The Archaeology of Living
(in memory of Ray Levy)
Now it is my turn
to watch my children grow into themselves,
lay down their layers of complexity,
become foreign countries,
homes to their own unpredictable weather,
my turn to watch and be buffeted by sudden deluges,
to know their helplessness and my own.
I turn in my hands the Rubik’s Cube of perpetual departures,
so much leaving from us,
the illusion anything was ours to begin with,
with which we try to anchor ourselves, the scattered road kill of our loves,
so much debris in our wakes.
We share our thoughts, our hopes, our dreams in the passing moments
before the scythe of forgetfulness,
our variegated mazes of memory
create wide chasms
between what is recalled and what is not,
between your recollection and mine,
so that we are moved, we hear the bell of joy ringing
to learn that we have been preserved
in the amber of another person’s thoughts —
as when a former classmate makes contact after forty-five years,
to apologise, for standing by, observing,
while other classmates hung me up on a hook by my belt,
left me hanging, flailing, unable to unhook myself,
an incident I had not forgotten but layered with humour,
something less painful
than other humiliations.
Survival is such an effort,
requires so much devotion, such constant attention
it is little wonder so many fall by the wayside,
life’s unending casualties.
And yet the archaeology of living yields continuous riches,
sparks from random conversations with strangers,
the openness and warmth of five grandchildren
at their grandfather’s surprise 90th birthday celebration,
the forging of connection and community so we become our own, each other’s treasures
and mine ourselves, one another,
each abundant, unpredictable, day of our lives.