I am wrestling with the final draft of an essay on grief, on the geography of grief, for an anthology. I’ve written about it before, the difficulty I’ve had in finding a rhythm, a tempo, for this piece. I’ve used Bach as a template, specifically the Partita No. 2 in D Minor BWV 1004. This morning I’m thinking about the gigue. The tempo is so crisp and lively, yet there is also something ominous in its structure. I keep listening to Hilary Hahn and in her playing, I relive my mother’s last days.
4. Gigue, in Victoria, your final days
I can’t keep up. My pulse races in the offices where we learn how quickly a life comes to its end. I hold your hand. Notes on a clipboard, blood pressure, the number of tumours gathered in a body. You refuse the treatments, remembering the needle through your chest wall, the first discovery of the malignant pleural effusion.
How quickly the years passed, how quickly we grew apart, too late the return, the counterpoint of our footwork, you holding my arm as we walked to the x-ray room, my boots brisk on the polished floor. Your chest on the screen made the technician come to me and say how sorry she was, how sorry. And you in the changing room, unable to lift your arms to put on your camisole, your scar uncovered, a vine of stitches like brambles covering where your breast had been, notes, notes on a long line, nicked with rests, yours, mine, how quickly the years do pass.