the long good-bye
for portia, one last time...
oh, death, where now is thy sting?
embedded still in a heart long hardened by grief
like a stone forever on the ocean's floor
whose pith has never known moisture...
when just a little willingness broke
through its walls & flooded its core with wetness.
water thrown down, brought about abruptly,
condensed from my vaporous
fall as rain; to soak my dry interiors &
desiccated soulsoil; to loose in my heart death's
barb left in exchange for u – an aching
placeholder for yr physicality.
since the day of forsaking; when u
bartered moribund for immortal & departed dearly.
anger & anguish, sullied sisters both, vied
to replace u; moved in even
reliquiae reposed. i kept them close
to me at great waste of shame & expense of spirit
hoping they might impersonate the glamour &
perplexity my compelling disease
in u. predictably, they turned to stone;
became much more than part of my soul's garish
decor. golems, these, with life enough
to sink me into wretchedness.
i loved u,
but so much of my love was deluded. u
resembled an exotically prosaic archetype, one on
whom i might gratuitously overlay my
jaded contrasexual image. in
eyes u were anima made flesh.
i adored the me i saw in u; worked hard to help
u bring out that. i even worked
the controls when u faltered.
i loved the
thought of making u over. it
never occurred to me, then, that i couldn't do this.
caught up was i in the heady, deadly
seduction of fixing others.
i loved u,
too, for the sweet sanguinity of
personal omnipotence sucked out of yr steaming
need of me. this sustained even the sham
for a while. i never believed that
u could love
who & what i really was. in my
lucid hindsights, yet do i marvel at my obtuseness.
when i see yr cascading image infinitely
reflected in the barbershop
my sober moments, only now do
i know the enormity of yr sacrifice. u died
that i might live, even if u knew it not.
yr love was transparent.
yr sweet love...
intruded boldly in the secret place
where my own was hiding; my true & silent love
so often forgotten in the white noise of my
compulsions. u coaxed it out more
before u. my real love longed
to please u, make u laugh; craved the lush
comfort of yr joy, ached for a
defiant uxorious submission.
when it touched
u lambently; playing over the
texture of yr rippling spirit like the sun on cool
water, it would withdraw abruptly knowing
the perverse appeasement of pain.
when i learned
that u were dying, i tried to deny
death, prevail against him, until my cockcrowing
rage at the dawning of insight announced
my betrayed & heartbroken hubris.
god, thinking i might strike a bargain
still; thinking i might have something he'd want
bad enough to exchange for yr life. he
turned his face from my offering.
(what i did
not know was that u already had
a deal – one that had nothing & everything to do
with me – u redeem yr affliction &
i negotiate life on life's terms.)
turned inward consuming me as yr
own flesh melted away. needing to quench that
dissipating fire, i found the fabled whiskey
river & dove to my bottom.
but u died
long before i hit. on the day of yr
demise, me & our daughter sobbed & hugged
each other in the park behind her school
when i told her u wouldn't
home from the hospital. both of us
wondered what we would do. she wanted to know
who would be her mommy now. there were no
trick answers for that question.
of recollected events rewound & fast
forwarded to & from yr passing & the present
offers two views – the former, advised
by intrepid hearsay, suggests a
of anger & alcohol repeated/imitated
by successive solos of clamoring inner voices &
destructive automatic conduct interwoven
into the well-defined structures
of a life
out of control. the latter? how does one
describe a blackout save a disturbance in consciousness
wherein one does some things which he
cannot or dares not remember.
it took years...
before i started double-crossing my
disease. turning self-evidence, i became willing to
face the facts of my unmindful actions,
the ravages of my past.
to recover my original mind; to assert
my true self in the world. i admitted wrongs, made
restitution & material apology to some
of those i had harmed.
but how to
make things right with u? i petitioned
yr forgiveness via a newly opened channel forged
by prayer. i felt buoyantly better having
done that, but not consoled.
borders of mortality, through the turgidity
of relative time; into the nonspace 'tween death & life
came yr vital, vibrant thought:
"i need forgiveness, too!"
it took for me to heal enough to write this;
seven years to think of u without distress, guilt or
resentment; seven years to shape these
thoughts into the right words to
the severity of my self-punishment.
i forgive u, my love, for dying. yr death was
neither the cause of all that went wrong
with me nor did it eclipse my
i forgive u knowing full well that
in doing so i renounce my claim to victimhood;
surrender presumptuous power &
expose myself again to hurt. in
u, i don't have to forget u. i can
learn from my remembrances; escape the wheel
of pain & abuse, & hurt no one else
like i've been hurt.
u, i let loose the past. i can gift u
with an act of love impossible to consummate
while u yet lived – i can let u go...
& in doing so, move on!.
©: Joseph McNair;2009