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Sunday 3 January 2010

Last Lines

A play to get his teeth into, he liked,
and films that went somewhere and took you with
them. But towards the end, we sensed a change:
the sort of film that had been favourite,
the type of play that once excited him,
became not up to much - beyond which, words
would fail him (reason being, that the words
were porky pies, the problem not so much
with play or lines as with his fading sight -
and concentration). Now and then he'd spark
the old way, when a film would grab him un-
awares and make him sit bolt upright in
his chair - would galvanise him, if you like.
But even that seemed not the same to us.
The mind that had been sharp and critical
would comment like a child at pantomime:
Oh, look at that... she's thinking that he's got
the papers in his pocket!
Sometimes, though,
he'd take the stage, become a presence there,
involved; a mentor to the stars: Check out
the bedroom, pal!
So very different
from how he'd been before - an audience
of one, but one who would appreciate
the world-within-a-world created there.

What did come as a shock was our last time
together watching some slow-moving film,
a deadly melodrama which I can
not summon-up beyond his summing-up:
They could have cut that scene beside lake,
do you not think? It took us nowhere, told
us nothing. And that ending... nothing there...
too weak by far, an anti-climax, that!

I asked what sort of ending he'd have liked.
I'd rather not have had one, if I speak
the truth. I don't like endings much these days,
I'd rather write my own - not write them down,
you know, just dot them roughly in my head

I thought him disappointed at the end.
He had been calm all through, but his last lines,
though spoken like the trooper that he was,
must have been dotted in his head in much
(too much) confusion. And confusion led
to fear, the thing he'd feared most from the start.


The Weaver of Grass said...

Oh Dave - such a thoughtful but sad poem which says so much about a life coming towards its end. There is a sense of what he says is not always what he is thinking - I suppose as we reach that stage of life we all become introverted - showing one persona to our friends and family but having another one inside. Really good poem to begin the new year.

Elisabeth said...

I'd like to make the most of my endings, including my last one, if I can, but that's from here.

This is such a mournful and sad approach to endings It reminds me of the narrator in William Gaddis's Agape Agape, an old man bemoaning the ways of the world and the fact that he never got to finish the book he had wanted to write.

Secondary to the voice of the one who cannot tolerate other people's endings here is another voice, that of a different narrator, whose powers of observation and thoughtfulness redeem all.

This is powerful writing, Dave. It had me on the edge of my seat, wanting more.

Jinksy said...

Films that wrap me up in their imagined world are rare gifts. The editorial urge, or more annoyingly, continuity girl slip-ups, too often intrude.
You take one step back in this wrting, to observe such things from a distance; very thought provoking post.

Tabor said...

This is very sad and, of course, speaks to my fears that age will set you apart from all that you love and enjoy, no matter how hard you try to remain.

Jeanne Estridge said...

That's the thing I fear the most -- the dementia of old age fading the intellect.

Karen said...

Such a sad and insightful look at the fading of a mind, the greatest loss, I think.

Rosaria Williams said...

You are talking about all of us, in our receding years, the changes we show, the changes we fear in ourselves.

I like this very, very much.
Unexpected topic, solid imagery illustrating the point, irony and pathos, in well chosen lines.
Your last line is brilliant!

Friko said...

How wonderful this poem catches the final times, the ending that is coming.
I have recently witnessed several such endings, some still ongoing and all I can say is that your words
make the watching even more painful.

I feel it is easier to 'live' through to the ending than watch it happening to someone we love.

Just to say something else: blogs like yours are the reason I blog.

Rosaria Williams said...

I tried to leave a previous comment, got rejected.
I'm back because I want you to know this is brilliant!

June Calender said...

Perfect rendering of the situation -- it could be someone I know well. Sad -- but wonderful that you catch it so directly.

Cloudia said...

poignient (sp?)

Aloha & All the Best, Dave

Comfort Spiral

Jim Murdoch said...

I related strongly to this piece, Dave. Some good lines but more importantly some profound thoughts make accessible and intelligible. I have noticed this over the past few years, an increasing level of intolerance for bad writing certainly as far as films and TV programmes go and a sense of real surprise and delight when one of them ticks all the boxes.

Endings are so wrong, artificial, as are plots in general, but as endings are where the authors choose to leave us they stick out; so many decent pictures are spoiled by ham-fisted endings; they drop the ball and that’s it, game over. I like the idea of final words that are unsaid.

People make a big deal about last words and I’ve always imagined someone lying on their deathbed trying to time that last profound gem: “Is this is? No, no, not quite yet.” I mean, how do you know when it’s you last breath or the penultimate breath or the antepenultimate one? And, of course, once you’ve said your last words you’ve said them so I suppose there are those who mistime the whole thing and have to lie there in silence in case they say something inane after that.

Kass said...

Wonderful poem. Wonderful in that as I creep on into my 60's, I'm becoming more and more 'forgetly.' Unlike my friends, who are in a panic about this condition, I see the beauty of it. It provides constant delight at the ever-newness of so many situations. Fuzzy endings are good.

Dave King said...

Weaver of Grass
Thanks for those comments. Yes, I think I am becoming rather more aware of the hidden person inside me. I didn't actually feel sad, though, during the writing of it. Later, when I reread it, I did. I don't know what you'd make of that.

Some interesting thoughts there. Where to find this super-narrator, though?
Thanks for the comments.

I thought you wee going to say the editorial urge in the viewer. I agree about the continuity clangers - but they have to be big ones to bother me unduly.

Mmm, that's the killer, I agree.

Not many would disagree with you there, I think.

In a way it has become more apparent to me in retrospect than maybe it was at the time. At the time you accept the person for what he is.

You are right, of course: I am talking about us all. Thank you very much for the comments.

That is a really gracious set of comments. Thank you so much for them.

Hey, that's happened to other visitors! They get accepted and rejected, both! Guess that's life, too!

Very many thanks for that.

Thanks again for a wonderful comment.

I'm not sure that I had noticed it in myself until I began to write the poem. What I realised was that there was a whole raft of stuff which I was rejecting and which I was pretty sure I would once have enjoyed. That, could be the same thing in a different guise, I suppose. I agree that endings are false and skew the work - even good ones. it has always amazed me that so many folk get angry when endings are left open. After all that, we still don't know what he did in the end! etc.

I used to have a rather different take on last words. I used to think that maybe they weren't the last words, that well-meaning folk took something memorable he or she had said - or nearly said - towards the end and wiped out all that was said subsequently.

Very many thanks for such a thorough comment.

I'm a tad ahead of you, of course, but don't see great beauty in what you describe. I do see great humour, though. - almost as good!