Something Happens

Part I

I haven’t yet named the thing
That is lost, or gained
When death comes near
But stays his hand

But this for sure:
His hand, like ice,
Leaves trembling infirmity
In its wake,
A lingering fear.

This is a list of the many times
I could have died.
Let’s tally them and see
If I have more
Than a cat’s nine lives:

Sailing with Dad, often scary,
Reached its apogee
In near-capsize.
The sea,
Gelatinous,
Reached for me
Until he swore
And came about.

Glass breaking
In my face
Bleeding and bleeding
In an uncle’s car,
Worrying about
Upholstery
At the age of eight.

Drunk,
Falling off a wall,
Onto my face,
Again.
Finding consciousness
In an ambulance,
A sensation I well remember
And don’t dislike,
A precursor to the heart attack
Ten years later.

Falling off a bike
In the slick winter rush hour
And in heavy traffic,
Not being crushed

I left Cornwall
And perhaps it saved my life
But I left
My friends
To die.

Watchful me.
I see death
Sitting there
Permanently.

Mountain biking
A hard, hard descent through peat
And glistening boulders
Alight with quartz
By Slioch to Loch Maree
There’s a wild young stream
Shooting the breeze
In a black gorge
And I fell damn near
Off the cliff
Clinging only
With fingertips
To ling.

Nearly,
I thought,
And cycled on,
Already wondering
What the near-miss
Would cost.

Cancer.
How close it came
I’ll never know,
But we got it out,
For now.

Is that seven?

Should I count that other time
On a bike again
When I flew
Quite gracefully
Over the bars
To land
On the soft American
I was trying
Not to hit

Shall I include
That furious row
In heavy seas
That could have
Should have
Drowned our little boat

Nine.

The car crash.

Ten.

The other weird illness
That never got a name,
Nearly killed me
As a kid.

Eleven.

Do I count the times
I nearly died
In dreams?
The knowledge
Of sudden cliffs,
Tsunamis,
Black walls of water,
Frozen, for now
Standing unseen
Far out to sea.

Death sees it all
Death sees me.

And here I am
Insulting death
By forgetting
His closeness
In the mountains.
There were many times
When the ice of his hands
Met mine

What doesn’t kill you
Doesn’t make you stronger.
It takes away.
A kidney here,
A weakness
In the left arm,
A trembly knee.
And damn it,
Despite all evidence
To the contrary,
Despite copious,
Prodigious,
Survival,
What doesn’t kill you,
Leaves fear.

Part II

It’s my friends I mourn the most.
Their deaths
Another calendar
Of nearlies,
Of could-have-beens.

Sean’s genius for making art
That could make us laugh
Hit. And run.

Nick, another artist
(Too soon to spot a trend),
Failed to leave
Our failing county.
Left behind
To suicide.

Lee – he also stayed,
Took a breezy walk
On the cliffs
One sunny day,
The wind ruffling
The yellow heads
Of gorse
Spreading its scent about
But Lee already
Thought he was Jesus
And jumped.

Alan stayed too.
More my brother’s friend.
I remember him at maybe thirteen
Stroking our rabbit
Heroin did for him.

It’s sad
That my last memory
Of Jay
Was not recognizing him
Because he looked
Like death.
We both had cancer then
But it’s not
The kind of bond
You’d wish
Upon a friend.

Part III

He’s not so bad you know,
Death.
He’s gorse-scent
Overlaid on ozone spray
And a sudden sensation
Like dropping
In a lift.

He had me in stitches.
Had us laughing so hard
We didn’t see the car.
I still remember it
And smile.

Death is quite relaxing,
Really.
As the needle goes in,
He’s the velvet fur
Of some kid’s wee rabbit.

And in the hospice
He’s children’s laughter
And a view of the sea.

2 Comments

  1. I’ve been coming back to this every now and then since you published it, trying to really let it sink in. It’s clearly deeply personal (and my, what a ride you’ve had so far!), but in a way that’s accessible from the outside, as well. I can’t find anything to change (including the length), but understand the concern over real names. That being said, sticking to first names only is a good compromise to maintain familiarity while protecting identity. I’d keep it.

    Like

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