Sumani in Anuradhapura, Sept 2010 – just 3 months before her passing.
A house – not empty
But left cold by your absence
Chills me more than the
I step inside,
And feet already cold from the outdoors
Get colder still
Despite safe haven from the wind.
I take a hesitant step towards the
Gloomy black of the back rooms –
Once your cheery domain
And my happy playground.
Today I force my feet
To move in that direction.
…and yet another…
Each weaker and more faltering than the last.
My foot rises once more,
Hovers in still air,
The step incomplete.
Suddenly shy, it drops back a pace,
Whirls on its axis,
And bears me away from your memory.
Too soon to hear the echo
Of only one pair of footsteps
In that place where you
Walked for 35 years.
My feet don’t belong there
Without yours to accompany them.
My steps were always heavy –
First the restless stomping of a child;
The heavy tread of a thoughtful teenager.
Now the grieving drag of an adult.
Yours were light,
As if you were made of the thin air
You have now disappeared into.
And even as your bones grew older,
And muscles more tired –
Your feet would run after mine.
First in endless play,
in the leaf-strewn garden
Or up the stairs;
And later, to bring me
Steaming cups of tea
Or to press a guilty biscuit into my hand
I can almost see the void of you;
Hear and feel the non-existence of your footsteps.
An awful blank; an awful silence
To which my feet and I will never grow accustomed.
That when I sit down to write on your memory
I think not of your beloved face, but your feet.
Gnarled and dark, atop tough, spindly legs,
Curling around me
As I leaned against you,
Helping you to clean the rice for lunch.
You curved around me; And I around the bowl,
And we had our complete world of simple joy.
I would pick out the vee eta and my baby toes
Would wiggle in delight
At the importance of my task.
These are the memories I want to keep.
Of the feet – always bare –
That always ran and never walked.
That always tread a wary, watchful step after mine.
Those other memories I will keep at bay.
The ones of the feet that lay flinching on the white bed;
Or still and white-socked on the white satin.
Those were the feet of a stranger.
Feet, skin and bone I could not say goodbye to –
Because they did not belong to you.
But you are gone nevertheless
This unempty house has no choice
But to continue to ring with the silence
Of your missing footsteps.
And feel cold
With the subtraction of your warmth.
And my still-stormy tears
and still-grieving feet
attest that neither it
Will ever be the same again.