There Is No Word for Goodbye
Sokoya, I said, looking through
the net of wrinkles into
wise black pools
of her eyes.
What do you say in Athabascan
when you leave each other?
What is the word
A shade of feeling rippled
the wind-tanned skin.
Ah, nothing, she said,
watching the river flash.
She looked at me close.
We just say, Tlaa. That means,
We never leave each other.
When does your mouth
Say goodbye to your heart?
She touched me light
as a bluebell.
You forget when you leave us;
you’re so small then.
We don’t use that word.
We always think you’re coming back,
but if you don’t,
we’ll see you some place else.
There is no word for goodbye.
It’s “Antwerp” by J.M.W. Turner. It hangs in the Frick Museum and all by itself is reason enough for me to go to New York City. All those boats and all the people on them are toast, with one exception, whose skipper is holding grimly to the only survivable tack. The bits of flotsam at bottom left foreshadow the havoc that that storm at top right is about to wreak. Disaster is imminent and unavoidable. It’s a portrait of terror and despair.
Click on the image above and it’ll take you to the Frick’s interactive “Antwerp” page where you can zoom in and out. Better, go see it for yourself.
Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the sky on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds–and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of–wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew.
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
–John Gillespie Magee, Jr.
Another fabulous letter memorialized by Letters of Note.
Click here to read the full post.
For sale: by order of the remaining heirs
Who ran up and down the big center stairs
The what-not, the settee, the Chippendale chairs
—And an attic of horrors, a closet of fears.
The furniture polished and polished so grand,
A stable and paddock, some fox-hunting land,
The summer house shaped like a village band stand
—And grandfather’s sinister hovering hand.
The antimacassar for the sofa in red,
The Bechstein piano, the four-poster bed,
The library used as a card room instead
—And some watery eyes in a Copley head.
The dining room carpet dyed brighter than blood,
The table where everyone ate as he should,
The sideboard beside which a tall footman stood
—And a fume of decay that clings fast to the wood.
The hand-painted wall-paper, finer than skin,
The room that the children had never been in,
All the rings and the relics encrusted with sin
—And the taint in a blood that was running too thin.