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Life Arts

Still Life

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By Edward Curtin

Hands Clasped in Sand
Hands Clasped in Sand
(Image by Eric Kilby)
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Nana, I see you still
Shiny gnarled arthritic hands
Holding the meagre dollar bill.
I stand before you now,
As I did then, a boy
Agitated by a mad impatience
Pushing him into activity.
You had slowed to a shuffle
By then, even the simple thought
Of a few necessities,
Tea, milk, jello, bread,
Foods easy to eat
Demanded a power you had
To summon with great effort.
Snorting, I tugged at the paper
To no avail. You would not
Let go, as if your life
Depended on it, which of course
It did. You said nothing
But your resistance said
Everything: there is no need
To rush. Time is with you.
I am on my way out
The door of life. Please spare
Me a few minutes, some precious
Time simply here together.

Many years have passed
Since that day in your living
Room, Papa Jack slumped back
In his soft sunken old chair,
Radio clock ticking away
By his side, his face flush
To the puzzle he was always
Trying to solve, smoke rising
From the butts he consumed
In pursuit of that solution.
I am now well along the way
To that place you vanished into.
But you have always remained near
To remind me of that day
And what I was doing with
What has become the rest of
My life. And patience envelops you
In my memory, and how I wanted
To be gone and done with it,
Out and back and off again,
Duty done and conscience clear.

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Where is that place you were so near?
Where was I going in such haste?
I didn't know, I don't
Know now. But I think
Back to that quiet morning.
See you, Nana, still before
Me, knowing they say you can't
Change the past, knowing you can,
If only you patiently stand still
Before the image that you love.
Still, life is always possible.


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Edward Curtin is a writer whose work has appeared widely. He teaches sociology at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. His website is http://edwardcurtin.com/

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