The Seed

[One of my cherished mentors and poet friends, the much loved Deb Westbury, has just died of cancer. Below a poem I wrote on last receiving a card from her in 2016, now a eulogy, followed by two poems of Deb’s I love from her 2008 collection The View from Here, ‘The Diagnosis’ and ‘Door’.]

The Seed
i.m. Deb Westbury, 1954-2018

Your last poetry book
came in the mail today.
Your card too, an English finch
eyeing another, perched
in return at the hole of its house
roped into a bare tree
white-starred with soft spring.

I worked at deciphering
the black waves of script,
everything running organically
into itself, effort tangible as pain.
Omissions, ink running out,
‘before I died’, ‘immanent loss
of my life’
ghosted around
somewhere inside like a tangle
of dark spider web as my wife
said goodbye to a visitor.

Ten minutes later, meaning
crawled from its depths
and streamed into tears.
Outside, reeling, blurred,
I plucked a cumquat
from the shrub by the pond.

Skin and flesh hit the back
of the throat in a battle
of sour and sweet, sour
winning. Then, softly,
on the tongue a sudden seed.

I held it cupped, like the smooth
touchstone of some precious
memory, then handed it back
to the timeless text
of its rebirthing in this small
tough tree’s still silent soil.

Deb Westbury: The Diagnosis

It was late September and still cold in the mountains.
She’d just come home to the white painted house,
back from that hospital down the coast
where she’d had the mammogram,
where she’d had her tubes tied
years before.

The boy was singing in his bath,
and the phone rang.
Although she’d been thinking, all afternoon,
about what she’d read on the radiographer’s face,
she hadn’t expected to have it confirmed,
so soon.

Mutely she performed the rituals
of dinner and bedtime.
Then there was nothing to stop
her spirit flying in terror from her body
and beating itself against the frosted window
of the white room,
until she remembered the boy,
and, whispering his name over and over,
her ribcage opened
and the bird came quietly in.

Deb Westbury: Door

At the end of a long hallway
there was a square of yellow sunlight
and the black flickering of leaf shadow.
I walked into it, filling
the frame like an eclipse,

like someone late
to the movies,
taking up the whole screen
with the awkward angles,
the false solidity
of my body

which, they say, is no more
than water and stardust
in a pattern of light.

~ by Peter Lach-Newinsky on March 14, 2018.

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