eternity’s edge

In a green metal bed on the edge of eternity,
her long white braid rests in her lap.
Its end returns to days
she had a kitchen,
a husband,
a fullness of life,
a daughter.
Now she’s left with nothing but shadows
of her still. dead. life.

A nurse’s aide admonishes her
and balks at her twisted fingers
while bitching about braiding her hair.

She shivers, forever coatless
in this white-halled end of life facility.

Her woolly visions of how it might have been
drowned with her family
in the blanketed waters of Lake Louise.

Fingering her braid
she rubs its end between gnarled fingers
lost in the reverie of that last morning.

Her daughter braided her hair
while her husband watched deft fingers
weave a line down her back
connecting eyes in the vanity
of a suite in the chateau,
husband / wife / mother / father
daughter.

Unaware that Louise was eating her family,
she bought her daughter a teak box
at the chateau’s gift store.
When they didn’t come back
she cut her braid and coiled it
into the dark of the box.

Her knotted hands with scissors
gnaw the top of her braid
until it breaks free.
She coils it like a cobra
deep in teak, then winds
the preferred braid
on top.
Young.
Lustrous.
Proof of a life
where love shimmered
in strands of braid
trapped inside a teak box
on a bedside table
next to her green metal bed
teetering on eternity’s edge.

Brenda Warren 2012

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33 thoughts on “eternity’s edge

  1. Both of my parents dreaded up ending up in an end-of-life facility, such as you describe in your poem–a bleak, desolate, white-halled place. They told me they would rather commit suicide than die in a nursing home or be hooked up to life support until life was no longer sustainable. In the end, their worries were unfounded, and they were blessed. Both of them died at home of heart attacks, first my mother, and then my dad, nearly five years later. They teetered on eternity’s edge, and then toppled over.

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  2. I need to go back and read the poems in the original post – One of these days I may diverge from the mermaid verse… but they are fun for me. I read your poem wanting to know more…hoping for a happy ending. But sometimes in life it is just not there and all that we have are our memories. The lake reminded me of the song the and the sinking of the Edmond Fiztgerald…so peaceful at times and then at other times hungry and wanting, it seems to feed on human souls. While I only have a scrawny braid – I grow it and cut it for wigs for cancer survivors every two or three years (since my eldest was close to 3 and he’s almost 30).

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    • Thanks for your comments, Jules. I’ve cut my hair, but used to dream of being an old woman with a long white braid. Mine is spindly, too, Don’t know if that dream of mine will be realized, or not. Thanks for the Edmond Fitzgerald connection. I wouldn’t have thought of it, and now you have me hankering for the song. 🙂

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  3. Wonderful how you set up the story. I followed the twisty braid. I read the two poems from which the words came and am reminded how our souls are also braided doing this wordle.

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  4. Those wordle words were eaten by your poem — totally disappearing into the fabric of such a well-told story. Loved the line “visions of how it might have been//drowned with her family.”

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  5. We all (mostly) have such a happy beginning into this world and always end up (mostly) leaving it in such a sad, sad way. The sad part is, even though our loved ones may be close by, we still have to walk the path very much, alone. Deeply moving, image filled, sad and lovely.

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  6. This is fantastic. The constant going back to the braid…the feel of lives entwined, unravelling. This line chilled me to the bone:
    “Unaware that Louise was eating her family”
    So coldly told, detached. Dulled by years, as well as survival tactic.
    Amazing.

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  7. Brenda – this is brilliant – publishable I’m thinking; metaphorically strong and the tale is breath-taking as well as heart-breaking … “unaware that Louise was eating her family” – favourite line for me … this is a favourite spot in reality for me … are you by chance a Canuck? I apologize if I already know this and have forgotten it … I suffer from old person’s malady CRAFT (can’t remember a freakin’ thing)

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    • No, I went to Lake Louise with an old boyfriend many moons ago. Perhaps it is that life that died in this poem. I live in Montana, where I, too, suffer from CRAFT. 😉

      Thank you for your encouraging comments. My goal is to polish some pieces and start submitting this summer. I’ll count this among the possibilities. I do appreciate your words.

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  8. Spectacular, Brenda! A gorgeous use of the wordle words. I love the skillful way you connected the beginning and the end: ” green metal bed on the edge of eternity.” And your use of the braid as a metaphor is brilliant!

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    • Thank you, Marianne. I actually wrote one version of the first stanza immediately upon receiving the words from you, and started working from there yesterday. The bed and the braid came right away. I’m happy you liked it, and am grateful for the words you sent. 🙂

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