Cribside with the Beloved

October 11, 2018

Poet Mary Oliver’s instructions for living a life:

“Pay Attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.”

I try to make those instructions the guiding spirit of this website.  Yesterday a supposedly routine tending of a loved one through an endoscopy turned into astonishment.Evidently something very much wanted to be said, and I was elected.  Here’s my poem:

Cribside with the Beloved

So there he was, prone, my own

My firstborn, on his side, mouth slightly open,

Sound asleep

Bound by guardrails

And I his mother

As so many times

Keeping watch

Only this time his slender form fills the bed

To the tune of almost six feet

And he wears a wedding ring

On that formerly chubby left hand

And he is a father

Nurse tries to wake him, he sleeps on

And I feel a twinge of fear

Not rational, for this was

A simple procedure

Which revealed a simple affliction

Easily treated

And yet

he won’t wake up

So many times I kept watch at cribside

And here I am again

With a skilled carpenter a male age thirty-six

asleep before me

and my mind goes

To another mother of a carpenter

Who held her thirty-something

So still and long of limb and full of grace

And fresh of skin other than those hardworking hands

Only he wouldn’t wake up for her

He won’t wake up

He will never wake up

Her own her firstborn

My carpenter comes back to us

With an addled question or two

Then he reaches up to my shoulder

And keeps his trusting hand there as his wits gather

Then he’s back, a man with merry eyes

Asking the nurse if it’s okay to use

His skillsaw later today

And she turns a little pale

And then I’m driving him to get some lunch

Oh how he used to love our McDonalds date

After preschool

From my car he calls his wife to report they had to remove his stomach

And replace it with a robot stomach that will use laser rays

To digest his food

I hear her murmuring on the other end of the line

At lunch we have an unexpected conversation

Springing from his experience of anesthesia

About the various ideas people have about what comes after

And what it means to live a good life

And his joy in knowing other people,

Respecting them challenging them evoking thought in them

Because he really wants to know

He has to find out who they are

And heaven opens my heart swells

And later I lie down for a laser nap

And the tears spring up like living water

and roll down my face

Because surely this is very close to heaven

I am a little surprised at the tears

But it’s just like that

When you’ve carried a life inside you

However long ago

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3 thoughts on “Cribside with the Beloved”

  1. Oh Phoebe. How scary. I am so sorry you had to go through that. Did they say what happened? I hope you are feeling a little less,shaken now. Love, M

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  2. Enjoy and am inspired by all of your writings, but this might be the one that touched my heart the most and brought tears to my eyes, too. Keep sharing. Renee

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