“The autobiography of this piece draws on my experiences with a friend’s mother’s death from old age, a friend’s death on the operating table and another’s from cancer, the almost-death of one of my children (who recovered), the serious, long-term illness of a sister, and of another friend. It also comes from a kind of inner world where the shape of the poem grew slowly unaided by fact.
They came from things I have done, like walk in the Gatineau woods, or work in a cancer hospital, cleaning the room and preparing the bed for a new occupant when the pain-wracked person I talked to just yesterday finally dies. Some of these pieces came whole out of nowhere but my imagination, if that’s a place. And yet, as I put the long poem together, it began to grow into a single story and a single person, a friendship and grief and renewal as real to me as any actual experience. I can taste that glass of milk, see that room, put features to that beloved friend. I know what the pool on the rock looks like, and how the river flows under the starlight.”