Thursday, 31 May 2012


Detail of APOLLO REVEALING HIS DIVINITY TO THE SHEPHERDESS ISSE by Boucher, 1750. Original painting at Musée des Beaux-Arts, Tours
when the apollonian messenger stood us up
and the unsolicited intervention of a hospice aggravated the suffering of a private death, and the reavers came for the already bereft....
 part six of Re-begot

Denied her death by stealth or classical calm
- the apollonian messenger had stood us up -                                           
I’m thrown off course by sanctioned clodhoppers 
who profaned our temple and broke our spell.
Armed by you for mythological battle,
I was not equipped to deal with real people.
I cannot treat the ones with agendas:

rancour-prickled neighbours,
self-righteous busybodies,
the reavers,
making business for themselves
by stealing death.

Solicitors impatient for their fees
forget client care and common humanity

in a brutal execution -
"you're not going to live seven years, 
are you?" -
and officious healthcare-mongers

crash into our home, unawed by death,
to them uniform, bland, schematized,
forcing us asunder when most we needed to be together.

Charity grown fat and smug is as corruptible as pride.

Founded to do good, institutional rot sets in:
divinely ordained motives never questioned,
the only dignity they serve is their own.
No benefit to her, hijacked from home,
lured by promise of feeling better
to nutrition neglected, analgesic late,
a place where virtue nursed under cover,
cared in whispers, checking its back,
the hospice that ensured she’d die
without dignity.

Staff breached every clause of patients’ charter
hanging above their heads;
they didn't even get her name right,
or think of carrying her home.
A nurse (broad beam, pincer mouth) ignores
her cries, her swollen legs and my requests;
I’m close relative/home carer in their way.
“You don’t need to visit her every day.”
But she’s my soul, and I’m her screen.
They made me feel I was no good for her.
My calling to look after her; she calls for me,
sobs into the phone who has never cried before.
Times I’m not there to nurture and defend,
pious ghouls hover in the room,
wanting to talk of leading her to heaven
(At least that makes her laugh,
“I haven’t got the time; I’m going to the loo” )
Or a doctor, med school fresh,
breaks bad news to her with gruff hockey sticks,
undoes our sacred knot,
with unangelic annunciation.
You would not die gently now, stolen in sleep,
but, in the flare of knowledge,
you saw the features of the horror come,
and the ravaged world left for me.

More like a prison than a shelter of care,
after giving death sentence,
they didn't let her leave on the day
she wanted,
did not order home equipment for us in time,
tried to stop me travelling with her,
plonk her on a tumbril, their patients' transport,
driven by two old men, lay helpers meaning well,
without wheelchair or stretcher -
“We don’t do lifting” said a volunteer -
who take the dying woman by the arms
and pull her up the steps to home,
gasping, weak, dissolving,
two days left to live.
 No explanation when I complain:

“We’re sorry you feel that way”,

corporate formula for non-accountability.

 “You need to move on”, they say.

The modern lie to neutralize us all.
What they mean is: "We are a godly institution,
a charity with a royal patron,
you are wasting our time, you inconvenient little person."
No moving on for me until the battle's done. 

Already at war with myself, community uncare 

and enemies in the house,
looking for sanctuary, I'm ambushed
by friendly fire
blasting my integrity.
“You are over-emotional; stop blaming
medical and social services for her death.
You are wrong, all hospices are good;
look, it says so in The Telegraph" -

page neatly folded over
for my enlightenment
flaps large and speckled
over breakfast table not my own,
a provocation
I, a guest, must not shoo away
not rudely shake my host’s
faith in tablets of stone,
the infallibility of the official Word.

Shunted, personal experience
even as an exception to a rule,
sitting with my friend
I feel the loneliness of
the mad woman no-one believes
shouting on the city walls.
Speak what you feel, not what you ought to say,
and always be cast out.
Wait bitter years for them to believe
when they hear it on the news.

"You are exaggerating now
about your neighbours hounding you."
Matter-of-fact they pull down my last defence,

Not only an adopted child adopts a self,
all earlier selves rejected,
a child within a child,
made real only with affirmation,
dying like Tinkerbell for the clap of hands.

Sticks and stones may break my bones
but words will never hurt me:
an impotent charm against human packs circling,
some with malice aforethought, some with common sense.
“Your career has failed; it was a childish dream.”
Maybe it was an Intervention, kindly meant.
I would not wake them so rudely,
cast nasturtiums on their vocations,
the calling that defines them.
Epiphanies should be private affairs.
Comments are disabled here.
We must fight even our friends to own ourselves.

The hardest to fight are people who must be pitied.

The claims of their feelings wring me out.
On surprise attacks their banners blaze, Don’t Hurt Us,
while their weapons drawn cut me to the quick.
On single-minded course to protect my mother,
        I'm stung by do-gooding bees and spiteful wasps alike.
        Inhibited by compassion - involuntary emotion,
                  a curse, not a virtue -
        I dared not tell the needy to buzz off,
        so quicker than rigor mortis
        they come back when they hear she’s dead,
        trespass on my time and space to mourn alone,
        standing on the vanishing line between life
                   and death of her I love.

An admirer of my mother, emotional, self-deluded and camp,
mistaking her amiability for intimacy,
had unrequited fantasies of marrying a slim Bacchante.
Distressed by her illness,
her never getting better unknown to him,
he made false assumptions.
Fondly jealous of his illusion,
he envied me the carer’s role,
while I as jealously guarded her
from his morbid lamentations.
Deaf to our conscious denial’s subtle rhythm,
cut in our dance,
accused me of unheeding,
riled us both by phone and letter,
ignored her plea to leave us alone.
For eighteen months my forbearance held;
his final needling pricks me
too soon after death,
while, in next room, corpse is coldly yellowing.
This was the sacred time I had prepared for;
my mistake to share the news too soon,
(reasoning delay would offend her oldest friends),
gave him opening
to desecrate
my holy vigil.
I feel a surge, first of shock,
then repulsion,
stronger for a second than compassion,
freeing self-expression.
Not an impulse, not my will:
decision of my non-conscious brain,
programmed for self-preservation.
I say: after the funeral,
no more contact with you.
    I think: this ugliness
               is unbearable

One who could not be possessed before death
        is free for all now,
        re-interpreted, objectified.
Intellectual property transferred to public domain,
jealously appropriated for self-therapy
        out of keeping with her reticence.
 “Mine, she was mine” strangers cry.

I don’t know the boundaries any more, 
I have no rights to ownership.
When someone not my brother says 

“She was like a mother to me”, 
I wonder if they’d say to a widow 
“He was like a husband to me”. 
Their love for you has no room for mercy for me - 
but it’s not my death, not my show - 
“I’m more upset than you!” someone cries,
unhappiness in a verbal competition
(that long ago was waged in millinery: 

when my mother had joked
about the sizes of brims and nets
vying for solemnity  

on the ladies' hats  at my father's funeral
I knew she was not really laughing).

- “Be histrionic as you like at the funeral” -
display of emotion is prescribed there,
purpose built 1930s crematorium
(but not at home, in bed at night,
nor in the street, outside the shops,
nor by the river in the dark,
the places where other animals freely howl.)
I will not act being my real self
In front of people I know,
on a tacky stage set,
give up tears for entertainment
at the end of the pier
I keep my heart locked up
as she did, not worn on a sleeve.
The costume drama we prefer
is the blood red thread
worn by a French duchess
round her neck,
while she dances
on the eve of the guillotine.

I try to behave like my mother would;
but I do not have her knack
of being sociable and unknowable;
in her, pretending was a grace.
She glamoured while I grimace,
clinging to the fourth wall,
hoping to be edified -

- so proud of my performance, I’m off-guard
   when sucker-punch is pulled -

An abandoned child-woman sobs,
 “You are so composed”
 (My fault for hiding feelings,
blocking tears, a false impression)
“But what I feel is -
she was like my real mother” -

(I'm thinking: this is what I must bear now,
this is my duty:
hear confessionals, console bereaved,
harrowed by empathy's teeth, 
never mind my time and space to mourn.
I'm thinking: why must this happen,
now, when I’ve just lost her,
does a stranger stake their claim,
in the darkness that makes foundlings of us all?

Why have you bequeathed these trials
to me bereft and not your love?)

Anger and compassion war and make me mad.   

- unexpected test, sending me in flight over the bridge of the river -
I feel that surge again,
turbulence on a 'plane,
lurching in a lift,
waiting for equilibrium,
my suffering and my suffering
with another fight it out.
                                                            The battle seems to me unequal;
                                                            the vulnerability of the foe weakens me.
                                                            I loathe and pity
                                                            both of us.
I think the serpent flicking in my gut
was a neurotransmitter coming to the rescue.

                                                           After a pause like a dry on stage,
                                                           I start acting what I think is expected of me,
                                                           decide my feelings
                                                           at this moment
                                                           do not matter -
                                                                               even while somewhere inside me
                                                           a real I recoils, and sinks again.
                                                           grateful that my body reacts
                                                           unilaterally, cosmetic cover-up of mind,
                                                           so, decomposing,
                                                           I keep my composure.
                                                           (Not so hard: straighten mouth muscles,
                                                                             don’t blink.)
                                                            “She would have understood,” I ad-lib,
                                                            my hand stroking their hair,
                                                            (over the top, perhaps - I had no script for this)
                                                            - I wonder if they hate me
                                                            as much as I hate them..
                                                            I have no right to grudge them
                                                            their repair of injured soul;
                                                            they want unconditional love,
                                                            not in my power to give,
                                                            my hand lying on their head,                                                           
                                                            I am a hypocrite.      
                                                            I suspect they want to obliterate me.
                                                If this is self-control, what part of me is self?
                                      I should have said with honesty,
                                      I’m sorry for your loss, it hurts me, too,
                                      but the hurt’s too big for me to utter
                                      and compare.
                                      I lack the humanity that makes others
                                                    hug and share,
                            afraid my feelings would look like entrails hanging out.

At least the other's self-asserting impulse was genuine,
unlike the self-abnegation
on which I congratulate myself:
roleplaying a martyr,
hairshirt on,
or gracious hostess,
rising to the occasion,
to do what she’d have liked.
tying to act being her
without her resilience.
A child pleasing her mother,
and the father I never pleased enough,
I pretend to be grown-up,
belied by panic of being misunderstood,
too proud to seek applause, too vain
to bear sacrifice without recognition.

Days later, I snap at a stranger on a bus.


go to Part Seven: BREACHED