Thursday, November 10, 2011

Paid-Out Ropes

Not the one who takes up his bed and walks
But the ones who have known him all along
And carry him in

Their shoulders numb, the ache and stoop deeplocked
In their backs, the stretcher handles
Slippery with sweat. And no let-up

Until he's strapped on tight, made tiltable
And raised to the tiled roof, then lowered for healing.
Be mindful of them as they stand and wait

For the burn of the paid-out ropes to cool,
Their slight lightheadedness and incredulity
To pass, those ones who had known him all along.

—From Human Chain 
by Seamus Heaney

Elizabeth posted this poem today, and it just sliced right through me. It made me think of Aunt Winnie, not about what others do for her now that she can no longer do for herself, but about what she did for us, the way she carried us, her brothers and her sisters and the succeeding generations of us, across oceans, down through the years, her shoulders aching with no let-up as she waited for a healing, and she's waiting still. 

All she wants now is for us to care for her last remaining child, a woman adrift in a fog of substances, who's out there somewhere, no longer being carried on her mother's now stooped shoulders. My aunt seems not quite sad about her son's passing. She seems to feel a kind of peace at the idea that she will see him soon on the other side. She won't have to leave him here, undefended. But her daughter, that's another story. 

I wish we could repay her for everything by snatching her woman child back from the pit of addiction, brushing her off and standing her up, shiny and new at her mother's bedside. I wish I could do this for my aunt before she dies. It is the only desire she has left, to know that her last living child will be saved.


  1. The paralytic of this miracle must have meant a lot to the friends who lowered him down. He was cured by their faith evidenced by their persistence, determination and physical sacrifice. This man must have been very special to move his friends' hearts in this way. Jesus saw their hearts and performed this miracle. When you write about Aunt Winnie our hearts ache with yours in seeing how much she means to you and your family. Jesus sees your heart too. Hold fast to your Faith.

  2. Oh, honey. I know this must hurt your heart so much but here's the deal- and you know it- no one can save that girl. If her own mama couldn't, it couldn't be done. And it's no ones' fault.
    You need to cleanse your heart of that hurt if it's possible. Try.

  3. Oh you. Sigh. Your heart is so good. It is.

    You know what? I believe in miracles. All kinds. I sure do.

  4. I love how you took the poem and made it your own, too.

  5. I'm sure your aunt knows everyone has done all they can do, and she knows sometimes we want things that just can't happen.

    Good poetry is so impressive when it speaks to the reader, and reaches something personal inside.

  6. You're a good "daughter" to your Auntie. You're probably all that she needs.

  7. I've been thinking of you. My apologies for being absent for a while. I've tried to "save" a person before and found that it leeched parts of me slowly and slowly until I felt empty. As Ms. Moon says, it's up to your cousin and no one but her. It's so unfair, isn't it? I wish we could solve it all, for everyone.
    Sending love.

  8. What a beautiful picture, did you take it? And the poem below, and what you wrote. It shines. You fill me, the sneaky selfish holes i have in me, you fill them with goodness. thank you.

  9. oh thank you, angella. i can't even begin to tell you why thank you so, so much!

  10. Thank you for this, and especially for that beautiful photo. Those moments with our elders are so, so precious. You've captured all the complex beauty of that relationship. Bless you, beautiful!!!

  11. My heart is with you.
    Is it okay to be in the fringes of each other's lives?
    Sometimes we are all poems for each other. Safe places to land. Light.
    You are light.