by Thomas Davis
We kissed his forehead, yellow, cold, inert,
sobbed our goodbyes, left his body, drove
to Poet’s Walk above the Hudson, hurt
beyond expression, where, on hills, small groves
of ancient trees are interspersed with fields,
a place where, Kevin said, he liked to go.
And as cremation’s fires consumed, annealed
his spirit to our spirits, as the glow
of July’s sun warmed flesh too numb to feel,
we walked where he had walked and tried to find
our balance in a world turned sad, unreal—
our son was gone, his smile, his wondrous mind.
And as we walked the wings of butterflies,
black mourning cloaks, danced through the summer skies.
At the University of New Mexico Cancer Center in Albuquerque, where I am now being treated once a week, a healing bear greets patients as they enter the building. Marked with ancient symbols, shining black in the sun, Ethel and I stand before it every time we come to the Center. The major question in my mind at the moment, one that I cannot shake, is, why am I surviving my bout with bladder cancer while Kevin, only 28 years old, did not survive? I would have given him my life without a thought if he could still be present, thinking about butterflies that were such a constant, powerful symbol to him from the time he was a child to the day of his death when, as Ethel has written in a powerful poem not yet posted, a butterfly visited his hospital room so many stories up in the middle of the city. I understand there is no answer to such a question, and I am deeply grateful to have more years with Ethel, my children, and grandchildren, but both Ethel and I miss our son. This sonnet was written after our visit to Poet’s Walk Park on the Hudson River in New York. Ethel has also written about our experience there. After this moment we flew back home to New Mexico. Just over a year later we discovered my cancer. One of Ethel’s many photographs of the healing bear is below as a symbol of survival and strength in the face of devastating tribulation.
photograph by Ethel Mortenson Davis