As You Lie Dying

As you lie dying,
the shadow of a palm
outside your window
peeps in, enters,
slips across the comforter,
nestles in its folds,
covers your pain.

In the distance
a couple bats tennis balls
back and forth across the net.
No strain.
An easy volley,
back and forth again.
Like our ideas,
ricocheting back and forth.
Yours, then mine.
Divergent memories.

One fact we both hold true.
The night earth shook Tehachapi,
our lives were rent.
And nothing evermore
would be the same.

Outside the window now
a murder of crows descends to feed.

Submitted to dVerse Poetics  prompt based on the wonderful photography of Tracey Grumbach. Thank you, Tracey. 

Process note: The poem is adapted from an actual experience at my sister’s death bed. The reference to the Tehachapi Earthquake relates to the night of our parents marriage (July 20, 1952) when we were children. Both of our parents had lost their first spouses to death. This was our first night together as “siblings.”



18 thoughts on “As You Lie Dying

  1. Powerful, evocative writing. And very good referencing of William Faulkner, along with some astounding closing lines.

    Great work here.


  2. ManicDdaily says:

    Lovely poem, the back and forth of volley, so casual, moving on to the momentous. One of my favorites of yours. K.


  3. “Our lives were rent” Wow. Four words that say so much. Bravo!


  4. claudia says:

    this gave me shivers gay…i love all the little touches, the ideas like easy volley..back and forth…speaks of a deep relationship..but then…our lives are rent..yes..


  5. The volley really struck me. The whole poem felt emotionally compact, it denotated after the second read for me, the layers and intensity delivering. Thank you.


  6. vivinfrance says:

    This is searing, Victoria, and sad – your word choices skilful and gripping.


  7. dragonkatet says:

    Ahhh, the end took me by surprise. The poem started off kind of sad, then I was lulled into thinking that even though there was sadness, it would still be okay…and then that line at the end! 🙂 Well written, Victoria.


  8. souldipper says:

    I remember this poem, Victoria It’s even more powerful, it seems, this reading. Perhaps its familiarity allowed more feeling. I still hear the plop plop of the tennis game. So “live goes on”.


  9. Mary says:

    i feel as if I was inside of your experience with you, Victoria. Being with a person as she dies is a life-changing experience… The ending stuns.


  10. Eve Redwater says:

    Wow, this is fantastic! “a murder of crows” is a delightful phrase; the somber tone is wonderfully expressive too, and a little sad.


  11. ayala says:

    Beautiful. Happy Easter Victoria .


  12. siggiofmaine says:

    After I read this the first time, read the information at the end,
    I reread it…and enjoyed it more knowing the other facts…thank you.
    It must be an unusual feeling to all of a sudden have a sibling from a parent marrying.
    I’ve often thought how it changes the birth order, hierarchy, of the children involved.
    The thought just occurred to me that I don’t know if two “only” children have as much problem with birth order as families with many children.

    Must muse on THAT new idea for a few years now.

    Thank you for sharing this write.

    Siggi in Downeast Maine


    • Let’s just say it was competitive. Not easy, for sure. We were both the same age/same grade, which made it even more challenging.


      • siggiofmaine says:

        Thats a situation I can digest a bit easier….I happen to meet adult twins this winter…
        and I asked them about birth order afftecting their relationship after asking the usual,
        “which of you is oldest” and getting an answer more completely thought out than I’d
        ever heard before ! I understand the challenging description you gave.
        Thank you for such an honest discreet answer.
        Siggi in Downeast Maine


  13. brian says:

    really nice layering in this victoria,,,like the tennis ball ideas batted back and forth, divergent memories…the murder of crows at the end is a haunting closing touch too…


  14. zongrik says:

    the ending, using the murder of crows term (and you are the first to use it today) just makes all the dying in your family even more mysterious and eerie.

    birth death its all the same


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