More than one person picked out the phrase “perishable beauty” from my What is Left poem, and I have been musing on the term “perishable”. What does it mean for me? I talked this through with a friend and we agreed that it had an “earthy” quality to it. Unlike the more cerebral Buddhist term of “impermanent” – it carries the emotional reality of loss and grief with it and the crumbling, falling away of returning to earth.
One muddy morning,
shadowed by overhead hazels and oaks,
I notice at the edge of the path
an orchid just opening its purple lips.
I circle it with a ring of stones
as protection from heedless boots.
The next morning I pass
and see the blossom stem
broken off at the base,
its spotted leaves splattered
with mud – and I mourn.
I sit on the kitchen floor,
my hands laid lightly
on the soft, grey fur of
a gentle, delicate, slightly clumsy cat
who consented to live with us
for many years.
Her eyes are closed.
At intervals her body shudders –
absorbed with letting go of life.
I pray for the angels to take her.
Eventually they do – and I mourn.
I sit in my parents’ bedroom,
where my father’s thin shoulders,
are tense with stoic agony –
his body no longer able
to engage in the simple acts of life.
In his mind, that has followed
elaborate mathematical equations
to beautiful innovative conclusions,
he knows what is happening,
and rides the waves
to the inevitable – and I mourn.
I open the window to the blackbird
calling in another perishable dawn.
The day after I wrote this poem, my husband called to me from the garden. There was the blackbird, cowering under foliage near the pond with a bleeding gash along its back. It did not seem to be able to fly, but eluded our clumsy efforts to “rescue” it. The following day, I found it dead on the grass – and I mourned.