make me unafraid of what is disappearing

Just one from Raymond Antrobus‘s incredible collection The Perseverance and its pages of astonishing poems on family, language, grief, inheritance, sound, silence, his identity as a deaf British Jamaican man, and so much more.

An illustration of an older person's silhouette with an anatomical brain of rainbow colors on top, fading colors.
Art by Kristina Closs

“Dementia”

    ‘black with widening amnesia’
    Derek Walcott 

When his sleeping face 
was a scrunched tissue, 
wet with babbling, 

you came, unravelling a joy, 
making him euphoric, dribbling
from his mouth–

you simplified a complicated man, 
swallowed his past
until your breath was
warm as Caribbean
concrete–

O tender syndrome
steady in his greying eyes,
fading song
in his grand dancehall,

if you must, 
do your gentle magic,
but make me unafraid
of what is

disappearing.

I wash her hands with summer rain.

Illustration by Kristina Closs

“Taproot and Cradle” by Khaled Mattawa (1964-)

Evening coffee, and my mother salts
her evening broth—not equanimity,
but the nick of her wrist—

and my mother bakes bread,
and my mother hobbles knees locked,
and my mother carries the soft stones of her years.

Fists balled in my pocket,
riding the century’s drift,
I carry a wish and a wound.

It’s raining a noisy frost,
the inhabitants’ cruel happy laughs,
their sighs and curses,

small upheavals that slide
from their bellies,
down to their freezing toes..

And the city trudges, and night
loosens its reins, a stolen bulldozer,
a tank full of clowns.

Who’s calling
my name
from the window now?

She touches her hair—
She caresses her beauty
like the coffin of a child.

O pen of late arrivals.
O knife of darkened temples.
O my scurrying, my drunken snakes. 

I wash her hands with summer rain.
I remember the killed enemy.
I remember my good friends.

But the world is beautifully made for doing good and for resting

bouldercreek.jpg
A rainy day in Boulder Creek, California. December, 2019.

“A Quiet Joy”
by Yehuda Amichai (1924-2000)

I’m standing in a place where I once loved.
The rain is falling. The rain is my home.

I think words of longing: a landscape
out to the very edge of what’s possible.

I remember you waving your hand
as if wiping mist from the windowpane,

and your face, as if enlarged
from an old blurred photo.

Once I committed a terrible wrong
to myself and others.

But the world is beautifully made for doing good
and for resting, like a park bench.

And late in life I discovered
a quiet joy
like a serious disease that’s discovered too late:

just a little time left now for quiet joy.