Fleda’s Blog

My Wobbly Bicycle, 165

Posted by on Feb 13, 2019 in Featured | 19 comments

It was a beautiful day. I wanted to get my father out of his tiny assisted-living quarters. I took him for a drive up the Leelanau peninsula. This is a poem from my new manuscript:


Not Dying


He says he wakes and it feels momentarily

like he’s finally dying, a giving way, a sinking

or hovering, can’t say, but momentary: a window swung

open you don’t realize until a breeze.


I take him for a ride along the tongue

of land, west looking east, looking back at the city

from a point. Jet trails. He points them out, strung

like necklaces, one fresh, with its glint out front.


We talk glaciers, how they stuttered and glinted

down Michigan, pools for each pause,

those excellent lapses. And branches bare because

the trees are all dead, he says, forgetting the time of year.


No, I say, dormant. Road hum. Ducks with their flawless wake.

It hurts to turn his head. I slow and turn. Each new thing

needs to be dead center, unencumbered.  The names:

mallard, jet trail, Power Island. Boat slips claim


blank water breathing in their hollows. He says it feels

like dying, he says it as if he had been lit up from the inside,

a room waiting, a waiting room. Not an ordeal,

but road hum and light.


At night the aides come by. One kisses him goodnight

on the lips, he says. Where? The lips.  He smiles

as if he’s gotten away with something. He’s miles

away, a faint agreeable aftertaste. Nothing he can describe.


I rhymed this one, in my own way. He would have much preferred the rhyme to thump hard at the end, Robert Service-like, phrases all wrapped up. He didn’t understand my poems. But he said, “You must be good at this, you have so many books.” He read several of my poems in his weekly “Poetry with Phillips” times at Willow Cottage, where he lived. But they were a mystery to him. I didn’t try to help him much, because whatever degree of autism he had, completely prevented his understanding of metaphor, of the intangible.


No emotion makes it more clear that the body/mind is one function than grief. It floods and ebbs and flows as it will. It can’t be shut down and it can’t be called forth. Oh well, it can be called forth. An image can do it in a flash.


What I would like to say at the moment about my father, who died a week ago Monday, is that he was the most intensely curious person I have ever known. Somehow the brain-glitch that prevented one aspect of his self to manifest held open a floodgate of awareness in other ways. I kept learning from him up until he died. I took my IPhone with me every time I visited him, because I knew he’d have questions about things I couldn’t answer myself, so we’d look them up. At 100, almost 101, and beginning to get fuzzier, he would ask about the life cycle of the emerald ash borer. Raised in a mechanical-Newtonian world, he was still struggling to understand the relativity of time and space. I’ve kept his ragged copy of “Einstein” because I’m as baffled as he was by the way the universe is made of nothing but shifting.