Spring/Summer 1994, Volume 11.2
Poetry

JEANETTE C. BAGLEY

Departure

We shrink and blow away,
abandon this frail body
its skin like rice paper
transparent to the bone.
Dignity shares no intimacy
with old age whose years
dessicate our fragile limbs;
our yellow eyes close
on plaster chipped
from sick-room walls
and even laughter declines
so small an inheritance in time.
My father entertained all this
without me, atrophied,
a useful word, though meaningless.
His unkind body
let his brain wear out,
insufficient thin-walled cubicles
to make the mechanism run,
least of all mentality.
Coasting, he held a stranger's hand,
used my name imposed on a day
neither of us remembers,
convinced himself I had come home
to ease his pathway into night.
Confused, he cornered the exit alone,
drifted against its soft shoulder,
one last milestone, the remains
of his crippled intelligence
spent in the search
for final absolution.

II

His life, an arrangement of chapters
reserved for the proud custom
of public scrutiny,
its preface well-read,
pages dog-eared
to be retrieved easily.
But the epilogue fused
with his mind a paper-chase
of vague paragraphs stained
by the stench of infirmity.
And in the end, believing
that imagination bends
our pathways home,
he held my hand.
Important then
that only one of us
could understand:
not old men, but children
grow older, shrink,
forget their names
and wander quietly away.
 
Autumn Ritual

Like spent leaves
I could release
the steady bough
of summer, and still
the harvest withers
under a familiar rain.
Sad: this recognition
once viridian;
I watch it decompose,
a blight in foreign soil,
unable to elude
another season's yellow death.
And sown from woodsmoke
or the fragrance
of wild rosemary,
in mist adrift
against this harrowed moon,
recollection grows inherent
every golden autumn,
impels one final gathering
before December frosts
turn everything
to stone.