I’ll be away from the computer today in this Samhain season to participate in a small Month’s Mind for a beloved family member who recently crossed the veil. My wife’s mother, Nadine St. Louis, was a professor, a poet, and great woman of deep intelligence, compassion, and wit. She had been battling neuroendocrine cancer for nearly eight years, and I was honored to be one of the few to accompany and comfort her during the many visits to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
In her last published book of poetry, “Zebra”, she movingly expresses the feelings and uncertainties of her cancer diagnosis.
Heavy Metal and the Reciprocal Universe
Platinum and its analogues slip silent
precious poison through your veins,
and the taste of sour metal blooms.
Who can resist asking what gift
calls up this bane, resist thinking
the smiles of one god
will raise the wrath of another?
Take lone, emaciated Phineas:
Apollo endowed him with prophecy,
made him observer of worlds,
model builder, truth teller
who learned to hold life
at a new angle, disclose its secret
lights and shadows.
But Zeus, ever lord
of secrets, demanded tighter security,
sent harpies to foul the very bread
in the old man’s hands, stinking polluters
to remind him of a god’s might.
Is theirs the same vile breath swirling
at the back of your throat, cold echo
of the body’s rage smoldering deeper down?
It took the sons of Boreas, North Wind,
to drive away the harpies.
Phineas kept his voice. His rescue
bodes well; his endurance heartens.
Still, you can’t help wondering how long
it takes the wind to turn.
My wife and I, along with her youngest daughter, my step-daughter, will travel to her family’s ancestral farm in Oregon, sold years ago to loving caretakers, to drink, eat, observe, walk, and speak in her honor.
I hope that we will each take the time, in our own ways, to honor and acknowledge the loved ones who have passed over, to observe this liminal time and reach out, remember, and know that our ancestors celebrate this time with us.