Artwork by Kenneth Rougeau
Artwork by Kenneth Rougeau

The first spring thing I notice is the birdsong when I step outside in the morning, going to bring in the newspaper. Sometime in late February there start to be chitters here and there.  In March, if I get up right at dawn, it starts as a single cheet, then escalates into trills and melodies and chatter.  Now the yard is wide awake and singing by the time I go out in the morning, and I listen to the background songs as I meditate, a constant chorus behind my mantra.

Because the rise in birdsong coincided with the rise in Eric’s cancer, though we were long in to spring before we realized why Eric was in so much pain and feeling so lousy, for the last nine years there’s been a tug of grief in the sound, another reminder.  But it’s also a reminder of the whole glorious mess that life is, with its cycles and renewals, pain and joy, gain and loss, despair and celebration.  “Life is so damn yin yang,” I said to David last night, as we drove home from visiting friends grappling with new grief.

All of which brings me to this poem, which opens The Truth About Death, as it should.


Now the song varies, mocking chains of notes,
the catbird flying from maple branch to fence post.
All spring I noticed the rise in birdsong
as we went out each morning, stronger chatter,
the brakes off, cells dividing and dooming themselves.
I sit in your chair, I wear your clothes, your ring.
I talk to your photographs. I watch the sky,
watch birds in the yard and realize how many flocks
I’d missed. For weeks I washed you, watched you,
lay next to you, all we could do was touch hands,
all you could do was whisper, your eyes black
morphine disks. Yet you turned back for me.

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