A Gathering: An Eight Part Essay in Verse ~ Ingrid Wendt


                                     …. one must let the mind loose to respond as it will, to receive impressions,

to sense rather than know, to gather rather than immediately understand.                   

 — Edward Albee


1.   Coma


Most of all I think it was her arm, doubled back at the elbow

and poised,  rigid wing, mid-air, that stopped me, so much


I’d brought to her bedside to tell. 

Martina’s safe landing, the plane, the full


moon tonight and the fawn with its pebbled

coat fading.   A light


touch to ease her dying.  To tell her our grief

would not try to hold her back. 


As though it could.

As though her turning inward had not


been noticed.  What had I been thinking? She, who left

home to get on with this dying.


Who waved goodbye last week

at the door.


Bones, bones, and steady breathing, and hearing

 said to be last to go.



2.    Change


But how do we jump from the speeding train of our own

good intentions?  There I was reading out loud in front of your coma

something I’d folded and stuffed at the last minute into my skirt

pocket, a passage I’d found and typed and planned to


send in the mail, in which one of the characters–young, much younger than I–talks about

change, not knowing how it happens or what is required or how it moves but only what it

feels like to change.  She gives us her great-great grandmother’s words, she gives us beautiful



what I’d been wanting to say was how, the last time we spoke, I saw that change

in your eyes, I never had seen you so beautiful.  That was my word, in my own mind,

right then.  And then I found hers.  And by the time I read this passage to you,

it didn’t reach the two feet between us, already you were no longer there.




3.    How I Knew

.. Dora Rouge said it happens all our lives.  She said that we are cocoons who consume

     our own bodies and at death we fly away transformed and beautiful.     — Linda Hogan



Such imminent news and still the blue jay

Squawked, like any other day, relentlessly.


Grape leaves over my head in the new arbor                                                                            

Flickered and swayed, morning sun between them


Flinging itself at the ground and falling forever

Short, and the book I was reading held me


Just enough so at that moment I was not thinking of

You, the tiny leaf that landed on my upper sleeve


Was one more small distraction: or was it the dried

Half of a maple-pip, bright veins the color of rust


And nothing in between:  fallen wing  I couldn’t

Identify, which bush, which nearby vine


Had leaves like that?  And then just as quietly                                                

As it had come it rose and was gone.  “Mary,”


I said without thinking, “Mary.” 

And waited for the call.



4.   Why Not


If our softest words, spoken into a cellular phone can beam

out and up to satellites hundreds of miles above us and bounce


Back to ears on the other side of earth in less

time than it takes to type the word “less”                    


If we grant to radio waves the power to cross open air between the hill

with its blinking-red tower, far outside of town, and beam the same


Voices and music right through walls of homes, offices, skyscrapers, cars

on the freeway moving in different directions, all at the very same time


If invisible waves of impulse, can B like the pitch picked up by ears of dogs — slip

without our knowing, into spaces inside us, around us, and just


As silently leave,

why not the spirit           



5.    Already Beyond Us


And now our friend Ken, in his dying, sends poems.   

New ones, a flurry in these wintry days.


He writes of emptiness and promise.                                         

He writes of writing before sleep.  


How to respond, find the words for good-bye?


The last time we saw another friend, Joe, just

this past October, he told us he’s dying


not because his body’s diseased.  He’s done

what he came on this earth to do.  His work is complete. 


Yes, but what of our friendship?  

Will we ever get enough of Ken’s poems? 





6.    My Mother as Chickadee


Well, no, not reincarnation, exactly, nothing

so life-long.  Rather


The day before she died, my mother, coming home from church, wondered

was there really anything There to look forward to?


Well, I said, if there is, come back.  Tell us.  And two days later,

there I was on my balcony eating breakfast, under the shade of


Morning glories strung to the roof when a flock of six or eight chickadees

skimmed the air right over my head, were soon out of sight.  But one


Turned back, perched on the overhead twine and looked right down, in my

direction, cocked its little black-capped head   


Back and  forth, back

and forth      


And flew on.

(Why not?)




7.  Beyond Us


And what of our good friend Joe?  On that final visit I told him

about my mother.   The bird.  And how for almost a year my mother came


Not as a bird (never again) to visit every night, just

after I’d settled, as usual, into bed with a book, just after


Ralph was asleep: the lightest pounce

at the foot of the bed


The weight of a cat,

but there wasn’t a cat, there wasn’t any


Thing to see at all.  Who will believe this?

How can a poem get by with such nonsense?  Such



Hocus pocus?  Still, the day Joe left us, as law allowed,

with Susan and all three grown children


Around him B a Stellar’s Jay, royal blue with its pointed crown shiny     

black as obsidian — kind of jay that never in all the twenty-five years


We’ve lived in this house has come so far from woods to town — skipped

from branch to branch just outside of our window, looking


In.  And that very same night

on the foot of our bed, a pounce.



8.  A Gathering



Days and days burdened

with what I’ve often impressed on students:  write


as though it’s for someone with only a short time to live, make it worthy

(good theory)


and then last night, my head on the pillow, re-reading

Ken’s poem, his custom of putting pen to paper last thing before sleep,


this flurry:  the pounce, the birds, the leaf, my mother, what I never

before would have dared tell the world.