When I read a poem in this month's Poetry
that spoke of loss—the loss of people who you won't see again, I thought of a recent NPR show. Actually it may not be recent. It may be a retread, a story that genders a fair amount of interest because of its subject—dogs. Since I turned on the car radio half way through the program I'm not certain of the lead. The first words I heard, "holding a dog in a frozen state."
Within a few minutes I realized that there are dog owners who, not being able to part with their dog, resorted to keeping their pet in a state of deep freeze. I expect that these folks hope that science eventually—after it tackles other thorny medical dilemmas—will turn its antennas toward discovering how to resuscitate those frozen bodies. Until that time these dog owners will foot the bill to keep their beloved pets ready.
Then the conversation turned to cloning. While there aren't any labs cloning dogs in the United States there are labs outside of the states. I don't know the country or countries because my reception went out along a stretch of road that is notorious for its high trees and dips and turns. When clarity returned I heard the interviewer ask, "How much would it cost to clone your pet?"
"One hundred thousand dollars," was the response.
When Alexander's great horse Bucephalus died— he founded a city, Bucephala.
There are the huge losses—the losses the poem speaks about. The realization that the loved person will not return.
What about the losses that only register on your personal tally sheet. I rue the day I lost my last skate key. Why save something that no longer had any value? Did I know at the age of ten that someday I'd recall daredevil runs down city streets? Did I know that in my recollections the dangers on those streets, the pot holes lurking at every turn, made me into an intrepid seeker of thrills, an adventurer? Several years ago I found a skate key in an antique store, but I knew it didn't carry the same wizardly powers.
Once upon a time I owned a wand with a sparkling star at one end. When I waved the wand some of the sparkles flew off and wandered about in the air for a few seconds before setting down—usually on my sleeve. Not wanting to lose all the sparkling silver and gold I waved the wand gingerly. Not knowing any spells or incantations limited my powers and reduced me to a benign wand owner. When alone I used the wand to conjure up a multitude of characters who peopled books I read and then I acted all the parts in scenes from their books. Of course I knew that I didn't need the wand to bring the characters into my bedroom, but the wand, I thought, added to the drama. And who really knew the latent powers of a wand?
One day when most of the sparkles were gone and their loss revealed silver paint, I took more liberties with waving the wand. Thrusting, parrying and moving about the room in my attempt to dislodge a fire spitting dragon from guarding the entrance to a cave—not just any cave , but the cave inhabited by a princess—I lunged right into an upright wooden cabinet. The cabinet withstood my attack, but the wand's star broke and fell to the ground. With the loss of the star I soon put away the remaining wand piece—a twelve inch dowel.
I now know that the magic went beyond the sparkling star. The loss of that star didn't diminish the power of the wand.
Today I pick up the newspaper and read of houses lost to foreclosure, acres flooded by water and mud slides and fires gutting homes. I read of the loss of lives in natural disasters, of people whose lives became derailed, of the homeless, of the loss of jobs.
I drive from my town to the next town and start counting the yellow ribbons. Almost every tree, telephone pole, mailbox has a ribbon affixed. Two weeks ago a young man who grew up in the town lost his life in Afghanistan. Actually he didn't lose his life, his life was taken. The town brought him home with a bouquet of yellow ribbons.
Residents lined up on a cold windy day, paying their respects, as the car bearing his coffin wended through the town, slowing up at the places of importance to a twenty-one year old young man. The loss is palpable.*************
We have settled into winter. The cold bites, the wind burrows its way through jackets, and I wear more layers. The loss of warmth, of a sun that penetrates into my bones, will stay for a few months.
Then an assurance—spring.