Death: Not an ending, just a quieting

By Laura Grimes

Today the blog takes a moment of silence. Richard Vincent Grimes passed away 20 years ago today, but that’s not really the day I’m honoring. I’m remembering instead a quiet moment I shared with my dad nine months after he died.

It might have been a dream. Might have. But that doesn’t matter. I can’t explain what happened any other way than a poem I wrote about it, or tried to write. It’s hard writing words for something that has no words. Some people paint. Some people make music. But all I have are words, ill-fitting, stubby, noisy, too-exacting, too-will-never-work, too-wordy.

They really need to just be quiet.

When words don’t work or aren’t enough, that’s when I write poetry. They become my music and my paint. My release valve, magma hole.

Then, when I don’t need them anymore, the poetry words go away without my even realizing it or missing them, which sort of makes me sad and sort of makes me think it’s a good thing. My poetry words have been missing for a while.

Many months ago (but not too long ago), I took a lunch break one day when I was busy, tired and preoccupied. It was a little cafe with just a few tables and chairs, where lots of people came and went. Without really thinking, I pulled out a pad and quickly started to scribble while I ate. I didn’t see or hear anything. I just wrote.

I started by trying to recapture that quiet moment I shared with my dad, but the poem wrote itself after that and I just followed, trusting it, not really sure what it was or where it was going, but not questioning it either. I wrote furiously, instinctively.

I stopped before I was finished, knowing I would have to take some time to access the right place and it wasn’t going to happen in that short lunch period. I closed my notebook without reading it, thought to myself, That was weird, and wondered whether there was any material whatsoever that would be worth salvaging.

On the bus after work, I pulled out my notebook and read through what I had written. I was surprised to discover it wasn’t as disjointed as I had thought and I might save it from the trash bin after all. I tinkered with it some, but not much. At home, I typed it into my computer almost verbatim, and wrote the end, which caught me by surprise.

So, before you move on, please take a moment. I know you’re flipping through links, consuming and spewing as quickly as possible. (And thanks for stopping in, by the way.) I know you’re thinking about that next appointment, that next meal, the chores that are piling up. Please stop the noise, take a deep breath, relax, and consider, for lack of better words, something sublime in the most noiseless place you can imagine. And imagine, without being told, that you understand absolutely everything about that place. There are no portals for communication because they aren’t necessary. Communication just is and just isn’t. There’s no need for forgiveness, for guilt, for love, for shame, for explanations, for fear, for beauty, for endless words. There’s just no need. It’s all good.

Swallows and Flies

and not talking
like drinking hot tea
on top of hot pepper
the tongue burns good
swallowing words
thought and not said
thought and not thought
cleanly edited
or simply not needed
two animals
say plenty
and easily fill the space
where voices have no place.
They look and move
and lick and nose
and know
thoughts that have no symbols.
They know the swallows
that swoop
and glide
and whoosh
and dart.
They know the flies
that drone
tiredly and tirelessly
in misshapen circles
and lazed.
They know
the flit of the lark
light and nervous.
They know
the high flight
of the hawk
beat beat soar
wings stretched wide
to catch the endless wind
the beak curved
to a point
the intense eye
spying the slightest
They speak
all these languages
down deep
in the inner ear
where they find
an equilibrium
that balances
air and water
in careful measure.
They know past
the sound
and smell
to the quiet
that has no name
the silence
that has abundant
the music
that has no notes
holding aloft
the words
with no taste
no tears
dropping down
until they spring
on a gut
of fear and glee
and know this must be
what it is like
to be a hawk
fierce and free
sharp and soaring
vast and broad.
The many thoughts
quickly come together
as one
answering the danger
that comes next
a meal
an appetite
that nurtures
as it picks apart
bones and fur
in its hunger.
Lifting its keen eye
at last
it looks ahead
to the chance
to fly again
and read
the many movements
that come together
without question
as one,
and listen
from a canal
that knows
no bounds.