Skip to content

Log Out



What He Knew
_____ for David

Before Alzheimer’s

and during it when he spoke in stray words
or in sounds

he sometimes moved his hands
like birds
_____ in flight…

so that, watching his hands
punctuate the air

I’d ask myself

Am I watching birds disappear? Or a flower, opening?


“If we can say that language is the house of being,”
a friend begins…

And because I don’t know
I enter
_____ quietly

the house
each word is, looking for

the word inside the word

its sequestered

Inside beatitude

Inside bless

Be less

And if illness is a spiritual path, he surrendered
loss by loss
________ word by word

what he’d learned to construct, what he’d learned
to imagine
as a self…

Does he still know you?
People liked to ask that question

There’s a law in physics that says
Nothing is lost

The spiritual law that may correspond
is this—
_______ Not until everything is taken
or surrendered

will we find out what remains…

I remember, late in the illness
he saw

geese flying low along a river
and moved his arms

_______________ as they their wings

his body
an inaudible shapeliness, his mind perhaps a mirror…

Another way to say it, he was
_____ made flesh…

A book falls open to these words—

Ultimate meaning is not a matter of language at all…. in the Zen notion, words trace the ultimate as a flight of birds traces their course through the air….

That is, one might, if anything
say, Ah!
a form of saying nothing

as bird cloud flight wing skein air

even as they shine alone…

Inside notion

Inside negate

Inside silence
a lens

In the nursing home one morning, doing nothing

_______ as sun turned the table gold

we were looking at the moth orchid on that table…

how its shadow-flower made a rounded
pair of wings…
___________ we were studying

revelation by shadow, or I was—

when he reached for my hand and out of nowhere
fully awake and smiling

a nature ripened and innate

I’m sorry I said that to you

And although I had no way of knowing what he referred to
he knew…
__________ and so I let

the moment be the golden flower
our lives
already are
________ even when we are immersed in shadow…

It’s okay, I said, and we kissed
a moth’s kiss, light…
_______________ and the moment folded its wings

and settled into being

Image depends on its subscribers and supporters. Join the conversation and make a contribution today.

+ Click here to make a donation.

+ Click here to subscribe to Image.

The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Receive ImageUpdate, our free weekly newsletter featuring the best from Image and the world of arts & faith

* indicates required