to the cycle every time.  It doesn’t get easier.

KMM was an intensely beautiful and brilliant individual — incredibly kind, eloquent, and superior in her critical thinking.  She adds to the cruel losses I (and their loved ones) have sustained in the 7 years I’ve survived this evil disease. She was an indomitable spirit and a force for so much good in the UK, in so many, many ways. She was a pillar of light on CancerGRACE, a forum and haven for those touched by cancer.

I think of the novel/movie 84 Charing Cross Road, in which Helene Hanff engages in a 20-year epistolary friendship with Frank Doel, chief buyer of Marks & Co., a bookshop in London. It is bittersweet, as these relationships must be.

The only consolation one has is the dissolution of pain and fear that death finally brings.  I find it peculiar that her birthday was the day before  Hubs’, as Caroline’s is the day before my sister’s, and Naomi’s is the day after my father’s.

I’ve not weathered these friends’ passings well.  They’re in my heart and dreams every day and night, as if bound by fate and destiny.  I try to celebrate and honor them by surviving and finding joy, but my heart is full and heavy with loss at present.

Which means more poetry in the near future.


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