[b]the dark ages[/b]

sitting at the cafe
caressing piquant coffee
a decadent slice of cake
half eaten
it is essential
I do not finish the coffee
before the cake
the cafe was crowded
my mind was crowded too
swarming with thoughts and ideas
napkins and empty cigarette packages
the usual evidence of my fervent tirades
but the napkins here are linen

I looked up
just as you entered
I’ve seen you here,
at the Mediterranean Cafe
many times
and I wonder who you were
what you did in your life
what were your passions
I didn’t have the luxury of knowing
my grandparents
so age is an enigma to me
you are an enigma to me

you sit in silence at your own table
in your own world
something like David Bowie in
‘The Hunger’
you are always alone
sometimes you sit with people you don’t know
during a moment when you don’t know your name
so what’s the difference
I suppose they notice the drool
in the corner of your mouth
and I would be amused at their discomfort
if I didn’t feel so damn sorry for you

they sure pick up the pace
when you join them.
any coffee, or dessert?
quickly wiping mouths with linen napkins
pushing half-eaten lunch at the waitress
no thanks, really have to go
that’s okay, we’ll pay at the counter
they collect their possessions hurriedly
you do not notice, nor take offence
there is some peculiar safeguard
residing in oblivion
you use your napkin to wipe your nose

that day, after you finished your lunch
you shuffled right by my table on your way out
I looked directly into your blank eyes
such sorrow
amid such nothingness
for a moment, a very brief moment
there was a glint
something that looked like amusement
and then you forgot what you were doing
and sat down at another table
staring around the room confused
the people at the table looked confused too

I couldn’t help watching
wondering what life has become for you
did you achieve all your dreams?
do you have children?
did you hold your first grand-child in your arms,
still warm from his mother’s womb,
and weep at the wonder of new life
before you no longer recognized your daughter?
age is eating your brain old man
and you don’t notice,
because when it feeds
you are not there

[b]therapy junkie[/b]

she is not dead
but for the twenty years
I have known her
I have waited
for news of the inevitable
I’m so sorry
Suzanne wrapped her car
around a huge oak tree last night
better I think than
she hit a van
carrying seven children
to a summer camp
no survivors
either way
she would be drunk
so many times I’ve heard
Tso kay, em nod drunch
I can drive perfechly.
you can only elude fate
for so long

her driving
no longer my fear
after years of complicated m�l�es
riddled with twist and turns
sexual abuse
physical abuse
mental – emotional
did I miss any?
depression has conquered her
amid sleep deprivation
anxiety attacks
and physical assaults
committed by her own hand
while she sleeps
never reaching REM
revealed in dream therapy
one of the many
that occupy her days
therapy junkie

she stays in her house
hostage of her own fears
pots of coffee
peter jacksons in smoking chains
a cornucopia of pharmaceuticals
that often beckon to her
on darker days
to consume the entire collection
and forget
countless failed attempts
now-she may be too weak
curled into defensive fetus
seeking protection from mother
who looked the other way
when her father in law
made her daughter a woman
at ten

And all I know
is the place where she now lives
ebony filled terror
it is no world of mine
and she is there alone
rocking her self back and forth
like the child she should have been
I offer her my hand
through the darkness
that in her madness
might seem the vicious head
of a dragon – breathing fire
her teeth are honed

[b]full circle[/b]

she held me
small sick child
with tender loving hands
endless hours
through long nights
never enough air
so much effort to breathe

back and forth
back and forth

all this
prone at the threshold
of vague memories
but drenched with
emotional certainty
I recall the warmth
her touch
soft elegant hands
on my back
persuading lungs
to better air

twenty-two years
consumed by life
and I held my mother
with tender hands
endless hours
through the long night
never enough air
so much effort to breathe
I miss my dignity
she sighs
I’m only fifty-three
I smile
ah, Mum
you still have much dignity
and where did you learn
to face death with such grace?
from you Love
she whispered
and I cried

as I rocked her
back and forth
back and forth

[b]If I Could Have These Moments Back[/b]

she told me
on a day
that had no right
to be drenched in sun
‘they are concerned
peripheral flashes
I didn’t know
what an ophthalmologist was
everything will be fine
I lied
in some way
I knew
nothing would

aneurysm coiled
like a snake
waiting to strike
bringer of death
devastator of dreams
knife cuts deep
always casualties
where the brain is concerned
the snake annihilated
but vicious venom remains
‘lung cancer’
she whispered
in a voice so small

I wish.
I had made her go
to England then
instead of
as she said
waiting until she felt better
back home to England
with her boyfriend
seventeen years younger
eyebrows would have arched
there is no male version
of the word mistress
she never felt better
than that day

I wish I hadn’t been so afraid
to touch her back
with its landmines
I wish I had asked her
straight out
is he really my dad?
I wish I had purchased
illegal fireworks
and set them off
outside her window
for fun

when I brought her
to the hospital
that Sunday night in April
the doctor whispered
‘she is very close’
I knew
that is why I brought her

down the hall
a man cries out
demanding his dentures
‘poor old soul’
she managed through her pain
I wish I had known
I could have stayed that night
in the hospital
reading Shakespeare, Shelley
holding her
but I didn’t

the next morning
I arrive
they were calling her Theresa
I wish I had told them
no one called her Theresa
they called her Tess

an hour later
she was struggling for breath
as they cleared her lungs of fluid
I couldn’t listen
to the loud sucking noise
of that machine
I left the room

and I wish
in those last
few minutes of her life
that I wasn’t talking about floor wax
with the janitor
I wish instead,
I had been brave enough
to endure
and hold her hand
and whisper love
into her perfect ear

by Paddy Gillard-Bentley (c) 2002
([email]skydragon [at] sympatico [dot] ca[/email])

[b]Author’s Notes:[/b] Paddy Gillard-Bentley is the author of two published children’s books. At twenty-two, she wrote for a Rock magazine, and since then, has had several poems, short stories, reviews and articles published in magazines and e-zines. She is a member and board trustee of The International Centre for Women Playwrights, and an associate member of The Playwrights Union of Canada. She is also the Poetry Editor of Painted Moon Review. Paddy was in her first play, Bringing up Ginger, when her mother was four months pregnant with her, and has been involved in most aspects of theatre since. Paddy is in her third year of Writer’s Bloc, a playwright’s group affiliated with Theatre & Company, where her play, White Noise, was professionally produced. She lives near Toronto with her husband, artist J. Caz Bentley and her ten-year old thespian son, Samuel.

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