Monday, January 25, 2010


I stare at your mouth,
broken open for
some dark gathering,
open for business
serving only one question,
as your chest scrapes
more lung
to feed a heart gone hungry,
my eyes check the measure
of mortality’s true hand
carving through a parchment weary,
the jut and claw of
tendons spreading
liver spots and stubble
on a neck built

for what?

The hospital gown has
slipped off your shoulder,
and the bloodless skin beneath
strikes me as an innocence taken,
not given,
it’s too much for me to see,
I, your granddaughter,
once held on your good knee,
that blood flows down to me,
I’ve taken it,
hand over hand,
we’ve traced the genes
along the rope,
given them names,
wrapped meaning like covers
around leather-bound books
titled Harmon Genealogy,
when they’re all but
the dust of memory

You’re 94,
and that should make
it all right,
but somehow I still can’t
wrap my brain around it

And the heart monitor
goes blip-blip
around the countdown clock
inside my head
while nurses chatter
over the hospital stink
about premature thunder,
(drip drip goes the rain
outside, where people
drive cars instead of sleep,
I wonder if you dream),
and the nurses have moved on
to talk of broken parts,
and you once owned a
tool company,
I know this
I remember

When I was on the
other side of the
dark equation

You rolled them down
an assembly line,
counting the widgets,
counting nickels and dimes,
which you’d someday show me
in that little coin holder
that puckered like
my pink little mouth
every time you slid
it out
to buy me a smile
or to entertain
as we waited for
some thing that
probably came

And your mouth isn’t smiling now

But you’re 94!
And that should make
it all right,
it really ought,
but somehow I still can’t
wrap my brain around it,
and I probably won’t
until I’m the one with
the tube up my nose,
and I just can’t stare around it

Where is that line
separating wet and dry,
near and far,
dead from alive?
I’ve never been good
at believing in the
black and white
that often seemed
to structure your life,
I always wanted to
squeeze in some rainbows
somewhere in the
space between,
and you were all right
with that

If only I had let you in

But none of our tools
is good enough now,
my eyes see what is
right in front of me,
they drill down because
you do not look at me,
and that thinnest of
red lines lives not on
a monitor,
but somewhere
in that dark cavity
stretched for deep sleep,
and it is so thin,
but tight,
that nothing can sit on it,
nor wriggle through it,
not my fear,
my sadness,
this moment,
the rain

not even color
or poetry

My Granddad with his 


catvibe said...

Oh Sarah, what a beautiful beautiful thing. I don't even know what to say, it just filled me with tears. I guess there is no way to really ever wrap your brain around it, is there? Love U my dear.

Sarah Hina said...

Cat, I don't think we can. Not entirely.

I should say that my granddad's prognosis is unclear at this point. But it didn't look good from my vantage point last night. Still, I'm going to keep my fingers crossed, for as long as he has some quality of life.

Love you too, my sweet friend.

Charles Gramlich said...

Wonderful piece. A lot of heartfelt truth in this one. My mom is 93. I can feel some of what you are feeling.

Karen said...

This is beautifully sad, and as one whose own parents are closing in on these days, I am heartbroken for you and for my own children and for all of us who love.

I wish you strength and comfort. I'm so sad for you all.

bard said...

This is a beautiful piece, and powerful in a way that words can barely capture. It brings back much from my father's passing three years ago.

I wish you and your family strength and comfort as you continue forward from here.

Stephen Parrish said...

My mom made the journey nine years ago, and despite all the talk about closure, it's just another word.

The poem is brilliant.

the walking man said...

Sarah that the man has put all of this within you for so long a time is to be celebrated. If he can recover he will and if not then hold no worry for him as he passes to the darkness of sleep.

If you are of his blood then he is well comforted in that rest which is not final because you will always be warming his sleeping soul with your memories and the things you learned from him.

This is what keeps a man alive, even though they no longer be in our sight, the memories of the lessons taught that have served us so well.

Find your peace and share it with him. You can do no greater thing than this.

Be Well and Fear Nothing Friend.

Nevine Sultan said...

I am at a loss for words, dear Sarah. I don't know what to say except this: I will be thinking of you and your grandfather, and wishing him the best. I can hear your heart, Sarah...


jaz said...

Sarah, this was at once so, so difficult to read and also so easy--to recognize myself in your experience, to understand each well-crafted line.

I lost my own grandfather when I was pregnant with my youngest son. I remember driving to the doctor in tears so she could determine whether I could travel to attend the funeral. I sat crying on that exam table hoping that bringing one life into the world wouldn't preclude my saying goodbye to another. Fortunately, it did not and I was cleared to make the trip.

But what I remember most about that appointment was the doctor asking how old my grandfather was. I said he was 87. And she said, "That should make it better, but it doesn't, does it?"

And so your refrain has me in tears this morning. This is just so lovely and perfect, and I really hope your grandfather is okay.

joaquin carvel said...

i don't know if you can wrap a brain around it - but i feel there is a heart wrapped around him - and i think sometimes a poem isn't really a poem at all, which this, in the best possible way, seems to be.

i'm looking at that smile, and those little baby feet, and thinking about those rainbows.

Sarah Hina said...

Charles, I know it must be so much harder when the loved one is a parent. Thank you for the kind words here.

Karen, I really do appreciate your warmth and compassion. I questioned myself for posting this--because it felt so private. But I have been comforted by everyone's words immensely. So thank you.

Bard, that's extremely kind of you. I went to visit him today again, and he's barely able to eat. So I don't think it will be long. One good thing is that I do feel like it's pulling the rest of the family together. Which is very comforting.

Steve, you're right. It's the price of love we pay, to feel such loss. Thank you.

Mark, I am finding my peace with it, and your words have helped. They made me cry. But in a good way. Thanks for that. I will remember him well and often. And visit with him now.

Nevine, and I can hear yours, too. It's also hard for me to come up with the words today. But your thoughts are very much felt. Thank you.

Jennifer, I hope I didn't stir up too much pain with this one, my dear friend. It must have been so terrible for you to have to endure that loss while you were pregnant. My grandfather is the only one of my grandparents to have known my children. Which I'm truly grateful for. My daughter came with me to the hospital this evening. It's so hard to explain to kids...and yet I knew we were lucky that she is at least old enough to preserve good memories of their time together.

His advanced age is a blessing, for him and us. Logically, I know this. But emotion is a separate beast at times like this. I'm glad to know you felt that, too. Big hugs. :)

Joaquin, you always say exactly the right thing. You're right. I see them, too.

Thank you.

Chris Eldin said...

So beautiful, Sarah. There's a point, and I'm not sure when that happens, when we realize 34 isn't very different from 94.

Aniket Thakkar said...

These are not just words... they are much more. I remember your poem 'Grandma' and the pain in every word you wrote. Hang in there friend. He'll come out of it. He has so much to live for after all. Hugs.

Sarah Hina said...

Chris, what you said is very true. We all start to realize at a certain point how quickly time passes, too.

Thank you for the hugs, Chris. They're very appreciated. :)

Aniket, well, he's still with us. And to be honest, I didn't think he would be when I wrote this poem. So I'm happy for the extra time.

I really appreciate your remembering my Grandma post, too. I hadn't thought about the dream that sparked it in a very long time. And it's a comfort to me now. :)

Margaret said...

Your love for your granddad spills over in this beautiful poem Sarah.

How is he doing now? I sincerely hope he pulls through like my dad has done. I know exactly what you are going through.

My dad is living proof that even at the age of 95 (on 19th Feb)they can pull through.
My thoughts are with you and your family Sarah.