My friend Eva died on January 28, after a not-so-long, but brutal, battle with brain cancer. She was really something.
She was one of those people who cast a really wide net, and she touched many deeply. Though I have known her for decades, I didn’t know her that well, but she left a huge impression on me.
She was fierce and loyal and a tireless, innovative champion for those who she loved. She loved many, and made them all feel that each was special and magnificent.
She was blunt and honest, gentle and generous. She was an artist. She was happy and laughing and smiling. Even when she was sick, she was grateful and gracious.
Eva lived life with passion. She believed in art, beauty, people, opportunity and possibility, and that we are all connected.
I really didn’t know her well, but I loved her.
I wrote two poems about her, one before she died and one after. A sestina is a type of poem that has a complex, repetitive form. If you want to know more about it, go here: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/5792
Sestina for Eva
Eva is like a crane
Regal, erect, a flag leaning into the wind
Wrapped warm in snow feathers
Eager eyes chasing gold sparks on waves
Charting flight paths in a ceramic sky, dodging the clouds
Seeking patterns in swirls and lines
Seeking pattern’s swirls and lines, she finds the beauty in a print.
Her fingers etch delicate bones, the one-legged stance of a crane
on the clay skin of a ceramic tile, the moment before the crane swoops into flight, aiming at clouds.
She won’t stop, until, exhausted, she droops, a flag without a wind.
Behind closed lids, her eyes chase the bird plunging from the sky, spotting something gold, far beneath the waves.
The couch has become an island, with pebble pill beaches and jagged pillow peaks, mountains of feathers.
As cells split and Poison Root blooms, Eva, wrapped in a snow white sweater,
watches the pattern of chemicals swirling, coursing down the PICC line.
Her bird eyes stop the nurse. She smiles, tries to wave, imagining her hand not limp and pale, but cutting air high above, remembering, beyond the spires of La Sagrada Familia, swinging free, dropping bits of heaven and earth, flocks of construction cranes.
Regal still, leaning back, resting her bald head in a panda-eared hat, she is worn, weary, but unflagging.
She reads words on hospital charts and watches the swirl in a ceramic teacup, imagining how it would feel to fly beyond the clouds.
When she tells me the cancer’s everywhere, my eyes cloud.
Eva wraps me tightly in her wings. I feel each white feather.
We’re in the backyard, a clear day with a silver wind
She shows me the garden planted by loving friends; neat rows, paths and lines.
In the window, a curtain of one thousand origami cranes.
“How can I thank them for all of this? It’s too much, there’s no way…” Her voice is echoing waves.
Later: “My doctor’s from China. Ah, their wood block prints: the carving, precision, the detail in a wave!
Dr. Chen’s like that – makes me think about things, like a mountain peak breaking through a cloud.
On her wrist she has a tattoo, a symbol of luck, longevity – a red-headed crane.
I like that. I like them all here. Interesting people, so kind, supportive…” her voice flutters, feathers.
“Shame you have to be sick to be here. It’s different in China. So many people! They wait in lines that stretch for miles! The anger, desperation! A man stabbed a doctor, and the queues still twist and wind…”
In the garden, a fading day with a silver wind.
“I know you,” she says, and the words are gold sparks, floating on dark waves.
I think about rows and paths, patterns etched, and radical swirls, out of control. I think about our lines –
How some things – no matter how clear, hoped for, inevitable – blur; raindrops lost in a cloud.
A crane, graceful and strong, is shot as it stands one-legged in a marsh, hot blood on snow feathers,
and the print is ruined, the line flattens, the prayer flags fray, the pattern explodes.
As the world spirals and waves roil to rail at clouds
An arrow slices the wind and strikes deep, nested up to the feathers
Her bird eyes are already in flight. I follow their line. I see gold sparks of sun, as my head cranes ever upward.
Here is the second one. ‘Craven’ means ‘coward’.
In The Year of the Horse
For Eva Kutschied
Right before the Year of the Horse galloped in,
Snorting fire from one flared, quivering nostril
Ice from the other,
She shook her mane,
Now stubbled and dulled,
Cocooned in a soft, white, tufted wool toque,
Making her look like a noble ghost from 16th century Paris,
Or the Q-Tip on the fold-up tray beside the bed.
In the medieval period, velveted days of yore
Once high-saddled knights accused of cravenness
Suffered the savage shearing
Of insouciant curls
Exposed like sun stroked shame
Reminded next time no mercy
No time for never again promises and talk
Next time the blade that shaved the pate would find the neck
Or the shirking deserter fetus-curled on the bed.
In wooden horse years of war and volcano
Days when highborn knights died low
Nights when days were led by a parade of Asian animals
I’m thinking of her
Born in the Year of the Monkey, no coward
Brave and proud, laughing, full of life
I wonder if
Before she died
Eva’s sister said that her final wish was to have the words “Thank you” tattooed on her body. She was truly amazing. I’m so glad our paths crossed.
She wrote a book, Journey. You can see every page here. http://www.blurb.com/b/4946195-journey
UPDATE: 5/9/2014- I wrote a final poem about Eva in March. I think maybe I’ve said all I want to about her – for now, anyway. I wanted to keep them all together so I could easily find them, so here is the third of the trilogy. (I like how they all get shorter. The lengths mimic the grieving process. As time goes on, I feel I need fewer words to understand my feelings for her. In time, memories are distilled; only essence, pure and potent, remains.
Her final wish:
The yellowed flesh
On her wasted, broken body
Eternal ropes inked in indigo