A quarter century past, she read Yeats’
“The Second Coming,” repeating the lines to me
Things fall apart, the center does not hold…
Years later, towards the end, when asked what
Was her secret for living well, she said, Find
Something that does not move and hold on.
For her, this was her rose colored house
On the lakeshore, her chair at the university,
Her long time companion, and her Ph.D.
A plain child, her early brilliance lay
In survival, just hanging on, going within
To a spot safe inside from her parents’ neglect.
Where her gifts grew unnoticed, where her mother weaved
In an out of sanity, and her father reeled
On cheap Gallo wine to a grungy death.
She learned to love simpleness: laundered sheets,
A terse no of approval, flower beds
Planted neat and straight. Drawers stocked
With ironed underthings. A kitchen cat,
And a couple of chow dogs rescued from the streets.
The cool order of grammar. Precision speech.
Fierce with memory too, she clung to slights
Filleted to bones, her soul peppered proud
Flesh. Cicatrix of wounds, jealousy kept
Like weird gifts. When the cancer came at 50,
She met it hard, steeling herself to the end.
She outlived herself: three weeks after
Feeding tubes were removed, she yowled for water,
Still holding on to some tenuous wisp
Of life, still unyielding, tough as stone,
To a life already gone. Finally, she lies
In a home that will not move. Hold on, she’d say,
Find something that does not move. Just hold on.