At this time of year I tend to “go to pieces” (so to speak), and find it hard to concentrate or to keep two thoughts running consecutively. On Saturday just past I marked the 6th anniversary of Elizabeth’s death. At this time of year my normal functioning is greatly diminished. Her absence at any time is always palpable, but on the 8th of June I find it hard to think about anything else. I have little rituals to go through, fixing up the grave site after the winter, placing flowers, and then watching (and listening) to the talk that I gave at her memorial service, and, after that watching again the slide show (presented at the memorial) which I called, simply, “Elizabeth: A Love Poem.” I light a candle in her honour while I do this, and on the lighter are engraved the words, “Dignitas et Libertas,” as she had requested our daughter to do. Here is a picture of the candle burning before photos on the mantelpiece (one taken two weeks before she died, the other in 2002, just before our drive across the continent), the same candle used on the first anniversary in 2008. Ritual and liturgy run very deep in my blood, so these things are quasi-religious expressions of the importance that Elizabeth’s life played in mine (and mine in hers).
It was teeming rain at the time, very reminiscent of the monsoon rains in India, and the rain lasted all day. It reminded me of the poem I wrote in my cycle of poems about Elizabeth, entitled, “It’s raining now.”
It’s raining now
and every drop
that I have shed
I wonder now,
if I will ever know a time
that will not rain.
There’ve been so many torrents
since you left
that all the world’s an ocean;
and I sometimes think I’m drowning
in that watery world.
The flood keeps rising higher,
my little barque alone,
without the firm sea anchor
of you, your flaming body,
the other half of me,
the flesh and fire harmonious
that gave us steerage way,
and a clear path to follow
out to sea.
Without you I flounder
in this wavy, reckless world of gales,
with seas that roll through fog banks stretching
beyond the nearest light,
might, but cannot –
piercing that endless, rolling, foggy sea–
give comfort in my storm.
I lose myself sometimes in dreams and fantasies,
of what was more real than real,
of snowy epiphanies,
of bodies and of fire,
as when we strayed from room to room
in perfect consummation,
when we were one flesh, one body we,
one world entire.
It’s so alluring, so very inconstant there.
There is no warning –
silent and alone I face the storm,
and gaze once more with longing
over the craggy coast
of that endlessly surging, raging, foggy sea.
It’s still raining now.
I wonder if I will ever know again
a time that will not rain.
At the time it was, indeed, raining, and it was still raining when I typed the last words. As I said, these simple poems came to me in a rush during a week or two in July or August 2008, fully formed, just as they are. The first poems I ever wrote. I have never had the “daimon” again. So, they came, I know not whither. But wherever they came from, they are a tribute to the love we shared. It was an enormous privilege to have shared Elizabeth’s life and to have known her love.