Herbie Mann Comin' Home

Sunday, May 30, 2010

What Life Feeds, Art Becomes



Mother died February 1, 2000, the morning after I had left her in the hospice room she had just got delivered to and in which I was instructed about the way bodies shut down.  

They knew she was virtually gone -- the hospital had rushed to contact me about okaying her need for hospice care (and thus covering the cost), and the director of the place ran me through a whole bunch of paperwork while mother, not conscious, was being settled into her room by orderlies, female and male, one of whom I could see partially from my glimpse down the hall, had an odd smile that -- I thought -- must indicate that the body movers inside that room must have been executing some 'work joke', the morbid humor of people working around the dead and dying.

Plague Europe, 1347, burials and burnings.  Think of the joke possibilities!

I wrote a long poem about the experience surrounding that.  Obtaining death certificates in order to establish legal death in order to validate my relationship rights.  The room like any fit for a Department of Motor Vehicles.  Shrieking kids.  Language slowdowns.  Frowning, burnt-out bureaucrats.  I must have brought a book.  I wanted zen patience, but found only 40-odd, ill-read pages.

Then I caught the flu.

Later that year, we went to Boston and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.  How removed from hoi polloi.  Yet I was they (a formulation that, astoundingly, may be grammatical and socially accurate!).  There I stood imaginably plump with the ghost of Henry James and palpably thick with Renaissance reds and yellows.  A young attendant almost seized my mechanical pencil as I tried to take impressionistic notes about the place on a check deposit slip.  Soil entering the sanctum sanctorum, I.

Mother, flu, art.  Then fine crab meat.  My life had turned a corner.


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