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Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Heaven Up Here

Waiting Room for the Beyond

Beyond nostalgia
And expectation all life
A process
Of removal from life

Into whatever's out there
Or isn't
Air or aether
Entering celestial clouds
In the moment of liftoff

A light feathery moment

In which
To depart is to arrive

Violet shadows glow
As if filled with nutrient
Of the afterlife

Blue avenues of ozone
Blank atonal diffused
Through the reflected square
Of sunlight
On the floor beyond the waiting
Room chair

Wouldn't it be nice
Like leaving the room
Without leaving your chair

Though I haven't yet been convinced
I'll be so gently
Into that floating world

Waiting Room for the Beyond: John Register, 1983 (Modernism Gallery)


Zephirine said...

Another perfect match of thought and image here.. the Register is a beautiful picture.

I incline to the 'light feathery moment' theory, myself, after all even if one is hurled ungently one may not experience it as that.

All that raging that Dylan Thomas asked for would be quite pointless, as there will be, in any case, 'liftoff'. Like it or not.

TC/BTP said...


Bracing thoughts indeed.

I've been writing this poem for almost twenty years. Earliest versions signed up for gentle liftoff, later ones gradually became increasingly weak-kneed and hesitant about the proposition. But as you say things will happen and the best path is to accept that fact. Both courage and common sense would agree.

A few years back though I heard a wrenching late interview with Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, author of the "stages of acceptance" theory (which has brought consolation to millions, and become the philosophical foundation of the hospice movement). She was at the time coming to the end herself, in much pain (with terminal cancer I believe), and said, quite directly, "I was wrong. This is not acceptable."

But as to the person who did the painting: John Register was diagnosed at age 18 with glomerulus nephritis. In 1981, at age 41, two years before doing the painting "The Waiting Room for the Beyond", he had his first kidney transplant. At the time he did the painting, he'd been suffering transplant rejection. In 1982 he wrote in a letter, "I've been associating myself with New York Hospital while they try to reverse a kidney rejection."

In a 1984 interview he said, apropos the painting, "When I see an empty chair I often think that someone has died. Pursuing that suggestion it is not all that big a step to put clouds out the window as though one is miles in the air."

In 1985 he had a second transplant.

John Register died in Malibu in 1996.

This 1997 music video, "Turn My Head" by the group Live, dramatizes his waiting-room-chairs image. What one is waiting for here though is not death but the laundry, or perhaps it is the mysterious woman. The End it seems may appear in many forms.

The John Register Version

Annie said...

Much as I hope that there will be some uplift, the deaths I have witnessed have been hard work. Those autonomic processes are simply hard-wired to keep going. The eyes searching mine were looking for the way out. After trying to hold the door open, it seemed that what was called for was a kind of choreographic marking of the steps taken in exit, a mutual withdrawal one from another across the stage, as the lights dimmed, then went out. Not so much helping them across as mirroring the suggested journey.

Elmo St. Rose said...

death is usually not neat and
clean and in the actual moments
before death, lines of delineation
are quite weak......which words
are really the last words...usually
not the "famous ones"/ though
Register's "Waiting Room" should
remind us we are all registered
for atleast two alternatives

TC/BTP said...

I guess Zeph's "Like it or not" about covers the alternatives. Probably far wiser to try for the former.

I can't imagine having the strength at that point to actually rage against the dying of the light nor can I imagine quiet useless inward kicking and screaming being of much use.

Elmo, you have seen more of this than the rest of us have. I'd suppose that would make you either more... or less... anxious about the prospect? What with the odds being 6 to 5 against, etc.

Elmo St. Rose said...

Finnegans Wake, Tom, is a long book. It may still be a long way
through the toy fair.