Sans tître

I could have been there Friday afternoon.

I told myself I couldn’t but the truth  was, I was scared.

I told myself I was scared of my father’s arrows but I was just afraid of my mother’s death.

In prayers, I’ve told her I wished I’d been there. Truth is, I don’t.

What do you do? Sit there and watch life leak out of your mother?

She said her favorite thing about growing old was the dimming out of light. Smooth and foggy. Even after the cataract surgery.

I took the cheaper train and that got me there too late.

I must have known, on the train. Text messages bouncing like pinballs between my folks. Smileys and hearts galore as we followed live on ichat the heroic exit of Mother from the hospital.

She’d been gutted—literally. They put in a pouch instead. Mother had a shit pouch tapped into her stomach and you wonder why she wouldn’t swallow a thing. I believe that having a shit pouch bob off of you makes everything a little too literal.

Mother hated stupidity. She hated stupidity more than ugliness. Poets find poetry in the ugly. In the stupid: impossible. In fact stupidity is, intrinsically, the absence of poetry.

But on her second to last week, she relinquished intelligence. I watched a sophisticated, savagely stylish, adulated woman who happens to have made, unmade, and remade me—I watched her hesitate, then choose stupidity.

It is not true that people tell the truth on their deathbed. I think that most of us will, in the face of our last breath, lie even more vehemently—How else will we be true to ourselves?

Mother did not ask for consolation, or forgiveness. She asked for freedom, and she didn’t know she could get it on this side of dying.

This is how you know it’s time for you to go : You’ve run out of nuances.

On the next to last week, Mother had run out.

The degree of your freedom is, after all, directly proportional to the number of IVs plugged into your extremities. When they won’t let you open the window for 21 days and suddenly you realize you no longer desire fresh air on your face: Only the beeps and an extra pillow.

How many days of this before you tear the pouch off of your side and gurgle away

like a stream.


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