Thursday, June 07, 2007
Caring for a spouse at the end of his life: north state poet's words are simple, poignant
By DAN BARNETT
"For thirty years," writes the poet, "they have sat together / as day fades into evening // Lifted glasses in toasts / smiled over triumphs / raged or wiped tears / over plans and people that sank &" And now he himself is sinking; that strong man who nailed and planted and "cradled / an armful of kittens": "Today, as he tries to rise / from his crouch, his legs tremble. / His foot slips on a damp / patch of earth and he spills / like an overturned flower pot."
Poet and publisher Patricia Wellingham-Jones captures the sheer physicality of caring for her husband, Roy.
"End-Cycle: Poems About Caregiving" ($8 in paper postpaid from PWJ Publishing, www.wellinghamjones.com) won the Palabra Productions Chapbook Contest for 2006. The book is also available in Chico for $6 from Lyon Books as well as the Vagabond Rose, "the downtown art gallery where Bob Garner also exhibits his work on occasion (and where I bought the original painting which became the cover art)."
The 31 poems in "End-Cycle" are self-reflective but not self-indulgent.
There is the "First Night": "Like an anxious mama / I tiptoe through the house / check on you and your new bed / in the office turned bedroom & I want to cry / in what little sleep I get / for the change from marriage bed / to hospital bed at the end of a very long hall &"
There is the effort to hold on: "I want you / to remain part / of our decision making. & Your hearing aids / muddle the message / before it even hits / your poor tangled brain. // I realize my effort / to keep you involved / is one more / small cruelty."
There is the downward cycle: "When you fret about jobs you think you didn't do / or worry about Smudge the cat / outside in dark rain // I'm thankful I can soothe your spirit / and you remember the cat's name / (though not mine) and care & When you praise me and the other two women / taking good care of you // I'm thankful you know you're in good hands / though all those women are me."
Then, in "Vigil": "The hospice nurse whispers / in your abandoned ear, / It's all right to go, / Pat will be okay." And then it is over.
Later, in "Rainstorm Room," "I weather the end of winter, / know spring will come."
Dan Barnett teaches philosophy at Butte College. To submit review copies of published books, please send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Copyright 2007 Chico Enterprise-Record. Used by permission.