My memories are not as pristine as the white sprawl
of that expansive place. The vaulted dome of sky
almost pushed away the closing in of dread.
Yet looming loneliness huddled in its painted valleys;
the peaks too high to climb, the air too thin to breathe.
He was dying in Boston while that eagle soared
between the mountain folds, while humpback whales
breached off the bow of our ship.
When the blue glacier cracked, spilling
monstrous shards into the sea, I felt
a terrible falling in my bones. I have grappled
with not being where I should have been;
for his lack of needing me.
But he insisted that we go. When we returned,
we folded ourselves into hospital chairs,
mother and son, side by side, through days and nights
right to the end. We made that final decision
too awful to ask of us. Our bond was stronger than faith.
I hung on the life line. Now I know
this was his desire: to tighten the fibers of our knot
so I would not be lost.
I have pushed myself up over the waves.
I can swim untethered now with my face in the sun.
The knot might loosen now and then
with the vagaries of the years, but it tightens
if we pull from either end. I look
at the photo of us rafting down that river,
paddling for life through the melted glacial rapids.
I grasp the meaning of that journey.
The distance remains vast, but the waters flow inexorably.
The sadness comes when I remember he cannot hold
your baby boy. So tie a knot with your own son.
Tend it for a lifetime, and when there is need,
tighten it fiercely.
Mary Buell Volk is a Connecticut native living in Old Saybrook. She is the administrator for the Design Department at the Yale School of Drama. Mary’s poetry has been published in Mad Poets Review, Connecticut River Review, Avocet, The Guilford Poets Guild 20th Anniversary Anthology, and the last five volumes of Caduceus. In 2012 and 2013 she won first place in the Acton Public Library’s poetry contest. Mary is a founding member of the Connecticut River Poets. Recently she has published a collection of her poetry, Here After, with photographer Carin Roaldset.