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Saying Goodnight

John Terpstra


Lying in your mother's bed, five hundred miles
from home, having come to see her
through her latest hospital stay,
you're feeling a little like a young blind puppy.
The ticking from her bedside timepiece
is louder, more richly mechanical than your own;
the rhythmic persistent push-pull, push-pull
of its internal clockwork,
that you imagine placing under the pillow.

Meanwhile, on the third floor ward, your mother
in her almost inaudible hospital voice,
says, "I want to go home."
Her finger, though, is pointing toward the ceiling;
an action that so quickly depletes her body's strength
the arm soon falls
to lie beside her where she lies beyond the comfort
of her eternal working heart's
persistent push and pull.

I'm lying with you in your mother's bed,
a disconnected appendage, and I want to go home too.
I'm restless and dreaming we're on the third floor deck
of the ferry crossing the Bay of Fundy.
Our centre of gravity here is somewhere below
and behind us, and we pivot, smooth and hugely,
on swells and plungers that pitch and tilt us
to radical angles, in a rhythm entirely irrhythmic,
unpredictable, that you'd never sleep a child to--
though it isn't unpleasant.

An obvious dream, I think, while dreaming it.
A great white wave tries to wake us, exploding
over the deck, and as the water pours down
the lounge windows, a woman your mother's vintage
labouriously stands, turns to her companion, and says,
"Unbelievable." And it is, in a manner of speaking.
She turns again, this time stepping toward the door,
and says she wants to see for herself
this ocean she and we and the Fundy ferry
are pushing through.

And turning in my dream of sleep as she turns to go,
I inadvertently assume the same position in which I saw
my father lie, half-curled against the bed-edge,
as if to enclose within himself the black the doctor said
he was so full of, blooming like phosphorescence.
Yet it seemed a kind of return, his sleeping shape.
It seemed so clear he was returning,
and that the place was hospitable he was returning to,
and this knowledge was contained within the pain-shaped form,
his unbetraying body.

I almost envied him his almost touching it,
the still and endless moment
when the moving vessel pulls to berth.

Goodnight Dad.   Goodnight Mom.   Goodnight
sweet sainted parents; mothers, fathers, all.
What more can you do than draw our fear away?
Goodnight.
And goodnight to all your parent's parents too.
You're not so complicated any longer, or taxed
by illness, age, infirmity, or us.
Goodnight.
Goodnight.

See you in the morning.


John Terpstra's works copyright © to the author.


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