Thursday, June 29, 2017

If by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, 
    But make allowance for their doubting too;   
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, 
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies, 
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating, 
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise: 

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster 
    And treat those two impostors just the same;   
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken 
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, 
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, 
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools: 

If you can make one heap of all your winnings 
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, 
And lose, and start again at your beginnings 
    And never breathe a word about your loss; 
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew 
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,   
And so hold on when there is nothing in you 
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’ 

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch, 
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you, 
    If all men count with you, but none too much; 
If you can fill the unforgiving minute 
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Source: A Choice of Kipling's Verse (1943)

Friday, June 16, 2017

To Rowan, Two Days into Life

It’s called acute renal failure, as if we have been particularly blessed.
“This is fatal, but isn’t it darling? It was chosen especially for you.”
As if the Alzheimer’s was merely a dressing gown, worn for twelve years,
exchanged at the last minute for a painful, shimmering evening dress.
Oh Rowan, I'm sorry you've come in the midst of all this.
You’ve just arrived as Nana is leaving.
You, a little dinghy, fresh in the water,
bobbing by a battered frigate
Limping into harbor.
The soldiers have long deserted,
Leaving only the current to push her home.
What are we to do? What am I to do?
I’ve excused myself to cry in private three times today.
Why do tears feel like they can show up without an invitation?
Does it look like I have time to cry, now, in the middle of a conversation about airline tickets?
I want to stare at your sweet face for the rest of my days.
I want the newness of life to erase the pain of loss.
But I am at work and you are in Texas.
Squeaking and grunting and seeing only grey shapes, inches away.
I am glad you are brand new.
I am glad you are too smooth and round and soft for grief
or love
or loss
or joy.
You don’t even know words, only sounds.
The sound of your father’s voice and your mother’s heartbeat,
Sounds to grow on.
“Acute renal failure” means nothing to you.
And now I have to go home and pick up the house
Scrub the bathroom
Place clean sheets on the beds
and take stock of the pantry.
There are faces and voices arriving,
To hover, whisper, reminisce and smile.
And wait.
And I have to pretend to care about their comfort,
their sleep,
their appetite.
When all I care about is Nana.
And you
And the quiver of your bottom lip,

As you sigh in a dream.

Written June 16, 2016, 2 days after the birth of my nephew Rowan, and 2 days before my dear sweet Nana finished her earthly journey

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