Bringing life into the world is not very different than bearing witness to its end. Even with advanced notice, these events are abrupt, momentous, and terrifying.
I had never been a parent before Stanley. He helped make me a better caregiver, advocate, baker, storyteller, hiker, and friend. He got me out of bed on days when it seemed impossible. He helped me learn that while I was sensitive, I was also brave.
He gave me the gift of trusting my instincts. If the vibes are off, sometimes you have to bail. It doesn’t have to make sense. You don’t have to explain it to anybody. Just get back to a space of safety and love. I think of this often, because I subconsciously scan my environment for his phobias. Plastic bags blowing in the breeze, precariously perched laundry baskets, smoke alarms, and beeps of any kind.
Stanley was a vigilant and gentle older brother to my daughter. He passed just shy of her first birthday and his eleventh. I hope Stan is the dog archetype embedded into her subconscious. That she will carry a notion of his lumbering, loyal, loving energy forever.
The below poems were written at separate times in the past year and retitled to make them a pair. The titles are a way to help me grasp that the events of birth and death are not points on a line, but part of a cycle.
I. GENESIS (For I.)
fear hung about
like any operation
the sterile halls
the blinding metal table
the silence before your first breath
fear was never your deep lungs
never your cat-like howling
II. TERMINUS (For Stan)
my mind is constantly searching
for the shape of you. every
shadow, your form in
repose. every soft
you must be somewhere
outside of my peripheral
waiting to break free