Saturday, April 18, 2009

"Call out the names in the procession of the loved..."

It's inexplicable, how someone chooses to end a life, if "choose" is even the right verb. Who understands it? Tenderness and curiosity, ability and talent, responsiveness to the world: of course all those things can seem to fail us, and probably most of the people I know -- myself included -- would be capable, in some moment when we couldn't see beyond our own misery, of stepping off some awful height. What holds us back from that brink, or what sends us over?

I've been thinking about this all week, since Deborah Digges died on Good Friday. I didn't get the news until Monday morning. Deborah and I had been colleagues at Vermont College, back in the day, and later I'd gone up to Tufts to read for her students there. And I'd taken pleasure in writing a jacket blurb for her wonderful book of poems, ROUGH MUSIC, and for her memoir about raising her two sons, a book full of compassion, nerve and hope for the future.

Deborah was married to Franklin, a veterinarian and a teacher of vets-to-be who died in 2003, and her life and work were full of animals. On this video, recorded just last month in Los Angeles, you can hear her read three poems. The first is a stunning poem concerning assisting, with Franklin, at the birth of a bull calf. The line which lends this post its title is the first line of the poem. It seems just the right poem to hear now, as a way of calling out Deborah's name, and as a poem that looks into the gates of life.

7 comments:

Peter Joseph Gloviczki said...

Thanks, Mark, for posting this. It's a great poem and a moving reading.

Mim said...

I thought, yes, I would do it, if I were in terrible physical pain. She must have been suffering to an unimaginable degree to fling herself into space, into the void. I understand that most people are afraid of heights. If one believes that nothing will end or even dull the pain, then choosing to die may seem reasonable. I'm so sorry she's gone.

Branwen said...

The torture of mental pain, drives people to do things they wouldnt normally do if they were in good health.

The sad thing is that with the right kind of help and support they could still be with us today.

Im very sorry about your friend.

Philip Clark's Weblog said...

These questions can not be answered; but what is left is her work and the memory of what she brought to anyone she befriended. Those are her best tributes. I'm glad to have been introduced to her, even in this event of loss. Her words remain.

Philip Clark's Weblog said...

There is no way to answer these questions, though that does not negate the need to ask them. But in the end, a great loss to many people. I am glad to have been introduced to her work. Her words remain, and they are the heart of her. They are the only answer.

greg rappleye said...

Thank you for this.

Deborah Digges was a wonderful poet, and will be missed.

mitchell said...

Thank you for your perceptive and compassionate comments about Deborah Digges. I am privileged to live in an area which is astonishingly rich in poets and their readings, and Ms Digges became a favorite over the last two decades.Each of us responds differently to the soul's dark nights, and one cannot analyze but only mourn a response as drastic as this from such a talented voice.