Josephine Jacobsen composed the following poem in 2002, not even a year before her death. When she composed it, she was 94. She had been paralyzed by a stroke and was also no longer able to read or write. That’s why I say “composed.” I visited her in her nursing home around that time, and she told me she composed this poem in her head, overnight one night, and kept repeating it to herself through the night until there was someone in the morning who could write it down for her.
The Companions by Josephine Jacobsen ( 1908-2003)
Living close to death
Is not just a case of breath after breath.
It is to realize that to fraternize
With the dark prince is possible and wise,
So that in the final weather
When together you quit the room
Though tentative ad weary
You will have the enormous answer
To the enormous query.
She was such a well respected poet that the New Yorker published this poem very shortly after she sent it to them.
The transition from this life to the next is not such a fearsome thing for a 94year old with a full and mostly happy life behind her, and a faith in what/who was waiting for her on the other side, with open arms.
Death to her did not appear as a grim reaper but as a dark prince, much like the film representations of past years:
Frederick March, in “Death Takes a Holiday”
Brad Pitt, in “Meet Joe Black”
And even as the welcoming lover in “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir”
It’s Thanksgiving Day in the USA, and the NaBloPoMo prompt for today is:
If you’re celebrating Thanksgiving today (or even if you’re not!), tell us about the best cook in your family.
However, having lived 29 years with my mother’s very good cooking, and then 37 years with my Sisters’ and my own cooking, I don’t feel I can judge – so many were very very good.
So, Instead, I offer this wonderful poem by W.S.Merwin. It seems more appropriate this year than ever.
BY W. S. MERWIN
with the night falling we are saying thank you…
we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water thanking it
standing by the windows looking out
in our directions
back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you
over telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the door
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks we are saying thank you
in the faces of the officials and the rich
and of all who will never change
we go on saying thank you thank you
with the animals dying around us
taking our feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the words going out like cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
thank you we are saying and waving
dark though it is.
Do you think it’s better to be a recognized expert for one thing, or known to be really good at lots of things?
I just didn’t feel like writing about specialists or generalists.
What I felt like answering was a post I saw on another blog:
The Bookwyrm’s Hoard: Seven Characters I’d Invite for Thanksgiving Dinner.
I thought of seven characters from my favorite detective novels:
Madame Renne Marie Gamache
But then I couldn’t at all imagine them eating together, as different and quirky as they are.
So I turned my attention to Thanksgiving as an American holiday, and thought of seven of my favorite American poets I would love to have over for Thanksgiving. I limited my list to those who are gone from this world, in poetry heaven:
What a conversation they would have!
( sorry about the numbers; couldn’t figure out how to remove them!)
I’ve been reading her blog and her Facebook page for several years, and have become a devoted fan.
Julie knows so much about birds and bats and gardens and plants and photography and painting,
and she is such a fluid , engaging, and entertaining writer.
( here, she holds in her hand a red bat she was rehabbing)
On her blog, she shares her experiences as a wildlife rehabber, and also her family life, with her husband, raising two beautiful children and a much-loved dog.
She does it all with unpretentiousness and humor.
What follows is an excerpt from an article Julie wrote in “Before It’s News” about one rehabbing experience. The photos are hers:
“Next was a baby robin that a woman had found a week earlier. She called me about it. After I talked with her awhile, I could sense that she had the right stuff and the desire to take care of it. I didn’t have time to mess with it, so I told her how to feed it until I could take it. Which was just as I fed the downy.
“She did a marvelous job. Just look at it! She’d never fed a baby bird before. She loved it. Said it had been the best week of her life. I felt sorry that she couldn’t finish raising it, but she wasn’t permitted to do so, and lived in an apartment complex full of cats which would be a bad place to try to soft-release a robin.
“It was easy to tell that robin had had plenty of love. As well as plenty of kitten chow. FAT.
“It sat on my shoulder like a friendly parakeet. It was time to get this bird with other robins, in a big net flight enclosure where it could learn to be a robin instead of a parakeet.
“ How I wished I could do that myself, but I had to go. So I took it in and fed it up, too, and prepared a carrier for it. That’s two. But there was a third call, another one I couldn’t say no to. I don’t care how busy you get as a rehabber, there are just some birds you can’t turn away. To be continued…
“So we’re dealing with a paralyzed downy woodpecker and a very sweet fledgling robin. Last but not least, I got a call on the phone the day before my departure. Someone had found a tiny owl on the ground in the woods behind Tractor Supply and brought it, of all places, to the local We Love Pets. Christy the manager has my number. I asked her to send me a cellphone photo of the bird, just to be sure what we were dealing with.
“Yep. Babeh eastern screech-owl. OMG, squeeee! Literally the size of a navel orange, with a creaky little voice that stole my heart. Reeek. Reeeek.
This should whet your appetite enough that you look her up on Google!