Archives for posts with tag: death

Cape blue waterlily (Nymphaea capensis var. zanzibariensis) (8103217895)

By Bob Peterson from North Palm Beach, Florida, Planet Earth! [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Another short story from the hip.

Fenstone’s Flower

Fenstone was in his favourite pottering spot for a not quite warm, though there be some sunlight day. He had finished washing the Saturday breakfast crockery and cutlery, scraping down the plates of scrambled egg residue and croissant crumbs. This was Peggy and Fenstone’s Saturday morning treat and it had been for the last 15 years since they moved into this house with the garden.

The garden had at first proved a novelty after the small patch of grass behind their starter house. The patch of grass had seemed a social upgrade on the balcony of potted tomato plants he had nurtured in the flat preceding the starter house. Part of the novelty of the full garden was its spaciousness and the two fully grown trees that had established themselves on the plot. Further novelty was the weekends spent idling in garden centres, picking out shrubs and plants. Peggy soon wearied of these outings. They took her away from chattering sessions with her friends. Fenstone was quite happy to continue the trips on his own. He went more often than was needed to replace the seasonal annuals or seek out vegetable seeds for fresh sowing.

Fenstone’s garden centre escapes were as regularly scheduled as his public garden visits. Botanical gardens, country house gardens, stately home gardens of all sizes, near and abroad either featured on Fenstone’s travel wish list or welcomed him as an eager visitor. But all these other places could not replace his favourite corner, his own garden.

Over the decade and a half they had lived in the house, it had become Fenstone’s garden. In the early days, he had employed the garden maintenance firm, a group of reliable Spanish men, all related they claimed, who had worked wonders at giving the space character and depth. What had been a square of grass, sided by two beds and sentried by the two established trees was transformed into a wonderland entered into by a curving path. The fish pond with a few blue water lilies, a delightful addition for many years, had recently been filled in at Peggy’s request. With small grandchildren around, the open water was now a hazard. Fenstone had salvaged the bulbs from the water lily plants and had promised them to another gardening friend.

After the Spaniards had returned home to retire, Fenstone had employed whichever young lad in the suburb felt inclined to earn some money sweeping, mowing, weeding or planting.The garden was now established and in his own retirement Fenstone had the time, and fortunately, the physical strength to continue with much of the maintenance himself. And nothing brought him more joy than the thought of a half or full day in his garden, and especially pottering in his potting shed.

In the potting shed Fenstone had coaxed all manner of vegetables, soft fruits and flowers through the cold and overcast winters. Last season’s strawberries were a great success and this year he planned to nurture a rainbow of fragrant hyacinths that would be planted at intervals in the wonderland. The bulbs had arrived the day before, so on this Saturday, Fenston had set the day aside to prepare the pots with nourished soil and plant the bulbs. Fenstone had spent many autumns preparing pots for not yet germinated seeds and bulbs, as well as fledgling seedlings. The potting shed was the preparation shed for Fenstone’s vision for the coming flowering season.

Fenstone pushed the water lily bulbs that he was drying out aside. He opened the bad of hyacinth bulbs and spread them out on his workshelf. The potting began.


It was not until six months later, in May, that Peggy went into the potting shed. Rotting plants, soil and spiders were not to her liking, but once spring arrived and it felt as though the world was brightening, she ventured out into the garden and into Fenstone’s old hideaway. She looked around and sighed. He had been such a stickler for order and it was evident even here, even six months later. The compost bags piled according to type, the garden soil and potting soil separated, not a cracked or grossly chipped pot in sight. Even the spider webs hung from their proper places in the roof corners.

The most orderly sight of all was Fenstone’s ranks of flowering hyacinths. Their scent was too strong for Peggy and she started to sneeze. This was not enough to put her off, today she had to clear out the shed because the movers would be arriving in four weeks. She did not have time to dawdle. She called out to her daughter in the kitchen, “Helen, sorry to trouble you, my hayfever’s playing up. Would you mind giving me a hand down here?”

Helen came down the winding path to the potting shed, “Wow! They are spectacular! Such a pity Dad isn’t here to see the results. And what’s the blue one over there? It looks like a water lily flower? I’m pretty sure they grow and survive potted in soil.”

Peggy and Helen stepped over to the opened flower, “Let’s take it up to the house and give some of Fenstone’s gardening friends a call. This calls for an expert’s opinion.”

Helen placed the pot on the kitchen windowsill. At dusk, the flower closed up. Peggy asked two of Fenstone’s gardening friends to come over the next day to confirm what they had witnessed.

The next morning Helen went down to put on the kettle. She scanned the windowsill for the opened flower. All that was left in the pot was a shrivelled stem.

Advertisements
Scrambled eggs-01

By Tom Ipri (Scrambled Eggs auf flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Into your hands
I commend the
beating of tonight’s
eggs. This will
be the last meal
of solid food.

When my Dad was in the final stages of his cancer, one of the few things he ate was scrambled eggs. That period of my life still circles in my mind. It was a strange time when we all continued with the daily activities of feeding him and being with him, neither realising nor acknowledging that he was actually dying.

I still think about what is it was like to be with the ‘almost gone.’ As I do not work in a profession that confronts death on a regular basis, my only experiences have been related to passing family. I sometimes wonder about the ushering performed by those in pastoral or hospice care, medical or funeral professions. How much of their work is solely the task at hand? How much is curating the metaphysical surrender of the body that expresses our life and appetites?

Twitter: @BeadedQuill
Facebook: BeadedQuill
Books:
In the Ocean: a year of poetry
Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys
Shining in Brightness: Selected Poems, 1999 – 2012

Bruce Boyd (C) http://www.thewildones.co.za

Photographer: Bruce Boyd (C) http://www.thewildones.co.za

I love this poem – “Wild Horses Don’t Break” – so very much. To date it is one of the poems I’d be happy to have on my gravestone. Not that I like the idea of being buried in a cramped plot. Fling my ashes to the dunes and the sea!

The wild horses of Kleinmond are not grey/white. Most are brown. That detail was a stroke of artistic license intended to echo the seaside dunes and create the sharp image of white movement through mountain passes. There’s also something mystical about a white horse (or could this be the Celt in me surfacing?).

This post’s accompanying image is of the real wild horses of Kleinmond taken by photographer Bruce Boyd. You can view many beautiful images of Kleinmond’s wild horses in the Wild Ones online gallery. Prints of these images as well as a calendar are also available. Follow updates about the Wild Ones on FacebookA heartfelt thank you to Bruce for generously sharing his work.

Kleinmond, by the way, is a seaside town in the Overstrand, near Cape Town. It neighbours Betty’s Bay, a beautiful stretch of coastline that has inspired a few of my most personal poems:

On a rock amongst rocks
A thousand scientific facts about the sea
A quiet thought also titled In this place, I eat butternut soup

My poem “Bursting art” is quite different in tone. For its simplicity and quietness, it would be another epitaph contender.


Twitter: @BeadedQuill
Facebook: BeadedQuill
Books:
In the Ocean: a year of poetry
Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys
Shining in Brightness: Selected Poems, 1999 – 2012

The facts of a beach-walk as seen by a poet.

Roll up! Roll up! To see
the hairy Caucasian lady
with her mandible chin hairs
protruding since she long gave up
plucking or pulling
or waxing them off. And
nobody else cares to do it for her.
Hairs and cavernous wrinkles! Roll up!
It’s not a wig. That’s naturally grey.
Under the chin? A wattle of flesh.
Stare on at those mandible chin hairs
sprout afresh.

For Doris, 1911 – 1998

My London-born granny, my maternal granny, was considered a handsome woman. She told me as much herself, proudly holding up a 1940s studio photograph as evidence. She remained a strikingly attractive. In these early memories, she was a formidable, confident and vital woman.

In the darkness of her bedroom, she had once shown me how she pinned her long, white hair into the trademark chignon she wore. After twirling her mane into a pony and tucking it under itself, one by one, she picked up and inserted the hairpins laid out on the white windowsill.

Gan Gan had impeccable style and a polished fashion sense. Her home in Newlands was furnished with complimentary imbuia furniture, always gleaming. She did not believe in wearing trousers, but was fond of a jacket and skirt suit. Perhaps this was an influence of her youth in London of the 1920s and 30s.

In my early teens she fell and broke her hip. Over the next five years, as she was shunted from one smelly, dismal old age home room to another, she grew more and more frail. Sensible elasticised tracksuit trousers became part of her wardrobe. Her once well-fed, upright frame crumpled. Her sturdy voice became a wobble.

“Nurse, nurse, don’t hurt me,” she’d plead.
“Gan Gan, for the zillionth time, I am not the nurse!”

Even her magnificent hair became “too much to manage” and it was chopped into a practical bob.

Then there were the chin hairs. We gave up plucking them; too fiddly for us, too painful for her. We tried waxing; also too painful for her. For a period we used depilatory creams. In the end, we simply left them for longer and longer periods of time.

As the plumpness of life left her body and face, she developed this jowly flap of skin under chin, like a turkey’s mandible.

Gone was my beautiful, fiery grandmother who terrified us all a little and would merrily sing “Knees up Mother Brown” or “Pack up Your Troubles”. Instead there was the woman with the mandible chin hairs.

My granny passed away in 1998 when I was 17.

Twitter: @BeadedQuill
Facebook: BeadedQuill
Books:
Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys 
Shining in Brightness

It’s Thursday, 06:15
You wake up to the alarm
knowing you will never 
  win an Olympic medal
  publish a novel
  that would win the Man Booker,
  finish your degree
  or even pay the last R150 you owe
Woolworths.
Your first grandchild will die before 
you and each of those candles you lit
in the cave of the chapel
might have been for your lost
dreams.
	But those little flames did not save you
from the canker fire in your gut and liver
that burned lost dreams and life
in slower motion than every workday Thursday.


This is the second in a set of ‘difficult’ poems.

Woolworths is a South African department store akin to the UK’s Marks and Spencer (rather than the now defunct UK Woolworths).

The described persona of this poem is based on my Dad.

Twitter: @BeadedQuill
Facebook: BeadedQuill
Books:
Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys
Shining in Brightness

Lento con agitato, for 10 minutes

to to to

tomorrow

tomorrow

tomorrow

too morrow

to

to morrow

tomorrow

row tomorrow

morrow

tomorrow tomorrow tomorrow

After the stroke

Aunt Edie struggled with tomorrow

and words. We performed patience

with wrapped chrysanthemums

for twenty minutes

each week.

She lay tied up in tubes.

In much printed Western music, there are performance instructions in the top left-hand corner. These instructions guide character and tempo. The poem above adopts this idea.

If you enjoyed “Stuck,” have a glance at my first published volume – SHINING IN BRIGHTNESS.

I tweet about my observations on life, my current practise and this abiding interest in writing. Please follow me. I’m @BeadedQuill

New paths will take you

through the wood: A diff’rent

route you’d not expect.

 

From there you’ll see things

– like the lake – from points

of view you’ll not forget.

 

A green bench here. Let’s

sit a while. The blind,

we benefit from this.

 

Dec. 2012

Another poem triggered by amblings in Waterlow Park, a green-space in the London borough of Camden. In the park are a number of benches, many of which have been sponsored in memoriam of loved ones. One such dedication described the deceased as a “benefactor of the blind.” Since many of these benches are strategically positioned at resting points and viewing spots in the park, I worked the strands of literal views and sights and internal, psycho-emotional vision into the poem.

If you enjoyed this poem, have a look at other work in my first volume: SHINING IN BRIGHTNESS.

I tweet regularly about my London ambles as @BeadedQuill