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A Legacy A Legacy
by Dr. Lawrence Nannery
2015-06-18 08:54:38
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A Legacy

She was beautiful, crazy and sick.
She was my friend.
She is hidden away now,
Safe under the lid of the coffin
That will be hers forever.

***********************

Squeezed dry by diseases, you died at 34.
Far away in Austria a man who made love to you years ago
thinks of you, and gladly, as overripe and settled down.
By now, he thinks, you must have a big fat house
filled to the jowls with kids
and every day you all benevolently have nothing to do
but run around and around in it.
To a neighbour’s son, or to a nephew, he might tell
of the summer back there in Lago di Como with the juicy
schöne schwarzer Amerikanischer, a “real broad”.

legacy01_400But in truth your life was so much sadder.
the ordinary way fell away right away,
away from the search for ordinary happiness,
away from the normal life and into the loony bin, thence
to the cancer ward. But still, there were
some things that were good, nicht wahr?
We had ourselves some times, didn’t we?
You were beautiful, crazy and sick, in that order…….
You were my friend.

My dear I am quite sure that you fell through layer of despair
only to find that every bottom was only a halting point
on the way to further bottoms, and further into formless forever-falling…
“I feel always off-balance,” you said, “rocking on my heels,
fighting while flying backwards.”
But because you were a woman, and needed your privacy,
I could say nothing, but only watch and sympathize, and admire.

Back at the house, after the service, drinks with the family.
I listen to the story of your life, and learn who is
the half-sister, the half-brother. On the mantel
is your graduation photo. Who would not be prideful
of your perfect teeth and perfect smile, your happy almond eyes?
What was in store for the world!
“This is my baby when she was sixteen. Oh but you know
she was already so accomplished. We all thought she would do…”
Mama is searching the word. She looks like a finch looking
for a bug in the grass, her eyes however tearing up,
“…everything, you know… I don’t know why
God let her suffer for so long…”

The preacher – the Episcopalian preacher – had said the same.
“Lord, oh Lord, why did you take this fair young woman from us?
Why did you have to make her suffer so? So beautiful, so sweet,
and yet God in His mercy took you away.”
Mama is smart enough to know not to say this in front of me,
so she says: “It must have been God’s will.”
What the hell does God in his wisdom want?

I am looking for a legacy
in this big boring house there must be something.
You had said once that you were writing essays on photography,
about the nature of light, and the capture of character,
and about the joy in children’s faces.
Photography was the one thing you thought you had talent in.
“Ah, yes,” replies mama, “she was very sad towards the end
sbout children … I mean her not having had any.”
There the matter rests.
There is still the question of some photos you had promised,
but in the whole of this pretty, perfect house out here in Queens,
a house chock full of things and things, really junk,
she wouldn’t know where these photos would be, you know.
Of course this would be the wrong time to go looking.
Of course, of course.
“When I think,” mama continues tragically, “…it makes me sick
to think of it really – how she used to lug all that junk
in and out of the city every day! She wasted all those days and nights.
But she would never give up, sick as she was,
till the very day she went into the hospital for the very last time.”

I am president – I want the legacy – aren’t there any photos about?
Oh no. not right now. It wouldn’t be the time. Of coursed of course.
But perhaps some day in the future? “Oh of course,” mama says,
“But you know, she whispered to me near the very end
that she’d decided they were no good after all.”

Your mother did not know you, Patty Ann.
you’ll have to face up to this even though you are dead.
Even the cave spider has to come out and face the music
when the evening comes. Your mother’s second family never
got to know you, and doesn’t really care.
Could this be true? Perhaps you said this to your mama
to be a good girl, too tired to offer any gesture of defiance.
Or perhaps you said it in disgust: after all, they say
that the souls of those about to die, preparing to disappear,
begin to dismiss the world all its works.

Perhaps she is right, your mother. Perhaps they are only ordinary
photos. But why should that deter her form looking?
I am a difficult case: months later I phoned to ask again.
She was sweet: “No, we haven’t found anything.
We’ve all been busy and …you know … saddened...
Patricia would have been so happy to know how much you care.”
I did not thank her but asked her to her best and get back to me.
That was that.

You went peaceably Patricia you didn’t want a fight.
It wasn’t dishonourable to look for a way out.
You were picked out to face many terrors:
Madness, cancers, the loneliness of madness, of cancer.
When they weren’t busy snipping off your breasts
they were busy scrambling up your brain.
You sang no strident song of sorrow,
or let loose a sour whine of tearful pain,
but built yourself a tumulus of dignified silence
(Though you once admitted to a nurse (who told me)
that you often cried in secret, though you had no notion why).

Today I discovered a friendly photo made by you.
Life shot right out of it at me.
There I am, picnicking, good fellow that I am.
There in the park, on a blanket, in sandals, with French wine
and French bread, and a smile on my face.
I am reclining, yet holding forth, and toasting your health.
My infant son in diapers is on all fours, and urging at the
dark and interesting bottle. He is staring at it
across the hills and vales of my outstretched legs.
His mother is smiling at me. I am staring at you.

You snatched this out from time’s zinging passage
and framed it with your friendly love for us all.
The photo is magical, a remembrance and a present.
You have come alive again for me.
In this eternal moment, time’s desperation is out at bay.

My gaze upon you in here is friendly.
My gaze at my gaze friendlier still.
This is what I desire, my dear friend, is it not?
It is something saving, nicht wahr?

Salutations, I will keep you clasped close in my heart.


     
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