By James C. Glica-Hernandez
December 8, 2012
On the occasion of my granddaughter’s wedding
The heartbeat in my ear begins
Nearly imperceptibly in its inception.
My breathing more puffing and halting.
The miniature lake that develops
In the inner corner of my eye surprises me.
My years pass suddenly, shocking me.
I gaze upon a resplendent young woman,
A graduate from high school. A bride.
My heart recalls her grandmother described this way.
I recognize in her face her mother and father.
Perhaps her grandfather’s skin color appears.
My inability to tell time or date throws me.
Who are this woman’s ancestors?
Twelve congregated elders claim her as theirs.
My mind rumbles, “How is it possible that I am one of these?”
Our granddaughter is married today and
I joined her to her husband as their minister.
My spirit reels with joy and temporal confusion.
Time lies when I look in the mirror.
I am too young to be a grandfather of a married woman.
My realization is that I am the one lying today.
I was the first man to hold my delicate Littlebits.
I danced with her at her wedding today.
My truth is that she is old enough and I am old enough.
Do not go gentle into that good night [A Villanelle]
Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right, Because their words had forked no lightning they Do not go gentle into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay, Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight, And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way, Do not go gentle into that good night.
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay, Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
And you, my father, there on the sad height, Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray. Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Dylan Thomas, 1951 or 1952
In this dynamic and oft-quoted poem, Thomas talks about those who have created lives that defy death until the very end. In one way or another, these people have revoked the truth of natural law until that time that the universal heirophant commands otherwise.
It appears the rage starts now. After watching, on average, one significant death a year for the last fifty years of my life, I’m getting angry. Although I am a man of vivid faith and peaceful gratitude for every event of my life, I am still finding myself trying to put the brakes on death; that of others and of my own.
While there were no deaths some years and several in others, I am finding that the number of those I love who are moving onto the next leg of their journeys are increasing incrementally. Each death reminds me of my own mortality. I am feeling an immediacy and intimacy of my own mortality the likes of which I have never felt before, even considering I’ve had a heart attack and two strokes.
I am finding myself trying to leave a thumbprint on everything I possibly can because my fear, in all its immaturity and mendacity, is screaming, “If you don’t make your mark now, you will be forgotten after you are gone.”
I’ve lost someone in every level of the seven generations that have been alive in my lifetime, from my great-great grandfather Lorenzo Herrera, to my unborn grandchild, Ana’s third baby. Having watched seven generations of my family impacted by death has taken its toll, to be quite honest. I have learned that nothing on this planet is permanent. I have learned that no one is exempt from “that good night,” to which Dylan Thomas so eloquently refers.
And, yes, I am raging, raging at the dying of my own light. As my eyes become burned by the darkening of time on my lower lids, as the edge of my lips turn down from the force of gravity and the loss of elasticity in my skin and vivacity, as my chest and belly and ass descend on the ladder of old age, I am still raging. I fight this battle through my creativity. I engage this war by loving anew every single day. I revolt against the flickering lights around me by lifting others, younger, more vibrant others, into their own sense of artistry and self.
My logical mind tells me that my body will close up shop one day. My brain function will flat-line. My heart will turn dark brown from a lack of oxygen. My sacred vessel will cease to be necessary. I understand that. I accept that. At some level, I even celebrate that because it will be a testament to the fact that I have completed my work here on Earth.
I am valiantly hoping that my innermost peace and spiritual ferocity both come from the ultimate truth that I will not be forgotten, even after everyone I have ever known is gone. After my literary words have faded and the paint I have embued on my canvasses have crumbled, after my music is no longer audible and my children and grandchildren are dead, the truth on which I must focus with clarity and purpose is that I will always be remembered by God.
Billy Crystal’s character tells Danny Devito’s character in “Throw Momma From the Train,” that “a writer writes, always.” It’s true. Just like a painter paints and a sitter sits. Where my quandry emerges is, not unlike a tree falling in a forest, if one is not published, are the words still more than simple emotive and physical scribbles on a page?
I saw on Craigslist a call for poets to submit their poetry about losing one’s mother. I happened to have lost two mothers, one by birth and my “real” mom by adoption. I have poetry about their deaths.
There is no pay involved and if one or more of the selections are chosen, one receives a copy of the book. I’m certain it is self-published and will come, if at all, with flimsy plastic pages and smeared print. So, why, you may ask, am I submitting my precious gifts at all? Because, my friends, a writer writes always and then they get published.
Am I cynical in believing that what shows up on my resume counts, even if it is a small self-published document like this? Is it important for me to know that perhaps thirty people will own a book with my poetry in it, even if most of those people are the publisher’s family members?
I think it is important. It is valuable at a few levels. One, it states that one believes in his or her work enough to submit it to another person, a stranger, for consideration. Two, if it is published, it is a legitimate entry on one’s work history. Three, someone is there to hear the tree fall in the forest. Someone, outside of the few intimates around one can share in this artistic rendering. With all that going on, one should be very pleased.
Art is about choice making. Every word, brush stroke or note is a message from the author/artist/ composer about who he or she is and what is in their heart. Sharing those choices adds to the pool of veracity and beauty available for the greater consumption.
Yes, it is about self-discipline. Yes, it is about the work. Ultimately, however, it is about the willingness to open ourselves up to others joining the party in our spirits. It is about joining together, artist and patron, to share a common experience.
My door is opening and this is my journey over the treshhold. It is exciting and unnerving and about time.
So, write writers! Paint painters! Compose composers! Always! Just remember to celebrate your art by sending it out to just one stranger if you get the chance. But, finally, it’s your choice.
A Composite Life
By James C. Glica-Hernandez
May 31, 2009
Pieces of lives vie / Budding from one plant / To view the new sky / Each at altered slant.
Every florid bloom / A different shape / Yet all stemming from / One seed held agape.
Each bud, skewered view / Each stem, strong, alive /Each leaf, light renew / Each bush, longs to thrive.
Buds now deadly spent / From its weary limbs, / Dried and cruelly rent / Color finally dims.
Memories linger / As new buds grow. / Changing hues finger / New petals to show.