A poem by my sweet cousin Joanna Dickman. She didn’t leave anything left to be said. I thank her for this beautiful gift.
And Out In
I stood behind my grandfather
in a chattering of freshly soul-fed friends
and clasped my hands around his middle,
my face resting on the worn blazer over his shoulder blade.
He turned his head to the side
spoke to me
and I told him I love you in his ear.
I felt his breath fill my arms,
the labor of a life
in this practiced pattern in
and out in
and out in
and knew some day would come.
when the news comes that
we only have him till July,
He is good stock.
He is made of oatmeal
and pickle vinegar
and beet juice
and the last of all the vegetables
and the marrow from every bone
and the meat from every lobster leg
and always milk never coffee,
always water never soda.
When they tell me his heart is tired,
He is made of farm land
of waking up with the sun
of working all day
of finishing high school early
of a degree in engineering
of being an engineer.
He is made of numbers and figuring
of problem solving,
of the mathematics that hold
a thing together to reach the moon,
and a family together to reach retirement.
He is made of sails
and tides and ocean
of latitude and longitude
of the wind in his hair,
of a wheel in his hands,
of charted and uncharted waters,
of charted and uncharted lands.
When they tell me this could be it,
this could be the last season, the last time,
He is one liners and deep smiles,
and five-word wisdom.
He is the pillar,
the anchor, the bulwark
the tide, the moon
He is made of real things.
They don’t make men like this anymore.
And no July,
no month, no date, no year.
None of them are enough to take him from us
to take the breath from his lungs
to make some day arrive.
It came as a quake,
something that is known
but never expected.
you can’t hear over your own breathing
you fight everything that touches you.
it keeps men talking at your back all night,
and puts forks in your eyes.
it pulls your family to your side.
The world was held together
by the continuous beeping of monitors,
by tape and gauze,
by sheer force of will–
the will of magnetic north,
of hurricanes and tornadoes,
of planetary rotation
And then the wind gave out
and out in
The compass started spinning.
The planet stopped turning.
Gravity let go.
And everything became a struggle.
When to wake up?
How to get out of bed?
Where to go?
And the world missed it.
People went about their lives,
and standing in lines,
cutting people off on the road,
flicking through radio stations,
making their coffee.
People everywhere continued,
going about their lives as if nothing had happened.
But the world is less now.
The spine of our family has been ripped out.
True north is gone.
The sun only rises out of habit,
and it’s getting later every day.