H e a r t S o n s & H e a r t D a u g h t e r s of A l l e n G i n s b e r g
N a p a l m H e a l t h S p a : R e p o r t 2 0 1 4 : A r c h i v e s E d i t i o n
(Mom’s Voice All Night in My Dreams)
Every morning I try to prostrate, touching forehead,
elbows, knees, and belly in front of my shrine which has on it sacred
Buddhist Text preliminary practice called Ngondro.
I move slowly, seeing my mother: Ratty white terry cloth robe, kerchief hid
hair like a cancer victim, glasses pushed down her nose so she could see
through the proper lens at what she was looking at. I picture her bowing
down on my left, Dad, dead too, bows on the right - both prostrating with me
symbolically in front of visualized empty crystal Guru Rinpoche, he of the
infinite compassion, enough for my family even. And so I stretch out, if time
and my own body's ill permit, so that we are bowing together: Parents, son
my living siblings my dear dead cat all beings we've killed this life or any, all
food animals we've consumed, all insects squashed by mistake on purpose, all
friends who've betrayed, all jerks on the freeway, in supermarket lines, the
rude waiters, the sarcastic students, the lovers who left us the ones we left,
the hard and difficult ones in our lives we cant escape and so vow to learn
from - all tourists of cyclic existence - yes all of those join my robed gone
mommy, bowing to the Buddha of my mind.
stripped by death bare her wig hair
forever gone, mother, strapped to the million dollar machines
with liquid crystal displays, kept breathing eight breaths per minute, a
perfect eerie # since there was just enough pause in between to cause
me to look up at the TV screen in fear of her giving out.
Said 2 sandalwood mala bead cycles of mantras-visualized the gentle
white light consciousness emanation of Guru Rinpoche over mother's
thin haired pate.
Not even a glimpse for her of thangka depictions of deity Vajrakilaya, like
Dad, whom I instructed not to worry and who at least had dhutsi* and my
sober efforts to calm his confused mind after the final plug pulled on dialysis.
No, Mother got nothing but the best that science had to offer. Healed
up, after admittance for alcoholic hemorrhaging in esophagus, her lungs nearly
gave out in emphysemic reaction to not smoking for the first time in 50 years.
But that was on the mend too when the big Stroke hit and her brain fried like
some power cord left in the rain or.
No, the stroke took her down past words, past memory past grief over
Dad gone her sister Dorothy gone and the Kids and Grand kids not enough,
travel not enough, booze alone 4 a.m. with bitter resentment pouring the glass
full, raging against Death while saluting the Bastard, bitter about her life of
sacrifice - all of it finally enough as her synapses snapped and the second
stroke 12 hours later slapped her down into final coma spin and the gradual
body dance of Less began and she lost This Body and drifted toward another
- while I mumbled prayers and shivered in the air conditioned horror chamber
of the Intensive Care Unit Bardo.
Already gone an hour, skin cool & moist to touch her shallow chest
rises & falls, eight times a minute
the doctor arrives and pronounce Mother Dead
just as her brother shows. Bursting into tears
(his other sister dead six months now) we hold
each other struck dumb by sudden horror.
Mother lies still
wire and tube strung
a dim red light
points from one finger
Deciding against the autopsy they said was standard procedure - more
machinery, the corpse to be disturbed - after all, she did die in the hospital,
all of Science arrayed like jewels, useless and to be left behind, the four sons,
her brother, now sitting in cafeteria with the hundredth cup of coffee we had
there over the years with Dad's many stays.
Calls to friends from her address book. Call to her dentist canceling last
appointment, to the pharmacy who'd left message about prescription and to
the mortuary where we'd taken Dad for his final viewing just eleven months
prior. the cemetery, the gravestone, the flowers.
We'd be dividing up the household, arguing over knickknacks and furniture,
but tonight was the first night of Mother dead and I was to sleep in their bed.
First the ordering of take-out food, the liquor store where I stopped to
buy girlie mag to look at to distract me if the rented video couldn't - not tho to
buy Drink, for that was Her Muse of Death but mine no more. Besides, the
house was fulla the stuff, bourbon mostly I reckoned, but it didn't matter
tonight. Tonight I would gorge on bbq meat and pussy shots of young women
I could posses for a few minutes without questions - ah, the chubby mess I'd
Did she look down on my throbbing orgasm with sad longing? Did she
fly from her castle in the Modesto night after watching me sob my post-futile
climax blue tears? Was she happy to be dead at last, never admitting it alive
but for dark hints those final months that “there wasn't much to live for”
post Dad, post Sister Dorothy, post health and empty bed?
And their bed welcomed me like a cloud of opium.
I could've easily pulled out the guest bed/couch and found the sheets and
blankets to make me comfortable, but Dad had died in the guest room, in a
rented hospital bed, so death was everywhere, what matter where this living
I sleep with the lights on, Mom's voice all night in my dreams.
Wake, half expecting her cloud of cigarette smoke from the kitchen to great me.
Bloody fucking cold Modesto - the city that reminded my parents of
San Jose in the sixties, the city of cemeteries, of dialysis center, of the hospital
were Dad nearly died three times but recovered only to die at home and
where Mother entered, was nearly healed, then died anyway.
Yes, Modesto where, ironically, my Father's 95 year old Mother lay,
sill alive in her dementia nursing home bed.
The animate mind that moves from the sleep of dream to the dream of
wakening to the quick sleep of death to the memory to the present view:
Even this black and white polka-dot bolster pillow I lean my head on
comes from their house, the House of the Sixties Danish Modern tables &
chairs, the antique gilt frame mirrors, the end tables, sewing machine of woe,
the kitchen of aluminum pots and the goofy time save meals of old age, of
potholders and bourbon glasses cloudy from years of dishwasher, the garage
full of stuff for Christmas...
You, Mother were the House, you were the Color Schemes: Black
couch, Yellow rug, Bright Blue or Kelly Green fabric wire chairs. I confess to
singeing the green chair with the marijuana roach while my brothers and I partied
during Parental Absence - we snipped out the burnt threads and green magic
markered the area to match the fabric and, miraculously, escaped detection.
Your home no more - possessions scattered, edging toward ruin like
box of 60's Life and Time magazines I left in leaky storage shed this winter.
* * *
When we visited the Tibetan Rinpoche last summer he called one day,
to the main house where we had just lunched, "Peter and Nancy should go to
S.'s House."(S., long time wife and attendant to Rinpoche, had died earlier
that spring). So we walked up the hill with the Bhutanese attendant to where
her home was. At first I was confused - the small house was maybe half
finished. We had to climb over a trench to go inside. Some of the floor was
bare plywood, the walls still missing sheetrock, the kitchen cabinets were in
but no appliances- the house now a monument to Impermanence.
Later Rinpoche asked if we had gone to see the house and nodded his head as
he watched us, gauging the lesson's effectiveness.
*Tibetanherbal preparation said to seal rebirth from Lower Realms
[Originally published in NHS 2003, http://www.poetspath.com/napalm/nhs03/marti.html.]