Sunday, January 09, 2011


As a child    you would
like to have been seen as precious.
That there was a moment when
all those eyes gathered outside the
maternity ward window came to
gaze down upon you
in your cozy bassinet,
and then…   those words.
Each individual struggling to be
the first to utter them.
“Ah, isn’t he precious?”
And of course everyone
nods    in agreement.

And that moment…
That   precise moment…
That was very well the last time
you were ever truly precious.

Shortly after this you
came to crap your pants
for the very first time, and
there began your fall from grace.
Oh, I suppose in a way
you were still precious.
Simply lesser so with each full diaper,
or     equivalent fecal mistake
on your    decadent way to death.

I suppose there is
that moment before death
when it’s possible to be seen
as precious yet again.
Yes, when infantile transitions to senile.
Bookends to that span of life
in between where your every action
is rendered stark via   brutal critique.

My mother told me to be careful.
That the lamp was indeed precious.
That it could not   be replaced.
Something compared to which I
   was   not held in the
   same   high   esteem.
I figured the message here
was that I could be replaced.
Indeed with only the slightest physical effort
upon my father’s part, and
another one of me
could easily be at hand.

The oil lamp in question
had belonged to my mother’s grandmother,
and after so many coveted generations,
had finally passed into her hands.
There was Grandma Mary,
and there was Grandma Mary’s lamp.
In many ways,  one and the same.

The lamp sat atop an upright piano.
A substantial bit of furniture.
Something you would think a small boy
could not shift in weight.
Something that one small boy
did   in fact    manage to do.
And there came that afternoon
when that lamp managed to
topple from its place
and cascade to the floor below
with a horrible sickening crash.

And somehow  my mother knew.
Within seconds, she passed from kitchen
to slowly emerge into the living room.
And there she came to stand,
looking down upon me
and her precious lamp
which now lay in shards
there    at my feet.

And me?     
I am awaiting that
explosion of fury
I so rightly   deserve,
and yet     nothing.
Absolutely  nothing.
There   upon her stoic face,
a most eerie    calm.
And then,   after the pass
of what appeared   eternity,
words come to emit   from her mouth.
Without looking up from the lamp,
she dryly states,
“Get out   of the house.”

Not an exclamation of anger, but
a simple sedate phrase:
“Get out of the house.”
And there, quickly making my exit,
I crossed the lawn to pass
deep into the adjacent woods
where I hid   for a full  two hours.
I was most certainly not precious
   and   knew it.

Years later my mother conveyed
how she fell to her knees and sobbed.
And why had she uttered those words,
“Get out of the house”?
It was because she wanted to   save me.
That at that moment, her utmost desire
was to strike me   with her fist.
Not something one does with that
which is supposedly precious.

A few years before this,
the woman who had given her that lamp
had fallen down a flight of stairs.
Someone we knew of as “Mary”.
The Mary who stood at the top of
   those ill-fated stairs,
and not she who ended up
there at the bottom like a
shattered and ruined lamp.

Well, not so much in body,
but rather in   being.
There within that mind,
this was   tied to that.
String to strand.
A matrix of woven psyche that
had here been ripped   asunder.
A multitude of broken strings
now wadded and wound into a
large   misshapen   sphere.
This synaptic string and that,
once having served specific needs,
but now all   bound together—
compressed into a ball which
held no other purpose than
to roll across the floor and
careen between the legs
 of each and every 
 mislaid chair.

As a child it is understood
that our minds have yet to mature. 
That we’ve yet to be strung as it were.
That we are often incapable
of knowing what is best. That
we are apt to make mistakes
of which time may or
may not permit a certain forgiveness.

With senility there comes
this understanding
that the fabric of our being
has become thread-worn
   and tattered.
And though for this we are often
forgiven by others,
it is something we sadly
will not forgive ourselves.

The last time I saw Mary
was at a family gathering.
Afflicted beneath the sledge of 
multiple strokes, she was
wheeled into an adjacent room
and left to sit by herself.
An enforced solitude
for the fact that
the other adults
remembered her
for who she once was
and herewith could not bear
to see what she’d   become.

As a child I knew no better.
Did not know that my
Great Grandma Mary
had become one who
was now incapable
of the simplest act of conversation.

For me…
For me she was still there.
I mean…   
She was     wasn’t she?

And there as I knelt down before her,
her random gaze
came to reflect   that of mine.

Tears welled forth
from her long lost eyes,
as she came to acknowledge
   one small boys presence.
And there from her lips a
simple phrase came to repeat
   over and over.
“Let’s go.
   Let’s go.
      Let’s go.”

Again and again.
A mantra of brutal anguish.

And I wish I could have taken her
out through the door,
   across the lawn and
       there into
           the distant woods.

Out to a place where
she and I could hide together.

For you see
out in the woods,
you can often

©2010 Jack Hubbell

1 comment:

Max T said...

Hi Jack, I just want to say that I really like this piece of writing. It moved me immensely from the very first stanza, with an intensity strong enough that it was uncomfortable. Thanks for sharing it.