Saturday, June 03, 2006
John Tagliabue: Last Words
John and Grace Tagliabue were photographed in the Muskie Garden at Bates College in 1998 by Phyllis Graber Jensen, shortly before their move to Providence, R.I. John died on May 31.
The important thing is to do, and nothing else; be what it may.
You yourself are time---your body, your mind, the objects around you. Plunge into the river of time and swim, instead of standing on the banks and noting the course of the currents.
Who whispered, souls have shapes
So has the wind, I say.
But I don't know.
I only feel things blow.
You can, you do...prepare---sometimes for years---for the last word, the final departure...of a friend, a loved one. But we're never really ready when it comes. Still the shock. The welling up, unexpected sobbing. Breaking down...alone or with a comforting hand upon one's shoulder. It cannot be contained. The grief.
And so it came...yesterday afternoon, while I was down at the garden, the phone call's recorded message telling me John Tagliabue is gone.
Exactly a month ago his last letter arrived announcing the "big operation" would be "tomorrow morning, might take 4 - 7 hours!!" Nearly 83, John had agreed to extreme measures to remove part of a pancreas gone bad. There were complications...and another surgery...and then the final morphine drip. With wife and 2 daughters in the room reading him his poems, John gave us the slip and danced lightly further into the fantastic. May I share with you just a few of the last things he wrote?
Dear sensitive thoughtful shaken one, Shakespeare student, praised actor, stirring one, Dick Carlson,
I wanted to cheer myself up a bit
so I remembered what Amy Clampitt wrote about me:
"John Tagliabue writes out of a deeply sacramental sense of nature and history. He is, moreover, that rare person to whom poetry appears to come as naturally as breathing. It comes to this reader, poem by poem, as a Franciscan act of courtesy and praise."
The Collected Poem
I didn't want to be
an entertainment commodity
a seminar commodity
an attitude to be approved of
by this fashion or that ideology
I had no plans or programs or theories for it
but it was from my heart
of no importance
of all importance
it was not to be named or foretold
it alone gave me freedom.
some also call it freedom and Democracy
my biological nature
(it must be cosmic ? ) wants me to get up and
then pee and then have my 1st meal of the day,
and later more, day by day, mile by mile,
to chew, to make faces and acts, to act up,
more or less yearnings, how habitual ! to write
of them, moods, billions of them, to listen to
the more and more
hideous world news, politics, economics, murders
indeed one has to be strong, very strong, to get
so called ordinary day year after year after year,
and now it's
almost 82 years that the biological and cosmic functions
have been particular
Drizzle and repeating Success
The delicate new leaves are certainly being visited
by thousands of
delicate rain drops day after day after day and
the young bridegroom
is visiting night after night and often in the daytime
too the new
young bride she of the delicate skin, hands sliding
on the body,
warmth in the ease, the curve of the young breast,
of the mesmerized devout husband, he who plays
like a light
magician and musican on the instrument of bliss
happy instrument of bliss and all around for
miles and forever are the necessary new blossoms
the drizzle and the continuous dizziness night after
day after day in the delicate celebration of
Master T.S. Eliot finely pronounced it the Waste Land
From my lofty 4th floor window
I see it,
there goes off the 1st black car of the day,
in a tin can gliding like a coffin, drizzle
business day, from computer to computer, from sigh
poor trapped man industrious and trapped in his bureaucracy
nuclear bombs are being prepared, more nuclear waste
piled up, while more fresh young soldiers are being
to be slaughtered - for Democracy for Freedom for
for Corporation and Madness and More Corporations and
some more coffins will glide by in Edgar Allen Poe's
of Quote the Raven and Advertisements, Dental Ads
and Constipation Cures, More Advertisements for Cars and
in Routine Despair.
and from the last letter...these 4~~~
And faith ? Certainly Charity
They don't care about that - the frivolity,
the insane ambitions of politics, illusions
ridiculous of "power" -
the Springtime daffodils, magnolia, blossoms
of all kinds, they
simply Appear, miraculously Appear; I ask you
song of myself and
friends not to disappear but be enlightened as
the daffodils, as
April thoughts of resurrection, baffle elate,
the future centuries with hope.
All kinds at the bib, bibles, 1st and last suppers
What are you going to do to make it,
lo Spirito Santo ?
the mosquito, the weed, the clown, the tormented
philosopher, what ?
Hamlet at the crossroads mumbling to the gravediggers,
Christ on the
Cross Exhausted, He who gave away His sermon on the Mount,
said with Him we can move all mountains. Someone with a
in his eyes and humored looked up from the spaghetti he was
and said - good, you like to philosophize, you help us pass
Being is its own reward for being.
Beauty is its own reward for being.
Weeping is its own wet reward,
I hear the pitter patter of the rain,
it is twice blessed, it blesses him or her
and those who hear and see and sometimes sing; weep,
you skies that Turner in his glory, that Tiepolo
glory also and others, tried to paint; we faint
we fortunate to have loved and loved and loved.
Skies could not
be higher than we weeping. Sleep awhile, keep
of what we call infinity. "The more I give, the
more I have,
for both are
Sensitive Observer, be a night in armor
the man on the Cross or
the person at the dark or shattering light
in pain or perplexity is great pain for the
lover, receiving the news of the agony or death,
or blindness of the son or soldier perplexes
as pain can do unto death; dear weeping
tortured relative, if you must weep weep - not
awake and lifetime recollect all my thoughts
John Tagliabue's last words to me were these~~~
What I know as I Approach 83 is that much is unknown & that I've had a most helpful wonderful wife & loved family & good friends (you are one of them - ); and I want to say thanks - & Best Wishes to us all