AFTER AND BEFORE (DREAM-BASED POEM)
[digital art by Jonathan Cummings, webshots.com]
I recently had occasion to share in detail for the first time in years what it had been like taking care of my best friend and roommate, Brenda, as she died of cancer (1982-83). That, along with all of the recent news reports related to 9/11, and the approach of the fifth anniversary of that Twin Towers disaster here in New York City, has had me thinking even more than is my usual wont about grief and fear. So I thought I'd share a (somewhat prosey) poem I wrote in 1999 about a dream I'd had a a few years earlier about Brenda.
The poem below is ultimately hopeful, and I have come to believe the final dream message is true. In fact, I think we have more to fear from a life we are not fully living, than from death.
Brenda walks up to me, as young and fresh
as Dorothy seeking Toto, long before the tornado.
She places a wicker basket on the cold metal
hospital table, that is only a reminder now
of radiation and chemotherapy.
"Come, let's go on a picnic," she says
in that tone that never failed,
even at the end, to command me.
She folds a red and white checked table cloth
and puts it in the basket. As she turns around
and skips away, I follow.
As I always followed, until at the last
I could only stand and wait by that final door,
hopelessly wishing that there were ruby shoes
she could click to take her painlessly Home.
Brenda's mood now is infectious.
Her dark eyes impish, as they were before
they were clouded by drugs and fear,
before I failed to reassure her that her cancer
was not a punishment from God.
The hospital fades completely away.
We are on a smooth road, in a foggy
nowhere space that is not unwelcoming,
a soft warmth pervading.
The weight of days seems lifted.
I feel light enough to drift along,
if I could let myself.
But fear starts to spin and I stop short,
allowing only a small exclamation
of surprise to escape:
Brenda is gone. At my side is a tall,
cloaked and hooded figure of Death.
He stands at my left side, leaning slightly
toward me in a confiding manner.
I somehow know there is more to see
down the road ahead, but fear
is sweeping me up.
I stay in the dream only long enough
to hear Death say "We had to fool you.
We knew you would not come along otherwise.
And she wanted you to know that it is true:
you need not be frightened of death."
* * * *
P.S. Not only was Brenda my best friend and roommate, she was my first Tarot teacher (probably in the early 1970's). Friends had given her Tarot lessons as a birthday gift and I'd study right along with her when she got home from those classes. She particularly loved The High Priestess (II) card:
The initials B & J on the two columns behind The High Priestess were Brenda's first and middle name initials. (They stand for Boaz and Joachin, strength and stability, but we had not delved deeply enough at that time into the cards to learn these sorts of little gems.) And her friends had given Brenda the lessons because they were acknowledging her highly intuitive nature, which is a main attribute of The High Priestess. To this day I always feel Brenda has said "Hi" when II shows up in a reading.
Resource: Giggle Poetry: How to Write a Deam Poem, this is a "how to" site for teaching kids. The exercises look like they'd be not only fun but useful for adults, too.
‘til next time, keep dreaming,
[aka: Patricia Kelly]
****If you wish to copy or use any of my writing or poems, please email me for permission (under “View my complete profile”)****My other blog: ROSWILA’S TAROT GALLERY & JOURNAL.