My brother passed away from stomach cancer a year ago this week. I remember pulling the night shift at my parents, staying up with him – those long hours when he fought off sleep or the excruciating minutes while he waited for the dilaudid to kick in, for the pain to cede. He’d ask me, when will it work? Why won’t it work? and I would try to assure him, it will work. It always does, just when you think it will never work, it does. And thankfully, it did. I found myself repeating silently Molly Peacock’s final lines in her poem, “The Lull”: look hard life’s soft. Life’s cache / is flesh, flesh and flesh. I seemed to hum these lines again this week, remembering my brother and also while wrapping up end of the semester grading. I knew of some of the tragedies my students faced themselves this semester, some I guessed at as their work slacked off, or ebbed and rebounded. Mostly, I was in the dark. Look hard, I repeated.
The Lull, by Molly Peacock
The possum lay on the tracks fully dead.
I’m the kind of person who stops to look.
It was big and white with flies on its head,
a thick healthy hairless tail, and strong, hooked
nails on its raccoon-like feet. It was a full
grown possum. It was sturdy and adult.
Only its head was smashed. In the lull
that it took to look, you took the time to insult
the corpse, the flies, the world, the fact that we were
traipsing in our dress shoes down the railroad tracks.
“That’s disgusting.” You said that. Dreams, brains, fur
and guts: what we are. That’s my bargain, the Pax
Peacock, with the world. Look hard, life’s soft. Life’s cache
is flesh, flesh, and flesh.
Copyright 2002 Molly Peacock: Cornucopia W. W. Norton.