There Is Not Another Way Through This Forest




Death came, for our fathers, first,

You and I, and then, our beautiful mothers,

Inside whose bodies we first lived, thrived,

Grew into softly cooing babies.

Intertwined roots, her and us, we can never fully unwind,

Could never imagine two entirely separate braids,

Hair woven together with so much more than DNA,

Even when the tree of her being is no more,

Even when we are no more,

Our roots are forever plaiting together

In ways we can no longer see with our eyes nor hear with our ears.


Death came, for our fathers, first,

And then our beautiful mothers,

My dear friend, as it will, one day,

Come for me, you, and for us all,

First a quiet whispering in the night,

A soft nudge like the paws of a kitten

Gently raised to your cheek,

Teeny sharp claws caustic for only a moment,

Quickly enough to put out of one’s mind,

Bury in the back of our dresser drawer,

With the clothes or jewels we are waiting to wear,

One day when the occasion presents itself.

Until, unexpectedly, death comes loudly

Screeching our names like

A Barred Owl in the night,


Who cooks for you?

Who cooks for you-all?


And we,

What can we do to withstand this fact of our lives?

This inextricable mystery

This one-day we are here

And the next, we are no longer.

How do we survive these deaths,

Of those we hold most precious.


We must keep a space for each other,

A space in this world,

When the rains whip through our hair,

As the hair of those from whose bodies we came

Thinned more each month,

As their bellies and calves swelled with fluid

As icy penetrating fear blew through our hearts like those

Nor’easters, when you would stoke your stove full and

Place your mother before it.


I watch you now,

Continuing on with the necessary tasks

Of the living,

Hanging your laundry to dry on your line, in the summer breeze.

Picking vegetables from your gardens, garlic drying,

Laid out on the floor of your mudroom like

Little gravestones.

Driving down your road for your farm share each week,

Carefully preparing small meals for one,

Going to sleep early and sleeping through your mother’s hour of waking,

In the mornings.


Her bed sheets remain tightly tucked into the

Mattress where she slept all of the nights of her

Recent years with you, there,

In the home of her loving daughter, she spent her last days,

In the bed, in the room, in the house on the hill

In the rural country town in the foothills of the Berkshires,

And then lay breathing no more.

You, her dearest daughter

By her bedside,

Where she spent the last night in death,

Hoping to journey alongside

As far as we mortals are allowed,

Into the world of The Dead.


In that room there now sits a box of ashes

On a table by the window.

Oh, how much she loved sitting and looking out the many windows to the distant hills and closer gardens,

With your two cats coming and going.


In our lives we must make a sacred place together

Under the redwood trees,

Hummingbirds twittering.


I am not sure there is another way through this forest.


© Susan Lynn Gesmer

There Is Not Another Way Through This Forest

August 2014

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