©Skitterphoto, 2016

©Skitterphoto, 2016

It’s all flowing through the funnel, faster and faster,
every wondrous or idiotically ordinary moment,
another grain of memory.
It seems now every other day or two that
the garbage-recycling trucks bang and crash their way
down the street in the early morning hours.

And wasn’t that just a few years ago—
my daughter’s wedding, votive candles floating
in the pool of the rented house on Long Island,
her voice like a sweet bird’s flight:
I’ll be your baby tonight, her mouth on the mic,
her eyes melding with his.
And only a few before that, it seems,
she was a toddler with a belly laugh
and hair like a handful of yellow silk.

It’s a counting game:
the child holds two fingers up,
and we can’t help but smile,
then it’s three and four and five,
then suddenly the teens,
and then they’re grown,
living on the opposite coast,
in homes of their own.

And all those years I spent in the classroom:
blackboards time-lapsing into green, then white plastic,
the desks morphing from oak to steel tubing, wood-grained formica,
(still carved with initials, still the gum under the lids).
All those beautiful young faces,
trusting and hopeful or anguished and closed.
They couldn’t possibly grow old.
But did.
Before you know it
you count backwards,
lie a little. And you hate those cards
with firemen and birthday cakes.

Instead of subtraction, I try to focus on
the mysteries of calculus.
I read last night that those who understand pure math
at its highest levels, are looking not for solutions,
but beauty.

When my friend Irene was dying
I think she was using that mathematical magic to climb back up (cont’d, no break)
to the mouth of the funnel, open to her entire life.
She was a girl again, her husband said,
not sick in bed, but happy with friends,
on her way to a baroque concert in a Spanish cathedral.

We lit candles, sat with her. We could smell the plumeria lei.
She looked peaceful, lovely, almost young.
And John said, loving drama as she did,
she must have had something to do with the sudden darkness
that night at the crematorium,
the power out, we discovered later,
all over the city.

©Judy Bebelaar, 2016

Judy Bebelaar, BAWP TC 1988, taught in San Francisco. Her students won many awards for their writing, including 8 Scholastic Writing Awards. Judy’s poetry has been published widely, including in the anthology The Widows’ Handbook. Her chapbook, Walking Across the Pacific, was published in 2014. And Then They Were Gone, a non-fiction book about the teenagers she knew who went to Jonestown will be published by Sugartown Press in 2016.


One Response to “The Funnel by Judy Bebelaar”

  1. lovely tribute, Judy — to passing time and passing friends!

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