Doing the trick by Chris Pannell
by Steven McCabe
There’s a breach
in the line, where the soldiers have fallen back
and my mother has fallen back on her bed too
her face out of sight, she can no longer speak.
This opening might do the trick if anyone could muster
the steps to walk through, but
we’re so exhausted, it would be a mercy
to die here and now, be done with palliative care —
embrace the rifles, the bayonet
instead of living on a breath, on a breath, on a breath
I pray to her heart, her body’s on/off switch —
as unreachable as my own heart, that pounds in the shadow
of her departure.
Skeletal face and meandering hands —
her nose cannot be cleared: her anguish and cancer and dementia
have blurred everything into neverendingness.
God, show me that trick again: how to sleep, how to evade the openings in
how to reclaim the night itself.
Leave behind this
“All I ever wanted was to do the right kind of work,” said Chris Pannell. He lives in Hamilton, Ontario. His most recent book is A Nervous City (Wolsak and Wynn, 2013).
This poem does the hard work of grief. I remembered the way Joseph Cornell’s boxes memorialized moments, which led me to work with a grid. I wanted images that felt like markings…solemn.