As you lay dying,
you coughed up worm-strings of words
in a language I barely knew.
Smooth platefuls of sound, slipping
like the silver-butter
of moonlight on a pond.
If I cannot conjugate (I cannot)
– I die, you die, she would die, too, –
how can I feel the rough edges of Grief
spooled out in string and silk, by
the priest’s incense-weathered hands,
and his vibrating prayer –
Or your desperate wet-plum eyes
glistening in the fever
of your foaming last words?
Did you lament
that I could not access these shapes
– these sounds of sadness?
I am sorry.
They were cut from the same cloth
of the language I barely knew.
I have tried to fill the blank canvases,
of blanched-parchment days around The Death,
with ink-blots and badly formed letters
shaped child-like by trembling hand;
lists of vocabulary –
how do you say tomato, again? –
and phoneticised prayers.
From the brittle jigsaw pieces
of the language I still barely know –
which slip, fickle and jagged, from my mouth,
like razor-clam shells on shifting sands –
I will try to reconstruct you –
To overwrite you-as-you-lay-dying
(Swollen like an overripe, brine-soaked blueberry) –
And with these new, still-unwieldy tools
Draw you afresh, resplendent and ageless.
As a flower ready to hold
the heavy dew of a spring dawn.∎
Words by Anonymous. Art by Ben Beechener.