|from my art journal - A Change in the Order of Things - May 27, 2016|
(gesso, acrylic paint, white and black marker, newspaper, Magritte's writing)
"What echoes in me is what I learn with my body: something sharp and tenuous suddenly wakens this body, which meanwhile had languished in the rational knowledge of a general situation: the word, the image, the thought function like a whiplash." - Roland Barthes, A Lover's Discourse: Fragments, p. 200.
In the dream you are still alive. And although I can see you, I cannot hear you. There is some type of screen between us, a boundary preventing me from reaching out and touching you. The distance keeps me from getting your attention, from saying to you, "Turn around. Speak louder, I cannot hear you."
The dream is a loop that plays the same few frames of film repeatedly.
It is daylight. Bright noon sun. You are sitting on a dock and water surrounds you on three sides. Your head is thrown back and I watch as your shoulders lift and then fall. Lift and fall. And your movement shows me what I cannot hear: You are laughing.
And I think, how familiar. You were always laughing.
The last few hours of your life are so permanently etched in my mind and I have replayed your death over and over again these last three months. I have replayed your death while waiting for coffee to arrive. While standing in line at the Stop & Shop. While waiting for Devon to come out from school. While walking. While falling into meditation. I see your death again and again like a loop I have no will to stop. The grief counselor I see suggests that I may have a touch of PTSD. And I think she may be right. For what I see again and again is all so clear.
On that unseasonably warm March afternoon with the winter sun falling quickly below the tree line, I watched you die. I held your hand as your jaw loosened, unhinged itself, like a wild bird finally un-trapped. How hard your body worked to die. You were a starling finally given flight. Loosed from the world, a wild thing--I held your hand between both of mine, murmuring sounds of love until I felt your body give way, like daylight to night.
Unmoored, you moved to where I could not follow.The quick fluttering of wings between tree branches.
That which is repeated is its own kind of wonder. This week, the dream comes most nights and I think I must finally be sleeping deeply enough to dream. There in that quasi-twilight before morning fully comes, the birds chirp and chatter call me from the deepness of sleep and I hang on to the bits of what I have been dreaming.
You are still alive. There is a dock. Lake water. I know more than I can say. I hear the water as it moves against the dock, moves against the shore--a lapping sound and behind me there are birds on the wires waiting to lift and I hear the sharp whistling sound of mourning doves as they first find flight.
It is high noon. The sun's warmth against my skin finds me drowsy. You sit on the wood planks, your back is to me. I want to call out to you to turn around, but my voice is mute. I know more than I can say as I watch as your head--tossed back and then forward and then back again and again. I remember that afternoon as we sat in your car so many decades ago and you explained the significance of a möbius strip. And I think now about your death about that one boundary between us.
The flannel shirt, the blue buffalo patterned one you always loved, now pulls at the shoulders each time you laugh, each time your head falls forward. I think how strange to see you in that shirt. I want to tell you that earlier in the week I donated all of your clothes and kept two of your flannel shirts to wear--and one is the shirt you are wearing.
When I wake, I look for you and see I am in bed, alone. I turn towards the windows and the sun leaks through the closed blinds, lightening the walls. Daylight has come and now early morning finds the walls a soft rose. I retell the dream and wonder, What does it all mean? What is its significance? What might it signify?
But I am still sleepy and these questions not for a Sunday morning when feeling drowsy feels right. Beside the bed is a book of poems you gave me. I find my reading glasses and then open to a folded page you must have turned down at some earlier time. It pleases me to think of your fingers touching the page I am now touching--your eyes reading the words I am reading--your voice sounding the poem as my voice does too.
You have woken up late,
lost and perplexed
but don't rush to your books
looking for knowledge.
Pick up the flute instead and
let your heart play.
(by Rumi, from Hidden Music, p. 158)
Outside, the birds call more insistently to one another. I wish I knew what they were saying. I wish I talked bird. I smile thinking how you too would have liked to speak such language. And laughing at the folly of such foolish things, I say after this year we have each earned a boon.
So, here's a secret for a Sunday morning.
Since your death, I have wanted to commune with you again, to boldly smash through that screen that separates us, and turn on its head the order of things as we have known it. Foucault was right. The order is arbitrary, Capricious, even.
Let's talk through dreams. Let's let this dream keep me company as I ready to walk. The dream replays like a song known for a long, long time. A familiar tune I can hum.
It plays upon my heart like a lover, slowly awakening this body.