“Oliver’s Passing” by T. Boehle-Satterfield

Oliver in a Winter Wonderland

“I love that old man,” he said
And hunched over swinging his arms and picking up his feet,
Looking like an elephant muppet.
Flippity flop, flippity flop,
He showed me how you moved across the floor and out the door.
Like a puppet in a curly white coat,
Feet made of mops,
Off you went.

We calculated you were nearly 98 years old
When you didn’t come back.
We called and called for you
And we called others
To call and call for you.
Searching the yard, the road, the woods;
making a wide berth around the river,
Your favorite morning drink.

From the street I heard
The great moan of a tree just before it lays down.
I ran, knowing
Before I ever descended down that hill.
The earth quaked up out of me.
The trees picked it up and the early January sky filled
As the river valley echoed it back to me.
This drowning wake I came to know as ours.

And the other,
Dressed for handling papers and pens,
Squatted on the muddy bank and
Agreed to be keeper of time, witness of grief,
Pulled us from what was becoming our own etheric, watery world
And helped lift you from the gentle drink you rested in.
So peaceful looking.
I couldn’t help but notice.

Your beautiful tendrils of hair afloat like that of a mermaid.
Your body relaxed in the cold, clear Gunpowder River
And for a moment it all made sense.
You, that lovely, graceful creature.
In the flow of life.
Setting off.
Floating away.
F l o a t i n g o n b y.

By the tree, where you had minded over a decade of laughing kids,
Barking and nipping at their untucked shirts as they defied gravity from a tire swing.
And the boy, who is now a man,
Came flying through the field of beasts of burden.
Still and wide-eyed, they watched, bearing witness to our drama.
And down that hill
He fell to his knees and cried “No!” at seeing you so still.
And I heard her cat cries as they broke into sobs of sorrow from miles away.

I imagine
That everyone in the river valley felt our grief that morning
Vibrate through their kitchens
As they poured coffee.
For a moment and in a moment,
They paused,
“Did you feel that? What was that?”
Hymns of the Greek Chorus.

He carried you up to the garden where all before you lie.
And the earth was kind and opened easily for you.
We placed you in a bed of forgiving dirt.
Forgiving us
For our human tangle of doubt and fear.
Our clumsy words,
Flippity flopped, flippity flopped,
Absorbed into the soft clay hole of our hearts.

And like the earth,
And the river that morning,
The night sky opened to the Heavens.
A sailor’s paradise.
Jupiter sat right above your grave.
Stars and planets shivered in revery as you passed,
Curtseying and bowing to your greatness.
And he and she and he and I stood on this earth and waved goodbye.

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2 comments
  1. Daisy said:

    Oh, Tami and Tim and all Creatures Satterfield…..tears are flowing from Oliver’s place near the Gunpowder, pouring into the salty Colleton, and flooding our hearts.

  2. Ania Milo said:

    I just lived that moment with you….. and relived my own losses…… this touched me deeply. Thank you for sharing….
    Ania

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