Meeting the Bar: our last day

between chemicals and flowers
lays a land i never entered

I was seventeen

you hold on to this steel stick,
carrying the infusion,

hands already growing cold

I’m feeling helpless,

a civilist on battlefields
without power to change anything

and the armour doesn’t fit

i wish we’d talk some hero words
or something of importance

but there is silence in the space
between our life and death

and the warmth is slowly fading

As i leave

you’re lying small, folded
in the wings of your lungs

so yes – this is real, my dad died of lung cancer when i was seventeen.

@dVerse Poets Pub we’re meeting the bar again….critique and craft, a series for poets who are open to get an honest feedback on their work and have fun to participate in a process of learning together and honing our craft…Julie Watkins wrote an excellent article for us and the doors will swing open at 3 pm EST..hope you gonna join us


61 responses to “Meeting the Bar: our last day

  1. Wish they’d give us the cure for this crap already, but oh know they have to keep the dough rolling in.

    Probably say everyone’s been touched by cancer one way or another, very touching write too.

  2. Claudia, extremely touching and so perfectly penned. Just some really wonderful lines in here, again another exceptional write, thanks for sharing, especially for something so personal:)

  3. This brought tears to my eyes, Claudia. Especially these lines,

    “i wish we’d talk some hero words
    or something of importance

    but there is silence in the space
    between our life and death”

    I can feel the emotion in every line.

  4. i read this again after learning about your dad. the end is, well, another stunner.
    and i know it doesn’t matter how long ago we lose ’em.

  5. This is a very powerful piece of poetry Claudia. The symbolism of war with death works very well here. The beginning is a slow burn and in fact gives very little away about the premise of the piece, it allows this to unfold slowly, the sadness of the loss revealing itself quietly to the reader.

    The first two lines are an excellent hook into the piece. The chemicals, flowers and land never entered had me thinking that this might be about the narrator’s first experience with drugs, which is very clever, but then we get to the steel stick line and the melancholy begins to unravel.

    My only observation here is with regard to the last line. I think phrases like the ‘depth of night’ are best avoided in poems about death and loss. My suggestion would be this. Replace ‘cold’ in L6 with a synonym and use it at the end.

    As i leave
    you’re lying cold, folded
    in the wings of your lungs.

    I think this would make for a far more powerful, cliche-free ending. As always just my opinion, just a few thoughts to ponder on.

    • thanks julie, i wasn’t quite happy with depth of night myself but nothing else seemed to fit. love your suggestion to make the wings of lungs the last line – so took your advice and made it:
      As i leave,
      you’re lying small, folded
      in the wings of your lungs

      for the reader: originally it was:
      As i leave
      you’re lying folded
      in the wings of your lungs
      and the depth of night

  6. there is silence in the space between or life and death…nice…evocative…the wing of your lungs…wow, really nice line…i feel the missed opportunity here…

  7. My birth father died when I was 2 1/2 my step father died of cancer at 53. I watched him waste away to nothing. It’s a savage disease, nothing about it is at all forgiving.
    Deep, heartfelt piece.

  8. I wasn’t sure what the poem was about specifically until I read your explanation, but you words definitely conveyed emotion to me, Claudia. I felt the enormous sense of impotence I felt as I watched my father die slowly of alcoholism, and knowing there was nothing I could do to stop it. This was very poignant.

  9. As you know, dealing with lung cancer daily. Burn has many implications with radiation being worse in pain and horror than the cancer not allowing my friend to eat or drink and as he had very little interest to begin he is withering to a dried and skeletal frame.

    Very sad indeed but compelling write, dear Claudia.

  10. I felt this one all the way to my toes. I lost my mentor, godmother and dearest friend to lung cancer in 2004. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of her; your last line is so compelling, such a profound reminder.

  11. Beautifully written Claudia. The ‘wings of your lungs’ line exceptional. You have captured such a strong relationship, especially when

    ‘i wish we’d talk some hero words
    or something of importance’

    as the bond you had could not have been strengthened by any fakeness.

  12. the hero words line hooked me also…especially from a father – how we so expect hero words and to watch them fade…alas the helplessness of our mortality…powerful and well written..bkm

  13. Claudia… this is a very moving piece and I think one of the reasons for this is the seeming simplicty of your approach. The spatial imagery – the gap in which there is silence.. a no-go area.. is a wonderful way of exploring the separation – felt and imminent. Talking of ‘hero words’ is another effective way of expressing inadequacy and the underlying battle metaphor that runs throughout.

    In fact the weaving of a series of interrelated images produces a very powerfully felt work.

    My mum died when I was 17 and there is much I recognize here. The final visual hangs in my mind’s eye…

  14. Claudia…I was going to avoid this, because you have touched on what is my biggest fear. Honestly, my father is my best friend. Yup, we’ve come along way since those teenage years, and i can’t imagine having to live this life without his constant care, love and advice. Now the tears flow and my husband is starring at me like I have two heads! I blame you! I hate to say it again, but I’ve never found any flaw in any of your writes, so my critique is all but worthless, but I can tell you, my heart and soul has invested in this one!

  15. Brave write. I get the need for “hero words”. The last time I saw my Dad we both knew it was goodbye and neither of us could talk about it. The best I could do was tell him I wished I could help him. He said I had. When we write about these tough issues we make maps for each other, where to go when we hit something this hard.

  16. “between chemicals and flowers
    lays a land i never entered
    between our life and death…”

    Hi! Claudia…
    What a heartfelt prose…Of memories Of your father…in your prose.
    Claudia, Thanks, for sharing!

  17. Claudia~
    So often telling of an experience this profound becomes maudlin and cliche. Following Carys’ advice admirably, you avoided this trap while creating a strong piece that carries the reader through crescendo to the final moment of loss. Exceptional.

  18. This brought tears to my eyes, Claudia. I feel like you succeeded in dealing with death in an indirect, powerful way. Superb. I lost my father in WWII when I was 3 months old. It harder to watch someone you love waste away. It affects your enire life.

  19. … I’m not qualified to critique you, Claudia… =)
    except to say “Oh, wow I love it,” or “I don’t get it.” and I’m really good at that!
    Having just lost my parents and brother, I could never critique something that came from your heart, like this… no matter how much time has passed.

  20. Clouds,
    Such a moving scene with a lot of sadness, I’m sorry. It may not be easy to gauge the feelings unless one personally experienced it.


  21. “i wish we’d talk some hero words
    or something of importance

    but there is silence in the space
    between our life and death”

    This truly speaks to me.

  22. Definitely get a feeling that you are writing of something you have experienced. I love the line

    but there is silence in the space
    between our life and death

    One knows that through experience. I read it three times and enjoyed it each time. It played like a movie in my head.

  23. Claudia, this is such an incredible poem. Your first stanza is smashing–raw and brilliant, slamming you into the reality of such a grand topic. The entire poem is so aesthetic and I could feel the loss creeping up on me as I read each line, and then, those last two lines: heart-breaking brilliance!!
    Amy Jo

  24. Wonderful expression and depth… simple steel stick causing so much beyond the moments gift. Powerfully infused, lending to the inner wars. Brilliant write.

  25. ..very sad poem with a fantastic end.. my dad never quit on smoking up to these days.. and never did i stop telling him to stop from consuming or relying on such fatal habit… co’z i know things like cancer, etc. might possibly happen.. who knows… though i’m praying i won’t come to that point… but my dad’s too deaf to hear my words.. he never listened to me..sadly.. thank you for sharing this poem and hope’s everything’s ok in your world!


  26. ‘i wish we’d talk some hero words’ – these are the words I haven’t been able to find when thinking about my own father’s death, and how I wish I’d found something real to say to him.
    Brilliant, Claudia

  27. The first poem about your dad also moved me greatly. A line about seeing behind his eyes. This one adds a different dimension to your relationship to your dad. I always wake up when I see someone writing about their father. My father died of lung related symptoms. He smoked all his life and was a fireman to boot.
    I was very difficult to witness his dying hours. It wasn’t pleasant. Thanks for sharing this ultra personal part of your life.

  28. For such a small poem, an immense experience. I think I shall leave it at that or I shall end up damning with faint praise. I will, though, just say Thank You.

  29. This is real. You have come at the scene from a different angle, which made it all the more poignant. The style shows a great economy of words, lack of sentiment, and poetic skill. I wouldn’t change a word.

  30. Claudia

    This is a stunning piece of writing – it spoke to my core – mystery – mystery-
    such beauty in this mystery – You hit my source code nerve and pushed it
    and i thank you

    you’re lying small, folded
    in the wings of your lungs

    This left my lungs empty ;~O and my mouth open

  31. please forgive me. i have just come out the other side of a new Bajoran wormhole and have not yet accustomed myself with Starfleet command protocols – however I would like to say that I am of the pleasure to have met with your acquaintance! perhaps we could discuss a chemical/flower trade-off?

  32. How this poem moved me!

    esp. this line: “and the armour doesn’t fit”

    How many times were you told to “be strong?”
    and the armour just didn’t fit you…

    perfect Claudia, Thank you.

  33. losing a parent is hard, and especially hard when you’re young. you’ve made me feel your grief, and the helpless feeling of watching a loved one cross into a world where you cannot follow…

  34. Those opening lines are magnetic. Then the slowly unraveling of the pain. My mum died of cancer, and there was so much left unsaid. Your poem has brought that flooding back – extremely well written.

  35. This was a wonderful piece Claudia. The helpless you evoke is just so sad, and true to relate to.


    There’s a land
    Something like a no man’s land
    Where travelers of the still
    Are all seventeen
    Whatever biological fairy tales say

    There’s a land
    Over the sea
    A land with no shore
    Where just a fountain
    Is singing through the leaves

  37. Dear Claudia,
    the wish for different conversation… different memory perhaps…
    and the silent space between life and death – is terribly hard to deal with.
    I am sorry for your loss (even though I understand it was years ago, it is still a loss).
    ❤ deb

  38. Lovely poem. Wrenching. Like many others “i wish we’d talk some hero words
    or something of importance” stood out for me. Brought back the exact same thoughts I had in the time before my father died. Excellent write.

  39. This post will be loved by everyone who is watching or experiencing any kind of addiction… with such a proficiency u narrated the every aspect of it.
    Beautifully done
    a civilist on battlefields
    without power to change anything
    these lines r so profound, beautifully describing the helplessness.

  40. This is pared down to the bone, Claudia, and all the more effective for it, I think. Each stanza is an explosion of associative thought, memory, image–“but there is silence in the space/between our life and death…” says it all for the mood this carries.

  41. Clouds,
    So nice of you to suggest a different twist to it. It sure enhanced the rhyme. Sometimes we tend to ramble too much forgetting somewhat a different way is possible. Thanks Ma’am!

  42. My mother died when I was 18 Claudia, of lung cancer after having spent so many months in the hospital going through all the debilitating radiation and chemotherapy treatments. Finally she went home with our oldest sister, dying 3 months later in January of 78. Your poem threw me at first, it didn’t strike me right away that you were speaking of a hospital. Even the word “infusion” didn’t drive it home. I’m a guy, I’m afraid, enthralled by the world of powerful race car engines, turbines and locomotives, all fuel and oil infused. And immediately I noticed the beauty of your statement “I wish we’d talk of some hero words….” however still no grasp of the subject………. but those words came over me and fell onto me like a tidal wave when I got to the bottom of your poem and found that the poem was about your father who had died of lung cancer. The sentiment behind that single line, “hero words,” crushed my life for several years after my mothers death. What do you talk about, as a 17 or 18 year old, with one of the most important people in your life as they lay painfully dying? From where I sit you are a world class poet Claudia. Your poem “Between Un-seen”, which I just finished a moment ago, is so beautiful and so alive with raw emotion that it could have been written by one of my favorite poets, Anne Sexton. And I am just a bystander, a novice poet who writes from the dictates of his heart. I feel dirty for saying this but at the same time I must: knowing that your poem was about your father who died of cancer, and then re-reading it made me cry. Knowing the subject as I read the poem changed its flavor entirely, and it became so incredibly beautiful. i think you should add a couplet to the very top letting the reader know that these are the words of a lovely 18 year old girl who watched her father die before her. I’m sorry for being critical. I am emotional too, and I often do this with my own poetry, awash in the overbearing passion of my own emotions and sometimes not being able to see that a word change here or there, or the addition of some stanza could completely change the way the reader views my relationship to the words. Sometimes it’s hard for us to see that, or to stay focused through all the tears that subjects like these can bring. I was in terrible denial for years after my mother’s death. Finally after I married at age 26 one day i started crying and couldn’t stop for the next three. And then the peace of acceptance came over me, but still the shell of those “hero words” lingers over me today. I think so, but not sure, if they were good enough. I kissed her everyday and told her that I loved her. She told me she was dying. I told her she wasn’t. She cried. Your poem is beautiful.