Dissolution by Donna James

Dissolution
                         to Allen Moe and for Ann Morris

If not this time, sometime,
you will not return from a trip.
You will hike into hills or desert,
or paddle out to sea, and be gone.

You wander Bear’s Ears alone—
with sleeping bag, food, insulin syringe;
a flirtation with fate to reckon
that you are seventy.
You are not alone—
there are rattlers and cougars and blazing sun.

We all talk about it—get to woods
or the snow or the water, to be taken
before dementia or tumor takes from us
faculties we cannot bear to lose.                                                                                                                                                                                    Let us be taken,
like the rabbit near the thicket, limping and knowing it’s time,
lets herself be taken to gut and fur in the meadow.

I want intimates to read to me—Averno.
Sip bourbon from a spoon;
overhear conversations
in the kitchen, family and friends
come to sit an hour.
I want to wrap in the rise and resolution
of “String Quartet 15,” the movement
that is a convalescent’s song of thanksgiving,
even as I am laid waste.

I may have to surrender
to dwindling from organ failure,
hip fracture, diaper;
be cooed to by somebody kind
enough to wipe spittle from my chin
even when I can’t remember her name.

Eaten first from inside,
I will lose all control,
go graceless,
a pigeon poisoned on a sidewalk.

I will be taken in a gold silk shroud,
carried by a close cortege,
and delivered, like you, to small creatures
destined, themselves, for the earth’s wide maw.


Donna James’s writing has been published in Kyoto Journal and Secret Histories: Stories of Courage, Risk, and Revelation (edited by Brenda Peterson, Salish Sea Writers 2013).  She has a PhD in clinical psychology from The Fielding Graduate Institute, and an MA in English literature from the University of Washington. I has been in private practice as a psychotherapist for over thirty years. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with friends, cooking, watching movies, learning about different cultures, and reading—sometimes five books at once.