Poetry 2

When you cut your finger against the end of a piece of paper, and it hurts and the blood spurts out, you remember blood, lots of it, curdling red ink with a sweaty smell, is rushing around your body, all of it, brain, eyeballs, cell tissue, spine, toes, your heart is pumping like quivering red rubber and your lungs are going in and out, in and out.
When you stop to think about it, you want to scream and you almost forget how to breathe.
People who believe in Reincarnation say it would be a waste of lives to have so many people alive and then die and so god must recycle all those lives.
It is nothing short of a miracle we continue to live everyday despite all the deaths everyday. And each one of us is dying gradually everyday.
But for the most part, we don’t get shot, we don’t get run over, we don’t crash, we don’t get a deadly disease, we don’t get stabbed, beaten to death, crushed in an earthquake, commit suicide, and we live live live live.
And each day adds to the next day and pretty soon we are old but still we live and we don’t think about the blood circulating or the each and every breath we take or the fact that we have averted death for the moment.
We are alive.
But we could at any moment take a long silver needle and poke it in our eye, blinding ourselves in blinding rage.
We could jump into the wind from the station platform as the train glides in with a rattle, although the mirror is there to remind us how ghostly we look and make us think again how foolish this act is that we are contemplating to die this moment instead of the next moment when we do get shot or get cancer or our hearts stop or our lungs fail.
When my mother was dying of pancreas cancer, I finally could smell death, that unmistakable smell that stays inside your nostrils for hours, maybe even a day, after you left her hospice room.
She lost so much weight she looked like a bird, her nose pointed like a beak in a mummified face.
She was curled up in the bed, her arms clasped into herself like a scrawny embryonic bird, and her beady eyes were expressionless, unmoving, staring into your eyes, and she wouldn’t close them as though she seemed to know you were her daughter and these were the final moments, and you just wanted her to close them so you could leave that room and forget.
She couldn’t even speak then.
When she could still move, when she was at the hospital, where other patients were getting treatment but she was just a burden on the nurses and they wanted her to move to the hospice, she would grow delirious on pain-killers and start walking around the hallways naked, announcing she had to leave now because Otoosama _ her husband, my father _ had come to get her.
He was dead.
Before that, when she was still undergoing tests, and she had always instructed us that she never wanted to know it, if she ever got cancer, and so we couldn’t tell her, she said to me: “I wasn’t a very good mother, was I?”
This was a very important conversation. But I brush it off. I didn’t want to talk about this, did I? because then wouldn’t we be talking about her death?
“I watch you and June, how you think about and interact with your children,” she said. June is my sister. “And I realize I wasn’t a good parent. I know this watching how the both of you are as parents.”
She went on matter of fact to explain that it was because of her childhood. My grandfather, her father, was a big believer in education and sent all his children, even the daughters, unusual for those times in Japan, to urban schools. My mother was second from the youngest so she was barely in elementary school when she got sent to live away from home with her older sisters and brothers to go to good schools. She grew up not knowing the intimacy of a relationship between a mother and her children, she said.
She didn’t have to apologize, but she showed she changed and came to a realization, although maybe a sad one, in the last few days of her life.
I called my sister up on the train back from the hospital. “June, she is going to die,” I said, breathless more from excitement than from sadness. She is dying but she is evolving. This was a fantastic discovery for me. But what she was saying was so profound she had to be dying. Really dying. I wish I could be more like the characters in the movies and have responded appropriately to what should have been a cathartic moment. I should have hugged her, a moment of reconciliation before the moment of death. You are so wonderful for teaching me how people keep evolving til the last moment of life.
No, you are not a bad parent at all. This is the best gift you have given me as a parent. I have learned the lesson of death although I still can’t understand how we manage to keep living day by day, lungs breathing and heart beating and you feel so faraway and I can’t remember barely anything else about you.