redux: “I keep meaning to stop,/to wait for you.” (Carl Phillips)

morning coffee

It was after my second sleep that I woke from the dream. After waking at 4 in panic to realize I hadn’t closed the greenhouse door last evening–yesterday morning I went out for kindling and smelled a bear, maybe the same one that came two nights earlier to tear apart one of the compost boxes; and most mornings there’s evidence of deer–in panic, I went out in the dark in my nightdress to make my bare-footed way to close it up. (I don’t think anything found it because a bushy tomato plant was still filling part of the threshold.) So after the second sleep, the brief one, when I woke in tears because of the dream. Everyone was here, all the children, their parents, and it was today, the day I’m making a feast for friends we haven’t seen for months. But in the dream I was making the meal for them. Two were racing out to the mossy area they called The Field, still in their pyjamas, and I told them to go in and put on warmer clothes if they were going to roll around on the ground. I was looking for something. Firewood maybe. And I came up on to the deck, standing for a minute in the quiet to plan pancakes for breakfast, when Friday came up behind me. Friday was the dog John had when we met in 1979, an English sheepdog X, and she became the dog of our children’s early childhoods. She died when Angelica was an infant. I have always regretted the way her death was a little too perfunctory. A year earlier a vet had given her vitamin shots and told us it would give her a good year. It did. And then everything seemed to go at once but mostly her bladder. She was on a course of antibiotics. Then another. Then her entire backend collapsed. It was a loss of proprioception, the vet said. She no longer knew where her limbs were in space. Every morning I’d come downstairs with a baby over my shoulder, two small boys needing breakfast, John getting ready to drive down the Coast to work (he was teaching in those years), and the kitchen would be flooded in pee. Before anything else, the floor had to be washed. Before the fire, before coffee, before breakfast. One morning, John just said, Boys, say goodbye to Friday, because we knew this day was coming but didn’t expect its arrival. So suddenly, so soon. There were tears. Goodbyes. She was carried out to the car. For the next year, Brendan, who was 3, said he could hear her barking underground. So she came up behind me in the dream, joyous to be home, a chain attached to her collar and wrapped around her back legs, but still she had found her way to us, through the woods, her curly hair tangled with sticks and bramble. Can I tell you my dream, I said to John, and afterwards he said, You want the dead back. I do. It’s true. I want them all back. The parents, the friends, the dogs, the cats. I want them all here for the turkey I will be roasting this afternoon, dense with dried-fruit stuffing, the caramelized brussels sprouts, the salad of garden tomatoes and basil, the vanilla and maple ice cream I made last night to have with Amy’s dessert. I want them all home. John brought me strong coffee to drink in my bed and I opened Double Shadow, by Carl Phillips, and wept again as I read these lines:

                                      I keep meaning to stop,
to wait for you.

Coffee in my green cup, face damp, the scent of the fire either coming in the open window or else drifting up the stairs. I want them all back.


Note: this post was written this day last fall. And everything is still the same.

4 thoughts on “redux: “I keep meaning to stop,/to wait for you.” (Carl Phillips)”

  1. so many connections with this post!

    I remember Friday.

    I want the dead back, long to talk to my parents–one or both–or just be in their presence. Others too–a dear friend who committed suicide at 24.

    And the Carl Phillips!

    Wishing you both a good Thanksgiving.

  2. My eyes were damp reading this passage, thanks Theresa, for sharing your universally personal writing — I needed to cry, and I too want them all back.
    So much reflecting to do on another perfect Thanksgiving in paradise indeed.

    1. There’s a beautiful Stanley Kunitz poem, “The Layers”, that comes to mind quite often, particularly these lines:
      “Oh, I have made myself a tribe
      out of my true affections,
      and my tribe is scattered!
      How shall the heart be reconciled
      to its feast of losses?”

      Today I’m thinking of the poem and all those who are gone or distant or not available. I’m thankful to have them in my life, my heart, but wish for them to be at our table tonight. Happy Thanksgiving to you!

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