Death and the Intimacy of Laundry

photodeath and the intimacy of laundry

death doesn’t enter as a destroyer

death enters in waves of intimacy.

today i am washing clothes still damp from death

i can smell last breaths on every fiber

the overalls covered in paint and leaves

tender moss clinging to my hands

the white shirt you wore to ‘dress up’

to go the museum. the black pants, rolled.

your carhartt jacket and workpants

all jumbled up with towels used these last days.

i don’t want the death clothes

to touch the living clothes.

i am trying to keep things separate

so i don’t lose my place. this is all sacred work.

i unroll the pant legs gingerly and curiously

tiny tree bits fall to the ground but a lizard

would not surprise me my dear.

yes i know i will only have this one

chance to shake the mountain

from off of your clothes.

now it is my clothes that carry

the mountain and the scent of

wood smoke, rain and food cooked on the stove.

and yes my dear teacher, i haven’t missed a thing.

in this vigil of you and your heart

i haven’t missed a beat. but I miss yours now.

with the searching eyes of the archeologist

i explore cadmium orange and thalo blue

strokes made upon a pant leg

once holding the thigh of the artist.

I shake them out of their intricately colored wad

and see if I notice which color

went with which painting, when.

your garments.

you have shaken off your garments
once and for all.

a snake from her skin you slid

smoothly and silently from me.

i watched as you moved beyond

the horizon, beyond what I could

ever see and know.

in one deft brush stroke

you moved from snake to bird and flew free

of your gravity. whoosh.

each sock and black ribbed tank top

I examine for stickers and burrs

we do this you know –

poets have tea with death

and the intimacy of laundry –

we wonder, is this the last

burr of hers I will ever have

the chance to pull

from the burrow of the sock?

so it is precious.

it must all be done very mindfully.

even the discarded must be

done so with a thought towards

its usefulness. and what it meant to you.

i could write a poem of praise

for the usefulness of towels

during death at home.

home. we brought you home.

we dressed you

in your painters smock from Paris

for the long bumpy ride up the mountain.

2.5 hours.

we just let go of all the tubes of ugliness

and could see your precious face

and we broke you out of that joint

after 7 days of your cosmic sleep.

we dared to free you from there and

we did. and Spirit Warrior spoke for all of us

with her drum and the ancestors sang.

i held your white tossled head

and listened for what wasn’t being said.

and did speak to you clearly

and you did speak to me clearly;

from that other place you taught me about.

that is a story for another day.

so grateful were we, to bring you home.

carried down gravel rock

and road to a bed surrounded by you own art.

and cosmic lineage.

and us. you were surrounded by us.

we made it. alive. and yes, you seemed

much more peaceful here.

our friends came with chickens and beer

and chocolate and wore garments of

celebration instead of somber.

for 4 nights i lay beside you

and witnessed you move and breathe.

knowing each one, ragged and

smooth could be the last one.

i listened like a mother listens

to her baby sleep…each move witnessed

but you didn’t wake again.

i learned to care for you and yes,
i was afraid of every fluid and chortled gasp.

so so so grateful I am, for that week before

for all the laughing and the complete

peace between us. amen. amen. amen.

grateful for a lifetime of unconditional love

given and received. thank you.

your last breath came

while having tea at our usual time

with you. my love and I reading to you from

your Mentor’s books about the sculptor within

and the stone that must weep.

when you no longer breathed I kept

reading and reading you a prayer of

sculptor’s tools through my watershed of tears.

we sang to you and washed you

with precious bay oil and tender heart oil from the

red headed women and bowls of water with squash blossoms

and roses.

we marked you with pure chalk from white egg shell

for purification, protection and cleansing (Cascarilla)

we filled your spaceship with pine

as a tree of life spine running the whole

distance. layers upon layers of lavender, bay,

eucalyptus and Alice’s lemon balm all around you

and yellow flowers around your head

a single fig leaf at your crown
a tiny bouquet of a rose from your garden from Mary.

a sign that spelled love and a heart made

of paintbrushes and clay face from long ago.

and of course, your poem from my mother.

a red thread was placed in your hands

with that one paintbrush and carried

outside the box to our waiting hands.

from your hands to our hands.

they say those who are supposed to meet

are connected by an invisible red thread

since before birth. i believe.

we tied feathers to your red thread

and wrapped your box in a weaving.

raven. owl. woodpecker and turkey vulture.

many of us came to you and to me

and hundreds prayed through these days.

your spaceship was hand built from the

land and hand painted by many of us who love you.

we studied your images

and tried to make your signs

and coordinates on the spaceship

so ‘all of you’ could find your way home.

i struggled with star configurations

and arrows and dna helixes and patterns

that you know so well. encodings.

I didn’t look in the clean clothes

for your final resting garment, although

I did consider it as being those famous

striped overalls. (those will be framed

or auctioned at Christy’s)

your final resting garment was

pure un-gessoed fine Irish linen

the color of new wheat.

you would have preferred we paint on it

but this decision was mine to make.

just that morning i prayed for bolt of linen

only to walk into your studio

and find it there waiting

still in it’s wrapper for a future

painting i will never get to see.

we swaddled you like a newborn

welcoming you home.

shiloh sophia

October 2, 2014

For Sue Hoya Sellars

Sue Sellars by Jill Peden

Sue Sellars
by Jill Peden