KNOWING


as I did that you were dying
made your death no less
unthinkable. I remember how,
after Dad called the summer camp,
they let Kate and me swim,
though the beach was not open,
while we waited for the van
to take us to the airport.
Your body waited for us at home,
the undertakers held at bay,
but only by that much.

I stood far out in the lake, beyond
the boats, beneath the white sheet
of the sky, the quicksilver water
up to my shoulders. I looked back
at the rolling ground sloping,
grass-covered, to the shore
and at the winding dirt paths
worn across that small landscape
and I thought, this is not so hard.
I have been parted from my mother before.
I have been on journeys; she has gone away.
However long it has been, however long
it will be, I can always bear
one more day than that. There is no day
on which I cannot bear one more day.
And so I turned and swam,
sliding down into the liquid,
pulling strongly with my arms.

Somehow in the more
than twenty years since,
I have accepted, without
acknowledgment, that you
are not coming back, but
only by accepting
that nothing comes back.

No, I have gone one better.
I have rewritten the story
to say that you were never
really there. As when the mist
would roll in and that lake
would disappear, the small boats
floating cleanly in a cradling
nothingness, moored and waiting.


appears in Liasons II: The R.D. Lawrence Commemorative Anthology