Poetry and Prayer
On Saturday, September 29, 2018, the day before her 63rd birthday, my sister, Karen Ricci, suffered a stroke. It was a serious bleed on the left side of her brain, in the area where language and motion reside. Karen survived surgery, in which they removed a blood clot the size of a tennis ball. She has now begun intensive rehabilitation. We are asking people to join with us as we pray for her speedy recovery. When I was sick with cancer years ago, I wrote poetry to help my body and spirits heal. Last week, I decided to write poetry to help my sister recover.
The weather has snapped cold.
I am holding my sister threaded in my heart.
She has started on the long road to recovery.
It’s hard sometimes to see that she needs help to do simple things, like touch her finger to nose.
At those moments when my faith begins faltering, I imagine a column of the brightest light.
I step inside. I remain there. I breathe in hope and acceptance, I breathe out despair.
I strike love like a match and it fires up crisply in the center of my chest. I rest with my hands clasped at my breast.
I stare out into the sky, sometimes white, sometimes blue. I gaze into the trees, their leaves green, yellow, red and brown. I know for sure there is a place called heaven, because even now, even through all of this torture, there is the mystery and joy of love and love and love.
And there is the awe of all things grown.
Karen, an avid gardener, loves purple flowers.
There are those irises that my sister particularly adores. Irises that three or four decades ago, she transplanted from my grandfather Angelo’s astonishing garden in Bristol, Connecticut. Karen carried and planted them in Hancock, Massachusetts, and then when she moved to California, she carried them and planted them in the desert air of Santa Clarita. And then when she moved back to Easthampton, Massachusetts three years ago, she planted them a third time.
A few months ago, when she visited me in my new house in North Egremont, Massachusetts, she said,
“Come September, Claud, I will divide up Grandpa’s irises and you can plant some here.”
And so, this week, as fall’s sharp weather warns us of winter, I will do it for her. I will go to her house and divide up the purple flowers. I will bring some home and dig them snugly into my garden.
And then I will say a prayer of thanks, that there are all those miracles we call flowers. I will say a prayer of thanks that that there is a miracle called language. That there is something magical called poetry, which can feed you in times of great need.
I will marvel and say prayers of gratitude that there is such great power in the words that we form in our mouths. That we share with our teeth and our tongues. That we draw and write in black squiggles onto white paper. That we tap into keys. That pour out onto screens.
I pray that my sister may once again have words, that they may pour from her like water crashing over great white blocks of rock.
My niece yesterday texted me this: that my sister for the first time made noises, her first attempt at speech.
I pray that I may be steady in my faith, that I can reach into myself and find a way to keep saying thank you thank you and thank you endlessly, and please and please and please forever, that she may one day soon be once again whole.
October 14, 2018