October 12 – Noticing at Connie’s

Monday, Oct 12, 2020  –  “a mutual commitment to noticing”

Over 4 decades of kinship, Connie de Biase and I lived our way into a mutual commitment to noticing. She died in Brentwood Long Island 3 years ago.  Since she left us,  I miss her most on Saturday mornings when driving into center city to buy loaves of fresh-baked bread.   I would call Connie after I’d placed my shopping bag on the passenger side.  As I drove home, we talked about the condition of our inner lives.  Through Connie’s last months, our talk became more brave and sad as she recognized her growing diminishment, her grief at losing the life in Madison, CT that she loved and lived so gracefully.  Ignatius calls conversations like this a way of paying attention to “inner disturbances, both consolations and desolations.”

first written and posted January 23, 2017 (c. 2 weeks before she died)
“Perhaps today’s Denise Levertov poem came to mind because of what happened in me as I flew into JFK Saturday and braved the Long Island’s expressway with its too-tight turns matched by slightly-too-narrow lanes.  I’d come to spend time with my dying soul friend, Sr. Consuela de Biase, csj.   Connie has become frail, like the ancient poet in today’s poem.  She misses nothing, I came to realize, but you have to lean in close to hear;  worn with fatigue, she whispers, and pauses to breathe.  We visited three times  (c. 90 minutes, c. 25 minutes, and 4 or 5  minutes early the next morning when we said goodbye before I headed back to JFK).  I love it that the 40 mile drive on the parkway was wearing;  it reminds me that those miles and our 3 conversations are of a piece with decades of mutual listening, the fabric of Connie’s life.”

Denise Levertov writes of an ancient poet whose frail strengths remind me of my friend.   This Monday morning, chilly and gray but still alive with the promises with which February can surprise us.  Who knows?  The poet and the morning might tempt you to open your window or step outside so you can read “In Love” while bathed in its beauty, and breathe a little too.

Have a blest week,

john sj

Today’s Post   “In Love”

Over gin and tonic (an unusual treat) the ancient poet
haltingly —not because mind and memory
falter, but because language, now,
weary from so many years
of intense partnership,
comes stiffly to her summons,
with unsure footing —
recounts, for the first time in my hearing, each step
of that graceful sarabande, her husband’s
last days, last minutes, fifteen years ago.

She files her belongings freestyle, jumbled
in plastic bags — poems, old letters, ribbons,
old socks, an empty picture frame;
but keeps her fifty years of marriage wrapped, flawless,
in something we sense and almost see —
diaphanous as those saris one can pass through a wedding ring.


Denise Levertov  1923 – 1997
Connie laughing,  smiling,  contemplative  August 2006


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