31 August 2011

The Light I Travel By

There is a small poem written by Thomas McGrath that permeates my life every now and again.


How could I have come so far?
(And always on such dark trails!)
I must have traveled by the light
Shining from the faces of all those I have loved.

And its companion poem, in my mind, by W.S. Merwyn:


Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color.

These seven lines entail all that love entails: light and absence. Every experience of love I can think of lead back to these two poems. When you love people and keep them on your path and they love and support you, they light your way, they give you the hope you need to see the rough bits through and they provide you with a group to celebrate all the accomplishments with.

And when they are gone, for a time, everything you do reminds you of them. It is in a tender remembrance that we continue to love them when they are no longer lighting our way.

And we become separated in many ways: divorce, death, disease (why do all the unpleasant things begin with D?).

Moving away too. I’ve lost contact with so many old friends who just simply moved away, they just picked up and left and decided to live their lives somewhere else. Alaska is filled with people who moved here to escape and they stay, but Anchorage is especially prone to people who live here for a time and then get bored or broke and move away. I think I can probably count hundreds of people who I have loved and then moved away and lost touch with.

And it has hurt, every single time it happens it hurts and cuts deeper than it probably should. When you have abandonment issues, you half expect people to leave, to be done with you, and you want to scream, “No. Don’t go. Please stay!”

But you can’t, I can’t, because they all left for something better, and they all promise to stay in touch.

And when it happens over and over again, something  like bitterness sets in, something like low self esteem sets in and it sucks, and it isn’t fair to hold it against people. It isn’t fair to blame myself for them leaving.

Poetry provides a new perspective on this. Poetry, itself, tends to be brief, but deep in sentiment. Poetry celebrates the here and now, the thing that is fleeting, the ephemeral.
It captures the ghosts in our lives and allows us to go back in time and relive a moment that was over all too soon.

Maybe that’s why I’ve written so many poems about my dad and continue to do so. I always  had these brief intimations of him, intimations that showed me who he was, intimations that he didn’t allow anybody else to see, tender moments that I’m still not sure if he wants to me to share with anybody else.

He passed away in April. He was cremated. His ashes were spread this past weekend.

People used to say I look like my dad, I never saw it until he passed. Every step I have taken  has been lit by his face. Everything I do has been stitched with his color.

This is my dad.

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